Facebook looks to ramp up investment in India, says MD Ajit Mohan

Ajit Mohan
Facebook is looking to ramp up its investment programme in India after its two fundings in Meesho and Unacademy, its Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan said on Monday. 

“These two investments have given us the conviction that we are on to something good. Therefore, the idea will be to ramp up this programme and accelerate it over the next few weeks and months,” said Mohan. 

Unacademy, an online learning platform, said last week that it raised a round of funding of $110 million with investors, including Facebook and General Atlantic, along with Sequoia India, Nexus Venture Partners, Steadview Capital and Blume Ventures. Kalyan Krishnamurthy, chief executive officer, Flipkart and Sujeet Kumar, co-founder, Udaan also participated in this round of funding.  

Last year, Facebook invested in Meesho, which provides resellers, who largely comprise housewives and small businesses, with a platform to sell their products across social networks like WhatsApp and Facebook. The idea of the equity stakes investment programme started last year was to see what could Facebook do to help fuel start-ups where they are experimenting with models that are disruptive and have huge interest for India, said Mohan. 

The investments are also category agnostic. “The difference (in the programme) from a lot of venture capital and private equity firms is that a lot of them look at it as an investment thesis, rooted in a category. A lot of them have a certain corpus that they have to invest over a certain time period. Neither of that framework applies to us. We haven’t set a category, and there is no corpus. Equally, there is no cap,” he added. 

Currently, there is a separate team that looks at these investments, based out of Menlo Park, but works very closely with the India team. The company, however, is looking to expand that to India as well. 

Facebook in India is looking at ‘fundamentally innovative models,’ and the investments in India differ from its global strategy in the sense that globally Facebook does not make minority investments.

With Meesho, Mohan said, it was not only a social commerce model but also they were bringing female entrepreneurs online for the first time. Similarly for Unacademy, what attracted Facebook was that they are disrupting the education and learning model. Also, while Facebook works with the start-ups it has invested in, it does not give them preferential treatment. However, it does engage with them more closely. “We make sure these firms have conversations with product leaders, understand how we are thinking about products and how we can help them,” said Mohan. 

Meesho has now expanded into Indonesia, which, like India, is a big market for WhatsApp. This is also a focus point for Facebook. “So we’re not just helping the agenda of India but also of Indian companies going global,” Mohan added. 

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