Here Are Some Numbers That’ll Put The Demonetization Deaths Into Perspective

It’s been one of the human stories reported around India’s demonetization drive – the deaths resulting from the move. Several news outlets have chosen to carry these stories, often with loud, jarring headlines. Some, like the Huffington Post, are now counting a “death toll”. The appeal of such stories is not hard to understand – they are instant click magnets, and put the whole move into real, visceral terms – if a move has resulted in people literally losing their lives, it can’t be any good, can it?

demonetization deaths

But it’s useful to dive deep into what the numbers really mean. Huffington Post painstakingly compiled a list of 33 reported deaths within the first week of the move. The deaths are a combination of suicides, heart attacks for the elderly, and people who supposedly died while waiting in a bank queue. 

While 33 deaths is certainly 33 too many, it’s important to keep in mind how large India really is while parsing these numbers. While demonetization resulted in 33 deaths/week, here are some numbers on how Indians have died across the country last week.

Deaths from road accidents (2,964/week): 1,40,000 Indians died in 2015 in road accidents. That puts the death toll from road accidents in India at 2964 per week, much greater than the 33 people who died in the week following the demonetization plan.

Deaths from suicide (15,342/week): 8,00,000 people commit suicide every year for a wide variety of reasons. That translates into a death toll of 15,342 per week. In comparison, 11 people committed suicide thanks to the demonetization scheme last week.

Deaths from heart disease (20,000/week): India has a growing problem with heart disease. The Times Of India reports that a person dies every 30 seconds from heart disease in the country. That’s equal to 20,000 deaths in a week, much greater than the 8 people died from heart attacks after the demonetization plan was introduced.

Deaths from electrocution (184/week): In 2014, 9606 people died from electric shocks in the country. That translates to a weekly death toll of 184.

Deaths from rabies (383/week): 20,000 people die annually from rabies in India. That’s 383 deaths per week, more than 10 times the deaths attributed to demonetization.

Deaths on the Mumbai local trains (38/week): Forget the entire country – 2000 people die on the Mumbai local train system every year. That’s around the same number of deaths per week that the demonetization scheme has supposedly caused. But these deaths haven’t caused outrage, or headlines in the press. And they haven’t stopped millions of Mumbaikars taking the trains every day.

The demonetization deaths are undoubtedly unfortunate, and the scheme could’ve been implemented better. But stoking indignation by selectively reporting on these deaths is disingenuous and misleading. Most experts agree that the demonetization move will help India in the long run – this is the time for the country to rally together and get through this together, not rely on misplaced statistics to create a false sense of panic.

[The opinions in the article are the author’s own and don’t necessarily represent the views of OfficeChai.]

I’m An Assistant Manager At A Bank, And This Is What The Last Week Has Been Like

I heard of the government’s demonetization scheme when everyone else did – through the Prime Minister’s address to the nation. It was immediately clear that while the government’s move was well intentioned, bankers would have their work cut out over the next few months. I work as an Assistant Manager at a Public Sector bank and Gujarat, and the week has been the the most stressful of my career.

banker on demonetization

Now banks work in a routine, and there’s a daily set of jobs to be repeated every day. These tasks have to be completed within a certain time – before closing – and delays can lead to financial losses. Every branch is equipped with enough staff to handle day-to-day operations. For instance, a typical public sector bank’s branch in an urban or semi urban area comprises of a staff of 5-8 people. And a banker’s workload is measured in vouchers. If a customer visits a branch, and deposits cash, they get a voucher, if they deposit a cheque, they get a voucher. A voucher is roughly the number of people visiting a branch. We used to typically handle a work load of 200-350 vouchers. For the last week, it’s jumped to 700-900. That’s a threefold jump, instantaneously.

And my bank is seeing cash like never before. Before the announcement, our closing balance used to be Rs. 8-10 lakhs. Now our closing balance averages around Rs. 2 crore. Our work timings used to be 10-4; now we work all day without once looking up. The staff has been coming early to start the day’s work like clearing, cash sorting so that they can have the most possible time to exchange and deposit old notes. Our minds are numb by the evening, and when the customers leave, our jobs are still not done.

