Social Media

Facebook nears 150 million users in India: Dan Neary

Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

DAN NEARY, Vice-President of Asia Pacific, Facebook

Facebook in India has had a rollercoaster ride so far. On the one hand, it has had huge success in terms of getting users on its social networking platform and the messaging application – WhatsApp, on the other it has faced regulatory challenges for some of its projects such as the Free Basics. The company though is focused on the business opportunity here and is investing heavily in expanding operations. Recently, Facebook opened a new office in Mumbai in addition to the ones in Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. BusinessLine met Dan Neary, Vice-President of Asia Pacific at Facebook, to talk about how the company is seeing the digital advertising space in the country.

How is business shaping up for Facebook in the region ?

When we look at the overall business we are delighted at how it continues to grow. Across Asia Pacific, we are lucky because macro factors are in our favour. Facebook has 566 million users in Asia Pacific compared to 1.65 billion globally which means that over a third of all our users are here in this region. This is the fastest growing region for us and the overall narrative is that the next billion users will come from here. It’s also the fastest growing in revenues.

Where does India figure in this?

India is the second largest with 148 million users. We now have 4 offices in India compared to just one, 3 years ago. Business is growing here. Largest developers outside the US are now in India.

What are the big changes driving business?

Major shift includes the move towards mobile. If we were to look at overall users, roughly 90 per cent are coming on mobile devices, exceeding our own expectations. That’s a big change. In India, this is even more pronounced as 95 per cent of the 148 million is coming on mobile. Other big shift is around video. This is exploding. The use of video to communicate is even more powerful. We are doing 8 billion videos views every day. People are sharing three times more videos than last year. We are seeing ten times more engagement on live videos.

What are the big challenges in India and how are you working around it?

The challenge is the connectivity. We have an emerging market team that develops products. We have something called slide show which converts a video asset into a slide show. When the user is on a low connectivity network, we run the slide show. So the marketers and advertisers are seeing value.

There is a debate on whether traffic is moving from web to mobile applications but at the same time there are some who are moving from app to web, especially in the e-commerce space. How do you view this?

It’s about the power of ‘and’ not the power of ‘or’. We are seeing rise of mobile, it includes apps and mobile websites. If you look at web traffic, desktop is up slightly, mobile web is also up slightly but 90 per cent growth is coming through apps. Right now, there 3.1 million apps. If you look at people, they don’t have more than 27 apps on an average on their phones and 80 per cent is spent on top 3 apps and 50 per cent on the top app. In India, Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger are the top 3 apps in terms of downloads. So, if your focus is on business reach by harnessing the power of all of it, we think we have the best solution.

How do you compete in terms of measuring impact of digital advertising?

Our targeting capabilities are the best and we can do close loop measurements. The conversations are moving from metrics likes shares, tweet share; to tell me how I am impacting the bottom line. One of the differentiator is that we are built around real identity. Most of the other publishers do the best with algorithm and cookies. The challenge with that is that the user moves between different devices and cookies do not track your movement.

We, on the other hand, know exactly who you are across devices so that’s huge value to marketers.

We have the ability to serve relevant advertisements. Measurement isn’t still perfect, but we can tell with high degree of certainty because of real identity to prove that marketing dollars are working.

How is India doing in terms of business?

Ad revenue for us is growing at 56 per cent globally. In Asia Pacific, largely driven by emerging markets including India, we grew at 62 per cent so our ad revenue is growing at a quicker pace here.

How have regulatory issues like Free Basics this year and privacy last year, impacted business?

It’s difficult to say how any isolated regulatory move impact but what we track is the overall sentiments. Best indicator is the level of engagement, whether it is decreasing or increasing. Globally, 65 per cent of our overall users are coming back every single day…that number is up from what it was before.

The fact that daily usage is increasing it is a reflection that we are part of their lives. Things like privacy is something we all care about. When something like that goes wrong it can destroy trusts so we take it seriously.

India leadership is now an issue with Kirthiga Reddy moving out. The timing looked suspect since it came close to the free basics fiasco. Have you found a replacement?

Many months before the conversations on free basics, Kirthiga, an American citizen, said that she is relocating to US. She is not leaving the company.

She is highly talented and she has accepted a role in the US for managing global accounts and help manage emerging markets with her experience here.

We were delighted that we got so many responses for the Facebook India role and we have found a successor. We expect to have a formal announcement over the next few weeks.

Published on May 31, 2016

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