Google frames strategies to regain edge over Facebook in India

Google retains only a slight lead over Facebook in the competition for digital ad dollars in the crucial India market, Reuters reported.
Google, Facebook social mediaFacebook is likely to generate about $980 million in revenue in the country in 2018. Google’s India revenues reached $1 billion last year despite its long-term presence. Both Facebook and Google do not reveal India specific revenue.

In addition to digital ad revenue from India, Facebook and Google are chasing a $1 trillion digital payments market in India, Bloomberg reports.

Facebook and Google are looking for increasing their digital ad revenue at a time when they are facing criticism from US President Donald Trump over perceived bias, BBC reports.

Alphabet Inc’s Google, led by an Indian-born CEO, Sundar Pichai, is developing strategies to take on Facebook in India. Google is attempting to lure customers with better ad-buying tools and more localized services. The new strategy is to enhance the time Indian consumers spend with Google services.

Google’s success in developing markets around the world is crucial to the Internet search giant’s long-term growth. There is demand for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in emerging markets at the expense of Google search and YouTube.

“Facebook is a far more user-friendly platform even though they haven’t created features specifically for Indian advertisers,” said Vikas Chawla, who runs a small ad-buying agency in India.

Facebook ads, compared with those on Google search or YouTube, tend to transcend language barriers more easily because they rely more on visual elements, said Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, vice president at FreakOut, a Singapore-headquartered digital marketing firm. Pinpointing younger consumers and rural populations is easier with Facebook and its Instagram app, he and other ad buyers said.

Facebook is succeeding in India though the social media network has been without a country head for the last year.

Facebook and Google grabbed 68 percent of India’s digital ad market last year, according to advertising buyer Magna. Media agency GroupM estimates digital advertising spending will grow 30 percent in India this year.

“Over time, as you saw the growth of Facebook, the importance of WhatsApp and other tools in these new markets, and not the same adoption of Google, the company started to realize that maybe they had to change that approach,” said Nelson Mattos, who oversaw Google’s Europe and Africa operations for several years.

Google CEO mapped a new strategy for places such as India: More services tailored to locals; more marketing on radio, billboards and TV; more local staff and start-up investment.

Google’s India workforce has more than doubled since to more than 4,000 employees, or about eight times Facebook’s presence, according to a tally of LinkedIn profiles and company statements.

Its products evolved too, becoming easier to use with low data plans. Smartphone apps such as Files Go and Tez – rebranded last week as Google Pay – were aimed at Indians.

Google executives, including leaders for display ads and small business advertisers, traveled to India earlier this year to understand the needs of Indian clients. Google will consider ideas such as enabling advertisers to reach users only in a particular Indian state, since language and literacy vary greatly around the country.

Google unveiled a plan to bring Indian newspaper content online, to increase the supply of search results – and ads – available in regional languages.

Google has more challenges than Facebook. Small businesses in emerging markets are less likely to have websites, a foundation for Google ad campaigns but unnecessary for Facebook.

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