After public dealing stops, it still takes another few hours to complete the work for the day. The real task is to tally the closing balance which can be short or in excess if we aren’t lucky. It may take any number of hours to find the mistake. And if the mistake isn’t discovered then the cashier has to pay the difference, if cash is short, from his pocket. And differences are in multiples of 500. Several colleagues of mine have had to pay as much as Rs. 10,000 because daily balances haven’t reconciled.

And what makes our task difficult is that most branches are not equipped with the kind of sorting machines needed to handle such work load. Counting and finding a fake notes are done manually at many branches. 

For the most part, despite the large crowds, things have been peaceful at my branch. The Nagar Palika has sent over two constables to maintain law and order, and they ensure that things don’t get out of hand. People are patient, and grateful to finally exchange their money. But many are confused with the daily/weekly limits for withdrawal.  Right now, one can withdraw Rs. 24000 in a week, but the week starts when you first debited your account – it is not the Monday to Sunday week. This limit also includes cash withdrawals from ATMs . If people don’t understand these things, they have to stand in the queue, and when they finally reach the counter their account can’t be debited and they have to draw a new cheque/withdrawal form. 

Another interesting aspect is the money that has been coming into the Jan Dhan accounts. I suspect that this isn’t people’s own money. My branch is not in a Tier 1 city, and the people here are not rich. But there has been money coming into these accounts. People who’ve crossed their Rs. 2.5 lakh limit are depositing their cash into other people’s accounts, presumably for a commission. You need a PAN card to deposit amounts over Rs. 50k – people have been depositing Rs. 49k into accounts. 

It’s been a stressful time for everyone, and I empathize with the people standing in queues. We also have been working for 12 hours a day, and not taking holidays. Monday was not a holiday for bankers in states like Gujarat and Maharashtra. But the demonetization is for the greater good, so I don’t mind so much. I hope that this scheme reaps benefits that makes all this worth it. 

Sushma Swaraj Is Changing How Indian Politicians Act On The Internet

Sushma Swaraj is no stranger to Twitter. She was one of its early adopters, having joined the platform all the way back in 2010. She tweets regularly, and has built a sizable audience – over 6.5 million people follow her updates. Today, she sent out the following tweet.

The External Affairs minister broke the news of her hospitalization directly on Twitter, straight to her audience. Years ago, the announcement would’ve been made by a harried staffer, presumably in front of a hospital. Or in a press conference with the media in full attendance. Forget several years ago – when Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha was recently hospitalized, her health updates were shrouded in secrecy, and only given out at specific times by her party.

But Swaraj has been one of the politicians who’s made a seamless transition to the online world. Her Twitter account is her mouthpiece, and helps her disseminate updates to her audience. And these updates are straight from the horses’ mouth, instant, and without the interpretations of the press and pundits.

And Swaraj hasn’t only used her Twitter account to send out updates. Her account has also become a one-stop-shop for the resolution of grievances of ordinary Indians abroad. She’s instructed her team to immediately rescue a girl who was being held captive in South Africa, and helped out an Indian traveler who’d lost her passport while in Germany and had simply tweeted out to her. She and her team often respond to individual queries, like when a woman tweeted to her when she couldn’t get in touch with her husband after the Nepal earthquake, and she shows a sentimental side too – when a tweet about a man complaining that his wife couldn’t join him for their honeymoon because her passport hadn’t been processed went viral, she got the process expedited and got the passport issued in two days.

All this has won her several admirers online, and she makes sure her Twitter isn’t merely a collection of updates. Her current pinned tweet is a rare picture of her with her husband, taken at the Parliament premises. And it is this mix of personal tweets and useful information is what keeps people hooked to her updates, and keeps the followers rolling in. She might be 64, but she’s got the hang of the online medium like no other Indian politician.

Here’s How The International Media Is Responding To India’s Bold Demonetization Move

The Narendra Modi’s government shock move to scrap Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes is not only dominating headlines in India, but is also making ripples across the world. Modi has been on the radar of the international media with his frequent trips abroad, and his demonetization crusade is getting extensively covered in the foreign press. 

