India’s Legislation Gaps Let Tech Giants Thrive Unregulated
India is the world’s second largest digital market and a cornerstone for strategic growth in most online segments. Yet, the lack of adequate legislation exposes its consumers and smaller startups to data privacy abuse and unfair competition.
The Importance of the Desi Tech Market
The global coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of many businesses and economic sectors. India has had a leading role in a gradual global digital transformation for years. Oddly enough, it now risks being left behind at a time when its size, potential and know-how should allow Bharat to stand out in this new digital era.
The fertile Indian digital market has proven valuable to both tech giants and local startups. In absence of adequate regulation, however, the latter risk being swallowed by the sector’s heavyweights, leaving exposed desi consumers and niche markets in the process.
From online shopping to fintech services, from entertainment to gambling online in India – offshore gambling sites such as 10Cric Casino are largely unregulated, providing legally and freely their services and avoiding much of the due taxes by not declaring income generated in India. As the online economy is encroaching in social and cultural spheres, the growing importance of effective legislation has become pressing.
India has over 750 million active online users, twice the size of the US market, having already outpaced the North Americans as the second largest App download user base. Tech giants such as Facebook (and its affiliated WhatsApp) boast over 400 single users and 43% annual growth in revenue in 2020, while Google’s profit has risen by a quarter in the past year alone.
Tougher Stance and Solid Legislation Needed to Protect Consumers and Local Startups
Centre’s anti-trust legislation has mostly been tentative so far. The Data Protection Bill has been waiting to get a final approval (or amendment) since December 2019. Although a far cry from Europe’s stringent GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – it is still a step in the right direction and a declaration of intents.
Breaking up of monopolies might seem hard or even unnecessary. Yet, when large-scale digital safety is at stake or when an entire population’s personal data is regularly under threat of being misused and sold on, Centre has shown the ability to act. The extensive ban on leading Chinese apps and services has hit hard the transgressing tech companies, having invested heavily in the desi market over the years. And this goes above and beyond mere questions of price and national security.
Having established a nation-wide digital literacy programme is also a much appreciated initiative by most Indians. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has also signalled a change in general approach to global fintech companies, placing limits on important payment providers such as Google Pay and PhonePe, yet leaving a level playing field for Amazon Pay, Paytm, WhatsApp Pay and even smaller incoming competitors.
Until the average desi user learns to avoid the temptation of conceding their personal data for occasional promotions, app upgrades or discounts, important initiatives and legislation are needed on behalf of the Competition Commission and Parliament to further promote digital awareness, protect fair competition and user privacy.