Shreya’s father had waited all this while to gift his teenage daughter his prized possession the day she bade farewell to her school in south Delhi. This was to help her record a major milestone in her life for posterity. But she had her own plans. A day before the farewell she instead pestered her father for a digital camera as a gift for having finished school well.
Shreya would not do without a digital camera and her father grudgingly acceded to the deafening clamour for a Sony Cybershot. Nonsense! This was until he discovered what Shreya was up to the moment the drive home from the school began post the farewell.
She was feverishly uploading the pictures from her digital camera to the mobile phone and within seconds the school farewell was a well celebrated social media event with her creativity drawing instant cheers on the popular social networking site.
It was a mad race thereafter for counting the ‘likes’ her work had earned even as the drive back home negotiated more than the usual speed-breakers. The half hour journey had given Shreya the aura of an uncrowned queen.
W.T.F. Welcome to Facebook, the $ 100 billion proposition that the youth world over swear as their live friend, philosopher and guide and something that gives them the new high! Shreya is one among 28 million (and counting) Facebook addicts in the country. 28 million might not sound too large but it means that four to five out of every ten Indian user online is hooked to FB with India having just about 80 million Internet connections.
India is said to be having the fifth largest user base for FB worldwide with a prediction that it would be the second largest by 2012 end. India without doubt is among the fastest growing markets for the new age media company thus re-writing the youth engagement in the country.
A recent Nielsen company study said nearly 30 million Indians who are online consumers are members of social networking sites and about two-thirds of them spend time on these social networking sites daily. This generation prefer tuning into the site than being glued to their mails with an equal number who spend up to an hour on social networking and email. Most importantly, based on the current rate of growth and the intention of online Indians to participate in social media, the study estimates that over the next six months 45,000 online Indians intend to join social networking sites each day.
Craze for social media networking can be explained easily because online Indian today use it to smoothen activities that range from entertainment to leisure to improving their livelihood through job searches and researching prospective partners. Expectedly brand wagon has got hooked on to these sites as an efficient, interactive and tangible tool to reach out to the new age consumers. India Inc is working overtime to log on 24x7 to sites likes Facebook to engage consumers and manage their expectations.
The youth connect in this online story is the killer application. A TCS social media survey late last year said 85 per cent of youth are ‘hooked’ to one or more social networking sites on the internet with social media being a key tool to power ahead. TCS polled over 10,000 school going children between the ages of 12-18 in 11 cities across India during 2009-10 to understand the socially connected India. With an estimated 333 million literate young Indians in the country, FB’s ambition to make India its second home would be quite genuine.
Missing in action in this momentous opportunity is government, which otherwise does not lose any opportunity to underscore the demographic dividend. One, it ought to plug in its own story to engage the youth in the country as never before (Census page on FB http://www.facebook.com/Census2011 has about 20 thousand fans) and second it ought use social media power to push Internet penetration across the tier 2 and 3 cities in India.
800 million mobile phones and 80 million online connections! It is time to end this paradox and get many more like Shreya to showcase their portfolio to the world at the stroke of a button.
<i>(The writer is Editor, Zee Research Group (ZRG)) </i>