The disruption created by short-form videos has firmly taken hold across all social media platforms. Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, India, Meta sat down with businessline to discuss how Meta’s 2020 in reels to fend off impeding competition from Tiktok has played off, especially in India, which was one of the first testing grounds for reels as a product. Mohan notes that Meta’s biggest bet in short-form videos has played off extremely well in the Indian market and discusses in the interview how Meta plans on fostering the creator ecosystem in India to drive engagement further. Excerpts:


Meta has utilised the Indian market to foster some of the newest bets it is making on the product front from the recently announced partnership between WhatsApp and JioMart to the introduction of reels. How are they shaping up?

Reels are a component of many bets that we have made; the focus on small businesses and the partnership with Jio, which finally saw the rollout of Jiomart on WhatsApp a few weeks ago. All those bets have paid off or are paying off quite strongly.

With all the work we have done in long-form content in 2020, the big pivot we made was to Instagram and reels. India had a particularly special role to play there. India was seen as one of the test beds to see if reels as a format could work. It was one of the first countries where reels were trialed and launched. It was the first country where the reels tab was announced. Over the last 26 months, it is a country where we have done a lot of innovation that has gone global. Making India one of the fastest growing countries in terms of consumption and production. The response to reels has really allowed us to pivot to the next bet, which we will be making soon in AI-powered discovery feeds.


How has global engagement on reels evolved?

It is doing extremely well. Reels make up more than 20 per cent of the time that people spend on Instagram. While on Facebook, video overall makes up 50 per cent of the time that people spend on Facebook, and Reels is growing quickly there as well. In Q2 of this fiscal year, we saw a more than 30 per cent increase in the time people spent engaging with Reels across both Facebook and Instagram.


What is the business model for monetisation for creators on reels and how will it evolve?

The goal of monetisation is to make content creation lucrative and sustainable for even the smallest of content creators. We have dedicated funds created by Meta for a certain set of creators and advertisers are also playing a major role. Marketers are noting the importance of authentic advertising, where creators with a dedicated voice and following can give an authentic endorsement of a product. Savvy companies, including major consumer brands to direct-to-consumer companies, have really caught on and driven revenues. We are also experimenting with other monetization models in the US that can be sustainably launched globally in the long term. 


Short-form content has been getting negative attention in particular due to its addictive nature, which can cause harm to young people, especially teenagers and children. How are you addressing this?

We are fully committed to the idea that we have a responsibility to society here. We believe that when it comes to children, where we can have the most impact is by ensuring that parents have the right tools. For society at large, it is to make sure that there are enough devices and mechanisms and circuit breakers to prevent that addiction in adults if they choose to do so. We recently launched parental supervision tools on Instagram on September 15 to address this. Instagram also introduced a Family Center, a new place for parents and guardians to access supervision tools and resources from leading experts. This is available across multiple Indian languages. 


Can you talk about the AI discovery tool in Reels, which will be your next bet?

So the next big bet that we are making is the idea of an AI-powered discovery. As AI evolves, we create a discovery feed of content, including videos, of content that the user is interested in, which will be relevant for the user but not just restricted to the people that the user follows or brands that they have engaged with.