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Nobody wants to head Facebook, WhatsApp in India! Blame it on govt's prosecution threat

India is surely a dream place for any senior-level executive eyeing for the top job in the thriving tech sector. But that's not true in case of Facebook and WhatsApp as no one seems to be interested in leading the country that provides the social media giant maximum number of users in the world.

twitter-logo BusinessToday.In   New Delhi     Last Updated: September 5, 2018  | 18:40 IST
Nobody wants to head Facebook, WhatsApp in India! Blame it on govt's prosecution threat

Facebook and WhatsApp are the two most widely used platforms in India. Facebook and WhatsApp have a combined user base of over 57 crore users in India, which is more than the United States. Considering it's Facebook's biggest market, senior-level executives should ideally be interested in the top job at Facebook India. But that's not the case.

Both Facebook and Whatsapp are under the Indian government radar over their inability to stop spreading fake news, which has resulted in incidents of mob lynching and alleged killing of several innocent people. Both the companies have been warned they will be considered abettors in crimes and can face prosecution if any fake news shared on their platforms lead to violence. So, it's not surprising that no one wants to be the top representative of the company in India.

Facebook has not had a country head in India for some time now. Facebook India Managing Director Umang Bedi had quit the company in October 2017. Though the company appointed Sandeep Bhushan, the head of its global marketing solution in India, as an interim MD, the position is yet to be filled. The MD position is equivalent to that of the V-P (vice-president) post, with an annual compensation of up to Rs 14 crore along with stock options but fear of personal liability seems to be making it difficult for senior executives to consider the role.

"The threat of personal liability would deter managerial talent from considering a job, especially if those individuals have other options, and especially with companies, which are in any way dependent on data covered by the law," Times of India quoted Brian Wieser, senior analyst at US-based equity research firm Pivotal Research Group, as saying.

Though Facebook is reportedly considering the names of industry honchos like Star India MD Sanjay Gupta, Tata Sky MD Harit Nagpal and Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan, the final name is yet to be disclosed by the company. Experts also believe that senior executives are worried over Facebook India's limited powers to influence the global policies of the US-based social media giant. In total, Facebook has over a dozen senior-level posts lying vacant for quite some time.

Over 40 deaths have been reported in India due to misinformation spread on WhatsApp in the last five months. From combating fake news to launching its payments service, the company has constantly come under scanner for failing to comply with the Indian laws. Considering this, the government could soon bring in new guidelines to ensure better compliance. The stringent move will involve the notification of fresh clauses under existing intermediary guidelines under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act. The Supreme Court had issued a notice to the company and the government, asking why WhatsApp has not yet appointed a grievance officer in India.

(Edited by Manoj Sharma)

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