Facebook, on June 7, announced that Adobe’s Umang Bedi will be taking over as MD of Facebook India. He takes over from Kirthiga Reddy, who was instrumental in setting up the social giant’s operations in the country in her 6 year tenure. Reddy, meanwhile, will be moving back to Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ to take up new responsibilities in the global accounts team.
In Umang Bedi, they have an experienced digital and advertising professional who has led Adobe’s business in the South Asia region for a number of years. Adobe has, over the years, become one of the premier marketing platforms for brands. Recently, Adobe was named a ‘Leader’ in the reputed Gartner Magic Quadrant for Marketing Hubs, a nomination it had also received in 2015. Adobe itself works with most of the top brands in India and Bedi is sure to bring his relationships and understanding of digital advertising to further Facebook’s case in India, which is something Facebook will be looking forward to.
Revenues from India still form a relatively small percentage of global numbers. As per the latest filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Facebook’s India revenues stood at Rs 120 crore (for the year ending March’15) as opposed to FY 2015 revenue of $17,928 million.
However, the top brass at Facebook still see it as the key strategic market going forward, given the huge user base, including the sizable untapped market. To this end, Facebook, which has anyway been highly aggressive in ramping up its advertising platform, has been pursuing brands as well as publishers even in India with new creative products as well as ad tech platforms like the Facebook Creative Shop, new ad products like 3D video, 360 degree video; slideshow (for feature phones), Dynamic Ads, Custom Audiences, Facebook Live, etc., while also simplifying advertising on Instagram. There are also rumours of some limited branding opportunities on WhatsApp that Facebook is considering.
But this should not be taken as a sign that Facebook is not doing well in India. Facebook has had an eventful last couple of years in India user base grow by leaps and bounds. Currently, Facebook is working with more than 85 per cent of Kantar’s reported top 100 advertisers in India. The user base now stands at around 142 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs), with about 90 per cent accessing the platform via mobile. Daily Active Users (DAUs) stand at 69 million with over 64 million coming via the mobile.
But the rapid growth was somewhat marred last year over controversies regarding Free Basics or Internet.org. Following a hue and cry about the possibility that Facebook and its telecom partners would end up controlling what subscribers get access to on the internet, the initiative has been shuttered for now. This incident has impacted the company’s standing among users and there was a lot of negative publicity for an extended duration. The fact that Facebook is also a member of COAI, the lobbying body for the telecom industry, has also raised a few eyebrows. Still, Facebook will now want to leave these incidents in the past and focus on the future.
With some exciting new products in the pipeline for brands, including the much anticipated Occlusion Rift, this could be a new and interesting chapter for the company.