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Is Google Play Facing Competition? Indus Appstore’s Entry in India

Created on 28 Jun 2024

Wraps up in 7 Min

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Updated on 29 Jun 2024

Google Play Store vs. PhonePe's Indus Appstore: Which is Better?

When you look at the history pages, inventions have been done based on two scenarios:

  1. One is when the inventors predict something will happen and work on curating a way out of it,
  2. Another is when inventors are looking for ways to solve an existing problem.

PhonePe’s brand-new play store’s existence can also be connected to the second scenario. Google Play Store monopolising the market (over 95%) and demanding hefty charges, including a commission of 30% on in-app payments, led to a fight between the tech giant and Indian apps.

Seeing the plight of Indian app makers, PhonePe decided to light up the “Make In India” motto and came out with the “Indus Appstore." This app store, with the motto “An App store that’s made for India," was launched in February 2024.

With no commission on in-app purchases being charged for developers, some apps on Indus Appstore might offer lower prices to consumers. This raises one question: Is it enough to beat the unbeatable “Google”?

Let’s find the answer to this question and check out other aspects of the app store you haven’t taken into account.

About Indus Appstore

The Indus Appstore was established as a strategic initiative by PhonePe to enhance its ecosystem and provide a richer digital experience to its users. At present, the Indus Appstore offers access to over 2 lakh apps, including many catering to local tastes and needs.

Indus Appstore's Landing Page

Its establishment can be seen as a response to a few key factors:

  • There was a growing desire in India for a homegrown app store that catered to the specific needs and preferences of Indian users. This sentiment intensified after a situation in September 2023 when Google delisted several Indian apps, raising concerns about dependence on a single platform.
  • Many Indian app developers felt stifled by Google Play Store's policies and commission demands. PhonePe aimed to create a fairer environment with Indus Appstore, offering free app listing for the first year and no commission on in-app purchases.

Stating the move as a “game-changer in India's digital journey,” the company says, “For developers, Indus Appstore provides a fair and level playing field to list, distribute and promote their products in the Indian app ecosystem. It provides a self-publishing platform, localization services, multiple tools to monitor and grow their apps along with dedicated 24×7 customer support."

Imagine an app store with over 2 lakh apps and games; all categorised neatly for easy browsing. Now imagine this store speaks your language – Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, you name it! That’s the appeal Indus Appstore presents.

It offers apps in 12 regional languages, making it accessible to almost everyone in India. But that's not all!

PhonePe is making things super developer-friendly by providing everything that Google Play Store restricted for developers in India. Listing an app on Indus is completely free for the first year (until April 2025). Developers even get to choose which payment gateway works best for them with no restrictions whatsoever!

What Does it Mean For You?

Customers all around the nation have been habitually using the Google Play Store to download apps for many years now. After all, it's an in-built app that restricts multiple functionalities of the device if not used. Hence, the monopoly.

So, what could Indus Appstore provide that may turn a consumer to replace Google? Let’s check out some options:

a. Localisation and Accessibility:

The Indus Appstore focuses on offering apps that cater specifically to Indian users. This includes regional languages, content, and applications that resonate with India's diverse cultural and linguistic landscape.

b. Security and Trust:

By curating apps and ensuring they meet certain standards, PhonePe aims to provide a safer and more trustworthy app ecosystem for consumers compared to global app stores.

c. Integrated Experience:

The Indus Appstore adds value for consumers using PhonePe for payments and other financial services by integrating seamlessly with their existing digital interactions. This integration can potentially lead to a more cohesive and efficient user experience.

d. Support for Developers:

The app store also benefits developers by providing them with a platform to reach a large user base, potentially increasing their app's visibility and downloads.

Will Indus Appstore be Able to Defeat Google Play Store?

That’s what the whole point was about, right? At least as per the company’s statements. But, will this mission be possible to accomplish?

