‘Gigato is completely net neutral’

Gigato is a platform that offers free data for using its sponsored apps

May 24, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 12, 2016 08:14 pm IST - Mumbai:

Shailesh Nalawadi, CEO of Mavin, the firm behind the app, Gigato.— Photo: Special arrangement

Shailesh Nalawadi, CEO of Mavin, the firm behind the app, Gigato.— Photo: Special arrangement

Silicon Valley-based Gigato, a platform that offers free data for using its sponsored apps, said its product was completely net neutral as it did not prioritise access to certain apps over others.

Last week, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India issued a consultation paper on free data, seeking comments from stakeholders whether business models which provide free data or suitable reimbursement to users could be allowed without violating the differential pricing norms set by the regulator.

“We applaud the efforts of the government in trying to find a net neutral and platform agnostic way to support not just the flourishing app economy but also solve the problem of data and access,” Shailesh Nalawadi, CEO of Mavin, the firm behind the app, Gigato, said.

Mavin is built by former Google and Microsoft employees. The firm said it has over 2,50,000 users in India.

This is how Gigato works: once a user downloads and registers with it, apps on the platform issue refunds to consumers for the data they consume. For example, getting 10 MB of data for using 8 MB of data on TrulyMadly app is one such offer.

“The data reward that Gigato provides is completely unrestricted to the end user,” said Mr. Nalawadi. “We are similar to promotional incentives such as cashback except that we reward consumers with megabytes instead of cash or talktime.”

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, in its paper, had mentioned three business models that could provide cheaper internet access.

It cited examples of some models like Gigato and mCent, which provide data recharge coupons (essentially giving away free data without being a gatekeeper), in exchange for the customer downloading a specific application or performing some activity on a particular website.

“We are happy to see TRAI taking concrete steps to identify ways for users in India to get fair access to the Internet, free of gatekeepers. We believe that people all over the world truly want uncensored and unfettered access to the Internet and we are honoured to be included as an example of how people in India can get this access in a fair way,” Nathan Eagle, Founder of Jana, which runs the mCent app, said in an email response.

The other two models it talked about were that of a “don’t charge” or toll-free API, where the telecom service provider doesn’t act like a gatekeeper, and direct transfer of money for Internet data charges.

“Having access to the Internet in today’s day and age needs to be seen as a fundamental platform and efforts for its implementation and access need to happen at an institutional level,” said Mr. Nalawadi.

“While both the toll-free data and direct money model look great in theory, we, as a company, can only comment on the feasibility of the model we follow,” he added.

Some critics argue that even this kind of a rewards model is a form of zero rating, a practice in which Internet providers exempt a certain type of traffic to applications from data charges.

“Zero rating is a specific term. To offer something like a zero rating, you pretty much have to be a telecom service provider. It is simply not possible for us to discriminate,” said Mr. Nalawadi.

“There is no harm in a merchant saying, ‘I want to give you cash back because you are my loyal customer. The most important thing is to reduce the cost of data and bring more people on the net’,” he added.

TRAI has also sought comments on whether such models can be allowed and the need to regulate them.

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