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On new IAMAI governing council's agenda: Google billing policy and anti-competitive framework

On May 25, industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India announced the results to its 24-member governing council, with homegrown companies winning all seats. Big Tech companies will have no representation in the governing council for the next two years

May 26, 2023 / 10:12 AM IST
Established in 2004, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is a industry body representing the digital services industry with over 500 Indian and multinational corporations as its members

Established in 2004, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is a industry body representing the digital services industry with over 500 Indian and multinational corporations as its members

The newly-elected 24-member governing council of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) will meet soon to set an agenda on subjects including Google's 30 per cent billing commission and a framework to deal with anti-competitive practices, signaling a shift in tech advocacy at the body after it was criticised of "parroting" Big Tech's views.

Ritesh Malik of Innov8, a member of the governing council of the industry body, said, "We are convening our first joint meeting very soon where we will set a quarterly agenda on what all needs to be done. But the two most critical and time-sensitive issues are the Google billing policy and the new framework to prevent anti-competitive practices."

The new council will take charge from the outgoing governing council at IAMAI's Annual General Meeting in June.

Google has received widespread criticism for its play store billing system that mandates app developers to use it for in-app purchases. Developers have been complaining about the 15 per cent to 30 per cent commission that Google charges for all in-app purchases made through the Play Store.

Indian start-ups too have been particularly upset with Google regarding the matter, a sentiment which played a major role in Big Tech companies being voted out of the newly-elected IAMAI governing council.

"If 22 or 25 of 100 unicorns are profitable presently, then the billing policy would force them to move away from the path of profitability... We don't want the tech gatekeeper to become the policy gatekeeper as well," Malik stressed.

Also read | Won’t allow Big Tech companies to ‘corner or grab policy’: Rajeev Chandrasekhar

Another new governing council member, Vishwas Patel of Infibeam said, "Google's policy of 30 per cent commission on every app purchase will put Indian companies with high volumes and low margins out of business. Telling them that they have to just use one gateway is to force them away from Indian payment gateways."

In the precursor to the IAMAI elections, Bharat Matrimony's Murugavel Janakiraman, too, had criticised the industry body regarding the Google billing issue saying that IAMAI "did not do anything." Murugavel, won a seat in the newly-appointed governing council after making a return to the industry body after several years.

"Everyone came together to make the result happen. More than 95 percent of the members of IAMAI are domestic start-ups, then why should a few foreign companies become the chairperson and vice chairperson? The aim of these big tech companies is just commercial. They want to squeeze out the Indian founders and only make money from the country. They don't want any development here," he said.

In the results of IAMAI's elections for its governing council, which was announced on May 25, Big Tech representation dwindled to zero with homegrown companies occupying all the 24 seats.

The newly-elected executive council members are Dream11's Harsh Jain as chairperson, Rajesh Magow of MakeMyTrip as vice chairperson, and Satyan Gajwani of Times Internet as the treasurer. The top three companies, in terms of votes received, form the executive council.

Outgoing members of IAMAI's executive council include representatives of Google and Meta. This was a thorn in the side of Indian entrepreneurs who insinuated that IAMAI's stance on policy matters, recently in relation to the need for a separate competition law aimed at regulating Big Tech, was a reflection of the composition of its leadership.

Also read: All you need to know about the ongoing tussle at IAMAI on Big Tech, competition law, and elections

"I have been a member of IAMAI for the past 15 years, and on the governing council for around 19 years. For most of the period, Indian startups were well represented. In the last 5 years or so, our founders and start-ups started taking less of an interest in the matters of IAMAI. That's when a few foreign companies became more influential in the organisation," Dinesh Agarwal of India Mart said. He is another member of the new governing council.

Throwing more light on the direction the new IAMAI leadership will take in terms of tech policy, Infibeam's Patel said, "Our mission will be just three words -- vocal for local. If you see from a global point of view, China has gone all out to protect domestic start-ups."

"That is the reason why companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have become so big. Just as TikTok is becoming big in the US, the government there is planning to ban it... Now, we have also got a chance to have a voice," he said.

Innova8's Malik said, "We want to be able to work with all stakeholders to develop the start-up ecosystem, work with government and start-ups on regulatory subjects and make the ecosystem more diverse."

MapMyIndia CEO and co-founder Rohan Verma, who also won a seat in the new governing council, believes that they will be able to represent matters of the Indian start-ups and larger entrepreneurial ecosystem better than the outgoing governing council.

Deepsekhar Choudhury
Deepsekhar Choudhury Deepsekhar covers tech and startups at Moneycontrol. Tweets at @deepsekharc
Aihik Sur covers tech policy, drones, space tech among other beats at Moneycontrol