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Fast-growing startup WhatsApp was the talk of tech town on Thursday after social media giant Facebook announced a $19 billion buyout of the mobile-messaging application. While the deal created an instant global buzz, an Indian took centrestage in the aftermath.
Having crossed 450 million active users, WhatsApp’s business head Neeraj Arora (35) has had a lot on his plate in the past few months. He told an Indian business news channel in November last that WhatsApp had no plan of selling out to Facebook or Google. Now, with a stunning price tag of $19 billion for a company that employs just 55 people, Arora’s portfolio has grown remarkably.
Arora has two US patents to his credit — methods and systems for email attachment distribution and management and second for an email integrated file delivery.
According to Arora’s LinkedIn profile, he takes care of “all things business at WhatsApp”. He has previously worked at Google as a senior member of the corporate development team. Arora, who is an Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi graduate, also led Google’s acquisitions and strategic investments across products and geographies.
Before working for Google, Arora worked as chief manager at Times Internet Limited, working closely with the investments and corporate strategy team at Indiatimes, a subsidiary of The Times of India Group.
Arora’s LinkedIn profile page says he is a “self-learnt hacker” who “built pieces of the core technology” at Accellion, a developer of enterprise software for mobile file sharing. He is also a management graduate with a degree from the Indian School of Business.
With Facebook’s plan of making no change in the way WhatsApp functions, Arora will have to drive the integration of the business operations of the messaging platform with the social networking website. “Nothing will change,” he replied on Thursday to a query by one of his 4,769 followers on Twitter: “As a loyal WhatsApp user, I'm pretty sad it's been sold to Facebook. Privacy is a key concern, another is unnecessary add-ons to the app. (sic)”
Arora also denied that WhatsApp’s development engineers were based outside the United States. “Everyone is in Mountain View,” he tweeted after a follower posted, “Note WhatsApps entire dev team in Russia. Anti-immigrants working hard to keep foreigners out. Shows they don't need to be here anymore (sic).”
Many of the engineers at the Silicon Valley-based firm earlier worked remotely — most of them from Russia. WhatsApp’s co-founder Jan Koum today provides recommendations for a few of them on his LinkedIn page.
One of his major achievements in India was to convince Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications to bundle unlimited use of WhatsApp with a Rs 16/month data plan. The scheme was an instant success. Arora also pushed Tata Docomo to offer unlimited WhatsApp usage for Rs 15 for 15 days.
Arora, who is based out of San Francisco and Hyderabad, did not respond to an email query by HT.
(With inputs from M Rajendran)