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Meta appoints new India head amid key departures in its largest market

Meta has appointed Sandhya Devanathan as the new head of its India business following several high-profile departures in the key overseas market.

The social juggernaut said on Thursday that Devanathan, who joined the firm in 2016 and helped build the company's Singapore and Vietnam businesses, has been elevated to head and VP of Meta India. In 2020, Devanathan moved to lead the company's gaming efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.

In her new role, which begins January 1, Devanathan will report to Dan Neary, vice president at Meta Asia-Pacific. The new reporting hierarchy is a shift for the firm, which earlier saw India executives directly report to the U.S. leadership.

"Devanathan will focus on bringing the organization’s business and revenue priorities together to serve its partners and clients, while continuing to support the longterm growth of Meta’s business and commitment to India," Meta said in a statement.

With over half a billion Indians using Meta services, the American giant identifies India as its largest market by users.

Facebook’s family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, have grown fastest in India in recent years, onboarding hundreds of millions of users. It has also made a series of ambitious investments in the country, including cutting a $5.7 billion check to Indian telecom giant Jio Platforms and ramping up the commerce engine of WhatsApp.

“India is at the forefront of digital adoption and Meta has launched many of our top products, such as Reels and Business Messaging, in India first. We are proud to have recently launched JioMart on WhatsApp, which is our first end-to-end shopping experience in India," said Marne Levine, chief business officer of Meta, in a statement.

"I’m pleased to welcome Sandhya as our new leader for India. Sandhya has a proven track record of scaling businesses, building exceptional and inclusive teams, driving product innovation and building strong partnerships. We are thrilled to have her lead Meta’s continued growth in India.”

The new appointment comes at a time when Meta has seen several key departures in India in recent weeks. Ajit Mohan, the former head of Meta India, left the firm late last month to join rival Snap as the president of the younger firm's Asia-Pacific business.

WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose and Meta India's Public Policy head Rajiv Aggarwal stepped down earlier this week.

Even as the parent firm Meta has grown its finances in India in recent years, the company's WhatsApp service has been slow at keeping pace in the country's mobile payments market.

"WhatsApp Pay has to be the biggest failure in India as a tech product," tweeted Ashneer Grover, the flamboyant entrepreneur who co-founded fintech startup BharatPe. "Everyone has WhatsApp on their phone -- sending money on WhatsApp using UPI is as easy as sending pictures. It should have beaten Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay," he added.

WhatsApp, which sued the Indian government last year over recent regulatory changes, has struggled to get regulatory clearance from the National Payments Corporation of India, the payments body that oversees the widely popular UPI instrument, to extend its mobile payments service to its entire userbase of over 500 million users in the country.

Earlier this year, NPCI permitted WhatsApp to roll out WhatsApp Pay to 100 million users in India. In the meantime, WhatsApp has also received criticism from some users for not putting enough safeguards to prevent businesses from spamming them on the app.