Things for Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook, have not been going well as of late. Recently, it was revealed that Facebook had run an emotion experiment affecting some 700,000 users – all done without the consent of the users themselves. While Sandberg somewhat apologized for and excused the actions of the Facebook researchers (essentially boiling it down to a common business practice), she has yet to save face for the actions of her company. Perhaps this gaffe makes it all the more important that Sandberg cement Facebook’s status in India.
Currently, India is the second largest market for Facebook users, with over 100 million Indians having an account. Not only are the citizens of India involved with the social media site, but also the politicians. Prime Minister Narendra Modi currently ranks as the world’s second most politician on Facebook with more than 18 million followers, still some 23 million behind President Obama.
With so many people using Facebook in India, it only makes sense to search for new growth in a country with over one billion inhabitants. Luckily for Facebook, Sandberg spent two years of her early career in India working for the World Bank, an experience which has definitely aided her in her navigation of Indian culture.
Earlier today, Sandberg met up with Prime Minister Modi so that the two could talk future investment from Facebook and how the social media site can help one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
While Sandberg and others are excited about the political utility Facebook holds, stating that “What we’re excited about is that he, along with politicians all over the world, are understanding that this is an opportunity to speak directly to your constituents. This is how you can have not just a one-way dialogue with the people who are voting for you, but a two-way dialogue, where you can share and listen, speak and hear,” they are also excited about the small and medium enterprise market available in India.
“The average Indian with a mobile phone spends three hours a day, and less time doing almost anything else. It’s a great opportunity for the largest companies in the world, and the smallest market, and we believe that will grow our business,” explained Sandberg.
Before meeting up with Prime Minister Modi, Sandberg spent time in the hi-tech city of Hyderabad, meeting with small businesses who were using Facebook to expand their markets.
Sandberg, who once served as the chief of staff in the United States Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, knows exactly how much value small and medium businesses have in the $2 trillion Indian economy, producing eight percent of the overall GDP, 45 percent of the manufacturing output, and 40 percent of the exports:
India has the potential to become the largest economy in the world. And if you look at economic growth, particularly recently, jobs is a very hard situation all over the world. From the US to developing markets, everyone is very concerned about jobs. And majority of the growth, as I understand it, is certainly here, certainly in the US. In most countries, I have visited, SMBs are the way to growth… Individuals are creating businesses and employing other people, and in India, the SMB growth is strong. And Internet provides more growth stories to SMBs. People are connecting to people and getting more customers and that’s what leads to economic growth.
Considering India has the third largest internet user-base and is the fastest growing country in internet connectivity in the Asian-Pacific, it only makes sense that Sandberg has decided to focus Facebook’s efforts there.
Image via Facebook