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Fair market, open Internet will help startups blossom: ADIF chief

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By Nishant Arora

New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) As the Indian startup/unicorn ecosystem goes through a stupendous growth, a level-playing field must exist for all the participants and stakeholders of the ecosystem and not just ‘desi’ startups, Sijo Kuruvilla George, executive director of the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) said on Sunday.

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In an interaction with IANS, George said that in the long run, only fair markets and an open Internet will be able to sustain innovation and growth and guard the health of any ecosystem.

“The antitrust and anti-competitive challenges posed by global big tech companies make the work of bodies such as ADIF all the more important. It is near impossible for small, single players to stand up, much less take on the might of the big Tech majors that command unprecedented and unbridled power to even shut them out of business in an instant,” George emphasised.

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India has now emerged as the third largest startup ecosystem in the world after the US and China.

According to George, it is imperative that the stakeholders organise into a unified alliance for a stronger voice, enlist some of the larger outfits to come forward to provide leadership for the cause and advocate with the government/relevant authorities to intervene in the form of legal and/or legislative actions.

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“It is important to highlight the issues that affect our startups and ecosystem, along with data and information in the form of research reports, publications and stakeholder discussions. It’s only awareness that can bring about informed decision-making and discourse of possible solutions – be it in the sphere of policy or business,” he told IANS.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) has collaborated with the US-based Coalition for App Fairness to ensure a competitive digital marketplace in India. The alliance now has more than 460 startups under its umbrella, and is growing.

“No developer should be forced to operate in an anti-competitive marketplace that hinders innovation, success, and the ability to grow,” said George.

The ADIF had hit out at Google, calling its Play Store commission cut a deflect and distract tactic — nothing but a reduced ‘Lagaan’.

“The interim relief petition with the CCI on the Google Lagaan matter is an instance of one such intervention and the writ petition being considered on the challenges pertaining to ad tech is another,” George informed.

On December 10, Google said it is extending the timeline for developers in India from March 31, 2022 to October 31, 2022 to help them better integrate with Play Store’s billing system.

The ADIF said that this move gives developers short-term relief for their anxiety.

“The reality is that app owners have been in a very tough spot as they are unsure if they should unwillingly comply with Google’s new policies and be hopeful of a Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) intervention on the interim relief petition for maintaining the status quo. Google’s deadline extension certainly gives them more time but doesn’t take away their uncertainty,” George stressed.

In the long run, it’s proactive and progressive legislation that will best address the underlying issues and also pave the wave for ecosystem growth in the long term.

“Most of our existing laws are either inadequate or ill-equipped to address & enable the unique nature of some of the new and nascent industry categories. A fair amount of our efforts hence will also be working towards enabling legislation,” the ADIF executive added.

The ADIF recently condemned Amazon’s “predatory playbook” of allegedly copying, rigging and killing Indian brands, urging the Centre for timely intervention.

“The manner in which the e-commerce giant has targeted the Indian market and leading brands in the country is highly deplorable and brings into question the credibility of Amazon as a good faith operator in the Indian startup ecosystem,” George had said.

(Nishant Arora can be reached at nishant.a@ians.in)

–IANS

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