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India is following the leaders

That entertainment dominates India is easily seen by scanning the IndiaInfluencer list – 17 of the top 20 names come from the movie world – and all, with the exception of Andhra superstar Siddharth, are from Bollywood. Check them out.

entertainment Updated: Jul 16, 2011 19:46 IST
Mahesh Murthy
Mahesh Murthy
Hindustan Times

That entertainment dominates India is easily seen by scanning the IndiaInfluencer list – 17 of the top 20 names come from the movie world – and all, with the exception of Andhra superstar Siddharth, are from Bollywood. The three non-entertainment omissions being the Dalai Lama, Barkha Dutt and Vijay Mallya – though it can be persuasively argued that the latter two do provide significant entertainment value. Rather than this being a Bollywood special, we wanted to highlight six not-so-obvious names. Here’s our choice of the six most surprising names in the top 100 list.

So who do you think are among the most influential people in online India? Surely Sachin Tendulkar must be high up on that list. And Big B of course. Oh, and Priyanka Chopra made a big deal about crossing a million followers on Twitter – she must be a shoo-in. Are we forgetting the badshah of celebrity endorsements, SRK himself?

Well, guess again, for the famous four don’t even make it to the top 20 list of influencers in our online country! So who are the gurus of the new online India, the ones that millions follow every word or to be more accurate, every 140 characters they spew?

Well, we at the digital marketing firm Pinstorm have been tracking about 1,500 Indian identities online every single day over the last few months, and we’ve found some truly surprising results. Page 3 party organisers, prepare to re-do your lists!

Do the names Karthik Srinivasan, Pragmatic Desi, Mahendra Palsule, Ramesh Srivats and Gautam Ghosh mean anything to you? If they don’t, they soon will – they’re just a few among the lesser-known names in our IndiaInfluencer top 100 list.

But this is not just a story about the lesser-known digerati – but about the topsy-turvy world of online influence, and the curiosities it throws up today. Can you imagine Uday Chopra, the butt of most jokes about Bollywood acting capabilities, being more influential than Amitabh himself? Or Gul Panag pipping Priyanka Chopra in the online influence stakes?

But before we get into the list itself – why is it important?

India is now no longer a digital dilettante – we’ve come of age. Over 100 million of us – that’s 10 crore+ are already online – and that number is greater than the television sets that tune in to cable or satellite around the country every night. Yes, digital is no longer a niche medium – it’s the big kahuna.

More than three crore of us have Facebook accounts and over 60 lakh of us – you probably included – use it every single day of the month. More than two crore of us watch YouTube every month – making it the largest English TV channel in India. And an estimated 80 lakh of us are already on Twitter. Interestingly about five crore of us access the Net through our phones – and that number is bound to grow as 3G and later LTE or 4G spread their way across India. So we’re not just in the world of TV and print – we’ve moved far beyond. We’re digital creatures now.
A new world deserves new heroes.

The old world of influencers – pick up a magazine and you’ll see the faces of the same celebs over and over – is due for a makeover. There is now a radically different bunch of people today’s India get their advice, or fix of humour, or gossip from.

The Pinstorm IndiaInfluencer list measures their influence using two internationally recognised tools: Klout and PeerIndex. Each of these does a complex set of measurements and calculations of someone’s activity across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and blogs – and the responses to these people.

It’s not about followers – but how you engage with them.
It’s not enough just to have followers. Sachin is No. 2 in India in this respect with about 12 lakh people following @Sachin_RT – but he’s on the fringes of the top 50 ranking because he’s tweeted only some 243 times – an average of once for every two days he’s been on Twitter. At the other end, Venkat Ananth, who writes for Yahoo Cricket, has only some 6,000 odd followers but ranks ahead of Sachin in influence, one reason being that he has tweeted over 112,000 times in the two-odd years he’s been on – for an astounding average of 116 tweets a day – or one for every 10 minutes he’s awake.

