Update: Facebook has since launched a developer contest focused on Indian developers (via @nikhil_kumar). The prizes: $4000, $2000 and $1000 in each of the two categories – Facebook Apps, and Facebook Connect Integrations.

The second category is particular interest: Facebook is pushing for people to integrate Facebook Connect with their websites (or blogs). Facebook Connect allows users to comment with their Facebook IDs, and ends up helping Facebook promote itself as a unique online identifier – similar to a Google Profile and OpenID. Haven’t seen Google do the same with Google Friend Connect, which, incidentally, has little to do with Orkut. Looks like Orkut has some strategizing to do.

Original Post (July 2 2009, 6.23 AM): Did Google owned Orkut miss a trick in India, by not partnering with more Indian companies? Inside Facebook reports, basing their findings from Facebook’s advertiser tools, that the social network saw a significant increase in the number of active users to almost 3.2 million over the last 60 days:

Source: Insidefacebook.com

Source: Insidefacebook.com

Inside Facebook has reported a similar trend for Brazil, another country where Orkut is the dominant social network. We’ve noticed a significant increase in activity from Facebook in India over the last few months, which co-incides with the increase in the audience growth depicted in the chart. Key among them is the amount of airtime that it has received as a part of an advertisement for Aircels “Pocket Internet” service. Aircel has focused on value added services like Mobile Internet for its launches in Delhi and Mumbai, and both Facebook and Yahoo Onesearch have received TV airtime as a consequence of this. One of the famous ZooZoo’s commercials from Vodafone in India also promoted Facebook.

Apart from this, Facebook has actively partnered with Indian companies -particularly mobile operators – and inked deals with Internet companies around key events like the Oscars and the Indian Parliamentary Elections:

wtv_oscars_screenshot

Feb 2009: Partnership with Zoom TV and World TV for the Oscars in India. From what we’ve heard, there was a partnership with NDTV for the same, but that is unconfirmed.

April 2009:

Goes mobile in India for SMS Alerts with Tata Indicom
— Partners with Aircel for Voice Message Application, allowing users to leave voice messages on Facebook, according to this forum post of a press release. (note: unconfirmed)
— Facebook promoted in a Zoozoo’s commercial by Vodafone (view the commercial)

nautanki-facebook1May 2009

Launches Indian language interface
— Partners with Nautanki.tv for coverage of the Indian Elections
— Promoted in India by Aircel as a part of their Pocket Internet Service, particularly during the Indian Premier League, a key Cricket event. (view the commercial)

From what we’ve heard, there’s something planned around the Union Budget in India as well.

This is not merely a two-way fight though – Twitter’s slowly gaining in prominence with several media companies also adopting Twitter for promotion of their content; recently, all of UTVi’s anchors joined Twitter, and they regularly mention their Twitter IDs on the channel. MIH (Naspers) and Tencent owned Ibibo has also regularly partnered with media companies for cross-media promotion.

We haven’t heard much about Orkut of late, apart from the launch of a mobile application, and the launch of advertiser tools; in terms of partnerships, one of the few that we are aware of is with MTV India for their popular Roadies show.

Compared to Facebooks claim of 3.2 million active users, Orkut claims 13 million – it does appear to have the largest base among social networks in India, but certainly shouldn’t get complacent. That said, while usage is one thing, monetization of social networks is another story.