India vanguard for product innovations and investments: Facebook's David Fischer

New Delhi/Bengaluru: Facebook is increasingly looking at India as a “vanguard” for product innovations and investments, according to a top executive.

India, with nearly 700 million internet users, is turning into a market where products are debuted and tested before they are taken across the world. It is also a market where the US-based social media giant is making first-of-its-kind investments in start-ups and large enterprises, chief revenue officer David Fischer told ET in an exclusive interview.

“We are convinced that India will continue to play a bigger and bigger role, not just as a digital player but as a power in the world and we see incredible opportunity there,” Fisher said.

WhatsApp Pay and Instagram Reels are recent examples of products launched in India first, he added.

Its $5.7 billion investment in Reliance-owned Jio Platforms and smaller cheques in social commerce startup Meesho and education technology firm Unacademy is a first anywhere in the world, Fischer said.

“We have seen during Covid-19, people and businesses need these commerce tools more than ever before and we have both poured our investments and resources and our hearts into it and we are excited about the transformation that is happening. We have seen more adoption of digital tools everywhere, but it has shot up this year.”

“We all know that there is so much opportunity there,” he said.

Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp recently launched an array of features to facilitate shopping and payments directly through its app.

Ajit Mohan, managing director, Facebook India said all of its “currently announced commerce effort plays around the WhatsApp-JioMart partnership… and that’s where all the current focus is.”

However, Facebook is still trying to figure out how to launch shops in India and what the correct proposition for it will be, he added.

On the call to break up Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the US Federal Trade Commission sued the Mountain View-headquartered company last week, Fischer said immense opportunities can be derived when these platforms work together, but governance is an evolving area and that the company has urged governments to regulate these aspects.

“We work with the governments around the world, as in India, around these issues; we know certainly a lot of these areas are evolving right now. We have called on governments for more regulation in a number of areas. We need clarity and ideally consistency and how these how these issues are regulated and managed and that’s very much a work in progress,” said Fischer.

On charges that it was not paying enough taxes, he said Facebook was working with governments and tax authorities across the world to evolve a model.

Mohan said Facebook was clear in terms of its tax outgo, but one should also look at the investment it has made in India recently to gauge its commitment to the country.

“What you are seeing from Facebook is a massive commitment to invest in India, invest for the long term. And you’ve seen some of the big headlines, but the reality is we are investing every day in products and infrastructure,” said Mohan.

India, despite being the largest user base for Facebook and WhatsApp, is still small in terms of contribution to advertising revenues. Responding to this, Fischer said, “Anyone who takes a long-term focus and understands India can’t help but see that the opportunity is massive. This is a country we want to make big investments in and are making big investments in.”

Facebook is looking at both advertising as well as commerce as huge opportunities for India in future, he said, especially after its partnership with JioMart which will bring on board 60 million small businesses.

India vanguard for product innovations and investments: Facebook's David Fischer India vanguard for product innovations and investments: Facebook's David Fischer Reviewed by TechCO on 12/20/2020 Rating: 5

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