Airtel Zero wasn't marketed well, says Mittal Jr

Airtel Zero was not marketed well, said Kavin Bharti Mittal, the founder and chief executive officer of Hike Messenger, on Tuesday.

The platform, which the largest telecom service provider had unveiled briefly, was withdrawn because of strong criticism.

A day after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) struck down differential pricing in favour of net neutrality, Mittal, the son of Bharti Enterprises Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, which owns Bharti Airtel, spoke in favour of Airtel Zero. He, however, added that its marketing was not done properly.

"Airtel Zero is a good initiative. However, I think they marketed it completely wrong," he told Business Standard.

The telecom major had offered free access to some applications and mobile services that had signed up with it.

"It is a very great idea about how people can purchase data. It was not breaking net neutrality laws because telcos were not deciding, it was supposed to be an open platform where anybody can come and buy data," said Mittal.

Trai's rules have impacted Facebook's Free Basics and Bharti Airtel's Airtel Zero as they violated the principles of an equal and fair internet for all - the crux of net neutrality.

Mittal runs the show at Hike Messenger, which is an over-the-top (OTT) messenger app service, with more than 100 million users. He said Trai's rules will help in putting everyone on a level playing field. "We have been on the opposite side of this as for the last couple of years, there were WhatsApp and Facebook packs but no Hike packs, so it was not doing us any good. But now with the ruling out, we are all in a level playing field."

Trai is also in the process of framing regulations for OTT players such as WhatsApp, Skype and others. It is expected to come out with its recommendations on this issue - whether they need to come under any sort of regulation or not - by next month.

Telecom players, including Bharti Airtel, has been demanding a regulation for OTT players saying they are eating into their revenues while operators have spent huge money on acquiring spectrum and setting up the infrastructure as well as acquiring licenses.

"The best part of the internet is that it is not regulated. Why do people buy data packs? It's mainly for using messaging apps and Facebook. There is no need for any regulation on OTT players; it will stifle their growth. We (OTT operators) are responsible for generating data revenues. If we shut shop tomorrow, nobody will buy data packs. Let's reverse the question to telecom companies. Since we are driving data growth, why don't they give 10 per cent of their revenues to us? It's weird both ways, which is why there is no need for any regulation to foster innovations in the sector," Kavin had said in a previous interview with Business Standard.

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