Start-ups want net neutral level-field

After signing up for ‘Airtel Zero’ platform last week, online e-commerce firm Flipkart yesterday decided to move out of the deal with country’s top operator Bharti Airtel following massive backlash in support of net neutrality.

The dwindling rating on app stores and widespread criticism also in a way forced the e-commerce player to pull out of the deal.

Industry experts believe that e-commerce sector is highly competitive today, while companies like FlipKart, Amazon and SnapDeal have got the affordability, but at the same time one cannot overlook the thousand other e-commerce start-ups that have recently sprung up. And that’s the reason why Flipkart drew flak from different quarters of the industry.

Through the ‘Airtel Zero’ platform, mobile app makers can register with the platform to give customers toll-free access to their apps, which experts believe will be beneficial for large companies that can afford to partner with the telecom service provider. ‘Airtel Zero’ will also not offer better speed for an app over another.

“The massive competition in this sector will lead to the giants dominating the industry, and leaving little or no space for e-commerce SMBs to grow. Today the fact remains that all businesses are moving to the web and to the cloud, this puts SMBs into a state of endangerment as process of dissemination of information and knowledge will be delayed thus directly impacting business processes at all levels,” says Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and Group CEO, Greyhound Research.

According to Aakriti Bhargava, Co- founder and COO, Boring Brands, a start-up which is into marketing and PR,: “A step against net neutrality will negatively impact start-ups to compete at a level playing field with larger established companies. In my experience of the start-up world, I have seen several successes that made life easier for the end consumer. Whether it was Flipkart that went from sharing bookmarks outside a bookstore to a billion dollar company or a News in Shorts that makes easy reading of 40 news articles anytime on your mobile device, Internet allowed for startups to solve everyday problems digitally. “

If a start-up is unable to secure access to specific telecom operators or afford access-tiering charges particularly if a telecom operators with market power reaches an exclusive arrangement with an established app or where smaller apps are unable to secure affordable access. This may deter start-ups from joining the market, which would be detrimental to the eco-system, she added.

Bikash Barai, CEO and Co-Founder, iViZ, says, “Net neutrality is important for providing a level-field for the best product to win. If we create a discriminating environment, then it is bad for the ecosystem since it artificially creates an unfair barrier for new entrants. It is detrimental for the customer and the innovative start-ups. Internet should be open and neutral.”

Telecom regulator Trai has so far received over three lakh emails via the SavetheInternet.in website, for support of net neutrality. Meanwhile, the Department of Telecom has formed a six-member panel to look into the matter.

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