Free Basic

Free Basics

I guess we can no longer have, as Facebook puts it “digital equality for all Indians.” Despite aggressive lobbying by Facebook, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) ruled in favor of Net Neutrality and against Facebook. What this means is that Facebook‘s Free Basics service, a limited and free Internet service, can no longer be offered in India.

Here is what TRAI said in its report yesterday, “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.” You can read the full report in PDF here.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook responded that he was disappointed by TRAI’s verdict. Yet, he has made it clear that ist giving up and his mission in India will continue he wrote here.

The response on Twitter to TRAI’s announcement was swift.

Free Basic

Free Basics

Last year Zuckerberg famously hosted Indian Prime Minister at Facebook headquarters and it seemed like Free Basics would be a shoo-in. Since 2015 Net Neutrality in India has been a subject of heated public debate. Menlo Park-based Facebook lobbied hard and spent a nice chunk of change to push its Free Basics plan in India.What Facebook and others did not realize is the domestic opposition from ordinary citizens and activists to stop this digital initiative. Over the past few months there was a concerted effort to stop Facebook’s Free Basics initiative in India through various efforts and the most important was Save The Internet website. Opponents pointed out it violates net neutrality.

Facebook countered by stating “Free Basics gives people access to vital services like communication, healthcare, education, job listings and farming information – all without data charges.” Facebook did not stop there. It went on to write that “But Free Basics is in danger in India. A small, vocal group of critics are lobbying to have Free Basics banned on the basis of net neutrality. Instead of giving people access to some basic internet services for free, they demand that people pay equally to access all internet services – even if that means 1 billion people can’t afford to access any services.”

And starting in 2016 the debate around Free Basic intensified in a significant manner in India. At one point earlier this year TRAI questioned Facebook’s claim of 11 million Free Basics Facebook supporters. Facebook is disappointed with the thumbs down verdict from TRAI for its Free Basics initiative in India. It will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg and his team will keep working to break down this barrier in India.

You can read more about Free Basics in India here, here, here and here.

Updates: Om Malik’s post on Free Basics and how nothing is free. Read it here

Silicon Valley entrepreneur/VC Marc Andreessen offends India by defending Free Basics writes Re/Code. It started with a tweet from Andreessen, which was apparently deleted and then offered an apology of sorts to India.


I was craving for some Mexican food from San Jose’s La Victoria Taqueira in Bangalore after seeing all those Superbowl 50  tweets about salsa and burritos. If only there was a local taqueria from where I could order a veggie burrito and get some nachos with some guac it would be wonderful I thought. While I was dreaming of Mexican food I realized with a rude shock that our trusty on-demand chef Kamakshi did not get our lunch order. Due to a technical glitch she never got the WhatsApp message we sent her the previous day. She was my Plan A for our lunch and I had no Plan B!  “Oh, let us look what FreshMenu has,” my husband suggested. And lo & behold! it seems Freshmenu, a Bangalore-based startup, has somehow read my thoughts. Oh, wait that can’t be I told myself. That is some good old marketing to coincide with all that Superbowl buzz out here in Silicon Valley of India or Bangalore.

FreshMenu had a vegetarian burrito bowl (Rs. 200 or approx $3.50)  with all the works – refried beans, corn, tomatoes and cottage cheese. Wait a minute cottage cheese? Hmm that is an interesting add-on. I also ordered a passion blueberry mousse (Rs. 60 or approx $1). Am not sure what this mousse is made of or how many calories it contains, but am mighty curious to know what it tastes like. We logged in to our FreshMenu account, placed our order and then waited for the food to appear at our doorstep in less than 45 minutes. It took us all of 3 minutes to look up th menu and place our order.

While waiting for my Mexican burrito bowl and the mousse I got thinking about my current trip to Bangalore and living a truly on-demand life. I get my grocery, food and car without much friction from these on-demand companies like BigBasket, FreshMenu and Uber. But then I said to myself “Hang on a minute. In my previous trips to Bangalore I did lead an on-demand life. I got my food from Kamakashi’s kitchen or my mom’s kitchen, my grocery from the local corner or kirana store and our transportation from our local tour and travel company, Ola cab or the good old auto rickshaw.” And then there were times when I’d whip up breakfast and lunch in our kitchen using our Philips induction stove and not the traditional gas stove top. Continue reading



Bill Pohlad directed and produced Love & Mercy (2015), a biopic of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys fame. This is Pohlad’s portrait of the talented singer and composer Wilson and is not a “cradle to grave” biopic as he puts it. The film focusses on two different parts of Wilson’s life that is punctuated with his mental illness, which is a phase that not many of us maybe familiar with.

The first phase takes you into the heart of the meteoric rise of The Beach Boys, and the second part takes you to one of the most difficult times in Wilson’s life – his breakdown and treatment in the hand of Dr. Eugene Lundy (Paul Giamatti). While Dr. Lundy helps him in his recovery he also ends up controlling Wilson’s life and keeps him as a virtual prisoner. But, Wilson somehow finds the courage to break free from Dr. Lundy’s clutches with the help of Melinda Ledbetter (Emily Banks). Paul Dano plays the role of a young Wilson and John Cuscack as the older Wilson.

I got an opportunity to interview Pohlad in 2015 in San Francisco when Love & Mercy was shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival. We spoke about the making of Love & Mercy, Paul Giamatti, his love for music and his role as a producer and working with Ang Lee and Terrence Malick. Pohlad helped produce Lee’s Bri Award winning film Brokeback Mountain and Malick’s Tree of Life.