Facebook plans to expand footprint, steps up product testing in India

Topics Facebook | whatsapp | Reliance Jio

Facebook Managing Director and Vice President (India) Ajit Mohan said for many of the products launched by the global major, India's become among the first group of countries to function as a testing ground
Facebook is not only looking at taking global its collaborative model between WhatsApp and JioMart in the e-commerce space, but is also increasing its product testing in India in a significant way. Facebook Managing Director and Vice President (India) Ajit Mohan said for many of the products launched by the global major, India's become among the first group of countries to function as a testing ground.

One such example is the much talked about launch of ‘Instagram Reels’, a 15-second video offering, which many say is positioned to take on the possible vacuum created by global leader TikTok. The latter faces a ban in India and serious challenges in the US, where it is looking for a forced sale to Microsoft or closure.

Clarifying on the buzz that Reels was launched in India in the test stage because of the Indian ban on TikTok, Mohan said: “Its launch in India was not influenced by the government action against TikTok at all. It was always to be tested in India.”

While Mohan said it was too early to share more details on Reels’ performance as it was just a few weeks old, he said that currently one third of the posts on Instagram were videos.

“Instagram is a place where cultures are created. It gravitates towards people who follow their passion and interests. And in that context, a lot of expression leads to defining a new culture. Instagram saw that in the short form video, there was an opportunity for the product to play a productive role by creating new tools for creators,” said Mohan.

His ambition for Reels is that it becomes a global creator from India which will be able to leverage the global reach of Instagram. “We know its use will grow. But what will be impactful is when someone who is not a celebrity and is outside the traditional centres where celebrities come from, uses Reels to create a global cultural movement and a global following,” said Mohan.

But the company faces a tough challenge in the short video space. Many home-grown companies such as Roposa, MX Taka Tak, Mitron, Chingari and music channels like Gaana have joined the bandwagon.

On the WhatsApp-JioMart partnership, he said the model would be exported to the world “if we are able to show that it adds value to consumers and small business.’’

Facebook invested $5.7 billion for a 9.9 per cent stake in Jio Platforms, Reliance Industries' digital services arm, in April. JioMart is Reliance Retail's e-commerce platform.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is collaborating with Jio Platforms and JioMart, which has been commercially launched to take on the might of Amazon and Flipkart.

Sources in the know say WhatsApp is creating a chat interface within its service for JioMart. Through this interface, consumers can order products, and kirana shops can fulfil them without either of them having to download a separate JioMart app. In one go, the interface will connect JioMart to over 400 million WhatsApp customers in the country, helping JioMart catch up with Amazon and Flipkart. Reliance is looking at connecting with over 20 million small retailers and restaurants, among others.

On the launch of WhatsApp Pay, Mohan said permission was expected soon. “In many ways, payment is all around the UPI stack and we hope that we can be an important vehicle in that to bring financial inclusion. We are fundamentally a platform company and we will partner with others who can leverage our scale,” he said.

On Facebook’s global restructuring, Mohan said that it took a call to treat India as a region sitting out of Asia Pacific and working directly with Facebook’s US headquarters in Menlo Park.

Mohan asserted that Facebook is not like any other streaming company or OTT channel and does not commission content. Instead, it focuses on social videos and on bringing communities together.

The business model of monetisation will remain advertising revenues. “Our monetisation will be through advertising. We believe that keeping services free helps in getting the largest number of consumers,” said Mohan.  

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