Facebook plans Indian growth drive

26 July 2010

NEW DELHI: Facebook, the world's biggest social network, is aiming to increase the size of its audience in India, where the number of internet users is rising quickly.

The pioneering Web 2.0 portal has now signed up more than 500 million members across the globe in just six years.

However, only 12 million of this group are currently drawn from India, where Orkut, a rival service owned by Google, is one of the most popular properties in this category at present.

In a bid to expand in India, Facebook opened an office in Hyderabad in March 2010, and appointed Kirthiga Reddy as director of online operations and Manoj Varghese as director of user operations.

To date, the site's diverse membership base in India includes the New Delhi traffic police and communities of female consumers seeking to assert their right to drink in bars.

In a feature in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook reported that it has “seen tremendous growth in India”.

This success was said to reflect its fulfilment of “a very basic human need: to connect and share with our friends, family, and people we know.”

More broadly, Facebook outlined its intention to “foster close relationships with business partners and government representatives in India.”

Many advertisers in the country are already attempting to employ this medium as a means to reach out to a youthful, digitally literate demographic in India.

Earlier this year, a survey by Indiabiz News & Research Services found that a majority of this cohort named Facebook as their favourite player in the social media sector.

This left it ahead of business-orientated site LinkedIn on 45.8%, video-sharing platform YouTube on 36% and microblogging offering Twitter on 29.6%.

MTV India, the broadcaster, has attracted 500,000 fans to its official page on Facebook, and is taking a highly pro-active approach to utilising this channel.

“To keep consumers coming back for more, you need to have constant engagement and TV alone can never do that,” said Aditya Swamy, senior vice president, sales & marketing of MTV India.

“The fact that over 500,000 very sharp young minds are a part of the MTV World shows that we are moving in the right direction. But really, this is just the start towards becoming a truly multiplatform brand.”

Applications are another area of interest to both netizens and companies, and Facebook held a Developer Contest in India to encourage the creation of the tools in 2009.

Recently, an app for Vaseline's Be Prepared fairness cream has received international media attention, indicating how global and local outcomes can result from building a presence on this site.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal/Radio & Music; additional content by Warc staff