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India App Story and Ecosystem (7 October 2020)

India App Story and Ecosystem (7 October 2020)

Why in News:

Paytm launches Android Mini App Store for Indian developers.

Context:

Aiming to support Indian app developers after its own app was removed by Google from its Play Store recently, leading digital payments platform Paytm on Monday launched an Android Mini App Store to support local developers take their innovative products to the masses. Paytm said it will provide listing and distribution of these mini-apps within its app without any charges. For payments, developers will be able to give a choice of Paytm Wallet, Paytm Payments Bank, UPI, net-banking and Cards to their users. More than 300 app-based service providers such as Decathlon, Ola, Park+, Rapido, Netmeds, 1MG, Domino's Pizza, Fresh Menu, No Broker have already joined the programme.

Background:

On 18 September, Paytm was removed from Google Play Store for a few hours for violating its policy that forbid promoting gambling activities.

Paytm had promoted a fantasy sports app, just ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The Paytm app was restored on the Play Store after a gap of a few hours.

Paytm said that the cashback was being given following all rules and regulations set by the government.

Summary of the Debate

About the Paytm Mini App Store:

  • Objective: It aims to drive the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' mission.
  • Custom-built Website: Mini apps are a custom-built mobile website that gives users app-like experience without having to download them.
  • Dashboard: It offers a dashboard to developers for analytics, payments collection along with various marketing tools to engage with the users.
  • Direct Access: It provides direct access to discover, browse and pay without downloading or installing separate apps.

Need of an Indian App store:

  • India is one of the biggest contributors to the App ecosystem, it is a producing country because globally, out of the 170 odd countries that exist, there are certain pockets which are producing such Apps and rest of the world is consuming them.
  • Globally, there are 2.7 billion smartphone users, of which 500 million smartphone users are in India. The App consumption is the smartphone market, and statistics revealed that India will have an another 300 million more in the next couple of years.
  • With the pandemic, the urge to consume more of an APP based economy has increased, the digital transactions are increasing. India is at that threshold where it is moving further faster ahead towards the digital economy.
  • All these companies who are operating in India, they are not having the best of India’s interest in their mind, they are driving with their own profit interest, but as a country as digital is going forward and Prime Minister has envisaged the Digital India, it is important to make sure that the Digital assets of India are protected by its laws and its policy.

 

Way Forward:

  • China has its own app store, China does not allow Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. but that’s a totalitarian state and India is an open society where everybody can come in. It is the time for India as a very large digital power to have its own App Store and manage it.
  • Government can declare Google AppStore and Apple AppStore and Twitter as public utilities because as a public utility government has a right to regulate them if they operate in India and force them to keep all the Apps of Indians in a data center in India to which the government has access and then ensure there are no conflicts of interest.
  • Government can have a body like NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India), which is well regulated to create an App Store.
  • The government needs to study the role of all these tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google who are operating in India, collecting revenue from Indians and Indian companies and make them responsible like any other company who does business in India.

NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India)

  • It is an umbrella organisation for operating retail payments and settlement systems in India.
  • It is an initiative of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) under the provisions of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
  • It has been incorporated as anot-for-profit organisation registered under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.
  • The corporation's current and future service portfolio includes: National Financial Switch (NFS), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), RuPay, National Common Mobility Card, Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AePS), Unified Payments Interface (UPI), BHIM, Bharat Bill Payment System etc.

Important points made by the Guests

Vishal Gondal, Founder & CEO, GOQii

  • Today, Paytm is a bank, the only person who can decide to shut Paytm or not is the RBI who governs the banking system. Google on its own arbitrarily removing Paytm, it was like they were superseding the authority of the RBI, there were millions of people with so much money in Paytm bank, who suddenly did not have access to it.
  • We currently have a system which does not respect the laws of our country and the framework which is already being set and they are imposing their own rules.
  • Once we have more phones being manufactured in India, they can potentially even start embedding or putting Indian App Stores into this and while some limited amount of App Stores is coming, for example; Samsung has its own App Store, JIO is planning an APP store.
  • Unless Google opens up its operating system which it does to the Android system for selected people, their selected partners, it is possible, like handset manufacturers, but others don’t have the same facility.
  • Government has the IT Act, and recently, the Court gave an order against some social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc and directed them to remove some defamatory content and videos from all their platforms and none of their India entities are even planning to comply with this order, because according to them, they are not an intermediary, they are not serving the internet, they are just giving ad services.

T. V. Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education & Former Director, Infosys

  • Today most of the apps are on the Apple system which is ios and Apple by agreement does not allow anybody who is not ios to come there and you are to abide by one-sided contract or on the Android Google Store and Google has got a one-sided contract too.
  • These are the digital monopolies, they work by contracts, you have no protection, you have to pay money to Apple up to 30 percent for being on the app store and any revenues that you earned.
  • On Google you don’t have to pay but Google can shut you up, they decide what has to happen, they have a set of people who decide, there is no right of appeal, then you have to fight it out as happened to Paytm, etc.
  • Those are pretty good when you have a small number of apps, but for a large country like India, It’s a better to have own app store where the people can get protection of a set of regulation which is done by a regulator, but not a one-sided contract and all these are stored outside India in their data centres, under their control and they get the data of everything that happens in the app and that data is extremely valuable and that goes outside the country.

Rameesh Kailasam, CEO, IndiaTech.Org

  • Currently, while there are 300 plus App Stores around the world, largely the place is dominated by two players and one of them also has control over the handset. Even the algorithmic openness does not exist in most of the cases.
  • Indian developers naturally had an infinity because of the Java based environment we had to lean towards Android and also the affordable smartphones that existed were largely leaning towards the android, which is why India allowed Android to have 95 percent of the market.
  • The Android is open source and free but, the version of Android is bundled with proprietary software that comes with Google. So, in a way, there is significant amount of lock-ins and lack of openness and lack of transparency that exist.
  • Free and open model should be the way forward and government could step in and create environment and set of regulations that will kind of unlock this market both from the handset standpoint and probably allow a free and open model that allows competition and empowers consumers and developers to decide where they wish to operate upon and which is the environment they want to live in.

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