Forbes: Five days after the decision, Forbes has published an article titled “India’s Great Bank Note Switch Appears To Be Working – $30 Billion In Rs Deposited In Banks.” The article notes that a move of this magnitude would result in “obvious chaos”, but points that “so far at least it looks as if it is working.” The article goes on to call the scheme “rather well done, a clever plan.”

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The Independent: This Singapore-based paper published a glowing article on the move titled “Modi does a Lee Kuan Yew to stamp out corruption in India.” Lee Kuan Yew was the Singaporean Prime Minister for several decades and is considered the architect of modern Singapore. “Government leaders feel that the sudden move by the Indian Prime Minister has brought new respect for him. A senior Indian government official even equated Mr Modi to Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. From making up his mind to rolling it out yesterday (8 Nov), a new Lee Kuan Yew is born in India. It will be reflected in the legacy of this Prime Minister,” the article said.

BBC: The BBC was more critical in its coverage, carrying an article titled “How India’s currency ban is hurting the poor”. The article focussed on the long queues at ATMs, and the problems small businessmen were facing with the sudden paucity of cash. 

New York Times: A New York Times talked about the crowds at ATMs, and also quoted an expert saying it was a wise move. “The plan, top secret until Mr. Modi’s announcement, was hailed by financial analysts as bold and potentially transformational for India. It is also a high-stakes experiment,” the article said.

Washington Post: The Washington Post in the US reacted in a positive manner. It called PM Narendra Modi’s initiative as ‘ambitious’ and in keeping with his election time vow to initiate a crackdown against black money. The Post said black money in India ‘is estimated to total from$400 billion to more than $1 trillion’.

Here’s How Demonetisation Is Effecting Online Shopping Traffic In India

On the night of 8th November 2016, something unusual happened. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi perhaps announced the most significant economical change during the lifetime of most Indians. 86% of our country’s currency notes would cease to be legal tender in just 4 hours. That’s a very short notice and it has since had tremendous impact on trade & consumer demand. Streets are relatively empty and people are lining up to exchange / deposit currency outside banks and ATMs. Enough discussion and debate is already happening on these topics, so I would spare you that. However there are some interesting data points that we are seeing as Pricebaba. Sharing some of those.

To begin with, it’s difficult for the e-commerce industry that runs primarily on COD. There is panic, lots of cancelled orders and volumes have gone down significantly. We as Pricebaba are seeing a good 30% drop in organic traffic to our site which we believe would be the same for marketplaces too. May be even more for some of them.

While we initially panicked thinking something went horribly wrong, here is a graph that shows a story, the night of 8th November.

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There was a 26.40% drop in user sessions between 8PM and 9PM alone. That was instant.

While city level data on Google Analytics isn’t always the most accurate, here is the drop across some top cities comparing 6-7th November to 9-10th November:

Mumbai – 29.2%

New Delhi – 37.7%

Ahmedabad – 28%

Bengaluru – 25.6%

Kolkata – 26.6%

This has a good impact on no. of people clicking through and going to e-commerce sites. Let’s look at the trends via our Clevertap panel:

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Clicks to top ecommerce sites by time (1-7th November)

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Clicks to top ecommerce sites by time (8th November)

Notice the drop in affiliate clicks post 8PM on 8th November? Post 8th November we have seen a 19-20% drop in traffic redirecting to top e-commerce sites from Pricebaba. This can be directly attributed to the web traffic drop.

If you were wondering range of products were most impacted, here is the price split. The below table shows % drop in traffic going to e-commerce sites for different price ranges post 8th November.

impact-on-affiliate-clicks-pricebaba

 

It seems that the traffic interest in lower end products is more impacted than higher end. It would be interesting to see how long it takes for the recovery in consumer demand. Our belief is that we will see good recovery once withdrawal limits from bank accounts are lifted.

PS: We are overall in favour of the demonetisation and are waiting for figures on how much black money was snipped in this movement!

[Annkur P Agarwal is the co-founder and CEO of Pricebaba. The article originally appeared here and has been reproduced with permission.]

