All options open in 'fight' against Google: Patym CEO
Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said, “All options are open,” when asked if he would take legal recourse against Google. This was after the technology major temporarily removed the mobile payment platform’s app from its Play Store for running a scratch card-based cricket promotion which breached its gambling policies. He said the company would also seek government and regulatory intervention.

Sharma, who tore into Google’s practice of barring apps which were compliant with Indian laws, said his “fight” will be a long-drawn one. He told ET in an hour-long interview that he had full faith in the Indian government and its antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India (CCI). “We would like to amplify the voice of the Indian startup community and our technology companies,” Sharma said.

He added that the company will demand an explanation for being arbitrarily yanked off the Play Store. “This is a concern for every regulator in this country and for the government because our app is not a gambling app. I feel agitated to the level that it won’t stop today or tomorrow, this fight will go long,” he said. Paytm was being “singled out” and “targeted” while other similar features were running elsewhere and on Google’s own payments app, he added.

In an emailed statement, a Google spokesperson said, “Offering cashbacks and vouchers alone do not constitute a violation of our Google Play gambling policies. Our policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India.”

Sharma criticised industry bodies such as Nasscom and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) for being dominated by US tech majors, and called for formation of a new grouping that would fairly represent the voice of local technology firms. “Founders are coming together and there is a discussion on this topic. We will be talking to the government, lawmakers, regulators,” he said.

Last week on Friday, Google pulled Paytm from its Play store due to a scratch card based cricket promotion which it had launched to coincide with the Indian Premier League. Google said in a blog post that it was removing apps which breached its gambling policies without naming Paytm specifically. It also said, the regulation does not permit apps which direct users to such “websites that allow them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies.”

The Noida-based digital payments app, which is backed by Alibaba’s payments affiliate, Ant Group and Japan’s SoftBank, and is currently valued at $16 billion, which took off the feature subsequently and went back up on Google Play store, however, maintains it was not in the wrong. Sharma said, “Google owns the gate and the gateway to the digital ecosystem of this country, we may choose to accept it or not. Just like the borders of this country are protected by our armed forces and governed by the Indian establishment, our digital ecosystem needs safeguards, too. It cannot be just an additional layer over a layer, controlled by these large big tech organizations.” How can an app store put a layer above the government and regulator, Sharma questioned. This is effectively a sanction by an American company on an Indian company and by extension to Indian customers. Can I get the court to say anything in this case? No, it’s beyond their jurisdiction, he pointed out.

The Paytm founder’s attack on Google comes amid a larger, worldwide political backlash against Big Tech, comprising Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon, questioning their ever increasing power they wield through their platforms and devices. Sharma said, while India as a market for these technology biggies is big on the user front, the business which the country contributes is meagre. “Countries with large economies can get an ear of these companies and they are ready to come and listen.. You can talk about tax trials in Ireland, France’s issue of privacy, and Australia’s regulations. So when you matter on a balance sheet you get heard. India is a trial ground, bully ground, let me do what I want to do ground.”





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