Twitter India’s Managing Director, Manish Maheshwari, has been granted temporary respite from possible arrest by Uttar Pradesh police in connection with a probe related to an assault on an elderly Muslim person. A video, which went viral on social media platforms, including Twitter, shows the 72-year-old man being beaten, with the attackers chopping his beard off.
Maheshwari had informed the Karnataka High Court that despite having nothing to do with the viral video, the UP High Court issued a notice under Section 41 of the CrPC, which listed him as an accused.
Ever since taking over as Twitter India’s Country Lead in April 2019, Maheshwari has had his hands full, handling Twitter’s problems with the Indian government, as the strife between the government and the social media platform intensifies.
The Indian government has accused Twitter of not complying with the new IT rules that came into effect, late May. It has also asked the social media firm to remove a ‘manipulative media’ tag it had attached to a tweet posted by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra where he had alleged that the Congress toolkit had been created to malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his handling of the pandemic.
The journey to Twitter
Legal concerns and issues, notwithstanding, Maheshwari has had quite an eventful journey to reach the position that he is in currently.
At a TEDx talk from June 2020, titled 'Taking the Path Less Travelled', featuring Maheshwari along with his wife, Priya Maheshwari, ex-founder and CEO of Properji.com, a pro-buyer real-estate research analytics start-up, the India Twitter chief speaks about how he grew up in a small town in western India, realising very early that he wanted to be different and do things differently.
“I started doing unconventional things at a very early stage, such as participating in contests at the state and national level. I was also an outdoor person, being a boy scout – something that now many in my town was."
As a student of the Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi, Maheshwari contested in the student elections and was also the editor of the student magazine.
After his graduation, Maheshwari went on to do his MBA from The Wharton School where he won the Shils-Zeidman Award, the highest award for Entrepreneurship at Wharton. He also went as an Economic Development volunteer to East Timor, under the Wharton International Volunteer Program.
Maheshwari started his career with Proctor & Gamble, where he was based out of Mumbai, Singapore and Manila, There, he was one of the youngest regional expatriate managers in the company.
He then moved to the United States, and, after working with McKinsey for a few years, Maheshwari moved to the Bay Area. This was at a time when technology was disrupting the world. He says, “I was amazed at how information was being created and easily accessed at nearly zero cost. I started wondering how the world would be like if people everywhere, in India and in my own town, could access information and be empowered through that.”
This was also a time when India was going through a mobile revolution and almost everyone had a basic Nokia phone which could do two things - voice calls and SMS. “So, I and my friend and mentor started brainstorming about how we could use technology to bring information to people, even those in the most remote parts of the world, who have access to only a simple mobile phone,” he says.
In 2011, Maheshwari co-founded TxtWeb, a platform that allows app developers to build SMS-based apps, which became one of the largest of its kinds in the world. Through the platform, anyone could access information by sending a code to a specific number and getting information back on their phone as an SMS in any language in the world.
“By doing this, people anywhere in the world, including people in India, could access information which was till now available only to people who had internet access,” he explains.
TxtWeb went on to become one of the largest mobile platforms for citizen journalism where people could get information and also contribute stories to the platform in their native language.
“That was an exciting time as I could now change the lives of people, I grew up with by making information available to them in a device they already had,” Maheshwari says.
While at Flipkart, Maheshwari worked in the capacity of Head of the Merchant Business and Seller Ecosystem. Under him, Flipkart grew its marketplace 10x from 10,000 sellers in February 2015 to 100,000 sellers in February 2016.
After quitting Flipkart, Maheshwari moved on to Network18 in April 2016, taking on the mantle of CEO of Network18 Digital, which has under its umbrella Moneycontrol, Firstpost, News18, In.com, CricketNext and CNBC-TV18.
When Maheshwari joined Twitter in 2019, India was going through an exciting phase in light of the general election. This was also an election that saw social media use at its highest with politicians across states and parties creating Twitter profiles, campaigning, discussing and fighting it out real-time, online.
“The same set of people who had basic phones in India then, now had a smartphone that not only allows voice and text, but also pictures and videos, and all are on Twitter. I am happy that I am now enabling people to connect with information globally,” Maheshwari says in his talk about his journey with Twitter.