“What we built in 20+ years got removed by Google in a single action,” rues Murugavel Janakiraman, Founder & CEO of the Chennai-based Matrimony.com. He took to social media to react on Google deleting BharatMatrimony, Naukri, Shaadi, 99acres, KukuFm, Stage and many other apps from the Play Store, a digital distribution service operated and developed by Google in which millions of Android apps, games, music, movies, TV, books and magazines are available for download.

Also read: Matrimony.com to launch dating app on Valentines Day

“It is a dark day for Indian digital startups. Google deleted popular Indian apps from the play store citing Google Play’s billing system (GBPS). They deleted all our apps, over 100, including BharatMatrimony, TamilMatrimony, MarathiMatrimony and Jodii,” Janakiraman said in a social media post.

Google tried to implement GBPS a few years ago where it forced digital services apps to use their billing system and pay 15 per cent or 30 per cent of revenue compared to less than 2 per cent what apps pay for using other payment gateways. “We went to CCI and CCI levied ₹936 crore penalty on Google,” he said.

The CCI in its verdict said, Google shall allow, and not restrict any app developers using third party billing/payment processing services and that the company shall not take any discriminate or otherwise any adverse measure against such apps for using third party billing. Google shall not impose any conditions (including pricing related conditions) on app developers which is unfair, unreasonable, discriminatory or disproportionate to the services provided to the app developers.

Instead of adhering to the CCI order, Google changed their policy asking companies to pay 11 per cent or 26 per cent of commission for using a third party billing system. Also, they introduced a third option where apps can’t collect payment through the app, Janakiraman’s post says.

So the options are to pay either 15 per cent or 30 per cent using Google billing payment system and pay 11 per cent or 26 per cent for using third party payment gateways. You can’t collect payment through app causing significant friction in the customer experiences and revenue loss, he said. If you don’t accept any of the above, your app will be deleted. This is what Google has done to most of the popular apps today, he added.

This policy is applicable only to digital services apps. Google does not offer any special services for digital services apps compared to various other commercial digital apps like e.g. e-commerce apps, B2B apps and food delivery apps. While the Play Store is common for all but only digital services companies are alone forced to pay. This violates CCI order 395.6, said Janakiraman.

“We once again went to CCI citing Google is not adhering to their earlier order and however CCI didn’t take up this matter for more than a year. Startups went pillar to post exploring various options to get interim relief including the Madras High Court and Supreme Court. CCI took up this matter recently and reviewed the same. In the meantime, Google sent a letter and deleted a good number of apps,” he said.

“Google says 2,00,000+ apps accepted their policy, does anyone have an option? Most of the apps are free anyway. I’ll share the postings of how commercial app developers are forced to accept Google’s policy. Either accept or get deleted. It is not that Google doesn’t make money through the Play Store. Apps spend 20 per cent - 50 per cent of revenue on Google,” he said.

Responding to Janakiraman’s post, many said it was time India had its own app store. “Let’s build India’s own Mobile Operating System to kill Google’s Monopoly in the Android market,” said Dheeraj Budhiraja, a startup enthusiast.

Also read: Madras HC restrains Google from removing Bharat Matrimony app from Play Store over in-app billing system dispute

Mukesh Kestwal, Chief Innovation Officer @ iHub, AWaDH at IIT Ropar, commented that it is important for India to have indigenous solutions for all these technologies. Recently the government launched its App Store, not sure how flexible it is, but it could be a good step for a better future.