Facebook and other social media can be used by young Cambodians as diplomatic platforms to enhance their country's international image. Photo: AFP

Facebook is planning to pick up minority stakes in more Indian startups and increase its pace of investments in new-age companies irrespective of the sector.

This is a departure from the norm followed by the social media giant of taking majority control and full-scale acquisitions.

Ajit Mohan, the company’s India Vice-President and Managing Director, told the Times of India: “This is an extremely unique Indian program, where we are making consistent minority investments. The idea is to accelerate even more.”

He added that Facebook was looking to pick up stakes in companies that were working towards bringing the benefits of the internet to small towns.

Facebook’s funding would be in the range of US$20-25 million and would concentrate on early-stage startups, the daily added. It also runs its incubator program for startups and has tied up with venture capital funds such as Fireside Ventures and SAIF Partners.

The company has so far dealt with three startups in India. Its first deal was in 2014 when it acquired performance analytics startup Little Eye Labs.

Last year it acquired a minority stake in Meesho, a social commerce platform, for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2015, Meesho enables entrepreneurs to set up an online business. It provides small and independent entrepreneurs with products and tools to start, maintain and grow their businesses.

The social commerce platform provides a three-way marketplace enabling resellers, small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs across India to connect with potential buyers using social media. The company has more than one million resellers on its platform and a large regional language user base and many are women. It is also one of the fastest-growing social commerce platforms.

Last week Facebook took part in the $110 million funding round in education technology startup Unacademy. General Atlantic, Sequoia India, Nexus Venture Partners, Steadview Capital and Blume Ventures were the other companies that participated in the funding round.

Founded in 2015, Unacademy provides online coaching for various competitive exams for students and job aspirants. It now has more than 10,000 registered educators and 13 million users. It gets more than 140 million views every month on all its distribution channels.

Meanwhile, Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp was planning to roll out its digital payment arm WhatsApp Pay. India is one of the biggest markets for both Facebook and WhatsApp. According to research firm Statista, Facebook has about 260 million users in India as of January and WhatsApp has 400 million users. Facebook hopes to leverage this large user base during the WhatsApp Pay rollout.

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