Cannes Lions 2019: There is a concerted effort to invest in India: Maya Hari, Twitter

Maya Hari, VP & MD, Asia Pacific, Twitter talks to us about what the brand is doing to reach out to consumers, their first ever marketing campaign in India and much more

by Neeta Nair
Published - 19-June-2019
Maya Hari Twitter

At a time when conversations about technology platforms dominating an advertising festival like Cannes Lions is growing louder, we spoke to Maya Hari, VP & MD, Asia Pacific, Twitter about what the brand is doing to reach out to consumers, their first ever marketing campaign in India and much more.

While APAC is considered as a huge growth engine for Twitter, where does India fit in the scheme of things?

For Twitter, the two pillars, the two powerhouse markets in Asia are India and China. The audience growth coming out of India makes it super interesting. There has been tremendous growth because of the 4G boom in the last two years and in the coming four years we are still expecting the internet population and mobile phones users to get doubled. We are seeing conversations on big topics like cricket or the elections on Twitter, and the engagement of that audience continues to grow, each year. So, India is a big focus market, a big investment market for us. We recently hired a very senior leader Manish Maheshwari who used to run Network18’s business. And it’s an exciting time to be able to bring someone who has both the consumer product and the commercial experience of having run a large media news platform. And to bring that to a tech platform is an exciting experience.

How soon do you see India entering the top 5 monthly active users list for Twitter, a list which is currently dominated by U.S and Japan?

Actually, India is one of our larger and faster-growing markets. For example, IPL has been going on for years now and every year we see the volume of IPL conversations grow rapidly. This year we saw 27 million tweets just from IPL. And that’s a 44% growth over last year. So, it’s a good proxy to show you the kind of growth we are seeing. And the growth interestingly is not coming just from the metro markets. Last year if you count the tweets on the top 10 Indian movies, 50% of them were not in English but in local and regional language which is very much in line with how the Internet growth is happening in India. Traditionally we had been a very metro-oriented service but, over the past year or so we have seen all the tech towns, Pune, Ahmedabad having very prominent Twitter communities. A lot of the news and politics consuming towns, like Lucknow and Indore, are becoming very prominent as well. So growth is diversifying beyond the metro cities.

As of the fourth quarter of 2018, Twitter had 321 million global MAU. This represents a notable decline from the 336 million monthly active users in the first quarter of 2018. What led to it?

Two things happened right around then. One is that we declared that we will stop talking about MAUs over time because we have learned that the better metric of health and usage on a platform is what we call an MDAU-- Monetizable Daily Active User. A person can come in once in 30 days and go but that doesn’t represent how actively he/she is using a platform like Twitter. We think of ourselves more as a daily use case. So, we moved from MAU to MDAU metric. And that’s an important metric for us globally now that we track it. In our Q1 earnings report, we saw that the MDAU was up by 11% year on year. So, we continue to show double-digit growth as we have for many quarters. Now, let’s go back and talk about why the MAU declined. We very publically made a big statement prioritizing the health of the platform above everything else. And what we mean by health is that we wanted to be able to tackle things like malicious automation, fake accounts, etc. And we have really gone all out to address that problem. We have seen amazing results between product, policy, and AI, in applying all of that. We have seen the results improve incredibly. As a natural outcome of that effort, we did see an impact on MAU. It was a hard decision for the company but we chose health over other things.

For the first time after entering India, Twitter launched its consumer marketing campaign, why did you choose this particular moment for it?

One reason is that there is a very big concerted effort around investing in India at the moment. And so this ladders up among other things between the leadership choices, the personalization of products as well as consumer marketing that we wanted to bring together. But we also wanted to take a moment and stop to acknowledge our users. There is so much that has happened in India. For every interesting story, I can narrate about another country, there are 10 amazing impactful stories that are played out in India. And that’s the power of the platform. The fit to the audience in the country is quite amazing. So, when you think about that, we wanted to also just acknowledge our users and say thank you that they continued to be in the driver’s seat, and are really influential. And to be honest it’s because of that, that advertisers and brands want to come in and connect with these audiences when they are marketing for themselves. We did the same too. We started with our campaign on Twitter and then we sort of had it run on Out of Home, TV, etc.

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