India's two gaming unicorns - Mobile Premier League (MPL) and Dream11 - are quite different in their offerings. But there is one key similarity: Both of them are not available for download on Google Play Store.
The tech giant's app rules are partly to blame for this since it is not consistent with the laws of the country, MPL cofounder Sai Srinivas said in an interaction with Moneycontrol "There are two gaming unicorns in this country. Both of them are not on the Play Store. It is kind of ridiculous that this is the state of affairs" he said.
Srinivas said they will continue distributing the app outside the Play Store in India, and "that's something we've become very good at".
MPL, which joined India's startup unicorn club on September 15, also forayed into the United States in July this year, where it distributes the app through Samsung's app store on Android and Apple's App Store. Google's Play Store policies doesn't allow real money gaming apps in India.
"The only thing the Play Store provides now is trust. But as a company, if you are able to build that trust, eventually customers will come to you, whether you're on the Play Store, or off the Play Store and it's just a matter of time before people realize this" Srinivas said.
These comments come at a time when a slew of India's top digital startups are calling for legislative action against app store operators Google and Apple, following a clutch of antitrust rulings across the world over the past week.
On September 14, South Korea's antitrust regulator The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) fined Google $177 million for allegedly abusing its market dominance to limit competition in the mobile operating system market. It said the search giant was blocking smartphone makers like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics from using modified versions of Android operating systems through its anti-fragmentation agreements.
This comes on the heels of South Korea's parliament approving a bill earlier this month that bans app store operators like Google and Apple from forcing app developers to use their own billing systems for in-app purchases.
"The KFTC verdict should have an effect of strengthening and expediting the probe by antitrust regulators against Google in India. Given Google’s presence and dominance in multiple key markets is tied to the health of the digital and internet economy (search, advertising, browser, smartphone & smartphone OS, app economy, payments etc) it becomes pertinent for the Indian Government, and its key regulatory institutions involved – MeiTY, CCI and RBI – to take note and enact legislative actions for the benefit of our ecosystem and our startups" said Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director - ADIF (Alliance of Digital India Foundation), a 250-member grouping of Indian startups.
The industry grouping, which counts Paytm, BharatMatrimony, MapMyIndia, and GOQii among its members, was formed earlier this year to push back against Google imposing its 30% commission on apps selling digital goods on Play Store.
The policy which was set to go in effect from September 2021, has since been postponed to April 2022. Google has also halved the commission for these apps to 15% for the first $1 million they earn through the Play billing system every year.
That said, India's anti-trust regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) had ordered a probe against Google on this issue in November last year. Apple was also hit by a similar antitrust complaint from a Rajasthan-based non-profit called Together We Fight Society (TWFS) last month.