Then again, it’s not just about how much you tweet either. Klout and PeerIndex measure things like your reach, authority, amplification and activity among other attributes and show their result in a score from 1 to 100. (See box for info on the methodology.)

Dalai LamaTenzin Gyatso a.k.a. The Dalai Lama Supreme Leader of Tibet and the online community

1 Rank

Score: 84.86

Followers: 2,015,991

Tweets per day: 0.63

With almost 20 lakh followers around the world – far ahead of Sachin’s 12 lakh, the Dalai Lama surprises us by making it to the list. And astounds us by being undisputed No. 1 in India with an amazing eight point lead over the only-slightly-less-surprising No. 2, Sallubhai.

The Dalai Lama’s account is certainly not handled by the man himself but by someone on his team. They do a good job – his messages range from the spiritual ("Non-violence is a sign of strength. Violence is a sign of desperation and weakness") to the temporal ("His Holiness Dalai Lama speaks to the press after a meeting with Congressional leaders in Washington DC"). The Dalai Lama doesn’t follow anybody on Twitter – but I guess if you have 20 lakh people following every word you say, they probably don’t expect you to listen to others.

Despite the disputed claim of being human, there’s no doubt he’s BeingSalmanKhan
2 Rank
Score: 76.98
Followers: 819,221
Tweets per day 2.3

On his Twitter bio, this one-time alleged assaulter of girlfriends, endangered species and sundry sidewalk sleepers claims to be an artist, painter and humanitarian in addition to being an actor.
It’s not our business to question him. But we will try to understand his huge online popularity. It appears Sallu is managing his own account – the spellings give him away. (They’re not as bad as Shahid Kapoor who could not possibly have passed his Class 8 English exams given his complete inability to spell anything correctly.)

Sallubhai’s charm is in ingratiating himself with the aam aadmi online – it’s easy to believe he is one of them. His tweets run the gamut from Hindi (“Yeh lo phir se pani bhar gaya Mumbai mein”) to Gibberish (“Girl’s, Sending u guys sm pic’s of being human ladies watch’s”). Hot on Salman’s trail is his counterpart from the south, actor Siddharth, who is just half a point away.

Salman Khan

Mr. Recent-Retiree-After-A-Distinguished-Career-In-Acting Uday Chopra

8 Rank

Score: 74.65

Followers: 216,137

Tweets per day: 5.2

If Salman’s name brings a “what-the-” epithet to your mouth, this should do twice as well. Uday Chopra? The peanut head on gorilla body?

It does seem like Uday’s been doing well online – he’s been tweeting five times or more every day for a couple of years now. His utterances range from the physical “Imm off to the gym in a bit...anyone wanna workout with me” to the, umm, physical “They just kicked me out of the bar for taking my shirt off...I was just trying to impress the chick!!” to the even more physical “To @SoSassy Your place or mine, ha ha ha”.

What of course tells us a lot about social media is that some two lakh people have chosen to follow this man’s updates. Dear all of you who claimed that digital in India was only restricted to the sophisticated elite, please eat your words now.

The CEO of Gujarat, and bête noire of secularists everywhere: Narendra Modi
12 Rank
Score: 71.86
Followers: 237,810
Tweets per day: 0.52

Tweeting once every two days has obviously taken Narendra Modi much further than it took Sachin. That’s probably because his tweets are re-tweeted (or RTed in the jargon) ad infinitum by Modi-vadis and Gujarat-vadis everywhere.

Here’s a sprinkling: “The atrocity on innocent females & children last night is extremely derogatory; even the British had not been so mean” and “Going to review the arrangements for tomorrow’s Jagannath Rathyatra” to “Will develop Dholera SIR as a global model for urban and economic development”.

After the Congress muzzled Shashi Tharoor (once India’s foremost Twitter celeb, now a lowly #187 on the IndiaInfluencer ranks) Modi has become the visible face of BJP online and is knowingly taking on a larger, national role (a recent tweet: “Nation is furious over black money, Ramdevji asks for banning Rs 1000 notes. GoI removes 25ps coin”).

