The partnership, three months in the making, was announced during Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's visit to India. Neither company disclosed financial terms of the deal.
Facebook has ambitious plans for India, which earlier this year reached 100 million active users, making it the company’s second largest market after the US. It is well on its way to becoming the single-largest market by the end of 2014.
"Our partnership with GroupM will benefit clients to reach over 100 million people in India, 84 million on mobile—both smartphone and feature phone— and custom audiences within the 100 million in urban and rural India,” said Krithiga Reddy, head of Facebook India. "We’re excited about this wide-ranging collaboration, which combines the strength of the world’s best global advertising platform with GroupM’s market-leading position to deliver personalized marketing at scale.”
It is clear Facebook is keen to increase revenue opportunities from this booming market. In line with that, Facebook India has launched advertising product innovations. One such was enabling ads on feature phones.
The latest deal includes sharing of data, localising products, joint research capabilities and creating knowledge forums for clients, Tushar Vyas, managing partner of South Asia with GroupM Interaction, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.
The agencies and its clients, including Pepsi, Star TV, Vodafone, Nestle, Flipkart and Dabur will receive preferred treatment on certain Facebook products, Vyas added.
To grow business in India, Facebook is now available in several local languages. To contend with shaky network issues, the social network also launched an SMS-based version of Facebook that runs on basic feature phones. The firm has also been working with telcos to develop plans and promotions for price-sensitive Indians. In line with that, Bharti Airtel offered three months of free Facebook, and more recently users could access it for free between midnight and 6 am.
For its part, GroupM is hoping the deal will increase digital adoption in India, a market where digital spend is still in the single digits. “India is reaching a tipping point, and our objective is grow the digital pie and drive adoption,” Vyas said.