Facebook: Missing China, Kissing Asia

Facebook, which considers India as a key market, has launched Facebook on every phone initiative last year. Facebook is available on most of the feature phones. Thanks to this, it turned out to be Food, Water and Facebook for many Indians. Now Facebook is taking this a step further.

A Tibetan surfs a Facebook page at an internet café in this file photo from New Delhi. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Facebook’s app on feature phones will now be available with Hindi and other local Indian languages – Gujarti, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi. If you think Facebook has covered the whole of India with the new language additions you would be so wrong.

At the last count India has 438 languages and these 7 languages are the most spoken languages (Telugu is missing though) along with Hindi. Which means, Facebook has covered the most part of India with new language choices.

Along with these Indian languages Facebook has added support for Malay and Vietnamese too.

Missing China, Kissing Asia

Here’s my theory. Facebook and other US social networks have missed out on China big time. And they want to make amends for it. Facebook especially. That could be the reason for this focused approach by Facebook. If Facebook were allowed in China, Facebook might not be thinking about adding new customers in India. The same goes for Malaysia and Vietnam.

China is big enough country and Facebook can make a dent with just Mandarin. This is not the same case with India. With such a language diversity, India is a tough nut to crack for anyone. Only recently have Tech majors like Yahoo! and Google added supported to Indic languages. Indian mobile handset makers too have started to add support for Indian languages on the mobiles. No one has added support for more than 4 Indian languages thus far.

Now that’s not to say Facebook will never focus on Indian languages, Malay or Vietnamese. It probably would, eventually. But it would probably be later than sooner.

With this think global, act local approach, Facebook is on its way to touch 1 billion users. That without piercing the great wall. Now that would be an amazing feat. Isn’t it?

P.S. It’s interesting that Facebook has an office in Hyderabad, India and yet didn’t add support for the language that is widely spoke in that city and state.