It was evident that Sheryl would interact with Modi to build a relationship that will brighten the future of Facebook, in a country where mobile penetration is at its peak and Facebook being a mobile first company wouldn’t want to miss out.
Narendra Modi – who now has 18M fans on Facebook – has updated that he had a very fruitful meeting with Sheryl. Quoting him from his FB status, the PM states:
“Had a very fruitful meeting with Sheryl Sandberg. She pointed out that India is a very important country for Facebook, considering the high number of active Facebook users in India.
Being an avid user of social media myself, I talked about ways through which a platform such as Facebook can be used for governance and better interaction between the people and governments. I also talked about how Facebook can be used to bring more tourists to India.
We intend to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary year with a special focus on cleanliness and I spoke to Ms. Sandberg on how Facebook can assist us in this endeavour.”
PMO India’s Twitter account posted few tweets on the meeting and directed towards the lengthy Facebook post that gave details of the meeting.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 3, 2014
The PM & Sheryl Sandberg discussed several issues including better usage of a platform such as Facebook to integrate people with governance.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) July 3, 2014
Sheryl who started her career 22 years ago in India with World Bank’s India Health team met prime minister Modi with colleagues Marne Levine and Ankhi Das. Talking about the meeting Sheryl states on her Facebook, “Meeting Prime Minister Modi gave me the opportunity to express my personal appreciation to him for making the education of girls and women a priority as equal opportunity is essential for strengthening all economies and creating a just world. Exciting for our all-female delegation to #leanin with Prime Minister Modi.”
Sheryl also congratulated Modi on his election win, and on his unprecedented use of Facebook to connect with voters. Talking about the interaction, Sheryl states that Modi stressed on digital diplomacy since it can change national and international dialogues and that is why Modi plans to champion the free and open internet on the world stage.
In her Facebook post, Sheryl stresses on the Internet.org project that Facebook has started in emerging countries and India is one of them. “India is important to the global economy, as well as to Facebook, and we look forward to working together on internet.org to bring the next billion people online.”
Modi has been a supporter of social media from early days and it has been one of the reasons why he is today the country’s PM. After coming into power not only has he asked his ministers and government staff to integrate social media with governance but also emphasized on taking feedback from citizens.
With India being the largest exporter of smartphones in Asia, the country is crucial for Facebook. At the same time it wouldn’t want to be blamed for the communal incidents in Pune that had awakened the debate to ban social media.
So while Facebook thinks about increasing revenue sources from emerging markets like India which it has done with the launch of ads triggered on missed call, it will also hope not to get into situations where it has to either set up a server in the country or reveal details compromising freedom of speech of users.
This meeting is a the right step forward for a country like India where the internet penetration is yet to explode but mobile phone usage is proliferating. Also Facebook has 50M+ monthly active users from India on Whatsapp, India’s most popular messaging app which was acquired by Facebook for $19B in the month of February.