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This article was published on October 5, 2020

Google delays its 30% fee for Android developers in India amid Play Store row

Google delays its 30% fee for Android developers in India amid Play Store row
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Days after announcing 30% fees for in-app purchases on Google Play from September 2021, Google has given an exception to Indian developers. The company has delayed the charges for the country’s app makers until March 2022.

The search giant said that after listening to the developer feedback it’s giving more time to them to integrate Unified Payment Interface (UPI) for subscription payments in their apps:

We’re also extending the time for developers in India to integrate with the Play billing system, to ensure they have enough time to implement the UPI for the subscription payment option that will be made available on Google Play — for all apps that currently use an alternative payment system we set a timeline of 31st March 2022.

This means the app in the Indian Play Store won’t have to pay 30% fees to Google for in-app purchases till that date.

Currently, UPI allows for recurring payments on select apps. The company is allowing developers more time to integrate that into their app. However, Google will still take a 30% cut from in-app purchases on that method. So, it doesn’t make a difference to the overall equation, and Google is offering six more months of fee waiver as compensation.

However, developer feedback might not be the sole reason for the decision. After Paytm was briefly banned on the Indian Play Store last month for violating Google’s gambling-related policies, the country’s startups have voiced a strong opinion against the tech giant’s stronghold on the primary app distributing system on Android

According to a report by TechCrunch, around 150 startups including Paytm, travel startup MakeMyTrip, local language social network ShareChat, and have created an informal alliance with a view to launch an alternative app store for India. Last week, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), an industry lobby group, also planned to meet with startup founders to listen to their concerns.

Meanwhile, today Paytm has launched a “Mini App Store” on its main app that hosts Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) from different startups such as Decathlon, Ola, Domino’s Pizza, FreshMenu, NoBroker, and 1MG. These are not your usual Android apps, but website extensions written in HTML and JavaScript. 

The app store won’t take any cut from these developers if they use Paytm or UPI infrastructure for in-app payments. However, it’ll take a 2% fee on credit card and other similar payments methods.

Credit: Paytm Mini App Store
Paytm Mini App Store

The company’s CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, said that “For Paytm users, it will be a seamless experience that doesn’t require any separate download and enables them to use their preferred payment option.”

Android is the dominant operating system in India for now, and that’s why the Google Play Store is an important vehicle for app makers for distribution. However, that’s not the only way to get apps on Android phones in the country en masse.

Before the ban on Chinese app hit in July, ShareIt, which enabled people to share app files (APKs) via Bluetooth, was one of the most popular apps in India. Plus, Indus App Bazaar, an alternative Indian app store, recently crossed 100 million users. But these methods might not be as secure or as popular as downloading apps through the Play Store.

Google will need to have a conversation with Indian startups to calm the storm. The company said it’s setting up listening sessions and policy workshops with app makers to discuss how the Play Store fees policy can affect their services. We’ll have to wait and see if these steps can convince Indian companies to ditch their plans for yet another homegrown app store.

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