Dozens of leading startups in India, one of the world’s largest internet markets, are forming a coalition to fight a Google decision that would require them to make 30% of in-app payments to the tech giant starting next year.
Nearly 60 executives from dozens of Indian companies launched preliminary talks on Tuesday, three people familiar with the talks told BuzzFeed News.
Coalition, Who go include multi-billion dollar companies like payments giant Paytm, online ticketing company MakeMyTrip, and local social networks like ShareChat among others, want to combat the growing influence of Silicon Valley on the Indian internet, to lobby on the Indian government on behalf of local startups and set up an Indian App store as an alternative to the Google Play Store.
Last month, after Google removed Paytm, a payments app used by more than 350 million people and India’s top-rated startup at over $ 16 billion, from the Play Store, its founder and billionaire CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma expressed his displeasure with an American company controlling access to customers in India. “No foreign company should control the fate of Indian startups,” he said said in an interview.
Sharma did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
This decision frightened Indian startups and raised questions on Google’s control over the country’s internet.
All over the world, developers have repulsed against Apple and Google, accusing them of using their monopolies on the App Store and Google Play Store to collect unreasonable commissions.
Last week, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, which Apple and Google recently launched their corporate payment system bypass platforms, Spotify, the Match Group, owner of Tinder, and others, started a non-profit organization called on the Coalition for App Fairness to push companies to change their App Store policies.
The Indian coalition does not yet have a name and talks are still in their infancy, according to people familiar with the matter, but the spirit is the same. “The shape and structure of this coalition has yet to be determined,” Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO of GOQii, a health and fitness start-up that plans to be part of the coalition, told BuzzFeed News. “But it’s clear that Google invited this on its own.”
A Google spokesperson declined to comment.
Unlike the United States, where Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems have roughly equal market share, 99 percent of smartphones sold in India are powered by Android, according to data from the agency. ‘Counterpoint Market Research.
“That’s the whole problem,” Gondal said. Unlike Apple, Google offers a variety of ways to download apps, including letting anyone offer their own app stores on Android. But most of the people use the Google Play Store to download apps because it is built into their phone.
“There’s virtually no way around the Play Store in India,” Snehil Khanor, CEO of TrulyMadly, an Indian dating app that also plans to join the coalition, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s hard to distribute apps outside.”
More than 500 million Indians have gone online in recent years thanks to cheap smartphones and falling data prices. The explosion of new users has made the country a key growth market for most of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley and has spawned a robust startup ecosystem. In 2019, tech startups in India raised $ 14.5 billion, and in the last six months alone, Google and Facebook injected more than 10 billion dollars into the country.
Almost all of India’s Internet revolution is powered by Android, which has brought Google under government control. The company is under many In progress antitrust investigations by Indian regulators worried about having used its dominant position to crush competition and strengthen its own products and services.
While the group has yet to come up with any plans, critics say the only way to make an alternative store successful would be to have state support.
“In theory, it would work if you passed a law stating that all Android phones sold in India should have this built-in Indian app store,” said Aman Nair, policy officer at the Center for Internet and Society, a think tank. technology based in Bangalore, told BuzzFeed News.
“But I would hate to see a Big Tech monopoly replaced by a Big State monopoly.”