S is for social, the Vijay Mukhi way

09 May,2013

 

By Johnson Napier

 

In the era when the internet was new in India, and computer users were so limited that they even had their own club with branches all over the country, there were a few names one instantly associated with the digital revolution. Vijay Mukhi was one.

 

A pioneer of information technology in India, Mr Mukhi has a host of credits to his name. Having served as a Director of Bombay Stock Exchange Limited, Mr Mukhi ran his own computer training centre as well as provides corporate training to companies in latest technologies. He has written over 80 books ranging from C, C++ to Networking and Java. He is also advises governments and the police on how to maintain a safe cyberspace and is Chairman of the IT Committee at FICCI and Indian Merchants’ Chamber.

 

India has come a long way from the days of the dial-up internet gateway. Now, anyone with a mobile phone can be a member of the Twitterati, can post his/her thoughts on a daily, nay, minute-by-minute basis, can be a viral star (and not in the medical sense). It’s a communication jungle in the digital world, and social networking is the fuel and fertilizer that is making it flourish.

 

In a bid to make sense of what gets played out on social networking websites, Vijay Mukhi has launched his portal with the URL www.vijaymukhis.com.

 

Elaborating on the need and thought-process behind engaging in such an initiative, Mr Mukhi said, “The URL name is www.vijaymukhis.com with the ‘s’ connoting social. The though process stemmed from the fact that social media is growing by leaps and bounds but nobody in India has data about what Indians are doing on social networking websites. For example in politics, if you want to know whether Narendra Modi is a stronger weight on the social web over Shashi Tharoor, etc, there is no real data available for one to compare such analysis.”

 

Adding further he said, “Also, the other thing was that which tweets or what Facebook posts are more successful or is liked more by people on the social web… like which of Amitabh Bachchan’s tweets were more successful, nobody knows – even Amitabh himself doesn’t know it. To add further, nowadays a lot of profanities are used in tweets and Facebook posts – so who are the people who use such language. Then in the ongoing IPL, how many tweets have geo-locations on them and from which parts of the world do these tweets come from…? Basically a lot of questions that need answers and nobody has the answers to provide for them. So the whole idea behind this portal was to answer questions such as these.”

 

Notch above the others

Explaining the concept, Mr Mukhi said, “In the month of February, Pritish Nandy was India’s top tweeter. Similarly, in the month of March one tweet of Abhishek Bachchan got re-tweeted about 37,000 times while in the month of April, one tweet of Barkha Dutt got retweeted 72,000 times. Now we are already in May and a tweet of Omar Abdullah has been re-tweeted about 20,000 times. So the point is that unless we do not have 4-5 months data you won’t be able to analyze anything.”

 

Elucidating further on what makes his venture stand out, Mr Mukhi said “People do not know that when Mr Bachchan tweets, the tweet is owned by Twitter and not by him. So if tomorrow someone wanted to set up the same data that I am putting up you will have to hire a programmer and download the data. But the fun part is how you display the data in innovative ways. That’s what will separate me from everyone else. There are specialized agencies like Radian, which is one large player to whom Indian companies would go to for the social media demands like Twitter, Facebook etc. But my website has more data and charts than others do and is more believable.”

 

“The other thing is that because I have data that nobody else has and that one likes doing comparisons like a Shah Rukh versus Salman Khan…so the minute you make it commercial then people will say you are doing it for making money. That is usually what happens when you do stories around celebrities. The most important thing that I have done is put at the bottom of the page all the data that I have sourced so that no one can accuse me of fudging numbers” reasoned Mr Mukhi.

 

While the data that gets displayed is sourced from Twitter and Facebook itself, the larger issue, according to Mr Mukhi, is how one displays this data so that one is able to make sense out of it. “I gather around 50,000 tweets from Twitter every day. How do we present those many tweets is the bigger challenge facing my portal.”

 

Sharing a few trends, Mr Mukhi said that some interesting facts have come up which include the fact that Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan don’t tweet and yet you find them in the top three. “Such data is something that shocked me too. Also, I was pretty surprised that Narendra Modi is very close to the celebrities. He is a film star of cyberspace, in a sense. If one were to monitor closely, the guys who have real followers on social media are the filmstars. They are way ahead of even the cricketers. The data suggests what the Indian social web is all about.”

 

119 & counting…

While it’s been three months since the venture was floated, the portal has managed to analyze data of about 119 prominent people so far. These include people from all walks of life namely politicians, celebrities and sportspersons. But that was not the TG that he originally intended to focus around. “Actually the idea germinated after a meeting with a friend who suggested the need to start ranking journalists on the social media platform. So from a single person in February today I have managed to present data of more than 119 celebrities that include journalists, politicians, filmstars etc.”

 

On his immediate plans with the portal, Mr Mukhi shared, “My plan is that in the next general election I believe that Facebook and Twitter would be the largest vote bank for political parties. Also, there are a lot of questions that I would like to answer. Like when a movie is about to be launched – can I take every tweet and facebook post of that movie and compare it with the success or failure of the movie? Also the hotel industry, I am sure the Leela Group of Hotels would like to know what people think about them on the social web compared to let’s say The Taj. With the hotel industry whatever reviews get written are mostly answered by the top managers, which implies that they take the social web very seriously. So everybody wants to know what people are saying about them on the social web. My website will tell them about what is available and what you should hence be doing with the data. So there are many such exercises that we could engage in and there will never be a time when it will be complete. New ideas will keep on evolving from my end.”

 

Taking the NGO route

While people today queue up to get their hands on data that explains concepts and trends, Mr Mukhi prefers it to offer free for the users. In fact he has taken the non-commercial approach and would like to keep it that way. “Anybody can download the data from the website and use it for their own benefit. But I would like to bring more interactivity which will provide more options for one to see the same data. Also, I would like this venture to remain non-commercial; I would rather set standards for all to emulate.”

 

Explaining the rationale for not charging for the data, Mr Mukhi affirmed, “What people do not realize is that I don’t necessarily have to do this in India where I have to spends several lakh of rupees to buy a sever, lease line etc. My entire server is in the cloud which enables me to do my work from any corner of the world. So it’s not really an expensive venture and therefore I am not considering investors for the project. Once I collect three months of real data that is when I could start talking to people and making sure it gets more high-profile. The more data you are able to churn out the better it will be for me in the future.”

 

In fact money aside, Mr Mukhi has a unique plan that he would want to implement in the future. “Where the future is concerned, I would rather like NGOs to use my data,” asserted Mr Mukhi. “Today the scenario is such that NGOs have a lot of data with them but they do not know how to display that data. Over a period of time I will be reaching out to the NGOs and helping them in displaying their data better. I think my time will be spent better with the NGOs then with the corporates.” In fact he will also be using his resources to boost young entrepreneurs. “My data could help them present their case in a better format with charts, tables and the like. That’s what technology enables one to do today.”

 

Total Number of Tweets for the Month of May

 

 

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