Facebook India’s managing director Kirthiga Reddy has announced she will be stepping down and moving back to the US after six years in the role.
The announcement follows an embarrassing week for the internet firm and its effort to grow its audience in a key developing market of 1.25 billion people.
Reddy said in a post on Facebook that she will be returning to the US with her family in the next six to 12 months as part of a “natural transition” for her school-age children, describing the move as “bittersweet”. She will work at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
“I’m grateful to have two countries to call ‘home,’ have had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and look forward to the next one, and have the opportunity to partner with each of you,” Reddy wrote in the post.
Reddy’s announcement comes days after Facebook’s limited free internet program was rejected by India’s telecom regulator, which barred companies from charging different rates for internet access based on content.
The Indian launch of Free Basics, Facebook’s free internet service for selected developing countries, has been a rare public debacle for the social networking firm.
On 9 February, a Facebook board member posted that India was better under colonialism and ought to be happy to have Facebook’s internet, even if there’s potential for Facebook to exert undue control over what users can access.
The reaction among Silicon Valley’s Indian community has been swift, denouncing the comments and Facebook’s Free Basics efforts as demeaning.
“People like [Facebook board member] Marc Andreessen are speaking from places of such massive privilege and are still so massively wrong,” said Rohit Sharma, a venture capitalist with True Ventures, which has raised $878m. “Someone in India’s needs are just the same as someone in San Francisco. How dare you imply otherwise? No.”
Mark Zuckerberg – who rarely dives into controversy – posted a note to his Facebook page distancing himself from the board member. Andreessen apologized several times and has not tweeted in the days since, rare for the voluble venture capitalist.
Facebook said in a comment: “As she had planned for some time, Kirthiga Reddy is moving back to the US to work with the teams in headquarters. We are extremely proud of the work she has done to grow our global sales business in India.
“During her time in India, Kirthiga was not involved in our Free Basic Services efforts.”