The pertinent question of the hour: How fair are practices of tech giants in India?

(This story initially appeared in on Aug 01, 2020)

NEW DELHI: US lawmakers’ six-hour grilling of the CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple on Wednesday renews the query about equity and transparency of practices adopted by these companies in India. If the tech giants are suspected of crushing competitors and lax about privateness and data protection within the US, they might be doing so in India too. India is the quickest rising marketplace for a number of of their companies.

Investors and entrepreneurs agree that whereas India wants to draw extra overseas funding, it additionally has to construct a clearer regulatory system to safeguard national interest – a system that strikes a steadiness between the wants of nurturing native companies and making India engaging to buyers from overseas.

“India needs to build capabilities to identify businesses that violate customer privacy, are not registered to do business in India and do not pay taxes. We need clear regulations and must take action where appropriate,” stated Krish Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and chairman of CII’s startup council.

A committee headed by him on governance of non-personal information had this to say in mid-July: “Allowing the possibility of data monopolies, in a large consumer market such as India, could lead to the creation of imbalances in bargaining power vis-a-vis few companies with access to large data sets accumulated in a largely unregulated environment, on one side, and Indian citizens, Indian businesses including startups, MSMEs and even the government, on the other.”

Some tech entrepreneurs really feel international giants are getting away evenly. “Government should wake up to how much we are giving away to the tech giants for free. When we are running our companies, we have engineering teams here, the product is developed here, and our servers are hosted in India. They just have an India head who can be replaced without disrupting operations. The dependent resources for most of these companies, including product decisions and development, are outside India,” says Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of now-acquired TaxiForSure, who runs social media platforms Vokal and Koo. “These companies are also playing their market valuation based on India’s future growth potential,” he provides.

Firms investing in Indian startups have requested for higher monitoring of anti-competitive practices that guarantee home-grown ventures have an opportunity to succeed. “At Competition Commission of India, there needs to be a panel on anti-competitive practices within the digital world. The price-determination algorithms utilized by corporations needs to be open for scrutiny,” stated Anand Lunia, co-founder at India Quotient, an funding agency that funds startups. “If these companies are simply importing products into India, there should be a higher tax, the same way if you order something manufactured overseas,” he added.

Foreign buyers say the federal government ought to comply with a balanced strategy to implement accountability, guarantee privateness and transparency. “Policy formulation always lags behind technological innovation. Government should adopt an approach in which interest of citizens, investors, and tech companies is protected. A non-transparent process without consultation will create uncertainty and stress among investors, nations and the policy makers,” stated Mukesh Aghi, president and chief government officer at USISPF, which represents US corporations and works for strengthening the US-India strategic partnership.

“India needs to attract a minimum $100 billion FDI annually (current $49 billion) to grow robustly for the next 20 years. Boardroom decision makers like predictability, transparency, a fair and quick dispute resolution. They like an even playing field and access to the markets. Long-term investors are looking at 20-30 years’ investments and hence assurance with regards to any change of government will not impact policies implemented by the previous government,” stated Aghi.

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Tarun Banerjee

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