Dozens of prominent startups in India, one of the largest internet markets in the world, are forming a coalition to battle a Google decision that will require them to make 30% of in-app payments to the tech giant starting next year.
Nearly 60 executives from dozens of Indian companies started preliminary talks on Tuesday, three people familiar with the talks told BuzzFeed News.
The coalition, which includes billion-dollar companies like payment giant Paytm, online ticketing company MakeMyTrip and local social networks like ShareChat, aims to combat the growing influence of Silicon Valley on the Indian Internet and to campaign on behalf of local startups Government of India and set up an Indian App Store as an alternative to the Google Play Store.
Last month, after Google pulled Paytm, a payment app used by more than 350 million people and India’s highest value, over $ 16 billion startup, from the Play Store, billionaire founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma voiced disapproval an American company that controls access to customers in India. “No foreign company should control the fate of Indian startups,” he said in an interview.
Sharma did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The move terrified Indian startups and raised questions about how much control Google had over the country’s internet.
All over the world, developers have fought against Apple and Google, accusing them of using their monopoly on the App Store and Google Play Store to collect inappropriate commissions.
Last week, Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite that both Apple and Google recently launched from their platforms to bypass the company’s payment systems, Spotify, the Match Group, which is owned by Tinder, and others launched a nonprofit called Coalition for App launched Fairness to urge companies to change their App Store policies.
The Indian coalition does not yet have a name and the discussions are in the early stages of those who are aware of 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 startup planning to join the coalition, told BuzzFeed News. “But Google clearly invited this itself.”
A Google spokesman declined to comment.
In contrast to the USA, where Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems have roughly the same market share, 99% of the smartphones sold in India are operated with Android, according to the market research agency Counterpoint.
“That’s the whole problem,” said Gondal. Unlike Apple, Google offers a variety of ways to download apps, including the option of each having their own app stores on Android. However, most of the users use the Google Play Store to download apps as these are built into their phones.
“There’s no getting around the Play Store in India,” Snehil Khanor, CEO of TrulyMadly, an Indian dating app that also wants to sign up for the coalition, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s difficult to distribute apps outside of that.”
More than 500 million Indians have gone online in recent years thanks to cheaper smartphones and falling data prices. The explosion of new users has made the country a major growth market for most of the major technology companies in Silicon Valley, and has spawned a robust startup ecosystem. Tech startups raised $ 14.5 billion in India in 2019, and in the past six months, Google and Facebook pumped over $ 10 billion into the country.
Almost all of the Internet revolution in India is powered by Android, which has put Google under scrutiny by the government. The company is in several ongoing antitrust investigations by the affected Indian regulators, according to which it has used its dominance to stifle competition and bolster its own products and services.
Although the group has yet to come up with any plans, critics say the only way an alternative business would succeed would be with government support.
“Hypothetically, it would work if you passed a law stating that all Android phones sold in India should have this Indian app store built into it,” said Aman Nair, policy officer at the Center for Internet and Society, one in Bangalore resident technology think tank. said BuzzFeed News.
“But I would hate it if a big tech monopoly was replaced by a big state monopoly.”