9 ways Facebook customized itself for India


21 Jun 2013
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India has always been one of the crucial markets for Facebook. With a large number of users still not connected to internet, the company sees India as a huge opportunity for growth. In its latest report, Facebook disclosed that it has gone past 155 million monthly active users in India, which is fastest than any other markets in the world. Its daily active users in India had grown 22 percent year over year, compared to a 17 percent increase in daily active users on Facebook globally. Facebook’s remarkable growth in India doesn’t really surprise us as the country has a huge demographic of youth, and those getting connected to the internet for the first time.

Facebook’s rapid growth in India can also be attributed to its efforts to customize itself based on Indian users behavior. Even though 4G adoption has grown in India, a lot of users are on slower networks. Moreover Indian users are highly conscious about mobile internet, and prefer using Wi-Fi. Over the last couple of years, Facebook has launched a slew of features and services aimed at the Indian users. Let’s take a look at the some notable features and services that Facebook launched keeping Indian users in mind.

2G Tuesday

In a bid to adapt to India’s slower internet ecosystem, Facebook decided to conduct “ 2G Tuesday” wherein its team will switch to slower 2G network every Tuesdays of the week. The experience is said to have helped Facebook better learn about Indian users’ usage patterns, and challenges they grapple with. The move also helped Facebook come up with products that are optimized for such slower networks. One of the most successful such products is Facebook Lite.

Facebook Lite

The Lite app is basically a stripped down version of the main Facebook application, and is optimized for slower networks. It is less than 1MB in size, and retains core features of Facebook like sharing status, notifications and messaging. The app has been optimized for the low-end Android smartphones, which are in majority in the Indian market. In March this year, Facebook announced the Facebook Lite for Android app had gone past 100 million monthly active users and 69 million daily active users, making it the fastest growing Facebook app.

Messenger Lite

After tasting success with Facebook Lite, Facebook has introduced a Messenger Lite application. Though not available in India as yet, the vision behind Messenger Lite is same as Facebook Lite, providing core features of the Messenger app without consuming a lot of data. The Lite version includes features such as messaging, sending and receiving photos, links and stickers. But the app is less than 10MB in size, and comes with data saving features like ability to set image downloads on Wi-Fi or when the user wants to download using the cellular data.

Offline mode

In a bid to help users save on data, Facebook has rolled out offline mode for News Feed, allowing users to browse Facebook in offline mode. Users can like, share and comment on posts when offline and those will be posted whenever they next have a connection. Also, Facebook has optimized News Feed for slower networks by showing stories that are present on users’ devices but not have been viewed yet. Facebook also factors in whether the images for the story are available. “This way we can immediately display relevant stories you haven’t seen yet, instead of showing a spinner while you wait for new stories. When we receive new stories from the server when you’re back online, we load and rank those stories normally,” Facebook explains.

Indian languages support

Last year Mark Zuckerberg had pointed out that the importance of making Facebook products and services available in users’ native languages. Facebook is available in as many as 12 Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali and Tamil among others. Facebook also has a Translate app that aims to encourage translators globally to translate Facebook into different languages.

Facebook Transliteration

Facebook recently launched a transliteration feature, allowing users to post messages in Hindi while typing in English. The app suggests Hindi words as and when you are typing, along with a detailed list of Roman characters and their corresponding Devanagari character.


While Facebook has been focusing on improving end users’ experience, it has also worked towards businesses. Aimed at online advertisers, Slideshow helps content load faster and is claimed consume 5 times less data than the average video file. Publishers can upload still images and they will automatically be turned into a slideshow.

Express Wi-Fi Service

Even as Facebook’s Free Basics failed, Facebook has continued to experiment with the idea of empowering people with connectivity, especially those in remote corners of India. With the Express Wi-Fi service , Facebook dons the role of an Internet Service Provider. The company tied up with state-run BSNL to buy bandwidth worth Rs 10 crore for three years. Facebook aims to provide Internet via Wi-Fi hotspots with speeds around 2Mbps in about 125 rural areas in the country. Now that Google’s Wi-Fi service at railway stations across India has gained huge traction, Facebook may be encouraged to aggressively push the Express Wi-Fi service.

Facebook’s Hyperlocal services

Facebook is also looking at the hyperlocal services segment in India. The company has launched a new website, which features a list of local services and business. On this portal, users can look for items/services based on their location. Facebook’s new service takes on the likes of Urbanclap and Quickrservices. Facebook last month launched two new Page sections – Services and Shop – for emerging markets like India, and aims at small and medium enterprises in the country.

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