One can only hope that the old men of the BJP in Delhi don’t shut him down – he’s the closest they have to any icon with a following online.

Not often do CEOs of billion dollar firms talk to their customers but glad Anand Mahindra does
28 Rank
Score: 67.91
Followers 323,245
Tweets per day: 3.13

Yes, Vijay Mallya ranks higher – but you would expect him to, given the somewhat extroverted nature of the individual. What Anand Mahinda has managed can be a role model for Indian CEOs: to connect directly with customers to delight them – and take on naysayers with aplomb.

Here are some examples. From an irate prospect: "I requested for Test Drive of the Reva almost 15 days ago! No response! To top that I am a Mahindra employee!" Our man’s response, within a day "Customer care?" Next day, the prospect says: "The guys from the local dealership called. Test Drive arranged. Thnx".

The same confidence oozes against opposition. His answer online to the gent who says: "Will we see dis ad after 10yrs: M&M 4 sale after failed adventures with w201 & Ssangyong" is a cool "Don’t hold your breath".

Uday ChopraI do believe we will see more of our corporate leaders come out from behind their big desks and connect with their audiences in times to come. And they’ll be following in his footsteps.

Even better than the original The fake Rakesh Jhunjhunwala
65 Rank
Score: 61.47
Followers: 22,878

“I invented Twitter. I am humble”. And: “I always knew I was going to be rich. I never doubted it for a moment”.
With a bio that starts thus, there’s little else that needs to be said about the closely guarded secret of the real person who is behind the fake Rakesh Jhunjhunwala blog.

When it launched a few years ago, it was so accurate in depiction of the Dalal Street star that many swore it was the real him – till someone pointed out that it was unlikely the man would parody his own egotism.

Nevertheless, The Fake Jhunjhunwala today blogs and tweets about a lot more than just being the inventor of Twitter, the Internet and Facebook – but also takes on the much-reviled cricket commentary skills of Ravi Shastri. India needs a lot many more satirical accounts and this is a great precursor of, I hope, many more to come.

(The Fake Rakesh Jhunjhunwala writes ‘RJ’s Secret Dossiers’ – an exclusive weekly column for Brunch. You can read it on Wednesdays at

Top 10 influencers
1. Dalai Lama (DalaiLama)
2. Salman Khan (BeingSalmanKhan)
3. Hrithik Roshan (iHrithik)
4. Siddharth (Actor_Siddharth)
5. Ram Gopal Verma (RGVzoomin)
6. Farhan Akhtar (FarOutAkhtar)
7. Preity Zinta (realpreityzinta)
8. Uday Chopra (udaychopra)
9. Akshay Kumar (akshaykumar)
10. Aamir Khan (aamir_khan)

Top 10 in terms of followers
DalaiLama: 2,015,991
sachin_rt: 1,204,715
priyankachopra: 1,164,563
iamsrk: 1,001,881
SrBachchan: 899,498
aamir_khan: 847,557
deepikapadukone: 830,703
BeingSalmanKhan: 819,211
realpreityzinta: 698,825
iHrithik: 633,210

Where do these celebs rank on the influencers list?

Amitabh Bachchan: 24
Whaa? He seems to tweet endlessly, but he doesn’t even make the top 20 of this list

Shah Rukh Khan: 26
Though he’s stopped tweeting as much as he used to, SRK’s clearly still a hero to us

Shashi Tharoor: 187
India’s original tweeter is now not even in the top 100!

Sachin Tendulkar: 46
Cricket’s God at No. 46? Heavens!

Aamir Khan: 10
Now that’s a respectable rank

MS Dhoni: 22
Not that far off the top 20. Way to go!

From HT Brunch, July 17

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First Published: Jul 15, 2011 12:36 IST