Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel makes surprise India visit

He appeared unannounced among a group of Snapchat creators and developers at the company's APAC AR Day in Mumbai. In a fireside chat with APAC Head Ajit Mohan, Spiegel spoke about how India's young population makes it an exciting market

Pankti Mehta Kadakia
Published: Nov 6, 2023 05:43:56 PM IST
Updated: Nov 6, 2023 05:53:05 PM IST

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel makes surprise India visitSnap Inc’s Co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, flew in from Los Angeles to Mumbai for Snapchat’s inaugural APAC AR Day (Asia Pacific Augmented Reality Day) in India

Digital content creators and developers were in for a surprise at Snapchat’s inaugural APAC AR Day (Asia Pacific Augmented Reality Day) in India, with an unannounced guest at the venue. Not listed on the agenda, Snap Inc’s Co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, flew in from Los Angeles to Mumbai for the event, held at the ice-factory-turned-events-space IF.BE, at Ballard Estate.

Spiegel joined Snap’s President for APAC, Ajit Mohan, for a fireside chat at the venue. Earlier this year, Snap announced that the social media platform had crossed 200 million monthly active users in India; in comparison, its closest competitor, Meta’s Instagram, had 229.6 million monthly active users in India as of February 2023.

Snapchat’s strength has always been in its innovative use of augmented reality, through face filters, games, and location-based features. At the APAC AR Day, Spiegel said that augmented reality experiences are likely to be a big part of India’s future.

“My last trip to India was before the pandemic, and so much has changed here since. India has gone from number 7 in terms of GDP to number 5, projected to be number 3. An extra 400 million people are on smartphones. And there’s been an unbelievable amount of creativity from creators,” he said. “To see that explosion empowered by Snapchat here in India, at a time when the country is changing so rapidly, is just really exciting to me.”

What’s most exciting about India, Spiegel added, is how many young people there are. “This huge group is creating India’s future right now, and I think augmented reality is going to be a big part of it,” he said. “Giving people the tools to express themselves with AR or to learn about the world, is a huge opportunity. Whether that’s partnering with brands or building things for fun, I think there’s an enormous potential to reach the 250 million-plus folks who are on Snapchat in India, and growing.”

Globally, 250 million users engage with augmented reality every day on Snapchat. Snapchat’s ‘lenses’ or filters see a staggering 6 billion interactions each day. For Spiegel, augmented reality is important because it has the ability to bring the magic of computing into the real world.

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“For a long time, we’ve felt that computers and the internet are incredible powerful, but they’ve always taken us away from the real world. Growing up, in order to use a computer, I had to go to a computer lab at school, and make that choice to do that instead of going to the yard at recess,” he says. “Then mobile phones came along, and you see everybody just buried with their heads down, instead of engaging more broadly with their friends and with the world.”

With augmented reality, friends can ‘experience computing together’ in new ways, he explains.

“So as we look to the future of augmented reality, we know that it’s going to transcend the tiny form factor to glasses, and we’re really excited about the advancements we’ve been making with Spectacles [Snap’s augmented reality glasses],” he says. “It’s very clear that computing is going to be more and more embedded in our real lives, in the real world, and of course, bring us together with our real friends.”

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