Report: India To Top U.S. In Facebook Users By 2015

How do you say “poke” in Hindi? According to several analysts, India is set to overtake the U.S. as the top Facebook market in terms of number of users by 2015.

The U.S. currently dominates, with 157,348,340 users, according to AllFacebook Stats, followed by Brazil at 47,011,060, with India holding third place, at 44,274,120.

But AbsolutData Executive Vice President Suhale Kapoor told CNBC India’s Internet population is forecast to grow from some 120 million currently to nearly 400 million by late 2015 or mid-2016.

Kapoor also cited the price decline in smartphones and data plans, predicting that mobile will drive Facebook’s growth in India, and he pointed to the country’s demographic base, telling CNBC that the portion of the population set to reach the social network’s minimum age of 13 will see significant growth.

As of early April, mobile users in India were able to access Facebook in national languages Hindi, Malay, and Vietnamese, as well as the following seven local Indian languages:

  • Gujarati
  • Tamil
  • Malayalam
  • Kannada
  • Punjabi
  • Bengali
  • Marathi

However, the forecast growth in India may not solve Facebook’s declining revenue woes, as Prashant Agrawal, a principal in Boston Consulting Group in Mumbai, told CNBC annual advertising spending in India is $255 million, compared with $158.9 billion in the U.S.

Edelweiss Securities Analyst Kunal Sangoi told CNBC Internet advertising accounts for just 3 percent of India’s advertising market, versus 17 percent in the U.S., adding:

Our discussions with industry players suggest that Facebook earned revenues of $5 million to $10 million from India in the fiscal year ending in March 31, 2012.

And Ogilvy & Mather Social@Oglivy Asia-Pacific Director Thomas Crampton told CNBC that the social network’s average revenue per user in Asia is $1.79, compared with $9.51 in North America, adding:

The future for Facebook is finding a way to monetize all these people in terms of their revenue base.

Facebook also faces one more potential obstacle in India: A criminal case involving Facebook and Google is tangled up in that country’s court system, as the Delhi High Court adjourned a petition for dismissal by the two Internet companies until Aug. 7, despite the trial’s scheduled start date in the lower Patiala House Court May 23.

The government of India requested last December that Facebook and other social networks delete “disparaging, inflammatory, or defamatory” content before it goes live, which is clearly not technically feasible, with Facebook’s user base in the country totaling more than 43 million.

Then in January, the Delhi High Court threatened to block websites, including Facebook and Google, if “offensive and objectionable” content was not removed.

Readers: Do you think Facebook will figure out a way to monetize its potentially skyrocketing user base in India?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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