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Google's Colonial-Era Tactics Spark Controversy in Indian Business Landscape

© AP Photo / Seth WenigPeople walk past the recently opened Google building in New York, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.
People walk past the recently opened Google building in New York, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. - Sputnik India, 1920, 05.03.2024
Several Indian start-ups have held a key meeting with IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and others to discuss the delisting of their apps by Google. The ministers assured sustainable and long-term solutions.
US-based tech giant Google appeared on the radar of several Indian start-ups after it delisted at least 250 apps by Indian developers from Play Market, citing "non-compliance of payment policy".
The move drew huge criticism from Indian start-ups, while founder of Shaadi.com, Anupam Mittal, lashed out the tech giant, terming it a “Digital East India Company”.
In a series of tweets titled “Is Google Evil?” Mittal busted the “myths Google has been propagating”.
Reacting to the development, India’s IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that delisting of apps by Google was unacceptable and “start-ups will get protection they need”.
Notably, Google delisted on 1 March Indian apps such as
Bharat Matrimony,
Telugu Matrimony,
dating apps like Truly Madly and QuackQuack,
vernacular video-streaming platform Stage,
Balaji Telefilms' Altt,
and audio streaming app Kuku FM.
However, the tech giant later relisted a few of the apps after they agreed to its policies.
The payment policy of Google has been challenged by various start-ups at the Madras High Court and Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Sputnik India reached out to tech experts to understand whether it’s time to start gradually eroding Google monopoly, and whether it’s feasible in the near future.

Google Play Store Pose Obstacles for Indian Start-Ups

Talking about the monopoly of Google and its impact on Indian start-ups, Prof (Dr) Nishakant Ojha, international advisor on cyber and aerospace security and expert on geo-political and counter terrorism, told Sputnik India that while Google's presence in India benefits consumers and businesses alike, it can pose significant obstacles for Indian start-ups seeking to thrive in the digital economy.

“Google Play presents another challenge for Indian app start-ups. While it offers access to a vast user base, it also gives Google control over app distribution and discovery. This can lead to issues with app visibility, monetization, and revenue sharing. Google's policies regarding app content and behaviour further complicate matters, making it challenging for start-ups to navigate the app store landscape effectively”, Ojha explained.

Sharing his views about the incident, the cyber expert said Google's actions are tantamount to those of a colonial-era trading company, and alarm should be raised for intervention to protect Indian start-ups.
However, he said that the situation remains fluid, with potential outcomes ranging from compromises between Google and the affected companies to regulatory interventions aimed at fostering competition and protecting the interests of Indian start-ups.
Meanwhile, Manish Rawat, an analyst at the tech advisory firm TechInsights, opined that while there may be substance to the worries expressed by Indian tech companies over Google's monopolistic practices, it is important to take the bigger picture into account and balance the points made by both sides.
“In order to prevent anti-competitive activity and maintain fair competition in the digital ecosystem, regulatory bodies are essential. Encouraging innovation and diversity in the IT industry is crucial, and fair competition helps consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole”, he stated.

Concerted Action, Regulatory Oversight Needed

The tech experts opined that it is important to take concerted action and have regulatory oversight so that fair competition exists and monopolistic behaviour is avoided.
Sharing his view, Ojha said that Google's dominant position in the app store market can make it difficult for Indian start-ups to negotiate favourable terms and conditions with the company, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to larger, better-funded competitors who may have more negotiating power.

“Google's monopoly power poses significant challenges to competition, innovation, and consumer welfare. As the tech giant continues to expand its reach and influence, it is imperative that regulators, policymakers, and consumers remain vigilant and proactive in addressing the risks posed by Google's dominance. Only through concerted action can we ensure a fair, competitive, and vibrant digital ecosystem for all”, he stated.

Agreeing with the views of Ojha, Rawat said that there are significant ramifications for Google's conduct, and authorities must make sure that fair competition prevails and monopolistic behaviour is avoided.
“Depending on the degree to which Google uses its market dominance to dominate markets, suppress competition, and hurt customers, it will determine whether or not its actions qualify as dictatorial. To solve these issues and keep the playing field equal in the digital economy, regulatory oversight and legal action are necessary”, he expressed.

Fighting Google's Monopoly: What Can India Do?

“India could introduce measures requiring companies to disclose their revenue sources if their ad transactions surpass a certain threshold. Companies acting as sellers, buyers, and regulators simultaneously should be fragmented to prevent monopolies that hinder innovation and transparency. Moreover, the new regulations should limit the collection of user data for advertising purposes”, Ojha said.
Terming the growth of India’s tech sector as remarkable and fuelled by a robust start-up system, skilled talent pool, and favourable government policies, Rawat said that despite this progress, challenges persist in countering Google's dominance.
"Indian tech companies can employ strategies like innovation, collaboration, regulatory advocacy, investment, and international expansion to compete effectively”, he suggested.
He further stated that fostering a competitive tech ecosystem is vital for India's economic growth, supporting innovation, maintaining sovereignty over digital infrastructure, and promoting digital inclusion across diverse demographics.
Through concerted efforts, India can strengthen its position in the global tech landscape and reap the benefits of a thriving digital economy, Rawat stated.
In this March 23, 2010, file photo, the Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Germany’s finance minister on Wednesday welcomed an agreement requiring large companies in the European Union to reveal how much tax they paid in which country. - Sputnik India, 1920, 19.01.2024
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