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India ‘to overtake US as Facebook’s largest market’

India is forecast to overtake the US as the world`s largest Facebook market by number of users as early as 2015, according to a new report from Gartner. The report attributed the growth to a rapidly increasing internet penetration in India, combined with high rates of growth in mobile connections.

"India could overtake the United States in the next three years. Last year, Facebook users in India doubled. Growth will be driven by mobile internet users in second- and third-tier cities," Shalini Verma, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner told CNBC, noting that the US market is saturated in terms of user numbers.

India is currently Facebook`s third largest market, with over 45 million users.

It trails behind Brazil and the United States with 47 and 157 million users, respectively, according to the latest data from Facebook`s advertising platform.

Even though just 11% or 125 million Indians speak English, according to the most recent census data, Verma added that language won`t be a hurdle for the company`s expansion.

"People in India write in a mix of both English and Hindi," Verma said. Many Indians also write Hindi words using the roman script, rather than the traditional Devanagari script.

Facebook is also trying to catch those who would like to use their local language to communicate.

Last month, it announced the launch of the "Facebook for Every Phone" mobile application in seven local Indian languages - Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi, in addition to Hindi, which became available last year.

However, India still has some way to go to match the Us in terms of ad spend and revenue. Annual advertising spending in India is just $255m, compared with around $158.9bn for the US. Facebook`s average revenue per person in Asia is just $1.79, compared to $9.51 in North America.

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