Indian startups, while relieved with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposing a total fine of Rs 2,274 crore on Google for anti-competitive business practices and directing it to cease and desist from such practices in future, have urged the competition watchdog to put in place clear guidelines for the tech major for listing and delisting apps from its platform.
“The CCI should ensure there are clear guidelines based on which Google can go about listing and delisting apps from its platforms, not randomly as it does at present. App owners need to be told why their app has been removed and what happens next, which is not the case at present,” Sijo Kuruvilla, former executive director at the alliance of digital India foundation (ADIF), said.
In September 2020, Google had delisted Paytm from its platform for about two days, a move the latter had termed as “arm-twisting”. In the past, Google had also told Bharat Matrimony it would not approve any more apps of the company since about 20 of its apps were already listed on the platform. “Bharat Matrimony is an app that operates in different regions and different languages and it isn’t Google’s prerogative to decide how many apps a company has on the platform,” Kuruvilla said.
Dhiraj Gupta, co-founder, mFilterIt — a company that provides tech solutions for apps of Byju’s, Flipkart, MPL and others — highlighted how domestic apps lose out because of Google’s preference for its own apps.
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“The reason Google Maps is much better than MapMyIndia is because Google Maps are pre-installed in over 95% of the smartphones sold in India. With maps, the technology is such that, more the people use it, the more accurate it gets. Homegrown apps like MapMyIndia are not able to compete with Google, on this front,” Gupta said. He said similar was the case with Google Chrome, YouTube and domestic substitutes for them.
India is a significant market for Google. According to Counterpoint research, 97% of India’s 600 million smartphones are powered by Google’s Android operating system.
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However, Faisal Kawoosa, chief analyst, TechArc, has a different take on the matter . “There’s a level play field in the tech industry. If Google has enabled the entire tech infrastructure, which is just a plug and play for anyone to use, it is well within its right to decide who it allows on the platform and who it doesn’t and what commission it charges. A business has to make money in the long-term and this is just another revenue stream.”
“However, a tiered structure for commissions could be implemented, where the rates are decided based on the number of users, or other benchmarks. That way small and large companies will fall in different slabs,” he added.
Google did not respond to FE’s queries on the subject.