Thursday, January 05, 2012

How Facebook Trumped Orkut In Indian Market

I wanted to write this blog post for a long time, but somehow couldn't manage to find time for the same due to various reasons. Past few months have been incredibly hectic, not just profession wise, even on personal front there are far too many things happening to keep me busy like crazy.

Few months back, I attended an OME (Online Marketing Enthusiast) community meetup in Christ College Bangalore, where I happened to meet Srinivas Tamada (the brain behind, India's 2nd largest technology blog in terms of Adsense revenue and popularity after the numero uno Amit Agrawal of labnol fame). Srinivas is barely 25, but such a soft-spoken, charming and humble personality that it was nothing sort of a pleasure interacting with him. Srinivas shared a wonderful conjecture related to Orkut and Facebook rivalry in Indian market, how Orkut's enormous popularity was followed by a steady decline in the wake of Facebook onslaught and Google's seemingly helplessness in reviving Orkut. It all boiled down to one killer feature that Facebook introduced. This seemingly game-changing feature was nothing but Facebook Wall feature, which was already present in Orkut as Scrap Book !!

The reason, why Orkut clicked in India, after wooing the masses in Brazil, is the fact that both these countries are very similar in nature, especially the social culture, how people maintain their familial relations (Giving respect to elders, a liking for emotional TV soaps, undue interest in others' affairs ; to name a few of them). But one thing that stood apart in Indian culture is We Indians are extremely interested in knowing what others are doing, did Roy broke up with his girl friend or not, how is SharmaG's conventional family coping with their modern daughter-in-law et al. This was one of the biggest factor, which propelled Orkut's enormous growth in Indian market. I still remember, one of the favourite timepasses used to be looking others' (read babes') Scrapbooks, see the conversation unfold and extrapolate the relationship.

On the other hand, Facebook was a distant second and happy playing 3rd or 4th fiddle in Indian social networking market space. Facebook had a harsh realization that it was not doing good, as expected. They started analyzing Orkut's market share and researching as to what made Orkut so popular amongst Indians. They finally cracked the jigsaw. They noticed that  Scrapbook was the ONLY thing that was clicking for Orkut.

Almost around the same time, Orkut implemented some of its Privacy Control features, by which you could restrict your scrapbook's and photo album's visibility. One of the most hated screen messages on Orkut at that time was

No scrap from you !!

But, Orkut didn't realize that Privacy is not such a big concern amongst Indian masses compared to western societies and over-estimated the Privacy threat. While this provided ladies some much needed respite from useless friend requests, it turned out to be the biggest mistake Orkut ever committed in Indian market (they are still paying for that). People in US and elsewhere are extremely particular about Privacy. But not so much in Indian society, where everyone knows others' grand fathers' name as well as how much his or her neighbour's salary is. So giving such an option to end users was nothing sort of committing suicide. But Orkut's mind was fixated with privacy concerns and not so much about the underlying side-effects, these new changes may bring.

Facebook pounced on this and came with its own version of Scrapbook i.e, Facebook Wall. It is rumoured that on the day of Facebook Wall launch, nearly 7 million people in US and elsewhere DELETED their Facebook account. Till then, Facebook was nothing but a Dating Website for them, where all things personal were TRUELY PRIVATE. The moment, Wall came through, they were worried that people may come to know about their social lives(read rendezvous) and took it as an intrusion of their privacy. But Facebook was not too concerned, they had Indian mass in mind. They knew the potential of Indian market, they had their eyes firm on billions of Indians and not on millions of "Angry with Facebook Wall" US/Europe nationals.

Facebook was already rich with apps, performance wise it was faster and better than Orkut. So when they introduced the Wall feature, it was the death nail for Orkut. Add to that the strict privacy controls, people started loosing motivation in staying hooked to Orkut. It had nothing new on offer (Orkut was damn lazy in bringing out features and almost took its numero uno position for granted). As a result, people started migrating in bunches, the initial mass consisted of those disgruntled people, who were fed up of seeing "No scrap from you" screens. In the beginning, People doubled up on Facebook and Orkut for sometime, waiting for the moment, when all their friends moved to Facebook. Once the migration was complete, they simply got hooked to Facebook and never went back to Orkut. Some of them even went to the extent of deleting their Orkut account. And we all know, where Facebook is.

Ever heard a story of somebody beating his competitor with his competitor's weapon. Facebook's battle with Orkut is a classic example !!

PS: Wish you all a very very happy and prosperous new year 2012 :-)


Krishna Shetty said...

Few reasons which I think are:
Facebook's picture uploading/viewing was good and very fast. Overall performance of Facebook was good.

Ilyas Kazi said...

dats very true the reason behind why Orkut users have now switched to facebook.. but the battle is still not over. Google has introduced google plus a new way of sharing and social networking without compromising privacy.. who knows now what will last.