On July 2, Facebook announced a developer contest for India allowing Indian developers to show off their “web development skills by creating Facebook applications and Facebook Connect Integrations” with cash prizes distributed for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners.
India was not randomly chosen for this contest. There are many intelligent, entrepreneurial software designers and computer savvy people in India who have yet to be reached by Silicon Valley. Additionally, online social networking is very popular and on the rise in India. Chilli Breeze Indian blogger Sreehari believes that, “Indians are in my opinion the loudest proponents of the Aristotelian theory of ‘Man being a social animal’… And we are inherently conditioned to search for others like us. Social Networking works out well for us in this regard, because it offers an interest-based segregation of individuals.”
Engineer and Manager of the Facebook platform, Ruchi Sangvi says that “India ranks second in the number of software developers with 3.9 million software developers… Facebook has experienced a tremendous growth in India.” Facebook strategically chose India for this contest not only to increase usage of Facebook over Orkut (which is currently the leading social networking site in India), but also to increase usage of Facebook worldwide through the use of new and innovative apps made by brilliant minds (that have cash prize incentives…not too shabby!).
A little known “secret” is that LinkedIn will soon follow Facebook’s open platform for app development according to Reid Hoffman. Hoffman, co-founder and chairperson of LinkedIn, has high aspirations for his business networking site. In an interview with Kamla Bhatt, Hoffman confesses that LinkedIn will soon open its platform for users to create useful business-related apps. He believes this will positively add to functionality and create new interfaces for its users worldwide.
A few months ago, LinkedIn launched its very own iPhone app. This is particularly important for India where mobile phones are on the rise (particularly SmartPhones). Additionally, LinkedIn has created new abilities for its groups function and Hoffman promises that there are more big releases to be announced in the near future. I will certainly stay tuned!
The addition of a LinkedIn iPhone app is definitely on the right track to further penetrate the market in India. India is the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market with 400 million mobile phone users currently, and 10 million additional subscribers per month. Further, NPR reported in 2007 that people in India weren’t just using their mobile phones for business, but for entertainment purposes as well, including music and video downloading and sharing (since Broadband internet access is not universally available), and even dating.
The Huffington Post reports that it is India’s youth that is helping to fuel the increase. Although teen and young adult dating in India is still taboo and PDA is looked down upon, the mobile phone is “extending the possibilities of romance for a whole cloistered generation. It is becoming a symbol of freedom from parental power and a rite of passage in urban India.”
Even though teens and young adults from India are focused on using their mobile for dating and flirting with memebers of the opposite sex (which would otherwise be forbidden), I am confident that this will only lead to further innovation from this young generation as they age. With early exposure to mobile phones (especially the SmartPhone) to get what they want, these youngsters will realize what potential it holds. It is wise for us all to keep our eye on India, as I believe that we have yet to see the depth of what innovative technological assets they bring to the social networking table.