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The Indian arm of social media giant Facebook has announced the launch of a new initiative, wherein it will be setting up an online startup hub to assist entrepreneurs in starting up and scaling their businesses. As part of the new project, the company is also planning to establish digital training centres to help enhance digital literacy among job seekers.

As per the official statement, Facebook is aiming to train over 500K Indians through these online hubs within the next three years. According to sources, the hubs are being launched in collaboration with local organisations.

Commenting on the development, a spokesperson from Facebook said, “We worked with local organisations, including Digital Vidya, EDII (Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India), Dharma Life and Startup India, to develop the learning curriculum, which is available on mobile in English and Hindi. The curriculum includes skills for tech entrepreneurs, including how to protect ideas, how to hire, how to go about getting funding, what regulations and legal hurdles one needs to consider and how to build an online reputation.”

Through the digital training services, Facebook is aiming to make users well-versed with a variety of new-age digital skills. To that end, the hubs will offer free access to social and content marketing tricks to anyone interested.

Additionally, the digital training platform will train users on social media basics, how to create marketable content, how to build a loyal audience, how to evaluate online activities and how to beat competition by staying ahead of the curve. The curriculum has been designed to help users learn new skills pertaining to personal branding, consumer behaviour, reputation management and digital storytelling.

Elaborating further, Ritesh Mehta, Head of Economic Growth Initiatives, India and South Asia at Facebook said, “Digital skills unlock opportunities, empower people to dream big, build products, grow businesses and foster communities. We want more people to have the opportunity to hone their skills, build businesses or create something for their community because investing in people can lead to incredible things.”

Apart from imparting essential digital skills, the platforms will serve as an extensive online resource for entrepreneurs looking to learn about starting up. As stated by Facebook, the digital training hubs are designed to guide startup founders through the various ways and techniques of leveraging the Internet to scale up their businesses.

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The social media firm explained, “This could mean teaching a small business owner how to create an online presence, helping a non-profit reach new communities and potential donors or helping a tech entrepreneur turn his/her product idea into a startup through practical business advice.”

As pointed out by Mehta, the startup resource hub will enable tech startups and developers to build more innovative products and services. In addition to its advisory services, the platform will provide access to a repository of guidelines and best practices when it comes to creating a business plan, building a marketable product and ultimately scaling the business. The curriculum covers different aspects of starting up, from idea protection, regulation compliance, business planning, market research, talent acquisition to fundraise and expansion.

Mehta added, “Almost 93% of small and medium businesses surveyed in India say that digital and social media skills are more important when making hiring decisions. Also, 89% of small and medium businesses surveyed in India report that having a lack of familiarity with digital tools available is a challenge.”

How Facebook To Helping Improve Digital Penetration In India

Globally since 2011, Facebook claimed to have poured over $1 Bn into initiatives geared towards supporting small businesses. In India, the social media behemoth has offered training to more than 60,000 small business, including 12,000 women entrepreneurs, through such programmes as Boost Your Business and SheMeansBusiness, claimed Mehta.

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The company recently started the test run of its Marketplace feature in India starting with the city of Mumbai. The service, which is similar to Olx and Quikr, will allow people in selected cities to see buy/sell listings within a predefined radius. Earlier in July, Facebook had launched its  Messenger Lite app in the country. The pared-down version is intended for users with old smartphone models or slow Internet connections.

In recent years, Facebook has taken a number of steps to expand its market in India, a country that boasts over 450 Mn internet users and more than 616 Mn mobile users, as per reports by the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM) Association. As per company claims, Facebook India recorded 217 million monthly active people in Q2, 2017.

As part of its Express WiFi Project in May 2017, Facebook joined hands with Bharti Airtel to install 20,000 hotspots across the country. The aim of the initiative was to enable local entrepreneurs to earn a steady income by providing quality Internet access to neighbours. The state-run telecommunications company BSNL announced that it would be serving as a partner Internet service provider in the project.

Last year in May, Nasscom teamed up with Facebook to build a ‘Product Design Initiative,’ aimed at supporting more than 500 product startups in the country. To accelerate its growth in India, the company has been hiring top-level professionals to manage its operations in India.

India is home to more than 48 Mn SMEs, a large percentage of which come from rural and semi-urban areas where digital penetration is still low. Through the startup and digital training hubs, Facebook is aiming to enhance engagement by bringing more small businesses onto its platform.

(The development was reported by VCCircle)

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