Facebook is very keen to expand its presence in India, and the Indian Government's decision to ban all Chinese apps back in June, including TikTok, handed it a huge opportunity, which it's still working to maximize.
This week, Facebook-owned Instagram has re-launched its Instagram Lite app in India specifically, a more compact, less data-hungry version of Instagram, which will enable more Indian users to jump aboard the IG train.
"The Instagram Lite app is small, fast and works on all networks."
That's important for India, where many users are in low connectivity regions, while also using restrictive data plans.
As further explained by TechCrunch:
"The revamped Instagram Lite app weighs less than 2MB and delivers a “fast, reliable, and responsive” experience of the social service. The Android app supports Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, but currently lacks a several core features of Instagram, including Reels, Shopping and IGTV."
No doubt Instagram's working to address those shortcomings, but the Lite app does include Stories, which will help boost its appeal in the region.
As you can see in this screenshot (shared by Android Police) Instagram then encouraged Lite users to switch to the full Instagram app instead. But then, in late June, the Indian Government announced the ban on all Chinese apps, due to ongoing border disputes with the Chinese Government.
The biggest impact of that ruling was the removal of TikTok, which had seen massive growth in the Indian market. Indeed, TikTok reportedly had over 200 million users at the time of the ban. That then sparked Instagram into action - less than a week after the Indian Government's announcement, Instagram launched its then-experimental 'Reels' functionality for Indian users.
It was the first region to get Reels, with Facebook jumping on the opportunity to establish a stronger presence - and while Instagram hasn't reported any official usage numbers for Reels in the region, it has said that Reels has gained 'significant momentum' with Indian users.
Now it's looking to boost its presence further, with the re-introduction of Instagram Lite. That will open up Instagram access to a lot more users, and could help the platform freeze TikTok out of the market entirely, if, indeed, the app is ever allowed back in.
It's just one of various efforts Facebook's making to dominate the Indian market. Back in April, Facebook announced that it had purchased a $5.7 billion stake in Indian internet provider Reliance Jio, part of its ongoing effort to tap into the region.
Facebook has been working to build its presence in India, and reach its 1.4 billion citizens, for years, but the Indian Government has blocked many of its efforts, due to concerns around ceding too much control to foreign providers. But Facebook is slowly making inroads, and if it can stengthen its connection with Indian users, it could become a key provider within the nation's digital transformation, which would not only include social connectivity, but eCommerce, business connection, advertising and more.
The sheer numbers make it a key element of Facebook's growth plan. So while the addition of Instagram Lite may seem inconsequential, it's another step in the broader scheme.
There's no date, as yet, for a broader roll-out of the new Instagram Lite, but Instagram says that it will consider a global launch after initial testing in the Indian market.