How Ajit Mohan walked a tightrope between Meta’s trading profits and regulatory woes

Some corporate leaders operate in the shadows. Not Ajit Mohan. Either by choice or due to the very nature of his job: the now former head of Meta’s India division was thrust into the spotlight for events with far-reaching business and regulatory ramifications.

So when Mohan resigned from Meta on November 3, he capped an eventful and momentous four years at the US-based social media giant, which was known as Facebook until October 2021.

Mohan, then chief executive of video streaming service Hotstar, came on board with considerable autonomy in January 2019 as part of a restructuring in India orchestrated by Meta’s then chief operating officer (COO), Sheryl Sandberg. This allowed Mohan to oversee key functions such as sales, marketing and government affairs, all of which he had previously reported to Asia Pacific leadership or world headquarters, according to people who worked closely with the company.

guiding star

Mohan saw a steady rise on Hotstar before Meta. He joined Star TV Network in 2012 as a Senior Vice President, working with Uday Shankar, former Chairman of Walt Disney and former Chairman of Star India.

Soon, there was a renewed focus on Meta’s family of chat and social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp), which eventually boosted the company’s fortunes in India.

Meta’s gross advertising revenue grew 7X to Rs 16,189 crore (~US$2 billion) in the year ending March 2022 from Rs 2,254 crore (US$275 million) in the year ending in March 2019, corporate documents show.

But partly because of the company’s actions and partly because of a regulatory environment that seeks to crack down on big tech, the company’s rise in India coincided with several run-ins with the government.

For example, on September 10, 2020, the Delhi government sent a short letter to Mohan. It was convened by the Delhi Assembly’s peace and harmony committee, headed by lawmaker Raghav Chaddha of the ruling Aam Aadmi (AAP) party. The government had allegedly received



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that the provocative content shared on the different platforms of Meta helped incite communal riots that left 53 dead and several hundred injured in the national capital in February of that year.

Although the summons was addressed directly to Mohan, another senior Meta official responded three days later. A lot happened, but the highest-ranking executive of the social media giant in the country managed to circumvent the directive of a state assembly. Still, Mohan’s tenure was defined by striking a balance between helping Meta hold its ground and keeping the government happy.

Before Mohan, there was a perception in the central and state governments, including some ministers, as seen in their statements, that Facebook was not responding to legitimate questions, said a person close to Meta’s operations in India. the ken.

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