2000 saw the dot com bubble burst. That was the time when a lot of big names had a  tough time and a ton of smaller start-ups came into existence. That was when the internet was just beginning to get affordable. New ISPs sprang up every day and in the meiee, a Calcutta based ISP called Caltiger, came up with a cool new idea, called in short ,”free.”

Yes, free dial-up! It was a huge sensation. Go to www.caltiger.com (don’t bother going there now, the site is just a landing place for loads of ads now), register an account, describe your likes (I wonder why this would be important.. advertising I bet 😛 ) and download the software to access ‘The Free Internet’. The software acted as a dialler; it would, ummm, also place an ad toolbar on your desktop.

Users abandoned this model as quickly as they got hooked on to it. Getting connected was like winning the lottery, and just in case you did, getting a reliable connection was like winning the state lottery and the national lottery on the same day. Add to that the toolbar, which blocked a quarter of the screen; and yes, it was resource hog too (on the 64 MB RAM machines of the day, which were quite a thing to own), causingthe machines to freeze. The company soon walked the plank.

Actually, the idea could never have lasted. Imagine something like that today: we’d probably have a Firefox add-on to get rid of the ads. And theres broadband, noone would be stuck on a dialup just because its free. And coming down to silly things, there’s always the idea of using your monitor’s controls to make the screen larger vertically and then moving it down!

Caltiger is such a classic example for how disastrous un-planned startups are. I wonder what was running in the heads of all the guys who were behind this. The model is just similar to – I’ll provide free High Definition Channels, but all you’ll get to watch are the ads I show 😛


  1. I used to use caltiger from 1999 to 2001 in my cyber cafe. I had vsnl also but caltiger was much better. I had connected 8 computers still the speed was good.

  2. Its all nostalgia coming back to my filmed spectacled eyes…

    Less polluted roads, less skyscrapers…
    More birds…. More human interactions…. Fresh Air….. More outdoor healthy activities
    No ….so called techygeeks like Social media( FB,Twitter…) and Androids….Smart Phones…

    Caltiger was a visionary ( limited vision according to us today !!!) during those prehistoric era of Computers and Digi Mktg arena… Whatever said and done …. most people in their thirties and forties now would remember that name which was a household name at that time……..for free …..

  3. “Imagine something like that today: we’d probably have a Firefox add-on to get rid of the ads.” I got rid of Ads way back in 1999 and made most of this free service while it lasted. One more free dialup was zetainfotech which offered only mails on POP.

  4. I was a user of CalTiger GOLD at a time when Dial Up was the only internet connection a home user could afford. They provided a monthly subscription of just Rs. 210 for unlimited access when compared to their competitors who charged Rs. 499 minimum for a month towards the same! The speeds were phenomenal at 5 50 KbPS on a 56K line as compared to Satyams, Disnets or HCL InfiNET’s 36 – 48 KbPS at that time!

    If only they’d marketed their pay internet well, I’m sure they’d have had a good customer base.

  5. I agree with Subramanya, I am from Mumbai, it was launched here too, I used the toolbar/dialer for the first few days until I discovered that I could get connected without the toolbar, from then on it was ad-free for me 🙂 and as far as I can remember I always used to get good speed, much better than VSNL in those days!!!
    Actually they had adopted a model from some developed countries where free ISPs WERE making profit from advertisements, but they did not realize that more companies were willing to advertise online in those countries than in India and that people over there on an average did not tinker around to find a way to bypass advertising 🙂

  6. the funny thing is that the dial up connection would work even without the official dialer that caltiger gave… i did used to dial directly and have no ads at all… the idea wasn’t technically sound either

  7. Recently spoke to another start-up company. They have a fantastic idea, and the idea is conceived into a product, but they do not know how to monetize from it !! Damn .. if only they were open for a JV, I can see a lot of money in there !!

  8. Caltiger in 2000 also provided their dialup software on the free CDs that came along with some magazines. In the beginning, the connection was quite OK, but in a few days, everything slowed to a crawl.

    This was bound to happen.


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