By Rajiv Sodhi, Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India
India’s large and thriving economy, with its young and increasingly urbanizing consumer base, offers compelling growth potential for small and medium sized entrepreneurs. The Internet’s role in communication, social networking, and in informing and influencing India’s consumers across categories such as travel, retail and financial services is already comparable with the rest of the world and is assuming significant proportions. And with the help of technology, enterprises of all sizes and scrappy start-ups will continue to play a crucial role in areas such as agriculture, environment, health care, education, energy, utilities, and public information. However, rapid innovation is only possible in an environment where market entry is facilitated by unequivocal access to cutting-edge technology platforms that include the internet and importantly, backed by net neutrality.
Net neutrality says that all content and services on the internet should be treated equally, without any discrimination on the basis of cost or speed. It guarantees a level playing field for all individuals, businesses, consumers, web sites and internet activities regardless of the resources funding them. According to a report by Nathan associates and FICCI, of those SMEs that do use the Internet, 64 percent have seen an increase in sales and 65 percent an increase in profits. This is not surprising because access to the Internet offers SMEs an expanded geographic reach and access to a wide customer base that will not be possible without the medium itself. Therefore, establishing any rule for individualized bargaining of Internet speed and cost will hurt Indian small businesses and cause immutable damage to the economy.
Independent artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses rely heavily on open internet to launch their businesses, reach customers, advertise and distribute their products, services and applications. Lack of net neutrality can create enormous entry barriers for small players to compete against larger corporations and will further deepen economic inequality.
From a freelance designer working in a virtual café to a small group of developers coding the next messaging app out of home, an open internet has given small enterprises remarkable career flexibility and self-confidence to challenge the biggest corporations across the globe. Limiting net neutrality will mean curbing the entrepreneurial spirit and self-determination of the free-willed thinkers and creators.
The internet also lies at the centre of the digital economy and the game-changing innovation we are seeing today. The World Wide Web has become a rich marketplace of ideas and innovation that allows talented individuals and the best products and innovative services to rise to the top. It empowers entrepreneurs to experiment with new business models and technologies while giving customers an unprecedented level of transparency and choice. Abolishing net neutrality will create a roadblock for healthy competition and will stifle fresh thinking and innovation.
While the debate around how best to protect and promote an open internet continues, losing Net Neutrality would be equivalent to losing a most democratic global communications platform. The stakes are high for small businesses or just about anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit, but they are equally high for the Indian economy.