The day Kirthiga Reddy spoke with this writer was a significant one for Facebook - a billion people accessed the social media site that day. By any measure, that is an incredible statistic. For the record, Facebook has 1.49 billion monthly active users worldwide as of June 2015.
India, with 132 million users, is close to 9 per cent of that. And Reddy, an engineer and Stanford MBA, is looking to leverage it by going beyond plain vanilla advertising. "Market share is won and lost at times of transition," she says, referring to the consumer shift of media consumption to digital and mobile. "And we are focused on working with advertisers and businesses, in helping them grow their business in this period of transition."
For example, Facebook and Nestle came together when Nestle saw a threat to its Everyday whitener from liquid milk and other low-cost whiteners in the Northeast due to low penetration of TV. Together, they decided to focus on the mobile, which had wide penetration, and created a set of images related to Everyday that would display one after another once users log in to Facebook. Nielsen data showed a 14-point rise in brand recall among consumers (women aged 21 and over) and a five-point increase in purchase intent.
Reddy says Facebook is working with a lot of advertisers on such initiatives. However, it is still the tip of the iceberg. "Advertising through social media is still in nascent stages in India," says Neil Shah, Research Director, Devices & Ecosystems, Counterpoint Research, adding that Facebook's user base is just 10 per cent of India's population. Adds Vishal Tripathi, Research Director at Gartner: "Facebook is a technical platform, and they still have to figure out how to make money out of it."
The numbers seem to reflect that. While the company does not disclose India revenues, data from the Registrar of Companies show Facebook Online Services India Pvt Ltd had revenues of Rs 97.6 crore in March 2014 (later data is not available). That is much ahead of rival Twitter (revenues Rs 4.2 crore), but hardly any consolation. Reddy's journey towards making Facebook India a sustainable business proposition has only begun.