In one of India’s top institute for the most gifted students, Mark Zuckerberg chose to host a townhall to field some questions about Facebook. Alumnus of this institute include some big names like Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google) and N. R. Narayana Murthy (founder of Infosys), to name a few. Some of those in attendance could well be leading the biggest tech companies in the future, or be founders of tech companies. Much like Mark himself.
So, why has Facebook fallen in love with India? Or why did Prime Minister Modi take special time out to talk to Mark about the future of the internet in India?
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1. A Huge Audience
This one point is the biggest common denominator for all brands. And like all brands, Facebook has already tasted the sweet potential of the millions of active users it has here. More than 132 million, second only to the US. From Facebook’s point of view, there are still a whole lot of people that they can reach out to. The only trouble? Most of these people are living in areas where 3G is either expensive or just not available. That’s why Facebook now has a ‘2G Tuesdays’ program for their employees.
In total, India has more than a billion people but about half will not have access to the internet in any shape or form. They’re too poor or live in rather remote locations. That still leaves a good 400 million to pursue, who might find 2G being ‘good enough’ to check emails and send IMs, but not for the bloated Facebook app. That’s why we not only have Facebook Lite in India, but also Internet.org.
One of the questions posed to Mark Zuckerberg was exactly that. “Does Internet.org support net neutrality fully, let’s say 100 percent without any filters?” Naturally, the response a well-rehearsed one and one that showed supported for the principles of Net Neutrality without really going into anything specific.
Net neutrality is an important principle. We do a lot to support it, both in terms of pushing for regulation that kind of enables this, and in our own work – building an open platform that any developer can build something for regardless of who they are, as long as they follow the basic rules of what Internet.org is.
So, let’s say that this is only a crowd pleaser and behind-the-scenes, there is a plot to have fast lanes for certain services. Why wouldn’t Facebook not benefit from a deal like that? Why won’t they be coaxing the ministers of India to pass laws that help them with a monopoly? Who doesn’t want special treatment, after all, eh?
Again, I’m not saying this is a strong possibility. Just, one of the possibilities.
To that end, Facebook has done a lot and surely will continue doing so. If microfinancing can be such a major game-changer for some of the smaller countries then why can’t Facebook yield higher returns by wooing more businesses?
I don’t want this conversation to be one-sided. Please do sound off your thoughts in our forums and let us know if these points make sense to you. If you have additional (or different) data, do share it with us. We’re always reachable here and on our social media channels too.