India to take on Apple, Google: May launch own mobile app store

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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A senior government official said India is open to launching its own mobile app store or expanding an existing one if it receives sufficient demand from domestic companies for an alternative to Apple and Google platforms.

The country has some 500 million users of smartphones, most of whom use the Android platform of Google, but Indian startups have criticized the tech giant for policies that they claim is hindering their growth.

Paytm, one of India’s leading payment firms, funded by SoftBank, protested against the decision of the US-based Google to suspend its app for a few hours last month, citing gambling policy violations.

Alphabet-owned Google also said this week that it will strictly enforce the policy which allows it to take a 30 percent commission on payments made on apps available inside the Play Store.

The senior Indian official has said that no formal request has been received for an alternative to Google and Apple stores, but was willing to consider creating a mobile platform where apps could be downloaded.

“Before we open one we need to know there will be takers for it,” said the government official.

The official said that India already operates a mobile app store that lists over 1200 mostly government-backed apps and instead of starting from scratch they could also consider expanding that.

Google has previously said that over the last 12 months, less than 3% of developers with apps on its Play Store have sold digital products and almost 97% comply with its payment system policy.

However, many Indian startup founders are calling for a local app store that does not charge a high service fee.

“It’s absolutely necessary to have a local app store,” said Vishal Gondal, co-founder of Bengaluru-based gaming firm nCore Games, developer of the recently launched Indian alternative to PUBG, which was banned by the government in the country following border disputes with China.

Mr Gondal asks that “If we have to give 30% fees to Google and also pay for customer acquisition, how will our budding businesses survive?”

Though Paytm disagreed with Google’s assessment, it was forced to remove some promotions to get its app restored. In interviews, the company’s founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, said that Google is acting as a “judge, jury and executioner.

Google later said that its policies were aimed at protecting users from possible harm and were regularly implemented and enforced on all developers, but did not refer to Paytm by name.

Google, Apple and India’s Technology Ministry declined to offer any comments.