Facebook woos farmers for growth

    K. Giriprakash
    Venkatesh Ganesh
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Kevin D'Souza, Country Manager, Facebook India
Kevin D'Souza, Country Manager, Facebook India

“We have heard of stories of farmers discussing crop prices. We believe that Facebook is one of the services which can help expand Internet in India.” Kevin D’Souza of Facebook

Facebook is wooing farmers to increase its reach in India.

Kevin D’Souza, Facebook’s country growth manager for India,told Business Line that the social networking giant is working with several device companies and service providers to create an eco-system that will allow anyone access the service.

“Some of the farmers are already using Facebook. We have heard of stories of farmers discussing crop prices. We believe that Facebook is one of the services which can help expand Internet in India,” D’Souza said.

Messenger service

He said Facebook’s messenger service is another initiative that can quickly bridge the divide between voice and text. “Even though we take SMS for granted, it is not really well penetrated. Only about 35-40 per cent use SMS,” he said. “Imagine what one can do with data. You can record your voice, or send a picture and share a story. These things are not possible on SMS, but can come alive on data,” he said.

D’Souza said Facebook made a fundamental shift last year to make mobile phones the first product to access the site. At present, there are about one billion users and about 60-70 million users are on mobile.

“Mobile phone is always with you. Especially in India, there is a limited number of computers, but mobile is heavily penetrated. We are excited about the opportunity which is available in India,” he said.

Mobile first

The Facebook official said whatever the company builds now, it is going to be built for the mobile first and how it can leverage the unique capabilities of this device.

He said the company invested heavily in building Android and Apple applications from scratch. “The re-write of our Apple application increased the news feed by 80 per cent,” he said. He said the investment on the product side have been delivering significant results. He pointed out that a lot of users go to the Internet first on mobile, and use their mobile numbers to sign up for Facebook. Some of them probably don’t even have an e-mail account. The notifications are in fact being sent through SMS instead of e-mails.

He said Facebook delivers no matter which device users are on. “Our Facebook site is actually built for small screens and it doesn’t even require memory on device. (Working on) these kinds of things helped us break the technology barrier to all the non-data users.”

D’Souza said the company is using developers to build applications on the Facebook platform. “Most of the innovation will happen in India through third-party developers that are building the FB platform,” he said.

Hopefully, all these activities will take the number of users in India to about 100 million from about 60 million soon, he said.

(This article was published on March 25, 2013)
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