- The tussle signals towards a growing divide between Indian start-ups and the Big Tech, with the former increasingly framing the debate as a ‘foreign versus local’ issue, irked by policies they say are often imposed on them by the bigger companies.
- There is a widening rift between some Indian start-ups and the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Prominent founders of some of the country’s new age businesses have accused the IAMAI of “promoting the views” of big tech companies such as Google and Meta and have called into question its organisational structure, which is led by representatives of such tech companies.
- The tussle signals towards a growing divide between Indian start-ups and the Big Tech, with the former increasingly framing the debate as a ‘foreign versus local’ issue, irked by policies that they say are often imposed on them by the bigger companies.
- The latest stand-off came after the IAMAI criticised the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance to introduce a new law for tackling Big Tech firms’ anti-competitive practices.
- “IAMAI is concerned that the recommendations in the Report (of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance) are neither targeted nor proportionate,” the industry body said in its submission, saying these would “stifle innovation” as well.
- To curb anti-competitive practices in digital markets, last December, the panel proposed measures like having ex-ante regulations, which are meant to protect consumers by requiring companies to follow certain standards of behaviour, as opposed to post-ante regulations that can only punish an entiry after it has breached a law.
- There were also recommendations for designating Big Tech entitites as “systemically important digital intermediaries” and then subjecting them to certain ex-ante provisions, and the suggestion for a new digital competition law.
- Further, it asked digital market entities to desist from “anti-steering”, “deep discounting”, “self preferencing”, “search & ranking preferencing” and other promotional practices that lead to consumers going for these companies in the market, impacting competition.
- Unimpressed by the recommendations, the AMAI said, “Lack of a well-articulated policy objective, (and) failure to adopt an evidence-based approach to identify the need for the regulation, have led to ambiguous, broad recommendations (in the report), which will stifle innovation, competition and the benefit that accrues to markets and users”.
- IAMAI’s submission was similar to the comments submitted by the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), an industry association which also counts big tech companies like Meta, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Google among its members.
- IAMAI’s submission drew sharp criticism from some prominent Indian start-up founders, who accused the industry grouping of furthering views of big tech companies.
- “It’s distressing to know that IAMAI is parroting and promoting views that are anti-Indian and pro-foreign Big Tech,” said Rohan Verma, CEO, MapMyIndia. “I hope everyone realises that the chair and vice chair of IAMAI are from the foreign Big Tech. Sad to see an organisation originally founded by and for Indian companies, taken over & now promoting a false narrative.”
- Verma, who is building a competing product for Google Maps, was referring to IAMAI’s executive councilm which is currently chaired by Sanjay Gupta, country head and vice president of Google, and Shivnath Thukral, public policy director for India at WhatsApp, who is vice-chairman.
- This is not the first time that start-ups have criticised IAMAI for its views on key policy issues. Earlier this year, a number of online gaming companies, that are also members of IAMAI, had written to Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) opposing the industry body’s submission on draft online gaming rules that the scoping of the rules was done poorly” and the some aspects needed a “major re-look”.