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Creators and businesses are at the forefront of pushing culture and creativity forward on Instagram: Sandeep Bhushan, Facebook India
Sandeep Bhushan, Director & Head of GMS, Facebook IndiaFacebook India
Sandeep Bhushan, Director & Head of GMS, Facebook India walks us through Instagram's India journey and what lies ahead
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Creators and businesses are at the forefront of pushing culture and creativity forward on Instagram: Sandeep Bhushan, Facebook India

Sandeep Bhushan, Director & Head of GMS, Facebook India walks us through Instagram's India journey and what lies ahead
  • Instagram recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
  • In India, it has been able to build a loyal user base. The key to the platform's growth here has been keeping its community of content creators and businesses at the center of everything they do.
  • Sandeep Bhushan, Director & Head of GMS, Facebook India walks us through Instagram's India journey and what lies ahead.
Instagram, Facebook’s photo and video sharing social networking platform has come a long way since its launch in 2010. It recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and it has transformed many lives across the world. It has given creators a platform to express themselves and build a career while they are at it, has helped small businesses expand their reach and has also become an effective marketing tool.

Over the years, it been able to build a loyal user base in the country (according to data from eMarketer, Instagram has around 91.9 million users in India, set to grow to about 142 million users by 2024). Today, Instagram is an important part of a marketers digital media mix.

India is an important market for the platform. India was one of the first few countries where the platform tested Reels and also the first country where they launched the Reels tab. It is therefore not surprising that the platform has ambitious plans for the market.

We recently caught up with Sandeep Bhushan, Director & Head of GMS, Facebook India, who walked us through Instagram’s India journey and what lies ahead.

Excerpts:

Q) Tell us a bit about Instagram's 10-year journey in India. Why is India an important market for the platform?
We’re excited about India because of its young demographic, vibrant culture and its roots in open expression. India was one of the first few countries we tested Reels in and recently the first country where we launched the Reels tab, which showcases the creativity and value we’re seeing here.

Instagram has been an amazing way to discover ‘Incredible India’ and beyond. It’s a place where public figures show up m ost authentically. The community has used the platform to connect back with traditions, be it yoga or vintage jewelry and start new ones like ‘freak shakes’ and IPL. This pursuit of passions on the platform has also acted as a springboard for successes for large and small businesses, from Mondelez to Wingreens Farms.

Q) What would you say have Instagram's biggest highlights in India been so far?
The community is at the heart of Instagram and it’s they who make the platform unique. They pursue their passions on the platform, and express themselves freely. Creators and businesses are at the forefront of pushing culture and creativity forward on the app. This enables brands to express and connect authentically with the right audiences. Brands now make use of Instagram surfaces and ad tools to drive business. There are a slew of examples, be it Hyundai Aura that launched with influencers and saw a 5 point lift in awareness or a 2.3 point increase in purchase intent for Cadbury Cocoa or Puma India doing fantastic creative execution at the awareness stage.

Q) Instagram recently launched the Love Runs Deep campaign. Tell us what the thought behind it was and what exactly do you want to achieve through the campaign?
Businesses are on Instagram because the platform drives business outcomes. Instagram is the place where people express themselves creatively, and there’s a natural affinity to interact with public figures, creators and brands. We want to further spur this interaction between creators and brands, in a way that redefines the ecosystem, and allows stories to be told with greater business impact. This is the context and objective for ‘Love Runs Deep’, Instagram's first campaign in India aimed at marketers and advertisers.

As part of the campaign, brands are invited to submit their briefs in the ‘Love Runs Deep challenge’, and 5 of them will be chosen to have exclusive access to 25 creators to work with them free of cost, in addition to support of USD25,000 worth of ad credits to run their campaigns. The brands could be from across India and from big or small businesses.

