As part of its commitment to India, Facebook plans to use the country as a test-bed for rolling out its future products.
“It’s a place where we learn from and deploy to other countries around the world. If we can build and scale it in India we can scale it to the world,” Ajit Mohan, Managing Director, Facebook India, told BusinessLine.
Trials in India
The company recently announced India as the test market for Reels on Instagram, a new format for creating and discovering short-form video content. There are also pilots being rolled out on micro-lending and micro-insurance with WhatsApp.
For example, Express Wi-Fi, which was first launched in India, is currently live in more than 20 countries. Under this programme, internet service is provided starting ₹10 a day to users in remote parts of the country. The service is commercially available through hotspots across Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Mumbai, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. “In the last four years, something remarkable has happened where 500 million people came online on the back of high quality and affordable broadband. You now have the possibility of playing a massive role in enabling the transformation of the economy. We believe we have a role to play over the long term,” says Mohan.
This is part of Facebook’s five-point India charter which Mohan is leading. At the centre of this strategy is the belief that growth in India’s Internet economy will lead to higher revenues for Facebook in the long term. “We do want to make sure that the economic models we are building are stable and sustainable. We are not applying a short-term transactional lens. The five pillars connect the dots between our platform agenda, our economic models and India’s economy,” says Mohan. “India as a country over the next five to 20 years is on a growth trajectory so advertising as a percentage of GDP is all going to go up as well,” he adds.
The other significant piece in the India charter is to create a platform aimed at the next 500 million users in the country. “There is a recognition that India has a special role to play over the next few years and decades. The largest number of people on Facebook and WhtasApp are from India. More than just numbers, these products including Instagram are deeply entrenched in the lives of people in India,” says Mohan.
But this deep engagement with users is also proving to be a problem for the social media company. “The user data with Facebook is a goldmine for advertisers, political parties and third party entities. There have been multiple instances where this data has been misused. This is a big worry and wheels could come off Facebook’s grand vision for India if they do not address this quickly,” said an industry expert.
Meanwhile, Facebook India reported ₹1,277-crore revenue in 2019-20, a 43 per cent jump since the last financial year. The company reported a net profit of ₹136 crore during the same fiscal. This is 28 per cet increase from the last financial year, according to regulatory filings by the company.