A spectacular rise of Parag Agrawal as Twitter CEO but what now?

Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chhaya

By any measure, it is a spectacular rise for Parag Agrawal from an engineer and one of the 1000 employees just ten years ago to now Twitter CEO at age 37.

With 206 million monetizable users, of which India accounts for the third-highest at 24.45 million as of October 2021, according to the data platform Statista, Agrawal’s ascension to the helm of Twitter brings yet another tech major under the leadership of a professional of Indian origin. In so much as Twitter still continues to influence political, socio-cultural and economic trends, for the 37-year-old Stanford doctorate, this is an extraordinary perch.

In just about 16 years after coming to America in 2005 enrolling at Stanford University for a doctorate in computer science, Agrawal now embodies the American dream. For someone coming from the background of mathematics and computer science, it is quite remarkable that he will now preside over a platform that moves entire countries and their socio-cultural and political systems across the world.

America continues to be home to the highest number of Twitter users at 77.75 million with Japan being at number two with 58.2 million users. There has been a rise of rival platforms in countries such as China’s Sina Weibo and India’s Koo. Even within the U.S. people with a conservative and right or extreme right of center political and cultural dispositions have moved to GETTR. India’s Koo is said to have 15 million users, many of them quite like GETTR users, right-of-center in their ideological preferences.

It is still early days to know where Agrawal’s personal political preferences lie and whether they, whatever they are, would play any role in the direction the platform might take under his leadership. Interestingly, some in India made it a point to observe how a “Hindu” was now in charge of Twitter as if that would immediately make a material difference in the way Twitter might lean one way or the other.

On the face of it though, given his grounding in mathematics and science, it would be interesting to see whether sociocultural and political fault lines in any way inform Agrawal’s leadership. One of his preoccupations has been databases, a key component of Twitter. According to a profile in The New York Times, Agrawal is also focused on machine learning as part of the company’s push towards targeted advertisements.

Agrawal gave some sense of how he would run the company in his tweet-statement thanking Dorsey. He describes Twitter’s culture as “unlike anything in the world”, also saying its “purpose has never been more important.”

“The world is watching us right now, even more than they have before. Lots of people are going to have lots of different views and opinions about today’s news. It is because they care about Twitter and our future, and it’s a signal that the work we do here matters. Let’s show the world Twitter’s full potential!” Agrawal said.

The idea of the world watching Twitter is only about two and half percent true when the total world population of just about eight billion people is factored in against the Twitter user base of a little of 200 million. It is true though that in some sense the platform has punched far above its user weight often setting global trends and igniting global debates that eventually impact humanity. By and large, though it has remained a place where bile flows uninterrupted disguising itself as informed opinion.

Agrawal’s relative youth and background in mathematics could be an interesting combination for someone at the helm of a platform like Twitter. It is a measure of what his rise as Twitter CEO that the number of his followers on his platform more than doubled in about a day to about 260,000 as of Tuesday morning. It is also a measure of how little he was known until now unlike Dorsey who has 5.9 million followers.