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Google has started restoring de-listed Indian apps, says IT minister

Mar 02, 2024 05:58 PM IST

Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the government has called Google and the Indian app developers affected by the delisting for a meeting on Monday

Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday said that he had called Google after it delisted apps by 10 Indian developers on the Play Store and the tech giant has started re-listing them on the platform. He also said the government has called Google and the Indian app developers affected by the delisting for a meeting on Monday.

Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw (File)
Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw (File)

“We have told [Google] that it must support India’s start-up ecosystem. They have already started re-listing the apps,” Vaishnaw told HT. “Google has agreed to cooperate. ... I had a conversation with Google last night [Friday] when I first learnt of this. I have spoken to them 4-5 times today,” he said.

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Google had started delisting apps by 10 Indian developers for not complying with its contentious payments policy under which app developers are required to pay 11%-30% service fee to the tech giant for all in-app purchases of digital goods and services.

Companies affected included Info Edge whose five apps –- Naukri.com, Naukri Recruiter, Naukrigulf, 99acres and Shiksha –- had disappeared from the Play Store by Saturday morning, as the company informed the bourses. By 3.30pm on Saturday, three of these apps –- Naukri.com, Naukrigulf and 99acres –- had been relisted. Shaadi.com is the only other app to be relisted.

“Many of the Info Edge apps are back on the play store. An effort very well led by Hitesh and the entire Info Edge team. People were up all night for this. Great crisis management,” Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder and executive vice chairperson of Info Edge, tweeted on X, formerly Twitter.

However, CEO of Shaadi.com, Anupam Mittal quote tweeted Bikhchandani’s tweet and said, “Pls clarify that u are back up as consumption apps only ie without any in-app billing which will destroy the consumer side of the business in the longer-term. Otherwise this tweet will be interpreted as everything is back to status quo, which is NOT true.”

In response to a tweet by news agency ANI about how government intervention led to restoration of the apps, Mittal tweeted, “it’s not true, do ur research. Apps are back without billing which is as good as not being there”.

HT asked Vaishnaw if the apps had to abide by Google’s terms to be re-listed but he said that he was not aware of that. “We are not privy to the internal, commercial discussions between companies,” he said.

HT reviewed the re-listed apps –- Naukri.com, Naukrigulf, 99acres, Shaadi.com –- and none of them have an in-app payment option anymore, meaning that they complied with Google’s payments policy and opted for the “consumption-only” option.

A Google spokesperson said that the company had nothing to share when HT reached out for comment on Saturday evening.

To comply with the policy, Google has given developers three options. First, opt for the contentious Google Play Billing System under which developers will have to pay Google a 15% or a 30% service fee depending on their revenues.

Second, give an alternate billing system (like a RazorPay) “alongside” GPBS, also called the user choice billing system option. This means, that the users will have a choice whether they want to opt for GPBS or the alternate billing system. If users opt for the alternate billing system, developers will still have to pay Google an 11% or 26% service fee.

Third, “operate on a consumption-only basis without paying a service fee”, that is, to not offer in-app billing at all and process payments only through websites. In this option, developers do not pay Google any service fee but it creates friction in the user interface, developers say.

One of the Info Edge apps, Jeevansathi, had not been delisted on Friday. “We believe we are in compliance. After February 9 [Supreme Court notice], we moved to a model that complies,” Rohan Mathur, head of Jeevansathi, had told HT on Friday. “We are accepting payments only through the web store [on the website],” he had said, meaning that the company had opted for the “consumption-only” option.

After the delistings began on Friday, which initially did not affect any Info Edge apps, Bikhchandani had said, “The notice [from Google] does not say they were being delisted. It says if you are non-compliant then you will be delisted. We have been compliant since February 9, the date the Supreme Court order came out. There are no pending invoices from Google with us. All have been paid in a timely manner.”

Other apps, including those from Matrimony.com, AltBalaji, and others, remain unavailable on the Play Store.

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