Let’s take a look at Google Play Store’s market share:

Google Play Store’s Market Share

Sure, Google (94.94%) & Apple's (4.22%) Play Store are the two leading names, creating a duopoly in India. But is it really a duopoly when Google Play Store reigns over 90% of the market?

Google, the search engine giant, has become so ingrained in our daily lives that it's easy to forget it might hold a lot of power. This dominance in the tech world is what we call a monopoly. Here's how it plays out:

a. Android Advantage:

Most smartphones run on the Android operating system, which is freely offered by Google. However, phone makers often have to pre-install a bunch of Google apps on their devices, giving them a head start over competitors.

b. App Store Control:

Google Play Store is the main hub for downloading apps on Android devices. This gives Google control over app distribution and the ability to set policies and fees for developers.

What’s interesting here is Google has faced monopoly allegations, not once or twice, but multiple times in multiple countries. Even India has a few cases running against it. One recent case was filed by Indian startups like Shaadi.com against Google's Billing Policy.

What I am trying to say is beating the reigning and defending champion of the app store that comes hand in hand with a majorly used mobile operating system wouldn't be as easy as using the “Made in India” approach. After all, Google has compromised for its Indian consumers & developers by allowing them to add third-party payment gateways at a lower commission rate.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined Google over $1 billion (over ₹8,300 crore) in 2023 for stifling competition on the Android platform. Moreover, PhonePe’s plan to squeeze profits out of Google’s legal plight in India could turn out differently as the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) is still hearing Google's appeal. There's no final verdict yet.

Hence, if NCLAT upholds the CCI decision, Google would have to comply with the regulations set by CCI, potentially leading to a more open app ecosystem in India. Most consumers and even developers won’t feel the need to change platforms if their issues can be resolved. So, PhonePe may have to come up with a better approach than the “Indian app store” for Indus.

PhonePe's Financials & Peer Comparison

With over 49 crore registered users, PhonePe has achieved a significant milestone. One in four Indians now uses the platform. Additionally, the company has effectively digitised 3.6 crore offline merchants located in tier 2, 3, 4, and beyond, encompassing 99% of postal codes across India.

Furthermore, PhonePe has emerged as the top performer in the Bharat Bill Pay System (BBPS), handling more than 45% of the transactions on the BBPS platform.

PhonePe's Financials
Source: PhonePe's Earnings Statement

Looking at the financials, PhonePe did increase its revenue from ₹1,646 crore to ₹2,914 crore in a year, but the EBITDA also saw a negative increase, which is not a good sign. Hence, PhonePe will need to work consistently to improve its finances if it wishes to contribute more capital to advancements of its Play Store. 

PhonePe has consistently aspired to provide its users with a platform to explore and share various applications, maintaining this goal over time. Its entrance into the app industry might not be able to make much of a difference to its peers, Google and Apple, but it's sure to help PhonePe strengthen its identity as an Indian app.

After all, PhonePe even went so far as to transfer its domicile to India from Singapore in October 2023. It had to pay ₹8,000 crore in taxes for the shift to the government. Hence, PhonePe’s quest to solidify its presence as the first stop for most things in finance is very strong.

The Bottom Line

In India, the concern is that Google's monopoly limits consumer choices and hinders innovation by Indian app developers. The CCI's actions and the rise of the Indus Appstore signal India's push for a fairer and more open app ecosystem.

Or at least that’s what PhonePe’s founder wants us to believe. In reality, PhonePe is betting on further hammering its reputation as “the Indian app”.

Whether this bet will be successful or not is yet to be seen.

*Disclaimer: The stocks and companies discussed above aren't a recommendation from Finology Insider and shall not be construed as a replacement for professional advice. Consult a professional or conduct the necessary research before making investment decisions.

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A book-lover who adores everything fictional, Preeti has undertaken the life mission of tasting every flavour available in the pantry. A science student with a Master's in Mass Communication, she now wishes to conquer the Finance world as a writer. With the power invested by the randomly chosen music, she is here to make Finance fun for you.

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