BANGALORE — Kanika Kumar, a first-time voter in India's national elections, is one of the 100 million first-time voters planning to vote in the country's election. But she is quite confused about who to vote for.
Meanwhile, many voters are like Pavan Junaid, another first-time voter: He is addicted to FaceBook, Twitter, and news channels, which he watches on his laptop since TV is too antiquated, according to him. He knows exactly for whom he will vote.
Today, technology and data analysis have come to play a crucial role in this election where 815 million eligible voters are going to cast their vote in more than 930,000 polling booths, 1.7 million voting machines, and 11 million personnel participating.
To get a perspective, India's population is 1.23 billion, as opposed to the US population of 317 million. There is a $5 billion price tag for the 2014 elections, second only to the 2012 US presidential election, which cost some $7 billion. The elections are being held in nine stages -- they started on April 7 and will go on until May 12.
On one hand, everything has come to a standstill. It's election duty all the way for those in the government offices. If you visit a nationalized bank, it is almost empty because the staff is away on election duty.
No property registration takes place, all are involved in the election effort. School/board exams were advanced because teachers were to go for election duty. It's like the whole government machinery has come to a standstill across the nation except in party offices and polling stations, which are buzzing with activity.
Veritable explosion of startups
But there is veritable explosion elsewhere -- on every social media network, TV, and to a lesser extent, on the radio. And believe it or not, this has led to creative startups to hitch their wagon plus bottom-line to the national elections.
India's top political parties -- the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party -- are not only using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to attract votes from the younger generation but also teaming up homegrown startups for connecting with millions of people.
There is a social tracker called "TO THE NEW," launched by a business news channel, which spews out the highest-mentioned political personalities and political parties mentioned across social platforms.
It is one of the first digital services suppliers that evaluates digital conversations. It analyzes time period conversations and rising trends on social media. These updates are on a daily as well as weekly basis and show how many times a politician has been mentioned in a negative or positive light, cities/regions wherever conversations originate such as Mumbai/West, which seems to be more politically active, followed closely by Delhi/North, and how many tweets, news coverage, and blog posts have come up and so on.
Another startup riding this wave is Voxta, a speech recognition company that has become the "the political Siri." According to Techcrunch, BJP started offering Voxta-as-a-service to millions of its followers and potential voters, who need to dial a number to listen to the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's live speeches, pre-recorded messages on specific issues, etc. The service, started earlier this year, is expected to receive over 3 million calls within a month.