Indian social media circuit has witnessed another high profile exit. This time, Facebook India Managing Director Umang Bedi has bid the social networking giant adieu just about 16 months after joining the organisation. Bedi is the second top executive to quit Facebook India in the past two years.
Bedi joined Facebook India in July 2016, at a time when the Mark Zuckerberg led company was facing severe backlash from India’s telecom regulator TRAI over the net neutrality issue for its ‘Free Basics in India’ project.
With Bedi’s exit, Sandeep Bhushan, director, consumer and media for South Asia at Facebook, has been appointed as the interim managing director.
“We confirm that Umang Bedi will be leaving his role at Facebook at the end of this year. He’s built a really strong team and business during his time with us, and we wish him all the best,” read a company statement.
Reportedly, after quitting Facebook, Bedi has plans of starting a technology-based venture of his own.
When Bedi joined Facebook from Adobe India, he was given the responsibility of salvaging the company’s reputation and brand image in the Indian subcontinent and work out solutions to generate new revenue streams for the company in addition to launching variations of Free Basics or Internet.org in India.
Bedi played a crucial part in launching Express Wi-Fi, another product under Facebook’s Internet.org programme. I
The Express Wi-Fi project is an integral part of Facebook’s much talked about Internet.org mission through which the social networking giant is aiming to bring internet connectivity across the whole wide world, especially in the rural pockets. The company tied up with Bharti Airtel to launch as many as 20,000 hotspots.
One of the interesting things about the project’s launch in India is, unlike any other project or product launch by Facebook, the company has maintained a very silent demure about the whole launch. It can be understood that Facebook decided to keep it this way after a very public failure of its Free Basics program, which entailed granting people in India access to the web free of cost but came with a few strings attached. The program was ultimately banned by India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last year for violating the principles of net neutrality.
Unlike Free Basics that provided access to selected websites for free, Express Wi-Fi operates on a ‘paid’ model. Further, the access is not restricted to any particular website and users can log into Wi-Fi hotspots and buy daily, weekly or monthly data packs.
India is the second-largest user base for Facebook globally, after the US. In November last year Bedi said, not only is India Facebook’s second-largest market, but it is also “the most strategic market” for the company.