95% of India users access Facebook through mobile, says Umang Bedi

Umang Bedi, Facebook India and South Asia MD, shares his views on the future of digital advertising and why India remains a strategic market for the social media website


Umang Bedi, MD of Facebook India and South Asia. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Umang Bedi, MD of Facebook India and South Asia. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Mumbai: It’s over 100 days since Umang Bedi took over as the managing director of India and South Asia at the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook Inc. Bedi was earlier South Asia and India MD at Adobe Systems Inc.

In a video interview, he shared his views on the future of digital advertising and why India remains a strategic market for Facebook. Edited excerpts:

How has your transition been from Adobe to Facebook?

The transition has been brilliant. I have spent the last 100-plus days deeply immersed in our business and have virtually met all of our top 100 clients. I’ve also spent a lot of time with our agency partners. Besides that, I have done a lot of travel between our India office, regional headquarters in Singapore and the global headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Please share some of the learnings.

One learning is that the lines between brand and performance in the world of marketing are kind of blurring. Traditionally, for example, when you walked into a large brand to meet a marketer or a category manager who is working with the media planning team, there would be a young kid sitting somewhere who was the social media person, right? The pivot has shifted. So, when I went to meet Sanjiv Mehta, the managing director of Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the largest advertiser in this country, he welcomed me with two statements. ‘Congratulations on the second best job in corporate India, because the first best is mine! The second statement was around mobile—how Facebook is now partnering with him not as that social media person but as a person that’s coming upfront into a brand brief. So, we are moving upstream, moving brand briefs, taking first-cut briefs and creating fresh creatives on Facebook that are mobile-first and feed-friendly and then going out in the market to measure the outcome for a business in terms of brand metrics and real-world sales.

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Another learning was when I met Shiv from Pepsi (D. Shivakumar, chairman and CEO). He said my target audience, inherently 75% of people in India, is below the age of 35, it’s a young nation, digital-first nation…so he’s leading in with all his marketers to lean in towards mobile-first. Don’t think TV first, but mobile first— that was a big learning for me.

How many mobile users do you have in India and how much revenue do you get from them?

In India, we have 166 million people every month active on Facebook. Of that, 95% is on mobile. We don’t break up the India revenue but globally, 84% of our business is mobile. So, while we (India) are the second largest country with 166 million monthly active users, we are the number one market in the world in terms of the percentage of people who are coming on Facebook through mobile.

Facebook recently admitted to discovering several mistakes in reporting of metrics to its partners and advertisers. What steps are you taking to ensure that the metrics are credible and transparent?

We took three corrective actions. The first was to set up a measurement council of the largest advertisers, wherein they are giving us guidance on what kind of measurement they want us to give a solution for. Second, we have partnered with third-party verification or audit companies like comScore, Nielsen and Millward Brown to verify the metrics. The third is that we have set up a new channel on Facebook on metrics called FYI, where we explain each and every metric.

The good news is that, regardless of whether the metrics were over- or understated, they did not impact advertisers’ business revenue or the spend on the platform. At least in India, the clients that I have dealt with, have appreciated the transparency.

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