Within just 3 days of launching, over 150 start-ups have shown interest to join Airtel Zero platform. The Zero platform allows users to access applications and service without any data charge. The start-ups and e-commerce companies pay Airtel for the data consumed by the users.

However, Airtel has been criticised for launching the platform on grounds that it went against the principles of net neutrality.

Srini Gopalan, Direct-Consumer Business, Bharti Airtel, said that while opinions from critics of the product are very welcome, it is pertinent to set the record straight and look at some key facts relating to Airtel Zero and the benefits it brings to customers and the industry alike.

“In fact, since we announced Airtel Zero on April 6, over 150 start-ups – with majority being small start-ups – have contacted to enquire about the product. For the record, every one of them told us what a great platform we will be providing to them and for a change they will have an “equal opportunity” to run with the big boys. On an average, Airtel Zero will help reduce their marketing costs by almost three quarters. Not bad, I would say, though some may still feel otherwise,” Srini said.

“There is also a high level of misinformation surrounding the product, which is not surprising since the very concept of Net Neutrality is a bit misunderstood,” he added.

“Today, some mobile devices can store 50 or more apps, others can store five and some can't even do so. Will Net Neutrality imply that all devices must be standardised and offered at the same price to make the net neutral? There are multiple mobile technologies – 2G, 3G, 4G - to access internet. Should all speed and pricing be the same in the garb of Net Neutrality? Some customers pay cheaper data rates based on volume purchased. Does Net Neutrality imply that everyone must pay the same rate irrespective of usage?,” said Srini.

He said that the debate over the past few days has brought out one thing clearly – a large number of people are still not clear on what Net Neutrality is all about. “This gives an opportunity to the so called experts to make various as well as baseless arguments. While their point of view is important, we should have a more informed and nuanced debate without painting a picture that is based on rhetoric rather than reason,” Srini said.

He added that never before has an open and innovative platform like Airtel Zero been on offer that will help drive internet adoption through free usage (and companies and app developers being an equal partner in the process). “It will also drive innovation in the internet and mobile app space by providing a cost-effective and non-discriminatory platform, in particular, to smaller companies. This will truly drive ‘Make in India, For India’,” Srini said.