Facebook Messenger’s Evolution

In previous posts, I have discussed how Whatsapp is part of Facebook’s plans to expand their social media presence. At the same time, an important monetization aspect remains marketing to the correct audience and Facebook has been struggling with this in recent times, what with reduced usage and migration of the younger audience to platforms such as Twitter/ Snapchat.

At such a time, Facebook has brought in new elements in Messenger which is aimed at helping brands engage the audience. This also includes messaging from the app which allows people to communicate from the app and the corresponding message will feature the app as well. This adds 2 elements – firstly the brand is able to ensure that the branding is not affected by the transfer from their app. Secondly The app is able to reach a larger audience of non users by motivating existing users to share information with their friends through the Facebook Messenger app.

For Facebook there are immediate benefits – greater involvement from new apps and developers whom they might be interested in acquiring at a later stage. But the most important benefit is that it rekindles the social relevance of Facebook. Over time, Facebook has been losing users and traction among existing users. Many people log into Facebook but time spent on the website has been going down while number of posts or images shared has also been reduced. This has a direct impact on the marketing revenues of Facebook. By enabling sharing through messenger, Facebook reactivates many dormant users while increasing their share of wallet of the marketing budget

The key to see is how quickly developers swarm onto this ecosystem and what other players such as Twitter do to oppose this. Twitter already has credit card and purchase through tweet systems coming in place and over time,they are definitely looking at providing brands with a channel not just for engagement but for closing the loop as well. It’s key that Facebook work on making Messenger not just a branding tool but also a method for completing the transaction. Ideally, partnerships with payment channels or acquisition of a payment startup may help them in this regard.

Make in India Or Help Make in India

Narendra Modi is currently wooing firms in Germany and other countries to help his Make in India initiative. It’s good to hear of initiatives aimed at making foreign companies invest in India. But we need to ask if this will help us become an economic powerhouse or make us become the next US.

The United States used to be a manufacturing hub for a very long time. The invention of the semiconductor chip helped propel it to new heights in R&D and manufacturing innovations. However over time, they started outsourcing production and manufacturing to save costs , thus gradually moving manufacturing out of the United States to China and other countries. Thus now , the United States may have some of the biggest marquee brands but they don’t create those products in their own country anymore and this reflects not just in the prices but also in jobs.¬†Even though the US has most of the major technology companies, they create value with a very small set of employees and hence the income disparity is rising.

There is a strong chance this may happen in India as well. On one end, we have IT companies bottoming out as the outsourcing boom finally reaches its zenith and now IT companies , BPOs and other partakers of the gold rush have realized that it’s time to find new ways to grow. At the same time, manufacturing in India is very limited. Except for the automobile industry and investments in infrastructure companies due to government expenditure, we see limited manufacturing where Indians have complete control over the product design and implementation.

What is required from the Modi government is clear policies and change in the bureaucratic attitude of our civil servants. This means we have better policies in specific sectors such as semiconductors, service industries and also provide good tax laws which provide incentives not just for foreign companies to invest in India but also for locals to set up their own businesses.¬†Manufacturing hubs will create an ecosystem of small businesses around them while local businesses will create jobs and create their own models rather than copying US business models.Equally importantly, we should look at becoming a data hub. Over time, as crypto currency and other digital formats become prevalent, it’s important we build India to becoming a proper data hub so we become a financial power as well. As the book Cryptonomicon states, there will be a time when currencies will all be zeros and ones and then the integrity of a currency and a country will depend on how confident people are about it’s data security and data rules . It’s integral that India develop a system of transparency while dealing with how we treat data and internet usage so people and countries have confidence in us.

Right to broadband

There has been a lot of debate about Net Neutrality in recent times. We have telcos fighting for their requirements and we have a lot of ordinary folks explaining why it’s important we raise our voice to TRAI to help enforce Net Neutrality.
I think the fundamental root problem is in the Internet/Broadband being treated as a commodity / product. In the modern world, access to the internet is essential not just for work but also for personal requirements. Over time, many standard and essential requirements are being fulfilled over the internet and through private organizations using the internet, be it delivery of groceries and retail products to researching new cures for diseases and ensuring healthcare solutions.
The question for us to ask is not just about Net Neutrality which is about ensuring David doesn’t get crushed by the Goliaths. It’s about ensuring that the Internet is as easily accessible to everyone as say, Electricity, Water, Air and Public transport. One might say, nationalization is not the solution but might be a hindrance. But I am not speaking of Nationalization, as much as marking Internet as an essential utility.
There are 3 major benefits to titling the Internet as a utility –
a) Laws & Rules –

We will have much clearer laws and rules governing usage and distribution. Currently we have exceptional Internet coverage in urban areas and limited /poor coverage in rural areas. Further, private organizations who do distribute the internet have poor systems in place to cover outrages and technical issues. There are also frequent complaints on customer forums on how many of these Internet/Broadband organizations have cheated customers

b) Pricing and Speeds of Internet/ Broadband will improve considerable

Though 3G pricing is fairly competitive, as compared to prices abroad, the regular broadband and internet pricing in India is horrifying as compared to prices and speeds abroad. We seem to consider 50 MB/second as a marvellous speed when countries such as Vietnam and South Korea have speeds 10 times that easily available at much better rates. Prior to fighting the 3G battle, we must ensure wired broadband improves after which we need to improve the infrastructure for 3G . Infrastructure improvement will also be easier if Internet is treated as a utility, rather than a luxury. Public planning can incorporate Internet infrastructure while designing urban growth and redevelopment plans.

c) Making it easier for startups and small businesses –

One of the chief points about the Net Neutrality battle is how an Amazon/Google will be able to lord it over small companies once there are fees attached. It’s a valid point but currently the broadband situation, though tolerable in urban regions has much scope for improvement. With Internet being termed as a utility, access to the internet across India will improve, thus giving many people a chance to start their own businesses and drive the economy further. Rather than a urban centred growth story, this can actually change how India as a economy grows and thrives.