Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma alleges that Google and Facebook together take close to 50% of a technology startup’s investments and almost control its balance sheets, through either advertisement spends or payment commissions, with no alternative left for Indian startups
Even as the Centre maintains silence on the startup woes over Google, digital payments firm Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the government needs to regulate the search major in the country.
Many startup founders including Paytm’s Sharma have been in discussions over the past week with ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) to stop Google’s autonomous rule over the country’s tech landscape.
Launching a scathing attack on Google, Sharma on Monday alleged that Google and Facebook, together take close to 50% of a technology startup’s investments and almost control its balance sheets, through either advertisement spends or payment commissions, with no alternative left for Indian startups.
“Google’s policies are arbitrary, and deployment of those policies is even more arbitrary. Hence, the definition of these policies which govern India’s technology ecosystem continues to be ‘arbitrary’, and there is not even a court we can go to. Google is a ruler of India’s technology businesses, as 95% of customers use Google’s Play Store in India," Sharma said.
He added that because of the Google and Facebook duopoly, not a significant investment has been made into ‘Digital India’, since these technology and social media conglomerates consume most of the startups’ funding.
Paytm was temporarily removed from the Google Play store on 18 September for several hours, after Google claimed that the latter had violated its guidelines around real-money gaming for app developers.
“India has not made a significant investment in Digital India because there’s Google which takes 50% of our money that we raise. So how can you expect technology companies to be sustainable in India. And they are doing it arbitrarily. Google’s plan is clear that we are rulers and you will never be able to enter the big league. So stay away or we can kill you!," said Sharma.
On Monday, Google said it will be “setting up listening sessions" with “leading Indian startups" to “understand their concerns". It also extended the time, developers have to integrate its Play Billing system into their apps till 31 March, 2022.
A senior government official told Mint, on condition of anonymity, that the government will be 'holistically’ look at the startups’ concerns over Google’s billing policy.
“The government is looking at the issue holistically. It is not just about what the few big Indian startups have to say. The government will have to see and assess what will help the startup ecosystem," the official said.
Sharma said that while startups spend almost ₹30,000 crore in either advertising or commissions to Google, it takes this money off-shore, almost looting India’s tech ecosystem through what is popularly termed as the ‘Google Tax’, by Indian technology developers and tech majors. Companies are also forced to pay and abide by Google, because of lack of alternatives.
“Google should not create policies that are opposing this country’s laws and growth, and they should abide, and be controlled by this country’s law. So that if there is a commercial dispute, it can be done under the regulation and the laws of this land, and that is what we are seeking," relayed Sharma.
In a virtual meeting on Saturday with the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, over two dozen startups conveyed apprehensions over Google's increasing dominance and control over Indian internet firms.
Last week, Google in a blog post reinforced its Play Store policies, which required Android app-developers to leverage the search major’s billing system, for selling digital products and services, charging a 30% commission on every transaction.
“Our expectation is that the government should take short-mid-and long-term steps in ensuring an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, because we cannot build a Digital India through this duopoly. Their dominance is demonstrated, by bringing up a (competitor) app, giving a warning and taking consumer data away from India. We had asked the government to stop Google commissions on Play Store so we got some respite which is good," said Sharma.