Paytm is aiming for a million apps on its 'mini-app store' before March 2022 as it looks to challenge Google's dominance in the country's mobile app business. Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who had called Google "judge, jury and executioner" after his app was temporarily taken down from the Android app share last month, on Thursday called Google a "toll collector" as he kicked off his firm's 'mini-app developer conference'.
Speaking to PTI, Sharma emphasised that the burgeoning Internet ecosystem in India should not be held at "ransom" by international companies whose policies are arbitrary.
"We stand for India's developing internet ecosystem. No company, from east or west, should be controlling our destiny. It does not matter which country you are, Indian technology ecosystem should not become ransom of international companies. And they (companies) should not have policies which are arbitrary and policy implementation which is even more arbitrary," he noted.
He added that Paytm will invest Rs 10 crore for the app developers on its platform.
Google's Android operating system powers most of the over 500 million smartphones in the country.
"Our intention is that people should be able to develop apps easily, fast...They (developers) don't have to put so much of cost and they get their customers. In our case, the charges are so minuscule...We are giving power to the developers, the torch painters of technology," he said.
Sharma said the company is focussed on offering all the help possible to Indian app developers.
"This app store tax (by Google) will cost every Indian company who believes that they will reach their customers using technology. It's not that a few thousand app developers are being victimised, it literally means that any company in this country which believes that they will bring their services to the consumers, will have to play by the rules of Google where they have to pay 30 per cent of their business revenues to them (Google)," he said.
Sharma noted that if app developers are charged a fee of 30 per cent or more, the overall cost of their product and service will increase, which will in turn impact the price of the final product for the end-user as well.
Sharma - who has been vociferously voicing his concerns around the "monopolistic" behaviour of Google - said the steep 30 per cent fee charged by the US-based company was hurting small app developers, especially in segments like healthcare and education.
"App developers are dependent on a giant monopoly Google, and Google has started to play like a toll collector instead of trying to enable the ecosystem only...we will bring one million app before Google opens its charging obligation on each Indian developers," he said.
Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Matrimony.com, who was also present at the event alleged that Google's "tax" is like a distributor asking for 30 per cent of the sales revenue as a cut.
On September 18, Google had blocked Paytm from its Play Store for a few hours for violating its policy on sports betting activities.
The app was later restored after the fintech app removed the 'cashback' feature linked to a game on the app. Paytm had alleged that it was "arm-twisted" by the search engine major to comply with its biased Play Store policies "that are meant to artificially create Google's market dominance".
In the days that followed, Google clarified its Play policies to say that apps that chose to sell digital content through its Play Store, would have to use Google Play billing system and pay a percentage of the in-app purchase as a fee.
After facing ire from Indian developers, Google had said it was extending the time for developers in India to integrate with the Play billing system to March 31, 2022.
Sharma said over 300 app-based service providers have already joined the programme, including the likes of Decathlon, Domino's Pizza, FreshMenu, Netmeds, NoBroker, Ola, and more.
These apps are expected to make their way to the Mini App Store soon.
"Programmers and developers in India can build, they are not just the back office developers...We are the developers who can build the best apps...We are announcing a Rs 10 crore investment fund for app developers...these investment terms will be one of the most lenient investment terms that you can expect," he added.
The Android Mini App Store announced earlier this week was in development for the last 2-3 months, Sharma said.
"Paytm will be like a rocket launcher...The 10 crore equity investment programme for startups will have some of the most lenient investment terms," Sharma said.
It is to encourage developers to port their apps or create new ones for the mini app platform, he added.
Sameer Sharma, founder of business management app Uengage, said the company will be onboarding at least 50 new mini apps within the first month and will be able to add more value to its partner's ecosystem.
Mini apps are a custom-built mobile website that gives users app-like experience without having to download them. This would help users with limited data and phone memory.
Paytm - which competes with Google Pay in the fintech space - had said the listing of apps on its platform would be free.
Any transactions using Paytm wallet, Paytm Payments Bank account and UPI would be at zero charges and 2 per cent for other instruments like credit cards. Paytm Mini App Store offers a dashboard to developers for analytics, payments collection along with various marketing tools to engage with the users.