So, the other day I decided to add Twitter Ads to my recommended media strategy for small businesses. I like Twitter, always have since I started using it. It’s simple, effective, and can be a very efficient advertising platform.
But then, during the set-up process, I discovered that Twitter does not list Indian Standard Time as a selection option, and: it does not offer Indian Rupee as a payment currency. I tweeted my query to Twitter For Business in the hope that there would be a solution. But, in a respectful reply, they confirmed that the India options are USD as payment currency and that I will have to select the next country/timezone available. The next country/timezone available?
This made me think. The time zone issue is disrespectful to an overall potential market that is 1.3 billion people in size. But let’s break down the market to a realistic figure. Dave Chaffey’s blog on social media research on Smart Insights quotes several media research organisations. Focusing on the January 2016 data presented by #WeAreSocialSingapore (data is extracted from their partner #GlobalWebIndex reports), there are 375 million internet users in India; Of these, 136 million are active social media users. Thus, I guess it should be fair to say that 136 million is the current potential market for Twitter (which maps to the general report that social media penetration is around 10% of the population). Asking a potential market of 136 million people to select a time zone that isn’t their own – that’s a brave strategy for any media company hoping to participate in the sweepstakes as the market expands slowly but surely towards the 375 million broader market of internet users, (even while that number itself inches closer to the 1.01 billion mark, which was the January 2016 number for mobile connections in India, the real driver of social media penetration in India). Given that Twitter has around 320 million users worldwide, the math on how the India market might help its overall growth isn’t too complicated.
The currency issue, on the other hand, may have more commercial (tax) implications for the India consumers of Twitter’s Ad products and services. In the 2016 budget speech, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, had announced a 6% equalisation levy on digital ads on cross-border platforms. Now, a levy or tax is a routine matter if the service provider is compliant with Indian laws. In practical terms, this means that I am being billed in INR and the tax is a line item in the bill/receipt; however, if the service provider does not have a tax entity in India, I am likely to be billed in a foreign currency, and that means I, the consumer, may end up having to pay the 6% levy to the government. And, now that I think about it, there may be a TDS responsibility on it as well?
On the whole, I really like Twitter, but I’d like to billed in INR and I definitely do not want to select the next country/timezone available.
And so, in spite of my intent to do business with Twitter, I guess I’ll have to wait a while.