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In India, (Possible) Startup Tech Group Has Big Tech In Its Crosshairs

In India, the effort to bring more business to local firms has Big Tech in its crosshairs.

To that end, as Bloomberg reported on Thursday (Oct. 1), the founders of dozens of tech firms housed in India held a Zoom call aimed at setting the wheels in motion to form what’s being billed as a “startup collective” to battle Big Tech – Google and Facebook, among others – across a number of fronts.

The call took place on Tuesday (Sept. 29), according to reports, and involved more than 50 tech firm founders. Discussion topics ranged from establishing alternatives to Alphabet’s Google Play Store to pushing for other digital policies promoted within India. The organization’s roster may extend well beyond the Zoom call, and as noted by sites such as TechCrunch, may number more than 150 firms.

“We, the country’s digital startups, need to have a joint voice so that the government and the people will listen,” Bloomberg reported Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of payments giant Paytm, as stating. “We can’t let all of India’s digital dreams get controlled by one or two global companies.”

Names being considered for the collective include the India Internet Foundation, among others.

The movement comes on the heels of Google’s announcement that it will charge 30 percent fees for payments through apps for online services that include dating and education. Android has 95 percent market share in the country.

At a high level, the push to form a collective hearkens back to the Modi government’s efforts to spur consumers to “buy local” and to be “vocal about local.” Global companies (not based in India) have held dominance across any number of markets, such as smartphones and televisions (90 percent share) and in cosmetics and other consumer staples.

The Indian group, according to reports this week, is mulling a lobbying effort that would ask the government to require Big Tech firms to go “local” in a way that would spur them to incorporate Indian companies and be governed by Indian policies and regulations.

The Indian companies seem to be taking a cue from other collective efforts that put Big Tech in their crosshairs. Last week, a trade group known as the Coalition for App Fairness took shape, eyeing a push for legal and regulatory changes that would have ripple effects for tech firms that have app stores, like Google and Apple.

The coalition – with Spotify and Epic Games among its members, who have taken to the courts to challenge app stores and fee structures – has argued that “one company has near-total control over the mobile ecosystem and what apps consumers get to use. After nearly a decade with no oversight, regulation or fair competition, it’s time for Apple to be held accountable.”

The battle, it seems, is being joined on new fronts.



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