In a direct challenge to Google’s supremacy in the room, Digital Payment Firm Paytm has launched a mini-app store to support Indian developers.
The launch of the store is followed on 18 September by the temporary withdrawal of the payment app from Google’s Play Store for breaching developer guidelines on real-money gaming.
While the removal of the app could be a cause, the change by Paytm is maybe a direct fallout from Google requiring its billing service to be used by developers listed on its Play Store. Google levies a fee of 30 percent for any purchase made through its in-app billing system for a digital product or service.
Paytm said the mini-app store would help developers take their products to the masses and include these mini-apps within its app listing and delivery. In June 2018, Competitor PhonePe launched its in-app platform and rebranded it in October 2019 as PhonePe Turn.
The company said more than 300 apps have entered the Paytm app store, including Decathlon, Ola, Rapido, Netmeds, 1MG, Domino’s Pizza, FreshMenu, NoBroker.
Startup founders including Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm and Harshil Mathur of Razorpay, along with 50 other founders, discussed last week the possibility of creating an Indian app store to challenge Google.
The Internet and Mobile Association of India (Iamai) industry body, which has several startups as members, pursued a joint strategy to resolve the problem in a separate step. Iamai announced in a note on 29 September that it was seeking a meeting with its founding members to recognise and address their concerns.
“Just because Google owns the gate and gateway to this country’s digital ecosystem, they should not behave unilaterally and implement their laws and regulations that are contrary to the laws of our country,” said Vishwas Patel, founder of CCAvenue and chairman of India ‘s Payments Council and a member of Iamai.
The position of Google in court is that it does not need RBI authorization as it is not an operator of the payment system and, here, it allows Indian applications to use only the proprietary billing and payment systems of Google. Google should not practise its dominant position, but rather encourage everybody to have a level playing field, ” he added.
“India needs a long-term local app store, otherwise most companies would be eaten by 30 percent tax; is anyone trying to create one?” Mathur of Razorpay said on Twitter last week.
In the September 29 notice, the Payments Council of India founder Patel said that Google may not “push” Indian developers to use Google billing and charge a commission for it.
The Indian developers are hoping to petition the government to come up with a Google alternative. In reality, last week, business channel ETNow announced that the government plans to scale up its Mobile Seva app store, which has catered mostly to MSMEs, to serve as an alternative to the platforms of Google and Apple.
On all smartphones, the government is reportedly preparing to make the Mobile Seva app store mandatory. Recently, Paytm listed on the store, which has mostly government applications.
The government will have its job cut out to render a viable alternative to Google and Apple in the absence of any legal means, experts said.
Google said on 29 September, ‘Play distributed apps must use the billing and revenue sharing mechanism of Google Play as the payment method if they need or accept payment for access to features or services, including any functionality of the app, digital content or products. This refers only to apps and was reportedly done to avoid Google Play ‘s sales leakage from January 2021 to Google.
“I am proud that we are today launching something that creates an opportunity for every Indian app developer. Paytm Mini App Store empowers our young Indian developers to leverage our reach and payments to build new innovative services. For Paytm users, it will be a seamless experience that doesn’t require any separate download and enables them to use their preferred payment option.”
The company believes that through this initiative India would be able to build a sustainable and thriving local technology ecosystem that resonates with the true spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Growing technology companies will get the opportunity to rely on India’s Paytm to contribute towards the overall growth of the Indian economy and create employment. – Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder & CEO – Paytm