The Nasscom India Leadership Summit, impossibly called ‘NILF’, is the Indian IT industry’s annual jamboree-cum-schmoozefest. It’s predictable, overdrawn (over three days, this year from 15-17 February) and fashionably behind the curve when it comes to any major technology trend.

But for Twitter India, NILF held promise. Because Nasscom had approached it to set up one of its “Blue Rooms” at the summit. Blue Rooms are Twitter-designed and managed one-room studios where celebrities are invited to record live videos and chat live with Twitter users. Launched originally in Australia in March 2015, India got one in May 2016.

So Twitter at its own expense set up a special Blue Room at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai, where NILF was being held.

Similarly, sometime last year, Twitter had approached Hindi movie superstar Shah Rukh Khan to be part of one of its Blue Room activities. Except, Khan failed to turn up, and Twitter’s hopes went down the drain.

“If that level of celebs don’t turn up, it won’t work out,” said a person who was involved in the planning and setup.

That observation essentially summarises Twitter India’s existential crisis. Unless something bigger happensbigger audiences, bigger celebs, bigger brandsit won’t work out.

In spite of having 25-30 million users in India (Twitter does not provide a breakdown of its user base by country), or roughly one-tenth of its global user base, Twitter India has been struggling to define a clear strategy for a while now.

25-30 million

Twitter’s monthly active users in India, as per industry estimates

Except for minor, incremental bets, the social media service is largely on auto-pilot after having lost most of its senior management during the last one year. Its headquarters has lost interest in India, content to leave it largely to local or APAC leaders to eke out what they can as revenue.

“There is no focus. No monetisation. No scope to grow. It will be as it is,” says a former* Twitter India employee who declined to be named as he isn’t authorised to speak to the media.

“[This year] we weren’t even invited to San Francisco for the annual meeting in January. We had to gatecrash it. India was listed and then taken away from the list. We got a shock. We were completely unwelcome. They gave us a five-minute slot,” he said.

Twitter did not respond to detailed queries sent by The Ken.

Lite, but late

After the failure of its first (and probably last) big bet on India—the acquisition of Zipdial in 2015 for $35 million—Twitter’s India growth strategy has been a painfully slow and confused throwing of darts at a wall to see what sticks.


Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.