Here’s How The Common Man’s Life Would Change After Demonetization

So, the pale-brown Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes are consigned to history now. It would be a Herculean task for banks to store and transmit the notes received to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and an even more onerous exercise for RBI to destroy these notes in due course. The noise over availability of the new notes would die in a few days, once the supplies improve and the ATMs are recalibrated. Life would move on… but some things would change as they have never done since India won freedom.

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The Prime Minister has shown the power the Government wields, provided there is someone who not only has the courage to exercise it but is also prepared to face the consequences. With this decision, the PM has shown that he is ready to take the plunge. The measure has upset the political strategies of the entire opposition and suddenly brought the black money issue back to centre-stage.

The banks are certainly going to be flush with funds, as they have never been before. CASA (current account savings account) deposits would swell. Interest rates could be headed south. The next RBI policy review could also see softening of the repo rate. The corporate sector could benefit significantly by these developments.

In the coming months, real estate sector could be in for a price decline, as the supply of unaccounted cash would be affected. The inventory of built-up units, which is already at an high, would come under pressure and builders may be left with no option but to bring down prices. It could also boost housing demand in due course. The demand of luxury goods such as luxury cars, gems and jewellery and high-end branded fashion products is sure to receive a setback in the short-term. Ostentatious expenditure, especially on weddings and the like could take a beating.

It is obvious that the entire amount of money demonetised would not come back to the banking system. There are different estimates about the quantum, though. But whatever the size, it is clear that the Government stands to gain as the money that doesn’t come back extinguishes the corresponding liability of RBI to pay. The ‘profit’ that RBI earns on this count would ultimately be transferred to the Government. The increase in tax collection would be a welcome by-product of this exercise. This would lead to certain reduction in fiscal deficit and may even bring a situation of no deficit. It would give the Government more comfort and flexibility in its forthcoming budgetary allocations.

Netbanking, use of plastic money and e-wallets would get a boost and the banking system increasingly used for monetary transactions. In fact, this has already happened and is likely to grow in the weeks to come. The PMs tough-posturing post demonetisation would also send a message to those indulging in black money to be forewarned. A culture of compliance towards regulatory measures seems all set to grow.

How Donald Trump Treated His Presidential Campaign Like A Startup, And Won

Whether you agree with his stands on issues or not, one thing is certain – Donald Trump disrupted politics.

He was the quintessential outsider; his entry into the political area was treated with a combination of incredulity and contempt. His main challenger had over 40 years of experience in politics, he’d never held a political office in his life. But Trump was a successful and shrewd business man – with limited resources and against overwhelming odds, he trumped. He did it by treating his Presidential campaign like a startup.

donald trump campaign startup
Source

 

1 The background: Startups often are small nimble entities that are trying to change how the world works. This involves pushing aside the existing world order. For years, US politics had been dominated by career politicians – Obama was a member of the Illinois senate before becoming President, George Bush was the son of former Prime Minister H.W Bush, and Bill Clinton had been the governor of Arkansas. Trump had no prior experience in politics. As an outsider, he saw inefficiencies in how the system was run – he claimed that Washington was a web of complex interconnected relationships between politicians, lobbyists and special interests. He says he jumped into politics to change all that.

2. Launch with a bang: Trump was a well known celebrity before he even started his campaign – he was the star of The Apprentice, and his name was splashed across buildings around the world. But with the Republican race having 17 candidates, many with political experience, Trump needed to stand out. While announcing his nomination, he came up with a bold, if controversial statement – he said that Mexican immigrants coming into the US were “criminals and rapists.” There had never been a political candidate who’d said things like those, even if stats hinted in that direction. What followed was a media frenzy, and Trump dominated headlines like no other candidate on the Republican ticket.

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Source: The free media coverage received by Republican candidates for the nomination

3. Bootstrapped: Trump is worth an estimated $4 billion, and he put his own money into his campaign. Other candidates, both Republican and Democrat, relied heavily on donors. Trump highlighted this fact throughout, claiming he’d put his money where is mouth was, and his non-dependence on donors meant he was fighting for the American people. Trump said he wasn’t controlled by special interests, and won hearts with his approach – many of his voters cited this as the chief reason they supported him.

