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November 30, -0001

Interview with vice-president, business development at Facebook Inc

New Delhi: India was not the first country that Facebook entered outside the US. On the networking site’s 10th anniversary, India has emerged as the second largest country, after the US and Canada put together, in terms of user base. In terms of monetisation, though, India is far behind and Facebook has repeatedly said India is a focus market. Chris Daniels, vice-president, business development at Facebook Inc, speaks to Sounak Mitra on India’s importance, mobile-first strategy, partnerships and the way forward. Excerpts:

Q: How important is India for Facebook, and what makes India a focus market? Is India important because you can’t enter China because of stiff regulations?

A: It’s one of the key markets for us. We have 93 million active users in India, of which 75 million are mobile-active (monthly) users. This is the second-largest market after the US and Canada together. India is a key part of our mission to connect the world. India is important because of population, possible scale-up and future growth. Over the next five years, we will focus on our aim of “connecting people”, backed by the “mobile first” strategy. And, (yes), regulations don’t allow us to enter China.

Q: You are yet to figure out the monetisation part in India. Then what makes India an important market?

A: Yes, we are generating revenue from advertisement, which is our main revenue source of monetisation in India and globally. We are fine with just increasing number of users in India. Facebook is the most engaged community of real people in India. Our goal has been to make the work more open and connected, giving everyone the same opportunities. As mobile becomes the primary reason for many to access the internet, we expect the next billion users to come from mobile. For Facebook, mobile does not only mean smartphone, it is about connecting the unconnected, irrespective of the device or platform they are on.

Q: So there are users in India who use Facebook just on mobile. Globally, how much revenue do you get from mobile-only users?

A: Yes, there are users who have used Facebook the first time on mobile devices, and some do access Facebook only on mobile devices. Out of our 41-million daily active users in India, 31 million are mobile users. Globally, 53 per cent of our advertisement revenue, which is the main source of revenue for Facebook, now comes from mobile; this was nil a couple of years ago.

Q: How important is localisation for Facebook? Have you done anything specific in India?

A: Localisation of Facebook experience is a key part of our growth strategy in India. When we think of growth, we think of removing language barriers, and language is one of the barriers in India. We have partnered with device makers such as Samsung and Nokia to offer Facebook and Facebook Messenger in regional languages. In India, Facebook is available in nine India languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi. Globally, Facebook is available in 100 languages. India is, probably, the only country where Facebook is available in so many languages. This is an excellent opportunity to help bring millions of Indians online via Facebook through these collaborative efforts. We also partner with cellular operators like Airtel, Idea, Reliance, Aircel to offer better data plans for new users as well as to increase engagements of our existing users. In the years to come, we will focus on increasing engagement of our existing users and also to bag as many new users possible.

Q: If mobile does not only mean smartphone for Facebook, how do you ensure seamless experience for the users on non-smartphone mobile handsets, like feature phones, as Facebook is picture heavy application?

A: That’s why we have taken the initiative to offer Facebook to everybody, on every phone, which is a fast and easy-to-use native app that works on more than 3,000 different handsets, including feature phones (costing just about $20).

For entry-level feature phones, Facebook is available through USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, happens through text messages) technology. The proliferation of affordable mobile devices is expanding the market of people who can use Facebook and simultaneously driving content creation and leading to deeper engagement across Facebook.

Q: Is there any learning from India that you have taken or may take to other countries?

A: There are many things which have been developed for the emerging markets, including India. Facebook for every phone, focus on regional languages, are a few things which were developed for emerging markets, including India.