Social media is becoming the new Jantar Mantar for homebuyers to protest effectively, be it against builders or against the government.
In the most recent case related to builder Amrapali, buyers in one of its projects in Noida, tagged the brand ambassador, cricketer MS Dhoni, on Twitter and asked him to separate himself from the brand. The #AmrapaliMisuseDhoni created by them got over 35 lakh impressions. This cause Dhoni to react. He said that he would discuss it with Amrapali and that it must deliver on promises. He later quit as the brand ambassador.
The problems related to dysfunctional firefighting systems in the housing project, a missing lift and concerns over basement parking were highlighted by the buyers.
“Social media helped us in reaching out to Dhoni directly. Otherwise we would never have a direct channel to him,” RK Srivastav, one of the residents of Amrapali Sapphire in Noida, said. Protesters had no inkling they would manage to elicit such response on social media, he said.
“Today, you need not go to Jantar Mantar to protesting. Social media spreads the word around much faster and more people get connected quickly. And for businesses, it’s always a matter of worry,” Rahul Jain, founder of digital marketing solutions firm Social Rajneeti said,
Last week, residents of Ajmera Infinity, a project in Electronic City, Bengaluru, used Facebook and Twitter as a platform to post videos of armed goons inside their housing complex at the marketing office of the builder Ajmera Housing Corporation.
“The police did not file a first information report (FIR) initially, but after posting the videos, they were forced to file an FIR,” Vishal Mittal, one of the residents, said while complaining that 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, social media witnessed a grouping called Fight for RERA, both on Twitter and Facebook, to pressurise the central government to table the much delayed 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. They used Twitter to reach Gandhi, met him and got an assurance that Congress would support the bill. Gandhi also used Twitter to respond to the group.
Another grouping, known as DXP Welfare Association, has planned a protest 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 are also considering the growing power of social media as businesses can not ignore people’s issues. “All the issues raised by the residents have been noted and we will complete the works in the next 90 days,” Shiv Priya, Executive Director, Amrapali, said.
“On social media, anything can be said about anyone. You can not control anyone. If it is wrongly used, it is worse than a mob because it spreads like wildfire,” Deepak Mehta, CEO for operations, Ajmera Housing Corporation, Bengaluru said.He also clarified that there were no goons, as pointed out by the residents.
“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.