4. Get a loyal band of initial users first:  It’s the mantra that startup gurus, including Y combinator members Paul Graham and Sam Altman preach – it’s better to be loved by a few loyal users, than being simply liked by a larger group. Trump’s rhetoric in the earlier days of his campaign won him a loyal band of followers. While they weren’t from the mainstream media, several influencers like Milo Yiannopoulos, and publications like Breitbart news became strident Trump supporters. Once he had their unquestioning backing, he was able to build his campaign around it.

5. Pivoting: A startup is a fast moving entity – strategies that work well in its early days won’t always work when it’s trying to scale. Trump had won the Republican nomination by making outrageous statements and being provocative. His rhetoric ensured that he won the Republication nomination, beating aside the other 17 candidates in the fray. But things were different once he’d become the Republican nominee – he’d already won over the Republican base, he now had to win over the independents and hope to convert some Democrats. He did this by acting a lot more Presidential – as soon as he’d won the Republican ticket, his tone softened, his message became a lot more inclusive. He’d campaigned for strict checks for Muslims and the building of a wall at the Mexican border – these talking points quietly took a backseat from his campaign when he became the nominee.

6. Using social media: Trump used social media masterfully. The mainstream media was staunchly against him, so he turned to social media to deliver his message. His rallies were broadcast live on Youtube and Facebook, and he managed to reach millions of people without spending much money. His Twitter account, cultivated over years of work (he had millions of followers before he even stood for President) became his mouthpiece. His social media team was alert, and used topicality and humour to get their message out. When Pokemon Go was a craze, Trump’s team released a ad showing Hillary as a Pokemon waiting to be caught. The Pokemon was called “Cheating Hillary”, and was responsible for deleting 33,000 emails. The ad was irreverent, funny, and drove home the message like nothing else. It racked up 12 million views on Facebook in a day.

7. Lean: And finally, Trump adhered to the smartest rule in the startup playbook – being lean. As of October 28, Clinton had raised $687 million compared to Trump’s $307 million—a 124 percent advantage. Trump had significantly lesser money than Hillary, but he chose to spend it wisely. Instead of buying expensive ad slots of television, he build a social media following. Instead of campaigning in states where he knew he had no chance, he chose to spend it on places where he could’ve conceivably win. The results bore testament to his strategy – Hillary Clinton won more votes than him, yet he won; Clinton had spent more money than him, yet he won. He managed to get an electoral vote for less than half of what Clinton spent.
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6 Stats That Show How Big Alibaba’s Singles Day Extravaganza Really Is

It’s the grand daddy of all e-commerce sales. 

Alibaba’s iconic Singles Day sale is currently underway, and is shattering sales records everywhere. Singles’ Day was first celebrated in the 1990s by young, single Chinese as an anti-Valentine’s Day (11/11 looks like two single, sad people). It was a joke “holiday”, but in 2009, Alibaba began using it to promote discounts at retailers on its e-commerce platforms.

And it took off. Now it’s by far the biggest day on Alibaba’s calendar, and the company treats it as such – the day has guest appearances by stars such as David Beckham, Scarlett Johannsen, Kobe Bryant and pop band One Direction, all of whom enthusiastically peddle Alibaba’s wares. And the sales are something to behold.

  1. Today, within the first five minutes of the sale going live, Alibaba managed to sell goods worth $1 billion (Rs. 6,700 crore). That’s more than twice of ShopClues entire GMV in 2015 ($400 million).
  2. Within the first hour of the sale going live, Alibaba had racked up $5 billion (Rs. 35,000 crore) in sales. That’s more than Flipkart’s entire GMV ($4.5 billion) in 2015.
  3. Within the first 13 hours of the sale going live, Alibaba managed to sell $13 billion of goods. That’s more than the combined annual GMV of Flipkart ($4.5 billion), Snapdeal ($3.5 billion) and Shopclues ($400 million) in 2015. 
  4. Alibaba’s sales in the first 13 hours are about as much as the entire GDP of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 2015. ($12 billion).
  5. Alibaba’s sales in the first 13 hours are more than India’s spend on primary education across the nation ($5 billion). They’re approximately equal to India’s entire spend on roads ($14 billion).
  6. Alibaba’s total sales on Singles Day will be approximately equal to the net worth of India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani ($18 billion).

