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‘Enabling legislation crucial to nurture a competitive ecosystem’

Bengaluru | Updated on September 15, 2021

ADIF Executive Director talks about problems faced by developers

As governments across the globe crackdown on Google and Apple for their anti-competitive practices, Indian start-ups have also started pushing the Indian government to take action. BusinessLine spoke to Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director, Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), which represents over 250 start-ups, including Paytm, SHEROES, Matrimony.com, on the need for South-Korea-like legislative action in India and about the start-ups’ long standing problem with Google’s 30 per cent platform fee.

Why is it important for India to have a South Korea-like legislation?

We have been advocating for the government to come up with legislation similar to what South Korea has done because, if you look at the particular issue of people being de-platformed by Google or Apple, there is no other redressal mechanism for developers other than appealing to the platform itself. As it is, fighting a court case is expensive.

We recently had someone complain to CCI about Apple’s dominance, but even in that scenario CCI has a particular mandate that they can actually adjudicate.

Most likely CCI may not be able to pass a judgement on this, because the percentage share of Apple smartphones in India will be pretty low. There could even be a view that Apple is not a dominant platform in India.

But that is not the entrepreneurs’ reality because an entrepreneur may be building in India but they are building for the world. So, we as a market and society, need to have an enabling legislation to even be able to enforce and be aware of our own rights.

There are a number of developers who have reached out to me personally and they still can’t come out in public against this issue because their business is tied to the big tech ecosystem.

What do you see as the risk or concerns around litigation and complaints to CCI?

The bigger risk is the fact that it might take a lot more time. Time is of essence if you look at any economy. So given the political reality, what we would advocate to the government is for enabling legislation. In the case of Google charging a 30 per cent platform fee, the issue is not the 30 per cent fee because we still believe the price discovery has to happen.

We do not want the government to become the price regulator, even CCI is not a price regulator. Let the market discover the right prices and that’s how competitive markets work. But for the right price discovery we need fair markets as well.

South Korea anti-trust regulator KFTC has recently imposed a fine of $176.64 million on Google for its anti-competitive practices. What is your view on it?

The KFTC verdict should most likely have the effect of an action by antitrust regulators against Google in India as well. Multiple instances of abuse of dominance and anti-competitive behaviour by Google are coming to the fore.

In the long run, it is not ex-post facto fines but proactive and progressive legislative efforts that will nurture a healthy, innovative and competitive ecosystem.

Published on September 15, 2021

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