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Facebook Targets Messenger Growth in India with New Hire


Facebook, Inc. FB has made another major move to further its India plans. The social media giant has got on board Anand Chandrasekaran to lead the growth of its Messenger app in the country.

Chandrasekaran is an important hire for Facebook given his strong ties and knowledge about the region. This former senior executive at Yahoo YHOO also worked as chief product officer in key Indian companies like Bharti Airtel (telecom) and Snapdeal (e-commerce) in the past.

Though there is no official notification from the social media giant yet, a Facebook post from Chandrasekaran confirmed the hire. Per the post, Chandrasekaran will be working on developing strategy and partnerships for Messenger and work from its Silicon Valley headquarters.

Facebook Messenger to Boost Growth

Messenger is one of the most important platforms for Facebook to drive growth but it is yet to be monetized. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had earlier commented "Messenger is going to be the next big platform for sharing privately."

In Jul 2016, Messenger hit the 1 billion user mark. Despite such a large user base overall, the Messenger app is used by only about 9% people in the Asia-Pacific region, per media reports. This leaves huge scope for expansion.

The company in an effort to monetize it had even opened the app to developers for creating chatbots that will enable businesses to extend customer service and other transactions. The company even enabled bots to accept payments on the app, which is expected to increase commercial transactions as the details stored on the platform will be readily available for users. The company has also been planning to extend Facebook newsfeed to Messenger in order to enhance communication between a business and its consumers.

Why is Facebook Interested in India

India, with a population over 1.3 billion, has only about 375 million Internet users (as per Jan 2016 data from Statistica), of which a large section uses 2G or poor speed connections.

To address this problem, Facebook had earlier taken initiatives like launching the Facebook Lite app (for lower speed networks), Free Basics (the controversial program that was scrapped in India), Acquila Drones (to beam free Internet in remote areas) and Slideshow (which gives a video like experience on using lower bandwidth). Recently, the company also initiated its OpenCellular project designed to provide wireless access in remote areas. The company has also been testing a new feature, which enables users in India to download videos that can be viewed later in offline mode.

But it's important to note that even with low Internet penetration, India is already the second largest market for Facebook just after the U.S. Furthermore, the rapid adoption of smartphones in the country will undoubtedly boost growth. This in fact has drawn the interest of all major tech companies including Facebook, Twitter TWTR, Alphabet GOOGL and Amazon.

Wrapping Up

Bringing Chandrasekaran on board is indeed an important step for Facebook. His expertise in the core Indian market will likely open more avenues for Facebook’s growth in the country.

At present, Facebook sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

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