It’s numbers like these that make jaws drop, but it’s also these numbers that cause Indian companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal to sustain losses just in order to gain marketshare. Alibaba is a breathtaking example of the kind of scale that’s possible to be achieved in e-commerce if you end up becoming a market leader. While Indian firms aren’t quite there yet, they’ll have the shining example of Alibaba to look up to.

This Is How Top Tech Entrepreneurs Have Reacted To Donald Trump’s Election

The stunning victory of Donald Trump to the highest office in the world – President of the United States – this week has sent shockwaves not only in America, but the rest of the world.  Silicon Valley, based in California has been dominantly Democratic, and a Trump presidency has not gone down well with the state, with some protests breaking out to even demand for California to “exit” from the United States. While scores of celebrities have made their preference for a candidate – and mostly Hillary Clinton – public, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have mostly stayed silent on the issue, perhaps, to evade mixing business with politics and avoid polarising the people.

Here’s some of the companies and their chiefs who have reacted to Trump’s victory so far.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO & Founder Facebook

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has personally shared a couple of notes encouraging people to go out and vote, and talked about Facebook’s role in covering the elections. While he’s shared a photo of him having voted, he’s not made public for whom. In an interview when asked about his thoughts on Donald Trump’s win, Zuckerberg put forth an insightful, if diplomatic response and said “There’s a lot of work to be done. [pause] it would’ve been true even for the other outcome.” Watch the full video here.

 

Matt Maloney, CEO Grub Hub

The CEO of the California based food delivery company has sent out an email to the employees calling out Trump’s transgressions. “While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behavior–and those views, have no place at Grubhub,” Maloney wrote in a company-wide email. “Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination.” Shockingly, the email also asks employees to hand over their resignation if they disagree.  I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone here at Grubhub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family here in the United States,” he wrote. “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team.”

 

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

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Apple CEO Tim Cook broadcast an all-hands memo to US Apple employees Wednesday evening calling for unity amid the uncertainty inspired by Donald Trump’s upset presidential win. In the memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News, Cook tells Apple employees that “the only way to move forward is to move forward together.” And he reasserts Apple’s commitment to social progress and equality.  Without mentioning Trump or his behaviour, Cook assures employees that nothing will change at Apple and should they feel anxious or scared, they can reach out. “While there is discussion today about uncertainties ahead, you can be confident that Apple’s North Star hasn’t changed. Our products connect people everywhere, and they provide the tools for our customers to do great things to improve their lives and the world at large. Our company is open to all, and we celebrate the diversity of our team here in the United States and around the world — regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.”

Elon Musk, founder Tesla & co-founder Paypal

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Elon Musk has opted to stay silent on the elections throughout, but a retweet by him may suggest his own apprehensions about Trump. Trump has been famously quoted as a disbeliever in climate change, a take Solar-Power evangelist Elon Musk is hardly to agree with. Interestingly, Musk’s Paypal co-founder is a famous Trump supporter and has even publicly donated a huge sum towards Trump’s campaign.

Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

The Indian-born Microsoft CEO has shared a note on “Moving Forward” on the Microsoft blog.  The note mainly talks about accepting change, and how Microsoft can enable development with its technology in a new America.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Amongst tech bigwigs, Jeff Bezos has been one of the most avid detractors of Trump and has criticized Trump in the past for how he ran his presidential campaign, claiming it “erodes our democracy.” Bezos — owner of the aerospace company Blue Origin — also joked about sending Trump to space. After Trump’s victory though, Bezos seems to have softened his stand somewhat and tweeted about wishing him success.

Peter Thiel, co-founder Paypal

Amidst a backlash by other entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel has been one of the very few celebrity supporters of Trump. He’s publicly backed Trump with a generous $1.25 million donation to support his election campaign, an investment which in hindsight seems to have paid off.  His public address talking about his support to Trump has now in hindsight become a psychoanalysis of the surprising election outcome.