India is in the middle of a big generational shift towards digital: Ajit Mohan

Meta India VP and MD Ajit Mohan said that one of their key focus areas in India is to become an ally for small businesses and entrepreneurs

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Nov 24, 2021 8:40 AM  | 5 min read
Ajit Mohan

Meta India VP and MD Ajit Mohan has said that the Indian market is in the midst of a generational shift towards digital thanks to the pandemic which has forced behavioural changes not just in consumers but also among businesses. The generational shift is driven by the scale of digital in the country with 700 million internet users, how people are spending time on digital, and the rise of small and medium entrepreneurs.

"We are in the middle of a big generational shift towards digital, and it is driven by two or three things. One, when you have north of 700 million people online who are engaging every day. Some of the largest vehicles for reaching consumers are on digital. That's a big shift even if we look at last couple of years," Mohan said at a media event.

He continued, "Second is driven by changes in behaviour in terms of not just where people are spending time but how people are discovering brands. If I just look at Instagram there are businesses that are born on Instagram. They may not have websites, but they are present on Instagram which is enough for them to build followership.

"Third is the rise of SMEs and small entrepreneurs. Behind the big headlines about big IPOs of fintech companies is the explosive increase in people's willingness to take risks, the energy to not just build and innovate on business models, but also to solve problems for the world."

Mohan said that the creator led economy which has come into being, which will be built around commerce and not just entertainment. "We are in early stages of a creator led economy which would be built around commerce and not just entertainment. Fundamentally, this is the new form of creative expression that is coming from the ground," he added.

He also said that one of the key focus areas for Meta in India is to become an ally for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The small businesses have also spurred the growth in digital advertising which was not there earlier. "So much of our work from a product and investment point of view has been making sure that we provide huge utility for small businesses and that's exploded in the last 12 months and that's a lot of advertising that is new for all of us who have spent years looking at advertising as a percentage of GDP in India and how that number didn't move dramatically over 10-15 years."

The Meta India chief said that the SMEs are using digital advertising to drive business growth. Digital advertising, he said, is the most effective way of reaching consumers. "There is so much entrepreneurial energy and new businesses that are coming up who are fundamentally using digital marketing as a growth driver and that's all the advertising that didn't exist two or three years."

Mohan noted that Facebook and Instagram had taken a big bet three years ago to grow the video ecosystem in the country. The focus was to become an enabler of creative expression in the country. That's how Instagram Reels came about.

"Given the nature of social platforms and the technologies that we draw in, the idea was how we can be an enabler for really spurring creative expression in a country where there are a lot of people and a lot of that has showed on Facebook Watch and especially in the context of last 12 months a big part of that has been on Instagram Reels. That has been a standout story of creative expression in India in the last 12 months," he stated.

On the issue of internet regulation and the creation of IT Rules 2021, Mohan said that the internet in India needs to be regulated to allow bad actors from creating trouble for genuine users. "We believe that internet needs new rules. It is wise to have regulation. We have also articulated that India is among the three countries besides US and Europe that have the opportunity to set the tone of how the internet will evolve."

He also said that Reels is a great example of a product that is piloted in India and then launched globally. "We benefited from India being one of the early countries where Reels was tested, and piloted. Learning and the adoption has been phenomenal. Six million Reels are produced every day in India and the number keeps going up. We are still at a stage where we are constantly figuring out how to improve the product in terms of evolving tools that are available to creators to be able to express themselves and to be able to experiment."

Mohan said that Meta has started testing ads on Reels, and it will provide tremendous opportunity to marketers to leverage the engagement on the platform for driving sales and commerce. "We are in very early stages of discovering on what monetisation on Reels could look like. But we are working on some of the principles that have worked for us as a company over the last many years which is to ensure that ads are personalised and not disruptive, and they add to the experience. I am excited about where it is all headed."

Mohan made these comments while speaking at Media Partners Asia's (MPA) APOS India Summit on Tuesday.

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