The Digital Duopoly targets a Billion-plus

11 Jun,2018

 

By Indrani Sen

 

Last week,a roundtable discussion on ‘Disrupting Mobile Advertising Duopoly in the Indian Media Landscape’ was held in Delhi NCR, where experts from A&M industry shared their views on the future of the existing market duopoly of Google-Facebook in India. Most of them were of the opinion that the duopoly will continue to exist in India in spite of the growing competition in the market (http://businessworld.in/article/Challenging-The-Digital-Duopoly-Has-The-Change-Begun-/06-06-2018-151336/). A probability of a triopoly including Amazon and its marketing services was tabled by an expert with another expert adding that OTT platforms have began to challenge the duopoly. The need forbrand safe environment with created content rather than curated content and regulations like GDPR was tabled.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, which has a limited tie-up with Baba Ramdev’s foray to mobile internet, has also partnered with Call2Action Communication India Private limited recently for launching a new mobile advertising platform. This platform is expected to create disruption in the Mobile Advertising Ecosystem by offering lucrative price points and challenge the duopoly of Google and Facebook in India as reported by the above article in www.businessworld.in.

Both Google and Facebook have high business stakes in the Indian market and have been investing a lot of time, talent and funds in local development.  Some of these efforts are not well known to the advertisers and agencies that use the two platforms for digital marketing. The common users of the platforms are blissfully ignorant of the same.

India has been the country with the largest Facebook users since 2016. There were about 195 million Facebook users in India as of May 2016, against about 191 million in the U.S. and 90 million in Brazil (https://www.statista.com/statistics/304827/number-of-facebook-users-in-india/ ). The number of Facebook users in India is forecast to continue to grow in the coming years, and add up to nearly 320 million by 2021.The penetration of Facebook in India isexpected to jump from almost 15 percent in 2016 to around 23 percent in 2021.Facebook also owns three of the most popular social networks WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram which help to increase its strong hold in the Indian market.

Mark Zuberberg has claimed that globally, Facebook’s advertising-driven business has not been significantly damaged after the Cambridge Analytica bombshell dropped. Its share prices which dropped after March 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica reports broke, has climbed back to slightly above its price Facebook enjoyed before the news break.  Its ability to protect its users’ personal information shared and stored on its social network is yet to be proved to the complete satisfaction of the law makers across different countries

Our Ministry of Electronics & IT has recently asked Facebook to explain if it allowed phone and other device manufacturers access its users’ data without taking their consent by June 20 following a recent report in media that Facebook has admitted to sharing information with a “small number” of companies including RBC Capital Markets and Nissan Motor Co., advertisers and other business partners (https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital/facebook-kept-sharing-users-data-with-companies-even-after-saying-it-had-stopped-third-party-access-to-information/64516829).

Google, the leading player in the Digital Duopoly, is comfortably settled in India. Google Search has 90% market share in India, Google’s Andriod OS is used by over 90% smartphone users in India, YouTube is watched by 80% of the internet users in India with a 225 million monthly user base, Gmail enjoys the largest user base in India and Google Map is consumer focussed and free to use. Google has been working steadily on India first tweaks and apps  such as offline videos for YouTube, two-wheeler navigation on Google Maps, Android Oreo (Go edition) to improve experience on low-RAM phones, Google Assistant for Reliance Jiophones, new apps like Google Go and Files Go, built from scratch, Google WiFi stations in partnership with Indian Railways and the mobile payment platform Google Tez, which within a month of its launch in September 2017, captured 60% share of m-payments in India.Facebook should take a lesson from Google and introduce some India specific social apps.

India is a focus market for Google’s Next Billion Users Plan through which it aims to bring everyone online in India (https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital/google-wants-to-bring-everyone-online-in-india-through-its-next-billion-plan/64457803). As a part of this initiative and based on intensive field research by its technical team, Google launched a multilingual app in Mumbai 10 days back (on May 31),  called ‘Neighbourly’ catering to only Mumbai.Thislocal discovery and community app works in English, Hindi, Marathi and six other Indian languages. The hyperlocal platform helps to find anything from a doctor, ATM or petrol pump to a mechanic or badminton coach, within 2 km radius.In coming weeks and months, Google plans to roll out the app across more cities in India.

It is a difficult proposition to challenge Google’s total supremacy today In India as it is far ahead of its other competitors. Facebook, which has now become vulnerable, may have to deal with more competition in the sphere of social media. Itmay be compelled to spend comparatively more time to ensure protection of consumer data and implementation of its privacy policy, which may lead to erosion of its market share through competition in the global market. However, in India, there is minimal chance of a similar threat. So, the immediate future of the digital duopoly seems to be secure in India in spite of Baba Ramdev’s plan to relaunch Kimbho after a flamboyant launch followed by a silent withdrawal.

 

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