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Photo: indiatoday

As the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) won the global race to conquer the south pole of the Moon and made history, the world applauded.

As expected, social media was buzzing with congratulatory messages for the feat that Isro has accomplished. But you might be surprised to know that millions of people, including CMs, celebrities, and well-known brands ended up cheering the “wrong Isro”. Well, you possibly can’t blame them for getting it wrong. The “wrong Isro” has 3.5 million followers on Instagram which is 32 times more than the real Isro account.

We tracked down the man behind this account and spoke to him. He turned out to be an engineer from Pune and a hardcore Isro fan who has been hooked on the mysteries of celestial worlds since childhood.

How the “wrong Isro” accounts were flagged

On Instagram, Isro’s official account has over 1,12,000 followers. But many, including the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan; actors Preity Zinta and Hina Khan; and brands like Saregama, Sony, and Hyundai went by the number of followers and ended up congratulating “isro.in” which has a massive number of followers at over 3.5 million.

Ultimately, the Press Information Bureau of India (PIB) had to come out and clarify that this wasn’t the official account of the Indian space organisation. It, in fact, mentioned several accounts like “isroindiaofficial” with 1.2 million followers and “isro.gov.in_” with more than 1,86,000 followers, which people mistook for the real thing.

But in this story, we are only looking into the biggest among them, “isro.in”. As per the Social Blade data, it gained more than 13 lakh followers in just two days, riding on the success of Chandrayan-3.

The man who beat Isro on social media

The account is run by Swamiraj Bhagwan Chavan, an engineering graduate from Pune, Maharashtra, who is a freelance digital marketer, space enthusiast, and a self-proclaimed Isro fanboy. He told India Today, “I would be very happy if Isro takes over my account with all the followers.”

Tracing Isro fanboy’s digital footprints

We noticed that “isro.in” had done multiple collaborative posts with another Instagram account called “chandrayan_3”. The account was also tagged in many of the posts.

isro account

We noticed that it was clearly mentioned in the bio of “chandrayan_3” that the account was created by “isro.in”.

In one of chandrayan_3’s Instagram Stories, we found a Google Form for a rocket workshop’s enrollment. This workshop provided a three-day certified course for children for Rs 699.

In the form, we also found an email ID and a QR Code for making payments. Upon scanning the code using Paytm, we found that this account belonged to Swamiraj Bhagwan Chavan.

We also found an alternate UPI account, which was also linked to a mobile number. The phone number has been redacted in this story. When we searched online using his name and mobile number, we also found his LinkedIn profile and website.

Stars in his eyes, Isro in his dreams

Chavan told India Today that he had been a space science enthusiast since he was a young boy. He shared with us a photo of a model rocket he built for a college project in his final year which won him an award.

He has been experimenting with making several social media accounts to share his passion for space and memes. Between all the Instagram accounts he runs, he has about five million followers.

Chavan said he started the Isro page when he was in class 12. Later on, following the advice of an Isro scientist, he added to the bio that it was an unofficial page “whose purpose is just to serve as a platform for sharing updates and Information about Isro”.

An offer for Rahul Gandhi

Chavan, who calls himself a “Growth Hacker”, wrote on his website, “I can make Rahul Gandhi win the 2024 elections If I Handle his PR & Marketing.”

When asked if he had ever seriously reached out to the Congress party or the leader, he said, no, this was in a light vain to highlight my marketing skills”.

Swamiraj Chavan studied electrical engineering and is working on his own currently in Pune. “I still spend a lot of money I earn on things related to rockets and space,” he said, adding that he has been to Sriharikota twice to see the launching of satellites.

When asked, how will he feel if Isro offered him a job, he said, “That day, I will be over the Moon.”

(With inputs from Aditya Bidwai)

Published On:

Aug 25, 2023


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