Mumbai: Twitter Inc. plans to set up a research and design (R&D) centre in Bengaluru to grow faster in emerging markets, according to a 4 February report by The Financial Times newspaper. This will be the San Francisco-based company’s first such facility outside the US.

Twitter plans to use Bengaluru-based mobile marketing and analytics company ZipDial Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd’s team to build this new R&D facility, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter who it did not name.

Calls to Twitter and ZipDial spokespeople went unanswered at the time of going to press.

On 20 January, Twitter said it is acquiring Bengaluru-based mobile marketing and analytics company ZipDial, its first acquisition in India and a move that is aimed at expanding its user base in the country. The acquisition will also pave the way for the microblogging site’s first engineering office in India.

Twitter did not disclose financial details of the ZipDial deal, citing the so-called silent period ahead of the release of its financial results. However, a 12 January report by technology website TechCrunch, citing unnamed people, pegged the value of the deal at $30-40 million.

The purchase will help Twitter increase its base in a country where it has 33 million users, out of 284 million worldwide. Social media network Facebook Inc., on the other hand, has 100 million users in the country and 1.3 billion globally.

“It dramatically accelerates our ability to drive user growth in India, and over time, other emerging economies, for instance, Indonesia, Brazil and others," Rishi Jaitly, market director for India and Southeast Asia at Twitter, had then said in a phone interview.

Twitter and ZipDial periodically partnered each other in different campaigns like the general elections, film promotions for the Hindi film industry and MTVIndia’s #RockTheVote Dial the Hashtag campaign, over the last two years.

ZipDial’s employees, numbering a little over 50, including serial entrepreneur and ZipDial’s founder and chief executive officer Valerie Wagoner and co-founder and chief operating officer Amiya Pathak, will be joining Twitter’s product division.

Twitter currently has 284 million monthly active users, of which 80% are on mobile devices. According to the company, 77% of accounts are outside the US. With more than 33 million users, India is home to 8% of Twitter’s global user base. India has over 900 million mobiles. Moreover, in 2014, a little over 80 million smartphones would have been sold. And the numbers are growing rapidly, which explains Twitter’s growing interest in the country. Active Internet users are defined as users who go online at least once a month, according to the Internet the Mobile Association of India.

Twitter also plans to use India as a base to develop some of the new technologies for media and analytics capabilities that it plans to create as a part of research at the Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), the creation of which it announced with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab on 1 October.

In a 1 November interview, Deb Roy, an associate professor at MIT Media Lab who will lead the LSM and also serves as Twitter’s chief media scientist, acknowledged that India is big for Twitter, and that the company is going to develop new technologies for media and analytics capabilities that have relevance for social impact. LSM is funded by a five-year, $10 million commitment from Twitter.

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