Bringing a data-based approach, approval ratings to politics

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan New Delhi | Updated on May 14, 2019

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Of late, elections have become more than just traditional campaigns, with political parties relying on new-age tools such as social media and data analytics to pick candidates, highlight issues, and manage their campaigns. And here comes ‘Neta’ app.

The app has a 70-member strong team and about half of it works on technology. The rest are divided between administration staff and data analysts. Founder of Neta App, Pratham Mittal said the app has inked a deal worth ₹71 crore with five media companies or their associates.

“Some TV channels tried to copy us. But then we caught them in the middle and said, “You invest in us, why bother with your own product?” Mittal said. Neta currently provides data and partners with these news organisations and also does shows with them.

According to Mittal, Neta app has helped political parties to decide on candidates based on their popularity in crucial State elections such as in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. “The early adopters already have the app and they open the app every morning,” said Mittal.

“Public rating is an important indicator of who are the most popular candidates in the area. This helps us immensely in election planning. It also helps us identify new leaders who are extremely popular but were not on our radar. Public review on the platform informs us about the unattended issues as well as people’s sentiment about our party leaders,” said Yadvinder Mehta, Head of Social Media Cell, Chandigarh, Indian National Congress.

Neta has advisors such as former Chief Election Commissioners SY Quraishi and Nasim Zaidi on board. Former President and Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee, who launched the app in August 2018, is also a major advisor, Mittal said.

However, Mittal does not wish for Neta to become a political consultancy. Approval ratings and making them relevant on a daily basis is what Mittal is going for. “What if we can create a standardised approval rating system for the entire country? That adds a lot of value to the voters, to the politicians,” Mittal said.

Neta uses easily available parameters such as phone make, Trucaller API to estimate a user’s income level, gender and age group. Rural/urban information is gathered from location data. “We also focus on caste now. Let’s say your name is Jitendra Singh. If you are from Punjab, that means you are a Sikh. But if you are from Jaipur, that means you are a Rajput. With your name and location, I can figure out your caste with 70-80 per cent accuracy,” Mittal said.

Mittal ensures that data on the platform cannot be fudged by having created a mirror database so the information can be cross-checked. He also sold or licensed the technology behind the platform to private players in four other countries — Indonesia, Ukraine, Canada, and the US.

There are four revenue streams that Mittal has identified — data licensing, app operations, international licensing (as mentioned above), and advertisements — which may come to the platform in future. The app currently has over a million downloads on the Google Play Store and Mittal claimed a registration conversion rate (users signing up with their phone number) of over 96 per cent from downloads.

Plan after polls

After the Lok Sabha election results are declared, Mittal wants to optimise the platform for daily approval ratings of politicians. “I want them to be talked about every day,” he said.

Yadvinder Mehta said: “Neta app helps us in checking the popularity, public approval ratings, and reviews of our candidates from their respective constituencies. The public posts on the platform help us to prioritise better.”.

Published on May 13, 2019

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