India’s First Twitter User – An Interview With Naina Redhu

Uday Mane
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India’s First Twitter User – An Interview With Naina Redhu

Do you recall any memory of July 2006? Probably not. But a good guess would be that you were cursing yourself for being addicted to this blue colored website called Facebook. As if that was not enough, one of your friends had suggested for you to join something called Twitter.

Twitter? What kind of name is that?

The name probably put you off for some time, but your social networking itch gave up and you finally joined Twitter. That must have been somewhere in late 2006.

While our memory of July 2006 has faded, one lady remembers the precise date of 13th July 2006.


On this day, she logged in to Twitter and became the first Indian Twitter user.

We are talking about Naina Redhu. Here’s an exclusive interview with @Naina.

Tell us something about yourself.

I am a photographer and a brand specialist. I develop brand names & design logos. I have a healthy disrespect for everything. Being the daughter of an army-officer means I’ve traveled extensively all over India & learned and understood diversity, albeit unknowingly, during my early years. I currently live in the NCR region with my husband who is a writer.

How does it feel to be widely recognized as the first Indian on twitter?

Correction: it is not a widely-recognized fact at all. But more people are finding out about it gradually. I am undecided on whether to use it as a factual tidbit to show-off or to ignore it completely. Also, the only website that offers any information on whether this is a fact or not is Tweeple. If Twitter officially listed me as the first Indian on Twitter, that would be really cool and probably worth showing off.

(I unearthed another reliable source. Link at the bottom.)

How did you come across twitter?

I received an invite to join this new platform in its early days. Unfortunately, I do not have the original email, nor do I recall the name of the person who invited me. One of the reasons, I think, I got the invite was because I was quite a prolific networker on LinkedIn and Ryze and other older platforms that do not exist anymore and people who were coming up with new web applications wanted me to join and give them feedback. I used to have a 9-5 deskjob those days.

Do you recall your first tweet?

I do not sadly. But it must have been something on the lines of “Hello!” I wish I could trace my early tweets for sake of documentation.

What was your first impression of twitter?

“What the hell is this and why am I wasting my time with this. Everyone on it is in Palo Alto / California - not a single Indian! Seems like everyone’s going out for coffee with each other.” That. And I quickly logged out after creating my account and tweeting a couple of times. I didn’t revisit it till 2008, after which I have been using the platform regularly.

What other social platforms were you actively using at the time?

Primarily LinkedIn but also openbc < now called Xing >, Ryze and a plethora of Yahoo Groups.

How long did it take for you to completely understand the functioning of twitter?

As I mentioned, my initial reaction was to leave. Once I did re-visit in 2008, it was a no-brainer in terms of understanding what it did. It took me another couple of years to understand the “why”. There have been more than a couple of times when I have come close to shutting down my account on Twitter but I have never been able to execute the thought. And today, I am glad for that. I thoroughly enjoy the platform.

Did it take a lot of time for fellow Indians to follow on twitter? Tell us something about your initial days on twitter.

When I joined in 2006, I was unable to find any active Indians on Twitter. But when I re-visited in 2008, it seemed like there had been an explosion. Everyone was talking about Twitter! I think the initial gain of followers was slow but it caught up quickly and unexpectedly in 2010-2011.

Name your favorite person on twitter?

Impossible to answer. Twitter is not something that I can separate from my life. So technically, you’re looking for the favorite person in my life, which is something I cannot answer because I have many. I have been lucky that way - interacting & engaging with people from across the world; people I would not have known existed had it not been for Twitter. Interacting with my favorite artists and photographers and even finding a mentor!

Where does twitter stand as compared to Facebook and LinkedIn?

For me, personally, with regards to my usage, Twitter is like having a conversation with my own self. Sometimes someone else will interject and there will be a discussion. With regards to my consumption, I use Twitter to update myself with news from across the world, issues related to my industry, reading what other people are doing, etc.

Facebook, for me, is currently not of much use except my Facebook Business Page.

LinkedIn was fantastic in the early days and I receive multiple branding engagements from clients across the world via this platform. Over the last couple of years, while I still accept invites to connect networks, my usage of LinkedIn has dipped. I am currently evaluating whether I should engage more on the platform and if so, how.

Twitter has gone from being more of a fun social networking site to a business networking site. How do you see twitter as? Do you use twitter to get/promote business?

I do post links to my blog posts and my images on Twitter but I know that it does not drive direct business for me. It helps me create awareness for my brand and it helps me to engage with people who like my work. I also use Twitter as my personal micro diary - I write about what I’m doing, where I’m going, I post photographs from my phone and I have DM chats. For an individual like myself, where it is difficult to separate the brand from the person - because the person IS the brand - I see no value in focusing only on promoting my business via Twitter.

Let’s talk about photography. You are a professional photographer. Tell us something about it. How long have you been into photography?

I photographed my first client assignments in 2006 on a film camera. There have been many incremental and drastic changes since then. I shoot digital now and I have a clearer picture of what I like photographing. Not crystal clear yet, but getting there. I focus primarily on lifestyle (including fashion), portraiture, travel and wedding photography. My style is more photojournalist / candid / documentary and I would like to shoot more industrial assignments.

Ladakh-Nov-2010-Naina-Redhu Naina's Photography - Ladakh (Click to Enlarge)


Has twitter helped your profession in more than one ways?

The internet as a whole has helped broaden my mind in terms of possibilities. But Twitter specifically has not helped in any direct way. It has taught me to be more open to criticism and deal better with it. It has also taught me to not look at other people’s work and feel terrible because I am sitting and browsing through it while they are doing it - there’s a time for everything and not everyone is competition. Twitter and the people on Twitter more importantly, have helped me become a better person and a better photographer in various indirect ways.

Let’s talk about twitter as a platform to create/share controversies. We see a lot of celebrities getting involved in outbursts. What is your take on it?

Easy to categorize everything negative as trolling.  Move on if it affects you negatively. Either change it or shut up. We all gossip and I prefer doing it with friends over coffee / drinks. Harmless gossip is one thing; however, direct attacks are a different story sadly. Celebrities are easy targets. Just because someone is popular and well-known, is no excuse to make fun of them. If you can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t tweet it.

Have you been involved in any kind of outbursts on twitter? What was the reason?

I’ve said a couple of mean things about some people and regretted it but there has never been an outburst. There were a lot of jokes about my red lipstick and other things using the #bitchplease tag that ran for a few days. That’s one of the other things Twitter’s taught me - to deep breathe. Someone I know once said, “People bitch about the things they can’t do or have.”

What according to you is the best practice for twitter?

Oh come on. Leave the best practices for business school and corporate offices. For people like me, Twitter is leisure time, conversations, gossip and sharing. For brands that are on Twitter, it’s a different story. And since I am not “social media expert”, I don’t know what the best practices are!

Any memorable moment on twitter

Lots. One was getting to work with @strobist who needed his DVD covers designed and responded to my tweet. Something that’s lately been extremely memorable is the customer service provided by @mediatemple on Twitter. Mind. Blown.

Your prediction for twitter in future

I’m going to be doing a whole lot more talking. You have been warned. Seriously though, tough to predict. When I signed on in 2006 and logged off after my first few visits, there was no way in hell I could’ve predicted that Twitter would get this big or that I could possibly be the “first person” in anything!

To build up more on this article, here’s a link to the list of first 140 twitter users. This list finds a mention on The Guardian. @naina is #103 on the list.

Want us to interview your favorite brand, expert or personality? Please feel free to mention them in the comments section below.

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