Over the last few years, India has seen a tremendous rise of social media companies, with some of them even competing with the likes of Big Tech, such as Twitter. And most of these companies address a problem statement. Take the example of the microblogging platform, Koo. The app started by first identifying a lacuna present in the microblogging platform, Twitter: lack of Indian vernacular languages. But while a host of these social media apps perform a myriad function—such as professional networking, creation and distribution of short videos, and many more—what the Indian landscape has lacked is a kind of app meant exclusively for voicing opinions of citizens, politicians, NGOs, bureaucracy, and so on. New Delhi-based social media app, Polietik wants to do just that.
Started by two brothers, Siddhant and Yash Kalash, the idea for Politiek began when the duo realised that there was no mechanism for citizens to constructively raise their voices and reach out to the politicians representing their constituencies. “Look, most of the time on other social media platforms, while politicians and influencers are presented, it is next to impossible to reach out to them with problems faced by citizens. The cacophony of these mediums is such,” says Siddhant.
What was needed, according to the two founders, was a medium which is both simple to use, and yet something which can undertake the task of being a bridge between the public and the powers that be. In fact, one of the first things the user notices after logging into Politiek—which is bootstrapped completely from the day of its launch—for the first time is its clean, simple interface. This translates into a very smooth user experience. And, most importantly, while signing in, the app asks for the user’s complete address and pin code. Once we get past this, the problem of searching for the constituency, and the member of parliament or legislative assembly is automatically solved, because we get a series of messages from citizens and influencers pertaining to that particular pin code the user has provided. And one can see citizens raising a host of issues about their localities, about the ongoing Covid-19 situation, and so on.
But while the idea of bridging the gap between citizens and their representatives is a novel idea, what about the scalability of such an app?
The duo argue that Politiek is an experiment in data-driven democracy. “We have this top-down approach when we talk about democracy,” Siddhant says. He argues that what Politiek tries to do is to bring in the concept of cooperative democracy in the functioning of the app. “It is not just about bridging the gap between citizens and their representatives, but also allows citizens to become influencers, where their voices, even above and beyond their constituency, can be heard,” he argues.
Yash agrees. He points out that for a country so intensely political as ours, Politiek as an app can work wonders during the elections. “Our plan is, in fact, to properly deploy Politiek as a social media tool during the upcoming elections,” Yash says. “The genesis of this app really began in the U.S, and there at the 2019 Virginia state elections, we piloted Politiek successfully. So we know the immense value it can generate when deployed in the Indian elections,” says Siddhant.
A big question looms large here. For a social media platform dedicated to politics, the task of content moderation must be tough. The duo argue that the app utilises a complete artificial intelligence setup to weed out abusive and threatening messages. And as Politiek—which as of last year, has upwards of 15,000 users—grows in strength, the duo have some robust plans to ensure the content going into the app are properly monitored to ensure any kind of manipulated materiel is swiftly identified, investigated, and if found violative of the app’s rules and regulations, it is removed. The duo are in the process of securing their Series A funding for Politiek.
“India and its noisy, chaotic democracy is unique in the world. And to serve this huge target audience, we needed an app that understands the country’s issues and problems,” says Siddhant. The duo believe that for the time being the focus would hinge on scalability and acquiring market share.