Last month, during Facebook’s quarterly investor call, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, took some time speaking about Instagram’s potential as an advertising powerhouse. It wasn’t surprising one bit. He said, “Instagram is growing quicker on a percentage basis but it’s much smaller. The ad load opportunities are higher on Instagram because Instagram is at a lower ad load than Facebook so there is an opportunity for us to continue to grow ad load on Instagram probably beyondin a longer time frame than there is on Facebook because of that disparity in terms of where they are today.”

The photo-sharing app isn’t quite there in India, just yet. But with a fast-growing user base and Facebook’s powerful ad network as a readymade launchpad, Instagram has the legs.

Consider some numbers, exclusive to The Ken: India has close to 31 million users (aged over 13) on Instagram or nearly 5% of the social network’s overall user base (600 million as of February 2017). Dig deeper, and you will see a sweet spot emerging, with over half its Indian users (16 million) falling into the 18-24 or ‘millennial’ age category. For perspective, in September 2015, the network had only 4 million users in India. Over the last 18 months, it has managed to achieve nearly 8X growth, and almost all of it organically. According to AppAnnie, the total time spent on Instagram in India on Android phones rose from 17.8 billion hours in 2015 to 61.5 billion in 2016. (AppAnnie breaks its data down to quarters and provides data close to the latest quarter. In this case from Q4 2015 to Q4 2016) 

Advertisers and brands are taking note.

Ad bundling

Over the last two years, Facebook has changed the way it pitches Instagram to advertisers.

“When it launched Instagram ads in India, back in September 2015, it had a hard time selling it to advertisers,” says a Gurugram-based digital marketing professional, on a condition of anonymity. “They were deemed expensive, nearly 5-6X of what people spent on Facebook for a similar reach. Say, if Facebook charged you Rs 50 per 1000 impressions, Instagram was priced at Rs 250-300 for a similar metric.”

The focus now is on bundling, or in agency-speak, ‘FB+Insta’. He adds, “Typically when a Facebook rep does his presentations, he pitches an Instagram-also option, which definitely helps in increasing reach and reducing our cost per impressions.” With the FB+Insta option available on Facebook’s advert manager dashboard, advertisers can buy additional reach by paying a little extra. What also works for Instagram is that if the creative on Facebook is of the same size, the ads automatically appear on its platform.

“Asia-Pacific, including India, is an important region for us,” said a Facebook India spokesperson in an emailed statement.