India is Facebook's biggest user market with 250 million users, 13 per cent more than the next biggest market, the US. Yet there has been no India head steering the company since last October. But now the social media giant is reportedly planning to rejig the top management's structure, entrusting whoever eventually occupies the corner office with a bigger role.
Internal emails reviewed by The Economic Times suggest that Facebook is planning a major change of face for its India operations. To begin with, the new country head will be designated managing director and vice president (MD & VP), India, and will report directly to David Fischer, Facebook's global VP of business and marketing partnerships. Earlier India heads - Umang Bedi and Kirthiga Rao - were designated as MD, India, and they reported to Facebook's Asia-Pacific head in Singapore.
In fact, Facebook India's functional heads for communications, partnerships, marketing, sales continue to report to the Asia Pacific office executives in Singapore.
Fischer, who is based in the company's US headquarters, incidentally is leading the hunt for the new India head. He reports to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who in turn is CEO Mark Zuckerberg's second-in-command. In other words, the new MD & VP, India, will be fourth on the totem pole.
The buzz earlier was that among the names being considering for this high-profile position were Star India MD Sanjay Gupta, Tata Sky MD Harit Nagpal, Sudhanshu Vats, Viacom 18's Group CEO, Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan, and former Karnataka IT Secretary Srivatsa Krishna. Reports even claimed that the remuneration for this position could go up to $2 million, setting new standards across new media companies in the country. But Facebook is yet to zero in on a suitable match.
"India is our fastest-growing market and we've concluded as a company that we need to change our organisational structure to set us up for the greatest success," read an internal email sent by Joel Kaplan, Facebook's VP of global public policy. "There is significant complexity in the market across multiple functions and operating as an integrated business externally in India has proved challenging," he added.
The other big change is that the new India chief will reportedly be responsible for global marketing sales, partnerships, communications and policy, except content policy. Kaplan's email made it clear that Ankhi Das, Facebook's director of public policy, India, South and Central Asia, and her team, will "report directly to this new VP". In contrast, Facebook's previous two India MDs were said to be mostly responsible for sales, without much of a say in the other functions.
Currently, most people consider Das as Facebook India's most powerful official given the market's growing importance from a policy point of view - especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It's certainly a lot weightier than product or sales, since the Indian market accounts for less than 1 per cent of Facebook's total revenue. As of March 2017, Facebook India Online Services Pvt Ltd earned about Rs 341.8 crore in revenue for FY 2016-17, up 93 per cent year-on-year. That's a fraction of Google's India revenues.
"Ankhi [Das] will have a dotted line to me, and her team will also remain connected to me and our global team - continuing to participate in all of the leadership and other policy meetings - to ensure our strategy in India is aligned with our overall policy objectives," Kaplan's email added.
Sources in the know also told the daily that this new development may eventually lead Facebook's India operations to get delinked from its Asia Pacific setup.
Edited By Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal