May 17, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the IAMAI is biased in favour of the Big Tech companies. We also look at the electricity rate hike in Punjab, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
IAMAI vs Indian startups – Who’s in the right?
The Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) isn’t the most well-known or widely-recognised governing body, but it should be. It plays a pivotal role in India’s evolving digital economy. They’ve been in the news – not necessarily on the front pages or primetime – but for the wrong reasons.
Startup founders have come for IAMAI, claiming that the body’s recommendations and views on the government’s digital policies are biased towards Big Tech and antithetical to consumer interests. IAMAI has defended itself, but things could escalate.
Let’s start with the IAMAI. Established as a not-for-profit in 2004, it’s the only organisation representing the digital services industry in India. Its over 550 Indian and multinational companies member-count includes established players and startups in the digital ecosystem. The likes of Google, Airbnb, Apple, Amazon, and Meta are among its members.
IAMAI helps the government and digital companies by creating a policy environment for the latter to thrive and contribute to the economy and society. When the government releases policies concerning digital products or services, the IAMAI reviews them and submits its thoughts and recommendations.
Why have such a body? It could help address structural challenges in India’s internet and mobile landscape. Some believe if India uses digitalisation correctly, it could fix most of its issues like a large population and social inequalities. How? The deep penetration of broadband internet, telecom services, Aadhar, and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) have already helped formalise the economy.
When the government is about to introduce a policy that pertains to the IAMAI’s members, the body ensures companies aren’t getting the short end of the stick. Some examples are the Information Technology Rules of 2021, the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules of 2020, and the Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA).
Why are startups mad? Let’s rewind to December 2022. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance released its report on anti-competitive practices by Big Tech companies. Later, in February, the government established the Committee on Digital Competition Law (CDCL) to explore the possibility of a new law on competition in digital markets.
When the IAMAI looked at the committee report, it wasn’t happy. The report called for stricter regulations and a new competition law for digital markets. Per the IAMAI, this was neither necessary nor favoured by companies.
Then there’s Google’s Play Store billing policy issue that went to the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Indian startups pushed back against the tech giant’s 11-30% mandated commission for all in-app purchases.
The IAMAI didn’t take it up. Indian startups were instead represented by the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) in their battle against Google. Entrepreneurs had enough and took to social media to vent their frustration. But the IAMAI isn’t backing down.
VIEW: The IAMAI is doing its job
The IAMAI’s objective is to facilitate an ecosystem where digital companies can thrive. Concerning regulations, they’re going to be hesitant and sceptical as anything other than a light-touch approach would scare away companies and harm India’s economic prospects in the digital space.
On the specifics of the recent Parliamentary Panel report, the IAMAI criticised the need for ex-ante regulations called the Digital Competition Act and designating large companies as Systemically Important Digital Intermediaries (SIDIs), subjecting them to additional regulation. The IAMAI argued India already has the Competition Act, 2002 and others that look at anti-competitive practices. It said the proposal doesn’t mention if or why existing laws are inadequate.
According to the IAMAI, the proposals were influenced by the European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act (DMA), which it stated didn’t have a global consensus. It cited how the USA scrapped some DMA-inspired legislation due to possible consequences for customers and stifling innovation. While countries like Singapore, Japan, and Australia have done in-depth studies on ex-ante regulations, India hasn’t.
COUNTERVIEW: What about the little guy?
While the IAMAI certainly has big players among its members, it has startups too, and many aren’t happy with recent events. The furore has been a long time coming, as the startups haven’t been thrilled with the IAMAI’s submissions and public consultations on government policies. For example, the IAMAI said some rules for online gaming were poorly thought out and needed a re-look. Some gaming companies later wrote to the government stating they disagreed with the IAMAI’s opinion and weren’t consulted.
On the digital competition bill, it seems startups and the IAMAI aren’t on the same page. Anupam Mittal, the founder of the People Group, called the IAMAI’s representation on the competition bill a lie. The IAMAI’s stance concerning ex-ante regulations and identifying ‘market winners’ has drawn the ire of startups. They see this as the industry body favouring Big Tech and neglecting smaller home-grown companies.
The Google case is striking. It’s one of the pieces of evidence that startup founders are using to accuse the IAMAI of being in the pocket of Big Tech. As things continued to heat up, the IAMAI’s Governing Council came under the microscope. A glance at its executive council shows the chairman is from Google, and the vice chairman is from WhatsApp, owned by Meta. With executive council elections this month, the IAMAI is long overdue for a shakeup.
