Social media is the new Jantar Mantar for protesting homebuyers
NEW DELHI: Social media is becoming the new Jantar Mantar of sorts for homebuyers. In the past few months, almost every protest by homebuyers, be it against builders or against the government, involved the social media, and with great impact.
In the most recent episode pertaining to builder Amrapali, buyers in one of its projects in Noida tagged the brand ambassador, cricketer MS Dhoni, on Twitter and asked him to distance himself from the brand. They created #AmrapaliMisuseDhoni, which got over 35 lakh impressions. This forced Dhoni to react, saying he would take the matter up with Amrapali and that it must deliver on promises. He later quit as the brand ambassador.
Buyers had been highlighting problems related to the dysfunctional firefighting systems in the housing project, a missing lift and concerns over basement parking. “Social media provided us the platform to reach out to Dhoni. Otherwise we would never have a direct channel to him,” said RK Srivastav, one of the residents of Amrapali Sapphire in Noida. Protesters had no inkling they would manage to elicit such response on social media, he said.
Rahul Jain, founder of digital marketing solutions firm Social Rajneeti said, “You don’t have to go to Jantar Mantar to protest today. Social media spreads the word around much faster and more people get connected quickly. And for businesses, it’s always a matter of worry.”
Last week, residents of a project in Bengaluru’s Electronic City area called Ajmera Infinity took to Twitter and Facebook to post videos of armed goons inside their housing complex at the marketing office of the builder Ajmera Housing Corporation.
While the police did not file a first information report initially, Vishal Mittal, one of the residents, said the police were forced to file an FIR after residents posted videos online. Mittal complained the builder was trying to make amenities of their housing complex common with a new villa community it has built next door.
Earlier this year a grouping called Fight for RERA used social media, both Twitter and Facebook, to the hilt to push the central government to table the muchdelayed real estate regulatory bill in the Rajya Sabha. The group planned a protest against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for his party’s stand against not letting consensus bills pass in the budget session of Parliament. Through Twitter they managed to reach Gandhi, met him and got an assurance that Congress would support the bill. That assurance from Gandhi too came on Twitter.
Almost as if aping their strategy, another grouping that calls itself DXP Welfare Association has planned a protest later this week at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the seemingly unending delay in finishing the Dwarka Expressway in Gurgaon on which several housing project are situation. Over 500 buyers are tweeting with the hashtag #EndLessWait4NPR.
Builders acknowledged the growing might of social media. Shiv Priya, executive director at Amrapali said that as businesses, they cannot ignore social media anymore. “We have noted the issues raised by the residents and will complete the works in the next 90 days,” he said.
Ajmera Housing Corporation’s CEO for operations in Bengaluru Deepak Mehta said social media is fantastic but it has to be policed rigorously. “With every freedom comes great responsibility. On social media, anything can be said about anyone. There is no control. If it is wrongly used, it is worse than a mob because it spreads like wildfire,” he said.
About the issue with residents, he said there were no goons. “They were our security persons who were sitting in our marketing office off duty. From our end, we are getting the video authenticated by Truth Labs,” Mehta said. Jain of Social Rajneeti said the mobile internet community itself is over 35 crore strong and with that critical mass, people are becoming more reactive on social media.