Facebook is testing an offer for mobile users in India in a bid to increase the numbers. It is offering Rs. 50 to a new subscriber if she logs in via mobile and another Rs. 50 for a referral. However, the offer is in the form of air time or talk time.
Facebook has 59 million web users from India and 65 million active number of mobile users from the country. The opportunity for the social networking giant is that it has barely scratched the surface of mobile internet users in India. It’s an open fact that the country’s population and the mobile phone subscribers in India are proliferating at a lightning speed. In May, 2012 TOI reported that the mobile subscribers in India rose to 929.37 million with Bharti Airtel alone signing 2 million new subscribers. Now if you do the maths then you don’t need to be an analyst to know that your gold mine of users is not only in Russia or China but in India too.
Free is always not bad till the time it has no hidden costs attached and a Rs. 50 talk time is still not bad in India. May not be much for a premium tablet user or a Café coffee day coffee sipping business man but it will be for a college student or for the common man who still thinks twice before taking out a Rs.50 or for a guy who enjoys spending his entire day participating in different Facebook contests.
To tap into this virgin market, Facebook came up with an idea that every new mobile registration you do with us, you get Rs.50 talk time plus you get a bonus of Rs. 50 for every referral you bring in. This was reported by MachineHappy earlier on October 17, 2012. So if you are still not on Facebook then there can’t be a better deal than this. You need to access this link but it is only for new registrations.
Guys at MachineHappy tested this at their end with a new mobile number and the flow was like the usual registration. However, the glitch is that it takes 3 days to receive your talk time. Poor fellows at MachineHappy are still waiting for the first Rs.50 talk time and so is the case with some of the other irritated users whom I found venting their anger on popular tech blogs. (If you are the one happy person who has received the talk time then do share your joy in the comments section!)
The news that has spread like fire in the Indian online media has also raised some hidden questions. The smart guys at MediaNama were quick to raise some relevant questions - How is the whole thing going to work at the backend and who are the operators that are involved in this process?
Facebook has not responded to MediaNama but meanwhile Facebook has given a half-baked response to TechCrunch - “We partner with a number of telecom companies around the world, many of whom offer incentives for their customers to use Facebook, such as zero rating mobile internet access to the service. This test is another such initiative.”
However, the questions raised by MediaNama still remain unanswered.
The big side effect that pundits are talking about is the creation of more fake profiles. Facebook, which had earlier communicated that it is going to do the house cleaning but is yet to show some seriousness in weeding out fake profiles in this part of the continent as it has done in the US.
On the contrary, the new move is definitely going to raise the number of bots because in India it is all about talk time and most of us have at least 2 numbers. Also, this could be like a new source of revenue for firms that survive on a business model for creating fake likes. Now how is Facebook going to stop this or is Facebook really not bothered at this given point of time, is something that only time would tell!
Nevertheless, for now it could be a test by Facebook and tomorrow it may just stop it. So before that happens, get going guys if you are still not on Facebook.
In the past, Facebook has been introducing similar initiatives for Indians by joining hands with service providers in the country such as Aircel, Airtel, etc. Previously, it had launched a light-weight mobile version of Facebook Zero by partnering with players like Reliance Communications and Videocon to offer free data access to their subscribers.
So I won’t be surprised if Facebook comes to it’s existing mobile users and fires an incentive referral plan too. Whatever may be the case, 3 things are crystal clear:
1) Facebook considers India as a major hub for growth and is desperate to increase its user base.
2) Pretty soon we are going to hear that Facebook builds new Sales and Marketing office in India, these kind of initiatives would require a lot of offline promotions too. (There had been rumours that work is in progress but then we have to wait for any official statement to believe it.)
3) Third you may find SIM cards being sold in grey market with an offer board saying - “Free talktime with Facebook account, grab it before the offer ends.”
Facebook or Fakebook, whatever you may call it but Mark sure knows how to keep the number of users growing on the network. So after Moscow, will it be Delhi or Hyderabad as the next preferred stop for business growth!