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BW Businessworld

Facebook's India Head Steps Down, Will Return To US

Her announcement on Friday came a day after the social networking giant pulled the plug on its controversy-ridden 'Free Basics' programme in India

Facebook's India head Kirthiga Reddy is stepping down and plans to return to the US where she has "begun to explore new opportunities" at the company's Menlo Park offices in California.

Her announcement on Friday came a day after the social networking giant pulled the plug on its controversy-ridden 'Free Basics' programme in India, days after telecom regulator TRAI barred operators from charging discriminatory rates for Internet access based on content.

Reddy, Facebook's managing director in India, said: "When my family relocated to India, we knew that we would move back to the US some day. It's a bittersweet moment to share that the return timeframe is coming up in the next 6-12 months."

She added: "I could not be more excited about where the Facebook business is in India, where we are going and what's to come. Over the last six years, starting as the first employee for Facebook in India, I have had the privilege to be part of our amazing growth journey -- from our operations in Hyderabad to being a business partner for our clients as they build their brands and grow their business in this mobile-first world."

Facebook on Thursday said its Free Basics was no longer available to people in India.

The service was offered in India in partnership with Reliance Communications and was earlier known as

Indian Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad earlier slammed Free Basics, saying such differential pricing modes are "plainly not acceptable" and Internet should not become a monopoly of few.

After months long consultation process, triggered by the net neutrality debate, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) barred operators from charging different rates for data access, dealing a blow to Free Basics and other such plans like Airtel Zero.

While Facebook had promoted Free Basics as a programme aimed at providing basic Internet access to people in partnership with telecom operators, critics slammed the service saying it violated the principle of net neutrality.

Launched in 2014, Facebook is running the programme across 17 countries.

Controversial Comments

The closure of Free Basics in India was announced on a day when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg distanced himself from controversial comments about India made by the social media giant's board member Marc Andreessen, saying they were "deeply upsetting" and did not represent the company's thinking.

"I want to respond to Marc Andreessen's comments about India yesterday. I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook posting on Wednesday afternoon.

His comments came after Andreessen made an objectionable tweet after the TRAI order.

"Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?" Andreessen tweeted, immediately evoking a sharp reaction from Indians.

Andreessen quickly deleted the tweet and apologised through a series of tweets on Wednesday.