NEW DELHI: Dozens of India’s technology start-ups, chafing at Google’s local dominance of key apps, are banding together to consider ways to challenge the US tech giant, including by lodging complaints with the government and courts, executives said.
Although Google, owned by Alphabet, has worked closely with India’s booming start-up sector and is ramping up its investments, it has recently angered many tech companies with what they say are unfair practices.
Setting the stage for a potential showdown, entrepreneurs held two video conferences this week to strategise, executives said.
“It’s definitely going to be a bitter fight,” said Dinesh Agarwal, CEO of e-commerce firm IndiaMART. “Google will lose this battle. It’s just a matter of time.”
He said executives have discussed forming a new start-up association aimed chiefly at lodging protests with the Indian government and courts against the Silicon Valley company.
Nearly 99 per cent of the smartphones of India’s half a billion users run on Google’s Android mobile operating system. Some Indian start-ups say that allows Google to exert excessive control over the types of apps and other services they can offer, an allegation the company denies.
The uproar began last month when Google removed popular payments app Paytm from its Play Store, citing policy violations. This led to a sharp rebuke from the Indian firm’s founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, whose app returned to the Google platform a few hours later, after Paytm made certain changes.
In a video call on Tuesday, Sharma called Google the “big daddy” that controls the “oxygen supply of (app) distribution” on Android phones, according to an attendee. He urged the roughly 50 executives on the call to join hands to “stop this tsunami.”
One idea raised was to launch a local rival to Google’s app store, but Sharma said this would not be immediately effective given Google’s dominance, a source said.
This week the US company angered some Indian start-ups by deciding to enforce a 30pc commission it charges on payments made within apps on the Android store.
Two dozen executives were on a call where many slammed that decision. They discussed filing antitrust complaints and approaching Google’s India head for discussions.
Participants included sports technology firm Dream Sports, backed by US hedge fund Tiger Global, social media company ShareChat and digital payments firm PhonePe, the sources said.
Google defends the policy, saying 97pc of apps worldwide comply with it.