In the recent earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google started offering free Wi-Fi in the nation earlier this year at around two dozen train stations, and now the company has 2 million individuals utilizing its service every month. As the service grows to 100 locations by the year’s end, the company will add millions more users. Google is now planning to extend its reach to 400 stations.
Aiming to get more people (in India) connected, Facebook started a service called Free Basics, in which mobile users were able to access the site free of data charges. However, in February the initiative (designed for people who can’t afford expensive mobile-data charges) was banned by India’s telecom regulator. It came as a setback for Zuckerberg.
India is the next big market for Facebook, Google and other providers of Web services to gather their next billion users and motivate them to embrace their products. India is also a market where the number of Internet users is growing rapidly. According to venture capitalist Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report, the number of Internet users in India grew 40 per cent in 2015 to 277 million. It is also the second largest country in the world in terms of Internet users, ahead of the US and behind China.
On the same line, Facebook isn’t doing badly either: 1.09 billion daily active users on average for March 2016, of which 989 million are mobile daily active users for the same period. Impressively, 84.2 per cent of Facebook’s daily active users are outside the US and Canada. With a market capitalization of $340 billion, the social networking company is fast catching up with Google.
Facebook is now testing a service, called Express Wi-Fi, that will let people buy affordable data packs via digital vouchers and access Wi-Fi networks. According to Facebook, the goal is to find an economically sustainable model for all stakeholders.
Clearly, there is a tough battle between the two giants and both of them will be devising new market strategies to outperform each other. However, experts believe that in this high-stakes battle, it is India that will win. Because it would mean that both companies will have to invest in the market, build better products, and help bring more users online.