Facebook gains higher profile in India
Updated: 2011-08-06 07:53
By Ketaki Gokhale (China Daily)
MUMBAI, India - In a two-room shanty with no running water in northern Mumbai, Darshana Verma makes tea on a small stove. On a bench nearby, her 18-year-old son, Vishal, messages Facebook friends on the keypad of his Nokia smartphone.
"This is the Internet age," said the 36-year-old domestic helper, who spent more than half of her $300 monthly income on Samsung Electronics Co and Nokia Oyj mobile phones for her children. "Facebook is there, all these things happen there now - they make friends, maybe they can even find jobs there."
Cheaper Internet-ready phones may make India the biggest market after the United States for Facebook Inc next year. The country has more than 50 million users, according to Nielsen Co. As Google Inc's rival social network also gains in popularity, companies including Pepsi Co are boosting Internet advertising to reach the 352 million children under age 15 who are coming online.
"There's a mob out there," said Tarun Abhichandani, group business director at IMRB International, part of WPP Group, the world's biggest ad agency. "India has a young demographic, and it's social networking that brings them online."
The number of active accounts in India has jumped 85 percent so far this year to 32 million, according to socialbakers.com, which tracks user data at the Palo Alto, California-based company. That's the third-biggest in the world, behind 153 million in the United States and 39.2 million in Indonesia.
Mobile-handset sales in the world's second-fastest-growing major economy will surpass 206 million units annually in 2014 from 175.9 million last year, Gartner Inc forecasts.
Pepsi and Viacom Inc's MTV have been quick to tap the popularity of Facebook in the South Asian nation through promotions and contests. Their Indian pages have garnered 1.4 million "likes" for Pepsi and 2.9 million for Viacom.
"Indians want brands to communicate with them using social media," said a Nielsen report, adding that 60 percent of Indian social-media users are "open" to being approached by brands.
Online advertising in India rose 26 percent to 9.9 billion rupees ($223 million) in the year ended in March, according to IMRB. Advertising on social networking sites grew as much as 65 percent from the year before.
"The shift to online advertising is just starting to happen," Abhichandani said. "The number of Internet users here is on the rise and is going to keep rising for some time. Advertisers are realizing that."
Facebook opened an office in Hyderabad in southern India in September to serve users, advertisers and developers in the country and around the world, according to spokeswoman Kumiko Hidaka. The company is trying to improve service by working with mobile partners and "building relationships with India's strong network of developers and entrepreneurs", she said.
(China Daily 08/06/2011 page10)
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