Facebook To Offer Free WiFi At Indian Railway Stations, Not Ready to Give Up On India

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Aarzu Khan
A full-time data scientists and a part-time industry analyst; still learning power of effective presentation and firm believer of the thought "Numbers are always magical". Love to be in the network of people who 'know' how to respect their time and keep others engaged in meaningful activities.

The social media behemoth Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is not ready to relax its focused approach to India – the world’s second largest country by population, mobile subscriptions and Internet users. Facebook is reportedly all set to make a comeback, but taking all precautionary measures. This time, the company is following the footmarks of Google.

Earlier this month, when Facebook revealed that the company was testing express Wifi service in few of the remote areas in India, little did we know what’s cooking in Mark Zuckerberg’s head. Now, it is evident that Facebook has big plans by offering Free WiFi to railway stations and rural areas to counter the growing influence of Google in the digital India.

According to EconomicTimes, Facebook is in talks with RK Bahuguna, chairperson of Indian Railways’ communication arm Railtel. Bahuguna has asked Facebook to focus on small railways stations and villages to accelerate the digitisation process of India.

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Facebook, though, has denied commenting on the development, there is no doubt that the company doesn’t want to let Google deep penetrate the second largest Internet and mobile market in the world. Google has committed to power 400 stations with the free WiFi by 2017, of which 19 have already gone live benefiting 1.5 million people. Therefore, to restrict Google from setting up its monopoly across the country, Facebook wants to enter the market and keep the impact of Google as less as possible.

Why Facebook Is Not Giving Up On India

This is not the first attempt by Facebook to penetrate India with the backbone of digital world – the Internet. Early this year Facebook faced a huge setback when the countrymen stood against its Free Basics Program. Consequently, Facebook has had to roll out its plan to implement Free Basics in India.

Despite, Facebook can’t afford to ignore India, especially when the country is witnessing an exploded adoption of the Internet and Smartphone. It is also one of the biggest growth markets for almost every company in the world nowadays. With more than 1.07 billion mobile subscriptions and 462 million internet users, the country is by far one of the largest markets. Of 1.3 billion people, only 17% use smartphone and just 35% use the Internet. Industry analysts predict that by 2020, India will have 700 million internet users and 702 million smartphone users, who will be accounting for 85% of mobile data traffic.

With such a massive growth, India has the largest window of opportunity for a company, and no one would like to miss the bus. In the last few quarters, the growth in Facebook’s user base is driven by Asia-Pacific – mostly by India – and the company foresee India as the top most performing market by revenue in the next few years.

Besides, the gate to the world’s largest country by the number of internet users, mobile phone users and smartphone users are virtually closed for Facebook. Despite several trips to China, Mark Zuckerberg is yet to make inroads for Facebook in the Chinese market.

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In all such scenario, India has become a strategically important market for Facebook to keep its growth rate intact. The country’s contribution to Facebook revenue may not be a sizable share, but the next billion of smartphone and internet users are expected to come from India, and Facebook is well aware of the fact. Thus, the social media giant is leaving no stone unturned to make sure they reach out to them before Google, either by hook or by crook.

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