Pranav Srivilasan

Pranav has been in the editing and news business for several years, working on everything from financial markets to policy to features.

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Top Comments by Pranav Srivilasan

The growing digital economy of the Indian election machine

Hey Kushagra, we took the top 10 from Facebook and the top 5 from Google, neither of which included the Congress. Of course, since both Facebook and Google have made this data available from February onwards, you can't really say how much anyone would have spent before that. Plus, the Congress may have a different strategy when it comes to online ads. (And of course, there's a bunch of other ways to spread political messages on social media, through dedicated pages etc.)

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From those who have quit

Definitely. You could also take LinkedIn as an example of a network with less negative behaviour, since people use it for specific purposes (I've used it to find potential contacts for stories, search for freelance writers, etc.). We all use Twitter to put out stories and share interesting discussions. And there are several very interesting and/or helpful groups on Facebook (plus, of course, it keeps you connected to people you might lose touch with otherwise). And personally, with all the uses I have for these, I can't just up and quit them. The advertising based "free" business model, though, is deeply problematic. Just as it is for, say, the news media. And when it comes to connecting people and sharing art and so on, social media right now is just great. When it comes to, say, politics, there is a systemic tendency to polarise users and amplify extreme positions. Not because anyone wants to do it, but because that ends up generating the most attention and revenue. Plus, the platforms track you all the time and serve up the data to advertisers, who are trying to manipulate your behaviour—which is fine, I guess, if it's Nike trying to sell you shoes, but the obvious negative example that comes to mind is again politics (US elections, Russia, the way political parties may be taking to it in India, the way the Chinese government monitors WeChat). The argument for quitting is the quintessential "vote with your wallet", telling companies that you don't like their service and, hopefully, pushing them to innovate. Again, this is just one argument, and even those making it, don't expect everyone to quit all social media—for many (including me), it's just not feasible. But I'd say it's still a worthwhile idea to push companies to explore alternative business models (like how WhatsApp used to have a $1 per year subscription fee once upon a time). I'll admit, I'm not sure how exactly to do that (apart from quitting/cutting down social media time). Thoughts?

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From those who have quit

Hi Chirag, that's a fair point. But the argument that, say, Lanier makes is more that most social media platforms (in their current state) are poisonous, rather than simply unhealthy. So, to continue the analogy, if McDonald's burgers are found to be contaminated in some way, we would definitely stop eating them until the company fixed it. In a nutshell, Lanier doesn't say we should abandon social media as a concept—because it's still a great way to connect people—just change the business model. It may still be junk food after that, but that's a different matter. (I'd recommend reading the book, it's short and fairly interesting. I know I haven't deleted my social media accounts yet, because I still need them. I'd definitely like to see a new model though.)

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How ANI quietly built a monopoly

From what we could make out, the business seems very conservatively managed. They have no debt on their books, which would imply that they haven't seen the need to raise funds for a rapid expansion of some sort. The main corporate entity also has Rs 40-50 crore worth of cash reserves, which they've built up over the years. And another Rs 20-30 crore of mutual fund investments. The family also has a resort in Goa and is associated at least with one small studio business.

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