Facebook's "Strategy" misguided by a Stanford MBA

Right, so before we get into a war of words let me explain what this is about. BusinessWeek interviewed Facebook's international manager (Javier Olivan) and reported it here.

Javier is apparently an MBA from Stanford and is 32 years old. Perfect credentials those, except once you read his comments you realise how ridiculous his perceptions are.

Orkut, a social networking service by Google, has been the dominant force in India for the past many years. Its nice, clean, basic and I'm on it as well - because many of my Indian friends are only on Orkut and not on Facebook.

Anyway, so in my opinion here are some reasons why Indians like Orkut:
1. It loads quick
2. You can have nicknames (and not be forced to use your real name)
3. It has seamless integration with Google Talk, an IM many Indians use.
4. It has smileys
5. Low privacy settings by default (this is important) - so anyone can write on anyone's wall, unless explicitly blocked.

Now these observations, 1-5, are important and they're not even exhaustive because I haven't gone through the trouble of analysing the case in detail for Mr. Olivan, but even at first glance, once can see quite a few differences with Facebook.

Lets take #2 and #5. Indians have a low expressed 'need' for privacy and they enjoy a more 'social' culture. However, when privacy is required, they'd rather hide behind an assumed nickname rather than set their privacy settings to block anyone not on their friends list.

And Orkut does allow comments in Hindi (and other Indian languages) as it has support for Unicode (as does Facebook). But now, Facebook thinks it has the Ace of Spades because it has now translated its entire website into Hindi (and five other Indian languages).

Reality check Facebook - Aditi Sharma says the right thing.

"We all write in 'Hinglish' anyway, so I don't need to have Hindi typing," says Aditi Sharma, 20, who studies in Mumbai but uses Orkut to stay in touch with high school friends. ("Hinglish" is what comes up when you type out Hindi phonetically with English characters, throwing in words from both languages for ease; for instance, "How are you?" becomes "Kaise ho?" )

But Javier insists that no, Indians want to read websites in their own languages.

And he adds:

"I don't know why people think that by having a local office you will have a better local product," Olivan says. That might work "for certain types of businesses," the Stanford MBA concedes, but not for Facebook. "The brick-and-mortar approach is not effective in doing [things] fast and efficiently," he says.

I mean seriously. Where is this guy from? Has he ever even been to India?


  1. Hello
    Interesting topic:)I do agree with the fact that orkut is much better than facebook but not necessarily because of the reasons that you pointed out. I use both orkut and facebook. I have been using orkut for the past three years and facebook maybe the past 6-8 months. Although it took me months to figure out how to use each application in facebook, I think now I am pretty much aware of most of the stuff. So even at this stage I wonder why people like facebook sooo much when I personally found orkut more user friendly. So here are some reasons that I found...Its true that facebook had more privacy settings than orkut. I would definitely want all my scrapbook and my personal photos to be seen only by my friends. My orkut account had been hacked once and luckily I figured it out soon and solved it. Many of my friends have been faced with the same problem. So to avoid such problems and to keep your personal matters private, it is always good to have those privacy settings. Orkut did not have those privacy settings whereas facebook had it right from the beginning. I think this attracted many orkut users to facebook especially after the hacking incident. But what I have analysed is that, now that orkut incorporated those privacy settings, it is much better than facebook even in terms of privacy. A perfect example would be commenting on your photos. If A puts a comment on B's photos, it immediately comes in A's friend say C's page and C will be able to see all the snaps of B. Howz that defined as privacy!!!The default privacy setting in facebook only prevents access to someone's wall but changing those privacy settings infact any privacy change is sooo difficult in facebook. I have still not figured out how to stop our friend's friend from seeing our snaps..(other than not allowing any comments on my photos) I guess the entire hardcore privacy setting is only "before" you join facebook. Once you join, orkut gives more privacy than facebook. And why I disagree with you is , if Indians didnt want privacy, then most of the profile as seen today would'nt have been blocked. n the hackers wouldnt have come up with a message "Unblock any blocked albums" !!:)I think what attracts users to facebook is its applications like the quizzes, event organizer etc. I am sure if orkut had some of these applications and a better privacy settings right from the beginning more users would have been attracted to orkut than facebook. Also the fact that orkut is still banned in most of the middle easten countiries got facebook an undeserved and unexpected acclaim ;))I guess this is not an analysis of the Stanford guy's speech but just a general evaluation of the two social networking sites :))
    Good day!!

  2. Brilliant. Thank you Diya for your insightful comment and for pointing out the differences in the privacy implementations at both Facebook and Orkut.

    I'm still curious though as to why Facebook hired such a muppet for their International Manager role ;-)


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