Indian startups and large internet firms are pressing Google to offer alternatives to its billing system and keep the market ‘open’, according to multiple people aware of recent discussions with the search engine giant. These talks include those at the app developer conference held for India by Google on Wednesday.
The development follows the continuous resistance from local startups protesting Google’s billing policy for in-app purchases in India, which could result in a commission of 30% going to the tech titan. While app developers participated in the conference, Google’s US team has been reaching out to founding or leadership teams of various startups. These included PhonePe and Razorpay, which have raised concerns with Google.
Sources said the US-based tech major is scheduling multiple developer conferences in the coming weeks with the next one scheduled in November. “There are two lines of conversation. On a policy level, it’s with founders directly, while their developers are also being reached to address concerns and doubts over the implementation of the policy,” one of the people mentioned earlier said.
Essentially, Indian firms are pushing Google to keep all billing options open than to limit it to only its model for in-app transactions. “Google has been open to the concerns, so far. Clearly, many feel having multiple billing options is better than reducing the 30% fee. Today, it’s for certain segments, but what if they are extended to others also?” one of the entrepreneurs, to whom Google had reached out, said.
The sources said that Google has told these startups they would need more time to address the concerns as it can’t change the billing policy for India alone, even though it delayed the implementation by six months to April 2022 here following the backlash. “It will take time since it’s part of global policy. If they do it for India, what about other countries? Google is trying to figure that out,” another source aware of the current discussions said.
In its chat with Google’s US team, the PhonePe leadership is understood to have raised concerns on taking down apps “arbitrarily” from the app store on certain issues without adequate discussions, affecting platforms with millions of monthly active users.
“We spoke to Google last week and shared our concerns. We were not invited to any webinar though,” a PhonePe spokesperson said. A Paytm spokesperson also confirmed it hadn’t got any invitation to attend a webinar from Google.
All this comes even as the US Justice Department filed an antitrust case against Google earlier this week.
“As conveyed earlier, we are kicking off policy workshops with developers across India to enable greater access to our teams, and to also get a deeper understanding of the unique needs of developers in India. These efforts are in line with our objectives to work together with the ecosystem, and grow together,” a Google India spokesperson said, without offering specific comments to TOI’s queries.
“Our team attended the webinar. We raised the issues known to Google, but there is no assurance given so far that these issues will be addressed in a satisfying manner,” the founder of another startup added.