Walmart’s PhonePe launches India app store in challenge to Google

Microsoft, Amazon and Meta are among the top brands whose apps are listed on the Indian fintech PhonePe’s Indus Appstore, an Android app store launched Wednesday in challenge to Google’s monopoly in its largest market by users.

To fight Google Play Store, PhonePe has armed Indus Appstore with a range of unique and personalized features and developer-friendly terms. Indus Appstore supports 12 regional languages (including English) and around-the-clock support service, the $12 billion Walmart-backed fintech said.

The app store — which today features over 200,000 apps, including Flipkart, Spotify, and Paytm across 45 categories — supports third-party payments and will not levy any listing fee for one year, it said. If developers use third-party payments services and gateways, PhonePe will still not levy any fee, said the startup’s co-founder and chief executive Sameer Nigam at a press conference.

Google apps were missing from the store, which started courting developers in September last year. PhonePe, which leads the mobile payments market in India, is working with many third-party aggregators to on-board the apps and many big brands have also signed up to Indus Appstore, it said.

Indus Appstore features several other localized features, including app discovery via short videos and the ability to sign in to the store with a mobile number instead of an email address. It also offers “smart updates” that beam updates to customers’ phones during hours when their phones have greater data availability.

Indus Appstore is the latest of a series of attempts by app developers globally to push back against Google and Apple’s duopoly on mobile apps and what many allege unfair terms. The two tech giants are facing growing backlash from app developers globally over the commissions charged on their respective app stores. A plethora of complaints has emerged accusing the companies, which control over 99% of the global consumer spend on mobile apps, of abusing their dominant position to impose excessive fees of up to 30% on app transactions.

India, the world’s largest market by app downloads, is a nation of 750 million to 800 million connected smartphone users. Indus Appstore exists because as a nation “we want to have a point of view on what we can and cannot do,” Nigam said, asserting that what the nation consumes should not be controlled by one or two companies.

“We will offer an alternative with a different set of features and capabilities. Some will like us, some will like others. We are just asking for a chance to compete on merit,” he said, noting that competition will push Google to improve its Play Store terms in India.

PhonePe is making the app store available to download to consumers from its website (users will have to sideload the app on their Android phones). Nigam said the firm is in talks with “multiple” phone makers and hopes to close some deals in the coming weeks.

Indus Appstore also “promises” to offer broader transparency — including explaining to the developers when their app has been pulled, and why.

PhonePe plans to monetize Indus Appstore by charging developers for app discovery and by showing ads, Nigam said.

Ivan Mehta contributed to this report.


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