Snapchat in Damage Control after Alleged CEO Remarks Cause Outrage in India

The scandal provides little help to American companies struggling to crack the fast-growing market amid calls from local operators for more protectionism.

Snapchat has been forced into damage-control mode after its CEO was alleged to have said the app was “only for rich people” and that he didn’t want to expand into “poor countries like India and Spain”.

Evan Spiegel apparently made the remarks during a 2015 meeting, according to a former employee who is claiming in a lawsuit that the company destroyed his career.

The public reaction to the allegations in India was so bad that Snapchat issued a statement on Sunday describing them as “ridiculous.”

“Obviously, Snapchat is for everyone,” a company spokesperson told Indian media outlets. “It’s available worldwide to download for free. Those words were written by a disgruntled former employee. We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world.”


The damage, however, already appeared to be done, with Snapchat’s rating in the Apple store falling to one star following a deluge of negative reviews. Several boycott campaigns also started trending over the weekend. “Dear @evanspiegel we love the country more than this stupid app,” one user posted on Twitter.

The scandal comes as U.S. companies eye the world’s fastest-growing major economy, expected by the International Monetary Fund to expand by 7.2% this year. Last year, the Modi government announced sweeping measures to open the economy to foreign investors, though some local entrepreneurs have called on the government to protect local businesses such as Flipkart and Ola from the likes of Amazon and Uber.

“I think what we need to do is what China did. They told the world we need your capital but we don’t need your companies,” Flipkart co-founder and executive chairman Sachin Bansal told a panel discussion in December.

In a demonstration of the high stakes involved, Amazon in January removed a doormat depicting the Indian flag from its Canadian store after the country’s foreign affairs minister threatened to expel all of its employees from the country. Facebook, too, encountered difficulties in India after its offer to provide free mobile Internet to citizens was deemed a violation of net neutrality.

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