Facebook’s first employee in India, MD Kirthiga Reddy steps down

Facebook India’s Managing Director, Kirthiga Reddy, on Friday announced that she is quiting from her current position to relocate to Facebook’s headquarters at Menlo Park, California.

Kirthiga Reddy joined Facebook in 2010 as its first employee in India. According to an update on her Facebook page Reddy said she would be relocating to the United States in the next 6-12 months.

“I have also begun to explore new opportunities at Facebook back at Menlo Park,” Reddy said in a Facebook post.

Reddy said she was working closely with William Easton, MD of emerging markets (Asia Pacific), and Dan Neary, vice president of Asia Pacific, to search for her successor.

Since the move comes days after regulators in India introduced rules to prevent differential pricing policies based on content, it is widely speculated that this move could be a result of the setback to Facebook’s plan to roll out Free Basics in India.

Facebook in India was tight-lipped saying there was nothing more to add in addition to the post by Kirthiga Reddy. In fact, responses indicated that the Facebook update by Reddy was the sole communication they had received. However, a Facebook spokesperson issued a comment to Reuters saying “As she had planned for some time, Kirthiga Reddy is moving back to the U.S. to work with the teams in Headquarters.” In addition, the spokesperson said, “During her time in India, Kirthiga was not involved in our Free Basic Services efforts.”

Effectively, the statement highlights that in Facebook’s key growth market – India – the MD wasn’t involved in Free Basics which required close liasoning with government authorities. That seems odd. Probably the local leadership of the market could have helped handle the matter in a better way. Effectively, the scathing letter from TRAI to Facebook wouldn’t have happened either.

I remember several years ago, when Facebook didn’t have an India office, reaching out to Facebook for a comment required the request to go to Menlo Park for approval by Mark Zuckerberg. However, considering that Facebook had a presence in India with a local Managing Director, it seemed that the best thing to do would be to engage with the authorities to find a balanced way out. But as per the statement from Facebook, Reddy wasn’t involved in the activities around Free Basics in India.

In effect, Zuckerberg’s pet project and its failure has come in as an opportunity for the India MD to relocate to the Facebook headquarters and “explore new opportunities at Facebook.” Even member of the board of directors and investor in Facebook Marc Andreessen was in the news recently for linking India’s opposition to Free Basics with its ‘anti-colonialism.’

We hope she finds the “right kind of opportunity” at Facebook in Menlo Park in the US, one of the two places she can call home. More importantly, we hope her successor is given more responsibility in furthering future projects by Facebook in the India market.

Kirthiga Reddy did her engineering from MGM College of Engineering in Nanded. She passed out in 1992 as the second rank in the University. Interestingly, when she was looking out for job opportunities, she was led to Yashwant Kanetkar, author of the popular book in engineering colleges in India – Let Us C. As an intern, she would help the author with the programming examples in his book. It’s been an impressive journey for her rising up from Nanded to Stanford, to joining Facebook and taking over as the India MD.