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Home >Opinion >Online Views >We’re  the most  accurate  database  of  people: Kirthiga Reddy

Hyderabad: India is the third largest country on Facebook, accounting for 71 million active users of the social networking company’s 1.06 billion. As head of the India office of Facebook Inc., Kirthiga Reddy, also the director of online operations, sees herself as part of a mission to make the world “more open and connected". An MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, she was hired by Facebook in 2010.

Reddy has been spearheading the India growth story for Facebook—increasing the user base, building new products for advertisers, collaborating with partners to drive user engagement, boosting ad revenue, forging partnerships with developers and evangelizing the social network to small and medium businesses—from her office in Hyderabad, where Facebook began its India operations in September 2010. “We are the richest and most accurate database of people, their likes and their interests," she said in a recent interview. Edited excerpts:

It has been three years since Facebook established an office in India. How has the experience been?

Any particular learnings from the Indian market?

One, we have seen in India that many more people start first on their mobile phones than on the desktops and sometimes they never go to the desktops. It’s a trend we are beginning to see more and more in countries like the US, but we have seen this trend in India from the beginning that people might start on mobile and might never go back to desktop. Two, while for most part, the usage is similar, there are some examples where it actually differs. For example, messaging, where we have found that people in India use Facebook messenger much more—like 1.5 times more use of messaging in India than the global average that we have.

In India, we don’t split out the number of people on mobile versus desktop. However, I can share that globally, of about a billion users, we have 680 million using Facebook through mobile products. We are over-indexed on mobile, as in more people access Facebook on mobile than on desktop. That has been the user growth side of things and that has very closely spurred the ads side of our business as well.

How is Facebook doing against established rivals such as Google in the battle for digital advertising?

What Facebook does is, it gives the ability for business to be personal again. In terms of providing the right product, right suggestion, the right offer, for you to the person who most needs it. I will give you two examples. Samsung, when they did their Galaxy SIII launch, they spent over 30% of their digital marketing budget on Facebook. On one part, we had the reach advantage where they run ad products that let you target every single person in the US that day. On that day, every single person in the US who logs into Facebook would see your ad. So, that’s a large number of people you are hitting. We did things like logout ads, so another 30-odd million people in the US log out and people asked us—really do people log out of Facebook at all? But yes, there is a sizeable population that actually logs out of Facebook and they get to see the ads.

But then they also added it with targeting. So, what we could do is this: I want to reach people who are iPhone users and who had mobile phones for about three years. Just as people were beginning to think ‘I need to get a new mobile phone’, here you see that notification. They saw a 13X RoI (return on investment) in terms of their marketing dollars. It was about $129 million of sales that was directly attributable to Facebook marketing, and 10 point lift in brand awareness.

The one final real example is Kaya Skin Clinic in 82 clinics in India and Middle East. They wanted to generate more walk-ins into their clinics. So, it’s also the offline and the online world marrying together. They provided offers and were able to target it to the right age groups, the right interest, the right demographics, the right city and 20% of their sales was attributable to Facebook. They generated 8 lakh worth of revenue in six days.

How much of this demand is coming at the expense of old media and traditional advertising models?

I would say that personalization and making business personal is very unique to Facebook. No other platform has real user and real identity (data). So, we are the richest and most accurate database of people, their likes and their interests. The things that are really unique about us and that stand out and why marketers will come to us is the reach—over a billion people globally—on one single platform. When you think about how many newspapers or how many news channels you would have to put together to have that kind of reach...

I think we are in a fortunate market of being in a place where the GDP (gross domestic product) is growing, the economy is growing, and as such advertising dollars are growing. India actually has a much lower advertising spend today in terms of the percentage of GDP. Today, only 11% of the overall marketing pie is digital. Of that, I think 13% is social.

Are you observing Facebook fatigue among your users in India?

There are certainly days... I don’t use Facebook. I think the beauty of Facebook is that it is there when you need to communicate. And then there are days where you will get updates from me every 10 minutes—what I am doing, what I am eating for lunch, what I have eaten for breakfast, etc. To me, it is just a natural part of how people use Facebook. In terms of overall trends, we certainly don’t observe any trends of fatigue per se, but I think certainly there are days where each one of us goes off Facebook, and we are on Facebook, and we adopt to every style—whether it is a power user or whether it is someone who wants to come once a while and check Facebook.

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