Following backlash from Indian startups over the last one week, the US search engine giant on Monday said it was extending the deadline for compliance by six months to March 2022 and will “listen…to understand their concerns more deeply”.
Google’s announcement was met with immediate criticism as local entrepreneurs felt the tech giant was just delaying the implementation in India and not cancelling the policy or reducing the billing cut of 30% for in-app purchases.
Founders of Indian startups and internet companies also feel that by just mentioning “digital goods”, Google leaves its policy open for interpretation in the future and can potentially impact more sectors besides education, fitness, dating, content and others currently mentioned.
“Google is proving its dominance and its huge monopoly power on India’s digital ecosystem,” said Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma, adding that with the new 30% commission policy, startups may spend up to 50% of the capital they raise on Google and Facebook.
“There is no place to go and ask for respite. We run business in India and should be governed under the commercial laws of India. Right now somebody sitting in the US is governing our balance sheets,” he said, adding that Google’s “policies are arbitrary and the deployment is even more arbitrary”.
Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of classifieds platform Matrimony.com, said Google is just postponing the problem for another six months and that won’t solve it.
“Listening to startups is simple — they (Google) should not enforce that you will only use Google Billing and give 30%. This will also impact end-consumers. For example, kids studying through edtech, they will be charged more,” said Janakiraman. Janakiraman and Sharma, among other founders, have come out heavily against Google’s policy. This even led to the IT ministry holding a meeting with these entrepreneurs on Saturday, where the government, according to sources, sought to hear the their concerns. The entrepreneurs are expected to submit their recommendations to the government over the next 15 days.
On September 29, Google had “clarified” saying education, gaming, dating and other content apps must use its billing system in India for in-app purchases as long as the apps are distributed through its Play Store. This led to another debate over Google’s influence, whose Android operating system controls over 95% of smartphones in India. Before that, it had taken down the Paytm app for several hours last month for violation of its policies.
“We will be setting up policy workshops to help clear any additional questions about our Play Store policies,” Google Play director of business development (games and apps) Purnima Kochikar said in a blog post. Kochikar reiterated that Google was “deeply committed” to the success of the Indian ecosystem. “We do not succeed unless our partners succeed,” she added, while extending the deadline of Google’s billing policy in India.