New Delhi: The Aatmnirbhar Digital India Foundation (ADIF), an industry body representing India’s digital and technology startups, deliberated on the need for an India specific policy framework IT intermediaries for Playstore, Search, and rankings.
The esteemed panel constituted of Ramesh Abhishek, Retd IAS, Ex-Secretary, DPIIT, Co-Founder and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip, Murugavel, Founder & CEO, Matrimony.com, Rohan Verma, CEO, MapmyIndia and Ajay Data, Founder and CEO, Data Xgen Technologies, who is also Secretary-General, ADIF.
The deliberations revolved around the need for the government’s intervention to ensure that no organization-specific keywords were permitted for bidding by third parties in Google Ads policy. This has come in the wake of the Delhi HC order in favour of Makemytrip where the Court directed Google to suspend the advertising account of HappyEasyGo on the Google Ads Programme.
Murugavel Jankiraman, Founder & CEO, Matrimony.com while speaking at the panel discussion said, “Stop Google monetizing the brands of Indian companies. Brands are created with so much hard work, years or decades of effort, built by hundreds or thousands of people, marketed by spending 100’s of crores of investment. All the effort is monetizing by Google by allowing anyone and everyone to bid for these brands. Companies end up spending crores of money to protect their own brands to prevent their customers from going to competitors or frivolous entities. Companies are losing their revenue and customers because of Google not protecting brands.”
Ashim Sood, Supreme Court, Advocate said, “India has a robust intellectual property law regime which gives protections to entrepreneurs who have worked hard to create brand recognition for their products and services. Similarly, Indian courts are sophisticated in their understanding of issues including the problems raised by keywords based advertising. But judicial delays sometimes come in the way of an entrepreneur being able to protect his mark to the fullest extent – many times the fact of whether a trademark was violated comes down to evidence, and this evidence only becomes available in a trial that lasts years. This coupled with the dominance of Google in the search market renders local entrepreneurs vulnerable. There does need to be a discussion-based regulatory initiative to deal with the issue.”
Ramesh Abhishek, Ex-Secretary, DPIIT said “It is essential to take adequate measures to promote Indian Digital ecosystem and work towards improving ease of doing business. It is needed to undertake an in-depth study of the impact of permitting the bidding of brands by competition and benefits obtained by advertisement platforms. Neutrality and unbiased behaviour of large platforms in search and play store results and rankings is important for ensuring a level playing field”
Rohan, CEO, MapmyIndia said, “Need of immediate, effective regulatory and legal measures to stop monetizing ‘brand value’ by Advertisement and search platform of Big Techs. Every effort should be made to eliminate any bias and manipulation in the search and ranking algorithms attributing to advertisement keywords, to eliminate any loss to brands”.
Ajay Data, ADIF Secretary General Ajay Data said, “At ADIF, we represent the aspirations and interests of India’s dynamic startup ecosystem. To protect the interests of Indian startups, we need to create an India specific policy framework and work in a collaborative manner going forward. We request government that no organization-specific keywords should be permitted for bidding by third parties and ASCI guidelines should be expanded to cover search engine advertising to avoid such in future.”
In line with ADIF’s objective of playing a role in the policy framework, the power-packed panel brainstormed on the topic – ‘Protection of Your Organization, Brand Name and IPR for online bidding on advertisement platforms.’ ADIF, which is committed to building an open, fair, neutral and self-reliant technology ecosystem, aims to promote a level playing field for Indian companies to build solutions for the country that are adopted globally.
Owing to unfair policies by leading Big Tech platforms, the usage and bidding on company name specific keywords such as Matrimony, Map My India is allowed. This has resulted in other companies selling similar products and services to capitalize on the brand value of the companies, putting existing companies at a greater disadvantage. To feature at the top of the search results, Indian startups have shell out extra money to safeguard their own company name that was being used as keywords.
Through such discussions, ADIF aims to assist in the creation of forward-looking regulatory processes and ease of doing business policies to propel India as the top destination for innovation and capital. The objective is to listen and understand the challenges of the startup ecosystem and to become the voice of entrepreneurs for policymakers and regulators.
This is in line with ADIF’s vision is to make India a world leader in the technology ecosystem by ensuring a level playing field for Indian organisations and enabling the flow of Indian and international investments to build products and services for Indian and global consumers.
The panel of experts flagged the folioing Important points:
- Any search bias or advertisement bias should be restricted on Playstore and Search platforms
- High platform fee charged by leading app play store or any large needs to be regulated under IT act provisions, similar to MDR charges capping to merchants by RBI
- The government may consider framing regulations/guidelines on restricting the bidding of IP keywords to take advantages by platform or competition
- Need to have Digital Regulatory Body of India, similar to TRAI to regulate operations and pricing of Critical Digital Organizations with more than a specific use base
- 5% of profits generated from Indian Digital ecosystem should be mandated to be reinvested in Indian government initiatives to promote startup, research and innovation in country
- Need to have regulatory landscape as per IT Act or IT intermediary guidelines to bring Playstore under self-regulation to regulate their data storage and capping of platform fees on app store
- To work with the government and regulators to draft India specific laws and policy framework to ensure a level playing field for Indian digital organization
- An esteemed panel constituted of Ramesh Abhishek, Ex-Secretary, DPIIT, Murugavel, Founder & CEO, Matrimony.com, Rohan, CEO Map My India, Ajay Data, ADIF Secretary General, Ashim Sood – Supreme Court Advocate