September 24, 2018 / 12:55 PM / 24 days ago

Facebook picks chief of Hotstar streaming service as India head

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Facebook has poached the head of Indian video streaming service Hotstar to take on the newly-created role of managing director of its Indian operations, as the social media giant faces pressure to tackle fake news and store more data locally.

FILE PHOTO: A man reads a newspaper at the reception area of Facebook's new office in Mumbai, India May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/File Photo

Ajit Mohan will take up the role of managing director and vice-president of Facebook India, the company’s biggest market by number of users, from early next year, it said on Monday.

“India is one of the largest and most strategically important countries for Facebook,” Facebook’s Vice-President of Business and Marketing Partnerships, David Fischer, said in a statement.

“Ajit’s depth of experience will help us to continue to have a positive impact in India across communities, organizations, businesses and with policy makers.”

Mohan has served as chief executive of Hotstar, a streaming platform owned by Twenty-First Century Fox’s Star India arm, since April 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mohan’s move comes at a time Facebook is increasingly competing with video streaming services and TV channels for sports broadcasting rights.

Facebook, which began expanding into sports streaming in 2017, has the rights to stream Spanish soccer’s top division La Liga’s games in the Indian subcontinent over the next three seasons.

FILE PHOTO: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo, in this picture illustration October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Mohan has overseen the streaming of Indian Premier League cricket on Hotstar, which set a new global benchmark with 8.26 million concurrent viewers logging onto the platform for the final of the league this year.

He also takes over the top job at Facebook India at a turbulent time for the U.S. company.

Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service has been under fire from the Indian government over several mob beatings and deaths triggered by false, incendiary messages circulated on it.

That, according to local media reports, has caused delays in the official launch of Facebook’s payments service in India.

The company also plans to oppose new legislation in India that would require it to store user data in the country.

Separately, WhatsApp is looking for an India head too.

It last month appointed a grievance officer for Indian users based out of its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, like other global tech firms whose grievance officers sit outside of India.

India has, however, said it will toughen up its tech laws including pushing U.S. tech giants to have their grievance officers in India.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha and Mark Potter

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