Aug 16, 2012

Facebook is working on building a team in India

Hidden dangers of Facebook
It is Erik Johnson's fourth visit to India in the last nine months and the head of sales for Asia-Pacific at Facebook describes it as among the fastest growing and the most exciting market for the social networking website. In an interview with TOI, Johnson highlights why India is a thriving market for Facebook and why, despite a tanking stock price since its IPO this year, the company has little reasons to be worried. Excerpts:

What fraction of Facebook's total user base are Indians and how fast is this number growing?

India is a large country and so we have great expectations from this market. Currently there are 955 million Facebook users and India accounts for 50 million of them. We had our first 'log out' advertisement run here which we have done for a big FMCG company in India. We are working on building a team here, and connecting with brands, which do not have as much social presence. It is a very important market not just for us but any company that wants to be successful.

India is a fast-growing economy and people are more accustomed to change and are tech-savvy. A lot of change is going on everywhere in the world but in India it is happening a lot faster and with more intensity. It's also very innovative for digital marketing. We would love it if everybody could have computers but good thing is we have solution on feature and smartphones.

Online payments and use of paid applications in India is still not that common. With India accounting for a significant user base for Facebook, what alternative revenue sources do you plan to use in India and such other countries?

We have had a good growth in India on the user front. We see good traction in terms of engagement with advertisers as well. We are aware of the challenges. Payment infrastructure in India is probably not robust as it is in other markets. But we are focused on all dimensions from a business point of view.

Your financial results after the IPO were quite disappointing ...

First and the most important thing is to see the commitment the company has for the long term. At Facebook we say the journey is 1% finished. Our growth still feels good. We are just at the beginning of the social web campaign and there is a lot of work we have to do for corporate users and brands. The earning announcement brings some good information. It shows that we clearly see shift towards mobile and that's something we are focused on.

By focusing on mobile platform for growth, isn't monetising these users a challenge? Will it lead to some sort of cannibalization of users on the web?

We got a pretty good story on the monetisation part. We got 'sponsored stories' and we got 'news feed' on mobile device. That's a great ad for us. We are pretty excited about the mobile advertising solution.

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