Q) It's been a few months since the launch of Reels. If you were to give us a report card for Reels so far, how would you rate its uptake in India so far?
We’re excited by what the community in India is creating on Reels and there are a few trends we’re seeing already.
  • One, discovery through Reels is driving strong growth for creators. The fastest-growing creators on reels include JaydeepGohil (@hydroman_333), who claims to be India’s first underwater dancer, and Surabhi and Samriddhi Mehra aka ChinkiMinki.
  • Two, similar to IGTV, we’re starting to see episodic content surfacing on Reels. Creators like Komal Pandey and Sakshi Sidhwani are running a series called ‘Vibe Check’ and ‘Breaking fashion stereotypes’ respectively.
  • Three, new music is finding a place in popular culture, by being available on Reels. 2 out of 5 songs shared most globally, on Reels, are from Indian artists. Neha Kakkar’s latest ‘Nahu da Vyah’ is a great example, as there have been 250k+ reels created with her song already.
  • Four, brands beginning to use Reels as part of their digital engagement strategy - Mountain Dew India created an anthem song for Independence Day called "DarrKeAageJeet Hai", sung by Sukhwinder Singh, and uploaded it on Reels.
Q) With lots of lookalike home-grown platforms coming up in the short video format segment, what will your strategies be to stay ahead of the curve? How are you engaging with the influencer community and ensuring they get the best out of using your platform - both Instagram in general but also Reels?
With Reels, we hope to give people a new way to entertain or express themselves (in addition to Feed, Live, Stories, IGTV, Reels), on Instagram. No two services are the same, and this responsiveness to consumer demand is competition at work and one of the longtime hallmarks of the tech sector. It increases choice, which is good for people. We think we can make Reels in a way that’s unique to Instagram, and meets the demands of our community.

Q) While most big brands know the reach of Instagram, how are you engaging with the smaller businesses and encouraging them to come onto your platform and advertise?
Instagram is a vibrant community of people, creators and businesses that helps energize brands of all sizes. The platform can help businesses stay relevant and keep giving people the things they love in this uncertain time. That means bringing communities together in the moment, offering further ways to shop online instead of in-store, and providing a place to educate and entertain customers with interactive video experiences.

Recently, as a part of Instagram’s recent ‘Love Runs Deep’ campaign, we announced a unique partnership with actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, to engage with her thriving Instagram community and support small businesses in the country. The actor is passionate about gardening and through this partnership she is supporting an Ahmedabad-based small business, myBageecha, while encouraging others also to discover and support a small business of their choice. MyBageecha has been using Instagram to reach its audience organically, as well as through sponsored ads. It accredits a 3x growth in their sales after setting up their Instagram account and starting advertising on the platform. In the same way we are trying to help and support other small businesses to find their voice on Instagram.

Q) What is your strategy to further grow your revenue from advertising? When advertisers invest on Insta, what is it exactly that they are looking for and what are they getting from the platform?
Instagram is the home for passions, for genres that are mainstream like food and travel, and to those that are niche, like doodling and sustainable fashion. It is for this reason that Instagram has always given a voice to a new set of creators and Instagram-first businesses, who’ve embraced the platform in creative ways. This is also why 90% of people on Instagram follow a business and why so many creators and businesses are at the forefront of pushing culture and creativity forward on the platform.

Branded content is thus a huge opportunity for brands who can engage with the creator community, in a way that fulfils their business objectives. Branded content ads help here, as it gives advertisers the ability to promote creators' organic branded content posts as feed and stories ads, thereby reaching new audiences and measuring impact.

Q) With so much negativity on almost all social media platforms, how are you working towards making Instagram a less toxic medium?
Our community is the heart of Instagram, and we’re focused on keeping people safe and building new features that fight bullying, improve equity and help people feel supported.

In the last few months itself, we’ve launched new features to manage unwanted interactions, highlight positive comments and choose who can tag or mention We’ve introduced new controls for creators to manage who can message or add them to groups in Instagram Direct. We’ve also announced stricter action on abusive behaviour.

We partnered with CBSE for a curriculum that includes an Instagram’ guide for building healthy digital habits. Additionally, to inspire conversations among youth all across India and initiate positive online dialogue, we also run programs like the ‘Counter Speech Fellowship’ and ‘366 days of kindness’, with the Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC) and Yuvaa respectively.

Q) Where will Instagram's next phase of growth in India come from?
We will continue to build for the next generation of young people and creators to ensure that Instagram is the place where culture moves forward.

Q) If you were to give an advice to creators or brands on the platform to get it right, what would it be?
Be authentic. Be consistent. Be kind.