Home >Companies >People >Twitter’s Dick Costolo sees India turning into key business market in five years
Costolo says Twitter sees a significant amount of interest in India for brand advertising on its platform. Photo: Bloomberg
Costolo says Twitter sees a significant amount of interest in India for brand advertising on its platform. Photo: Bloomberg

Twitter’s Dick Costolo sees India turning into key business market in five years

There's never been a better time than the last quarter for an Indian to be on Twitter, says the microblogging site's CEO

New Delhi: Despite 33% of its revenue coming from non-US markets, India doesn’t figure in the list of major revenue earners for microblogging company Twitter Inc. But Dick Costolo, the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) and the man who, over the last four years, has steered its efforts to monetize its 271 million monthly user base, is working rapidly to change that.

In an interview with Mint a day after the company’s shares jumped 35% to $51.20 on the New York Stock Exchange, following better-than-expected second quarter results—a 124% jump in quarterly revenue to $312 million—Costolo said, “There’s never been a better time than the last quarter for an Indian to be on Twitter—from the Lok Sabha election and how Narendra Modi won the #TwitterElection; to all the major cricket tournaments that integrated extensively with Twitter such as the Indian Premiere League and ICC World T20".

His excitement stems from the “fantastic user growth in this strategic market for us", one in which the fledgling Indian business has been successful in “onboarding superstar entertainers like Rajinikanth—first and only on Twitter and not any other social media platform".

“India", said the 50-year-old, who joined Twitter in 2009 as chief operating officer after co-founding FeedBurner, a digital content syndication platform that was acquired by Google Inc. in 2007, “is a vital market because Twitter is the world’s real time information source and for that we have to have the widest possible coverage in the world".

India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world for Twitter and if Costolo would have his way, it will also be “a vital business market" for the company in the next five years. For that he sees the company working more closely with partners like mobile operators to reach their customers and across businesses such as sports, entertainment and news.

But for now, the metric for success in India will be “user growth and user experience without worrying too much about advertising".

Costolo did say that because of the strong momentum the company has had in India, it sees a significant amount of interest for brand advertising on its platform.

“We are looking at bringing our advertising platform to India", said Costolo, “but the primary focus is delivering many more user experiences."

Commenting on the company’s quarterly results, released on Tuesday, Costolo was somewhat guarded: “On the financial side I am pretty delighted with the revenue acceleration and the doubling of the profit numbers. On the product side we have a lot of work to do and I don’t have any illusions about that. I can see an incredible amount of room for Twitter to get better for new users, core and casual users."

For the second quarter, the company’s advertising revenue growth accelerated to 129% year-over-year. What must be gratifying to Costolo is that 81% of total ad revenue during the quarter was generated from mobile devices, something he has pushed in his four years as CEO.

Debunking the notion that Twitter works best in times of crisis, for instance during the recent clashes in Gaza or the Odisha cyclone in India last year, Costolo said: “Twitter is the very best way to stay connected on a regular basis. I would want us to show users the immediate value of the platform not just when there is a crisis."

Costolo, whose first love was theatre though he did graduate from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Computer Science, founded two digital media companies in Chicago: SpyOnIt, a web page monitoring service, and Burning Door Networked Media, a web design and development consulting company.

Which is perhaps why, he believes that the complexity of the user’s interaction on Twitter could be better. “It is too complex to get on to the platform and we are working on making it easier for new users." His goal: provide immediate value to users rather than making them surf around.

Dubbing Twitter an “information network" rather than a media company, Costolo doesn’t see Twitter competing in any way with news organizations since it doesn’t take any editorial stance or edit or censor its trends. Costolo said Twitter was one of the few companies in this space that is “a complementary partner to news organizations".

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