Twitter is looking for expert to fix India story

Despite increasing smartphone and internet penetration, Twitter is yet to clock promising advertising sales.

Twitter is looking for a country director to head India, a leadership role the global microblogging site is seeking to fill in a country that may have failed to live up to the promise of high advertising sales growth despite increasing smartphone and Internet penetration.

Twitter’s last country head Taranjeet Singh left in September after a stint of three-and-a-half years amid weak advertising revenue. He was brought in to increase its local sales presence by building partnerships with brands and agencies to deepen their customer engagement on the microblogging site.

Twitter’s monthly active users stand, according to sources, at 30-33 million versus Facebook’s 270 million. Twitter does not disclose metrics officially.

“Twitter is seeking an experienced digital executive to lead the India market. This is a rare opportunity to take a senior role with P&L responsibility, directly leading the country sales team,” the job listing states on Twitter’s career website. Twitter did not reply to an email seeking comments on its India strategy, including the latest initiative to fill the leadership vacuum.

In 2016, Twitter appears to have de-prioritised India as a market despite it being one of the bright spots in user growth. The decision was part of the massive restructuring that took place at Twitter, led by its CEO Jack Dorsey, to prevent global revenue growth from stagnating. India’s poor sales metrics didn’t warrant strategic attention.

“For a country like India, Internet and social media companies need a long term investment plan. Twitter does not have an appetite for that. The Asia Pacific Region is now Singapore. Twitter still remains a brand that commands respect in India, but it is nothing compared to the peak of 2013-2014,” said a person who recently left Twitter.

While India sees higher traction by way of user base for Internet and social companies, it doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue.

Facebook has around 270 million users in India, according to Statista, the largest market in terms of users for the social network. The company is expected to earn revenues of $980 million in India in 2018, Reuters reported in September.

Instagram and WhatsApp, both owned by Facebook, have significant user bases in India. Google touches over 400 million users here through Android, search and gmail. Its revenue last year was $1 billion, as per the same report.

In May, Google Southeast Asia and India MD Rajan Anandan said Internet companies would see monetisation when the country touches a per capita income of $ 4,000, which he estimates to be by 2025. India’s current per capita income is around $2,000.

Twitter, which was once a platform to connect with celebrities, was replaced by Instagram.

In the last two years, Twitter slashed spending, focused on markets with higher advertising growth potential, and aligned expenses with revenue. Its India office saw a spate of exits and transfers.

“On one hand Twitter is a good fit for a country like India. It is a massive market. It is also a smaller advertising market. If Twitter wants to be an advertising business, it will have to think how it will make money using limited resources,” said Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research.

Arvinder Gujral, who was Twitter’s senior director for business development for the Asia Pacific region, was moved to Singapore from India to become managing director of Southeast Asia. Anupam Dixit, Twitter’s Industry head in India, was transferred to lead operations, platforms, products and businesses across APAC in Singapore.

Exits in late 2016 and early 2017 included Twitter’s India marketing head Sonali Malaviya, Head of Communications Suresh Vaidyanathan, and Nandu Madhava, who led India’s user growth strategy. Valerie Wagoner and Amiya Pathak, who had joined Twitter after their company Zipdial was acquired by the company, also left around the same time.

The $35-million Zipdial acquisition that was meant to drive the social network’s growth in the country appears to have not met the targets set.

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