Facebook offers Rs 50 free talk time, does it ring a bell for Indian mobile users?

18 Oct, 2012

Facebook recently (in September) crossed the 1 billion monthly active users mark, which literally means that one in every seven human beings on this earth is on the social networking site. But it seems the company wants more, a lot more. In an attempt to add members on the site, Facebook is offering free talk time worth Rs 50 to every new user who signs up on the site using a mobile phone.

Note that the offer is only valid for new users and existing users cannot avail it. We tried doing that and were greeted with a message that read 'your phone number already belongs to someone on Facebook. The promotion is only for people who are new to Facebook.' But existing users don't have to loose hope, since the company is also providing the same amount of talk time for referring a new user to the site.

For getting the free talk time, users can visit this link and register themselves. But if you simply visit the regular mobile site, you can still register with Facebook, but are not provided with the free talk time (shouldn't the offer be valid everywhere).

For starting the process, users will have to enter their mobile number and the number of the person who has invited them to the site (optional). The registration process is relatively simpler and the user has to provide only basic information like name, gender, date of birth, etc. (the site doesn't even ask for an e-mail address). Once the process is completed, Facebook sends a verification code to the registered mobile number that has to be entered to complete the registration process.

The company claims that users will receive the talk time within three days of signing up and confirming their account. We have already signed up, but since it has not been three days, cannot confirm whether the talk time is actually provided or not.  We have also entered a referrer's number and are waiting to see if they receive the talk time.

But why is the company doing this in the first place? The answer is in the numbers. First of all, crossing a billion users mark clearly signifies that the site has reached a kind of saturation in terms of growth in the developed countries like the US. This means that the next level of growth can only come from countries like India, where the number of internet users is growing at a rapid rate. Secondly, Facebook had over 50 million users in the country out of which 30 per cent access the service only through mobile phones.

Add to that, factors like surging use of smartphones in  the country, the decrease in prices of 3G, introduction of 4G and availability of low-cost Android smartphones and what you get is a 'scorching' hot market. But like everything else, there is a down side to this too. What is stopping existing users from getting new numbers and creating fake ids just for the sake of the Rs 50 talk time? They can also enter their existing numbers as that of a referrer and get an additional Rs 50 worth of talk time, taking the total to Rs 100.

Not a bad deal for a hard day's work, considering that nowadays new SIM cards are available for as low as Rs 10- add to that Rs 2 for the photocopying of the documents and they are still making a profit of Rs 88 per SIM. It would be interesting to see how Facebook tackles this. Also, what is your take on the matter, will you be willing to make a new id just for the sake of the Rs 50 talk time?

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)