- About Us – IAMAI
- Why Are Some Indian Startup Founders Criticizing Tech Industry Body IAMAI? – Medianama
- Here’s Why India Is Forming A Committee To Explore Separate Competition Law For Digital Markets – Medianama
- Most members against separate digital competition rules: internet body IAMAI – Economic Times
- Indian start-ups distance themselves from IAMAI, call it ‘pro-Big Tech’ – Business Standard
- Startups oppose IAMAI’s draft comments on house panel views about digital competition law – Economic Times
- 83 IAMAI members contest for 24 Governing Council seats amid accusations of pro-Big Tech bias – Moneycontrol
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The IAMAI is biased in favour of the Big Tech companies.
b) The IAMAI is not biased in favour of the Big Tech companies.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Why Flooring this Opponent Could Be Tough for Grapplers
For the Left:
Why Hindus lack a sense of collective harm: Mass unity is a distraction, ancestral continuity is the destination
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Electricity rates spike (Punjab) – Consumers in Punjab are set to face an increase in electricity prices. On Monday, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) announced its approval for a tariff hike ranging from 25 paise to 80 paise per unit, applicable to various categories of consumers starting from May 16. For consumers with a load up to 2 KW, rates have increased to ₹4.19 per unit for 0-100 units and ₹6.64 per unit for 101-300 units. Consumption of more than 300 units will be charged at ₹7.75 per unit. For consumers with a load between 2 KW and 7 KW, rates range from ₹4.44 to ₹7.75 per unit based on consumption.
Why it matters: In light of the Punjab state government’s initiative to provide 300 units of free power to domestic consumers and free power to the agriculture sector, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann addressed concerns about the impact of the revised tariff on the common man. Taking to Twitter, he stated that the increase in power tariff would be borne by the government, ensuring that it does not burden the general public. Moreover, he assured consumers that the free power scheme, covering up to 600 units, would remain unaffected by the tariff hike.
Log houses are the latest tourist attraction (Kerala) – Gavi, a picturesque jewel hidden within the jungle, now welcomes visitors to experience the serenity of its log houses. The Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) has thoughtfully established three log houses, constructed from acacia wood, along the tranquil banks of the Gavi dam reservoir. Nestled in the heart of this pristine forest, these abodes provide a unique opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty that surrounds them.
Why it matters: Each carefully designed log house offers a cosy room, complete with a double bed, inviting visitors to find comfort amidst the natural surroundings. Additional bedding can be arranged upon request, ensuring flexibility for guests. As the allure of reconnecting with nature continues to captivate discerning travellers, Gavi’s log houses serve as a gateway to untouched wilderness. Travellers can traverse verdant forests on invigorating treks, marvel at the cascading waterfalls that grace the landscape, and partake in serene boating excursions. This strategic move by the KDFC not only enhances the visitor experience but also generates economic benefits for the region.
New boat ambulance to serve remote areas (Jharkhand) – In a significant development, Jharkhand introduced its inaugural boat ambulance service in the Sahibganj district on Monday. The initiative aims to provide crucial medical assistance to residents residing in the Diara (island) region, an area situated along the banks of the Ganga River and within its catchment areas. Initially, two boat ambulances will be operational from dawn to dusk, serving the communities in the Rajmahal area and Sahibganj.
Why it matters: The introduction of this innovative service holds immense value for the locals, particularly those living in remote and isolated areas. The boat ambulances will facilitate the transportation of patients to medical facilities in Purnea, Bihar, and Malda, West Bengal. This is especially significant as accessing renowned healthcare institutions such as AIIMS in Deoghar or reputable hospitals in Ranchi and other major cities in Jharkhand can be challenging due to their considerable distance from the Diara area.
Menacing “Tar Balls” resurface on shores (Goa) – Goa’s picturesque coastline has once again fallen victim to the unwelcome sight of tar balls, greasy blobs of thick weathered oil that wash ashore, deterring both locals and tourists from walking barefoot along the beaches. According to Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte, this phenomenon is an annual recurrence, signalling the need for a comprehensive approach to address the issue. Acknowledging the problem, Minister Khaunte revealed that the Environment Department has been alerted and urged to conduct a thorough study to devise appropriate plans.
Why it matters: At present, beach cleaning agencies are diligently working to clear the tar balls from the affected areas. Preliminary investigations suggest that the tar balls are a result of spillage from the high seas, leading to their troublesome presence on Goa’s pristine beaches. The Goa Pollution Control Board has been entrusted with the responsibility of finding a long-term solution. A few months ago, a meeting was held with the Minister of Ports to discuss this matter, underscoring the importance of effectively addressing the problem.
Trade MoU with Bangladesh (Nagaland) – A delegation led by Mongkum Jamir, the president of the Business Association of Nagas (BAN), recently embarked on a visit to Bangladesh at the invitation of Abdul Matlub Ahmad, the president of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI). The delegation’s purpose was to discuss the potential for bilateral trade between the two regions and explore avenues for collaboration.
Why it matters: The Nagaland businesses expressed their interest in exporting bamboo chips and coffee to Bangladesh, capitalising on the country’s market. In return, Bangladesh would send its garment products to Northeast India, fostering trade ties and promoting economic growth in both regions. In order to strengthen trade relations and facilitate cooperation, the IBCCI and BAN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Niathu Resort in Dimapur on April 6, 2023. The signing of the MoU took place on the sidelines of the B20 Business Summit held in Kohima.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
100 – Delhi Metro will deploy 100 policemen in plainclothes in Delhi Metro coaches to curb acts of “nuisance” and “obscene activities” inside them.