WhatsApp: Focused on long-term play in India, helping SMBs scale up: Facebook India Head

NEW DELHI: Facebook is focused on a long-term play in India and its recent Rs 43,574-crore deal with Reliance Jio is indicative of the company’s commitment to consumers as well as small and medium businesses (SMBs) in the country, its India Managing Director Ajit Mohan said.

Speaking to PTI, Mohan said the company’s efforts are focused on ensuring its platforms — Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram — are able to connect people and communities amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as remove misinformation that could harm users.

“This investment does indicate Facebook’s commitment to India, we are excited about the country and are really playing for the long term. We see the potential of the country that is in the middle of this massive digital transformation and Facebook’s mission of connecting people and giving people the power to build communities that are material to them comes alive in India,” he said.

Mohan added that Facebook and WhatsApp have their largest communities for these two services in India.

“The fact that we made this announcement in the middle of what is or is close to a global shutdown, defines it. And this is along with our efforts that are focused on how we can help people in partnership with governments in the middle of this outbreak,” he said.

Last week, Facebook announced an investment of USD 5.7 billion (Rs 43,574 crore) in Jio Platforms.

India is among the biggest markets for Facebook where it has 328 million users, while its mobile messaging service WhatsApp has over 400 million users.

Mohan said the Jio deal will strengthen the company’s efforts to help Indian SMBs in their growth trajectory.

He explained that the partnership will work towards reducing friction for consumers and small businesses, connecting them with each other through WhatsApp.

Users will be able to browse through product catalogue and make payment (when WhatsApp Pay is rolled out nationally).

“We’re really exploring a model of potentially commerce on WhatsApp, which also benefits small businesses around the country and for us, it is improving a shopping experience that already exists on WhatsApp today by making it more structured, by making it easy and fundamentally by reducing friction in the process. It will be quite exciting to see if we can scale up that model,” he said.

Mohan added that for small businesses, this is not only a path to digitisation but also to using online tools to make more money every month.

Talking about Facebook’s efforts around COVID-19, Mohan said the US-based company is engaging with state governments, Centre as well as health organisations on designing impactful health campaigns and accurate messaging around the pandemic.

Facebook is also working with eight independent third-party fact-checking entities, covering 11 Indian languages, to identify misinformation around COVID-19.

“We are deeply committed to being an ally for India as the country fights the coronavirus outbreak. We are focussed on connecting people to accurate information from health experts, curb misinformation and support local communities and businesses,” he noted.

In India, the company is also running a coronavirus information centre on Facebook and a WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub.

Besides, WhatsApp also has partnerships with the Centre and state governments, while Messenger has a partnership with MyGov India and Health Ministry.

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