Founded in 2010 and acquired two years later by Facebook, Instagram does have a story to tell as it aggressively moves towards securing one billion users. Mike Krieger co-founded the popular photo-sharing app along with his Stanford college mate Kevin Systrom in 2010. After Facebook’s acquisition of the app, Instagram has seen rapid success, and the founders attribute a significant chunk of this growth to India.
India, with its dynamic audience has become a test bed for many a great tech brands and projects. For Instagram, the market here is full of promise and excitement. In an interview with the ToI, co-founder Krieger talked about how India has emerged as a key market for Instagram as it chalks out its path from the 800-million to 1 billion monthly user mark.
“We grew from 700 million to 800 million monthly active users, or MAUs, just in a space of 100 days. India is a huge contributor to that growth. We think of it as a market with a lot of promise and excitement. So as we draw up the path from 800 million to 900 million to a billion users, we see India as being a very key market for us. India would be a primary component of in that journey,” Krieger is quoted as saying.
It was five years ago that Instagram launched on the Android platform, which opened up the market for the company internationally. “Five years ago, we were still an even split between the US and international, and now it is 70 percent international, if not more,” says Krieger.
However, bringing a product like this to India where data and connectivity issues still prevail is no simple task. As Krieger notes, joining hands with Facebook helped it understand the nature of the market. “One of the most important things that has come up from talking to the Facebook teams is the opportunity size in markets. India is a huge market for Facebook, even knowing what the benchmark is can be really helpful. And then there is a ton of research they’ve done over the years on data usage, and on ways one can think of countries in a more nuanced way and treat people as people and not as a country. They have been able to bring that nuance because their infrastructure has the ability to figure the network connectivity, the device the person is using, rather than targeting by country which is too broad.” ALSO READ: Clips app by Apple: Steroid shot for your social media obsession
Having Facebook’s data on the market was not enough and Instagram deployed engineering and product teams in India to understand the loopholes in their own product. One of the issues raised was of people who were not sure of installing Instagram on their phones, and for them the company started building the mobile web experience. This is because with apps there comes a need to have more storage on a device, along with data commitments. Last year, Instagram unlocked the ability for users to post pictures on the web. Krieger says the company is also trying to test Instagram Stories on the mobile web.
“We have invested a lot in mobile web based on the feedback we have gotten from users in emerging markets like India. We try and be very problemcentric at Instagram. The biggest issues like our app uses too much data, takes too much space — we thought if we solve these two problems then we get more people to try us.” ALSO READ: Here’s why Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram have all turned into each other’s clones
If we go by global numbers, Instagram ranks fourth in the list of top free apps on iOS. However, if you bring attention to the Indian numbers, the photo-sharing app sits sweet on number two, after parent Facebook in the list of top apps. The failed acquisition of rival app, Snapchat, by Facebook is world-known, however, Zuckerberg left no stone unturned to bring all the elements to Instagram. Be it filters or disappearing Stories, Instagram did get notorious for becoming a clone, but it all proved successful for the app. In April this year, Instagram recorded 700 million monthly active users, thereby wooing a chunk of Snapchat users.
But does it bother the chiefs when Instagram is called a clone of Snapchat? Krieger says for users to adopt to a product, there needs to be a continuous improvement and every country has a different composition of the audience. In the US, Snapchat is the sole winner, while in other countries Instagram takes the leading spot. ALSO READ: Cloning Snapchat Stories worked beautifully for Instagram, it now has 700 million monthly active users
“As for the US, Snapchat is still strong and that’s a great thing to internalize for our teams. It’s an interesting competition. For us the path forward is what’s the Instagrammy version of Stories, which is integrated with our product and brings our own ideas to the table. We launched the polling sticker because feedback and comments have been part of Instagram since the beginning. The key is that if we would have brought it (Stories) and stopped there, then it would have been the only narrative and people would have said, ‘Look at Instagram, they copied Snapchat and it didn’t work’. But instead, we have continued to iterate and done a bunch of work. One of the biggest things we have focused on around Stories is performance and that has helped in it being used.”
Going forward, Instagram aims to make its portal more supportive for businesses. It recently doubled its advertising base to 2 million. However, the company is not only focusing on big advertisers but on the number of small businesses. “A lot of the products we are building now is to help enable these small businesses. We are also working on Instagram Direct (which lets users send messages to one or more people) to help business owners. As we look to the future, monetization and commerce are not only for generating revenues but our role in the world is towards empowering local businesses and giving them tools to grow,” says Krieger.