Technology and data analysis have come to play a crucial role in India's national election where 815 million eligible voters will cast their vote in more than 930,000 polling booths.
Interestingly, there is a list compiled by Forbes India, which has listed startups focusing on the elections.
One of them is Operation Black Dot, which leverages social media and on-ground events to engage Mumbai youth in a political discourse. The campaign has collaborated with the Election Commission and claims to have registered 40,000 first-time voters across 60 colleges in Mumbai.
NetaG is an Android-based app by Pune-based engineer Krushnaal Pai that connects voters with elected politicians so that they share concerns on civic issues in their locality.
Rock The Vote with txtWeb is a contest by txtWeb, a text-based app platform from Intuit. It challenges young engineering enthusiasts to develop mobile apps on the theme of the 2014 elections.
Bangalore-based Frrole is a big-data startup that sifts through half a billion Twitter posts every month to offer insights about users. For TV channels and political parties wanting to analyze tweets, Frrole charges them about $100 per month per data stream. The startup analyses over 10 million tweets daily and has sifted through over 100 million tweets since January this year. It works directly with some political parties as well as India's largest media groups.
A group of professors from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIM-A) started Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in 1999. It offers background checks on politicians, including education, criminal, financial, and income tax records and analysis of election-related expenses. ADR has conducted "election watches" for the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha parliamentary polls, and for Rajya Sabha and state assembly elections.
Simplify360, another Bangalore-based social media analytics startup which has Yamaha, Revlon, Target, and Wipro as its customer, has also hitched its wagon to the elections.
Single biggest upside movement for digital and social media
"This election meant a lot for us; it gave us good publicity, reach and revenue opportunity. It has been the single biggest upside movement for Digital and Social Media Industry," said Bhupendra Khanal, co-founder of Simplify360 in a newspaper report. Somewhat similar to Topsy, it not only analyzes Twitter posts but also other social networking sites and offers customized analytic and currently sifts through around 5 million posts and tweets every day that generates around 5 terabytes of data every week.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), around 160 seats in this election are going to be influenced by social media.
For instance, Nandan Nilekani, the Infosys co-founder who is contesting elections for the first time in Bangalore, against a five time winner, has used targeted Facebook ads and Google's Adwords for reaching out to the first-time voters of 18 years and above in his constituency.
"We have a very strong presence on social media. We have hoardings throughout the city, television, print, radio; we have sent a direct mailer to every voter in Bangalore South. The idea is to improve my awareness and recall among all the voters, and giving them a visibility into who I am and what I've done. All of that is using technology, data analytics and all the things that we are familiar with," he has said in a Forbes India report.
Now, thanks to the positive and negative outpourings from politicians on social media websites, Kanika is still left confused and Pavan is clear in his choice of the party.
So much for the 100 million first-time voters. No one is really sure which way they are going to jump, especially when they are propelled by the social media platform.
But the startups are sure making hay while the elections shine on.
— Sufia Tippu is a freelance writer for EE Times. She lives in India and writes the column India Chip Chat.