Google, The company reaches more internet users than any other company in India and dominates 99% of the country’s smartphone market. It has encountered a strange challenge in the world’s second largest internet market: Numerous top local entrepreneurs.
Dozens of top startups and companies in India are working to form an alliance, playing with the idea of opening an app store to reduce their reliance on Google. Five people familiar with the matter shared with TechCrunch.
The list of entrepreneurs includes well-known names such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Paytm (India̵
The growing list of founders voiced deep concern over Google’s “monopoly” influence over India and discussed what they termed the unfair and inconsistent enforcement of Play Store policies in the country.
Talks that began in the past few weeks escalated Tuesday after Google announced that developers would need to save the company up to 30% on multiple app-related payments with an app in the Google Play Store starting next year.
Dozens of executives “from almost all of the top startups and companies” in India took part in a phone call Tuesday to discuss the way forward, some respondents said, asking for anonymity. A 30% cut on Google is simply not feasible, the callers unanimously agreed.
Vishal Gondal, founder of fitness startup GOQii, confirmed conversations with TechCrunch, saying an alternative app store would help the Indian app ecosystem immensely.
TechCrunch asked Paytm for a comment on Monday and Start declined the request.
In the past few months, several large startups in India have also expressed disappointment with some of the industry associations that exist, some of which say they have not worked to promote the local ecosystem.
Tensions between some companies and Google became more public than ever at the end of last month after the Android maker reiterated the Play Store’s gambling policy and shocked numerous startups in the country looking to capitalize on the current season of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament.
Google has temporarily removed the Paytm marquee app from the Play Store and repeatedly cited violations of the Play Store guidelines. Paytm’s Sharma was disappointed with Google’s move and said in a television interview: “This is the problem with the Indian app ecosystem. So many founders have turned to us. If we believe this country can build a digital business, we need to know that it is available to someone else to bless that business and not the rules and regulations of that country. “
According to TechCrunch, Google sent notices to several companies in India last month, including Hotstar. Indian newspaper Economic Times reported Wednesday that the Mountain View giant had also sent warnings to startups Swiggy and Zomato.
Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished contributor to Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife program, praised the Association of Indian Entrepreneurs and compared the Silicon Valley giants’ influence on India to the dawn of the East India Company, which sacked India. “Modern tech companies pose a similar risk,” he told TechCrunch.
Some of the attending members also hope that the government, which has urged people in India to set up their own businesses to revive the declining economy, will help their movement.
Aside from its reach on Android, Google is now also a leader in the Indian mobile payments market, TechCrunch reported earlier this year.
The giant, which has supported a handful of startups in India and is a member of several Indian industry associations, invested $ 4.5 billion in Mukesh Ambani’s telecommunications giant Jio Platforms earlier this year.
Ambani, who runs oil and retail giant Reliance Industries and is India’s richest man, is an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Jio Platforms has over $ 20 billion in investments from Google, Facebook, and 11 more high profile investors this year.
The massive investment in Jio Platforms has puzzled many industry executives. “I don’t see any business case for Facebook investing in Jio other than saying we need regulatory help,” Miten Sampat, a well-known angel investor, said on a podcast posted Wednesday.
Google said in July that it would work with Jio Platforms on low-cost Android smartphones. Jio Platforms plans to bring up to 200 million smartphones to market over the next three years. This emerges from a pitch that the telecommunications giant made to several developers. Bloomberg first reported on Jio Platform’s smartphone production plans.
These smartphones, like the nearly 40 million JioPhone feature phones in circulation today, will have an app store with just a few dozen apps, all of which have been reviewed and approved by Jio, according to a developer selected by Jio Platforms . An industry manager described Jio’s store as a walled garden.
One possible option for startup founders is Indus OS, a Samsung-supported third-party store that reached over 100 million monthly active users over the past month. Paytm and other companies had not contacted IndusOS until earlier this week, said a person familiar with the matter.