India’s Paytm to big tech firms: stop treating India like third-world market

Paytm India big tech
Paytm app logged in on a mobile. Image by Amlan Mathur |

India’s top fintech company Paytm has intensified its war against US-based “big tech”  companies, especially Google and Facebook amid the ongoing public outcry over WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, which enables the messaging app to share commercial user data with parent Facebook.

Both Google and Facebook compete with Paytm in India’s fast-growing digital payments landscape.

Paytm’s chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said that these “big tech” companies need to stop treating India like a “third-world market”. “It feels bad to be treated like a third-world country, when we are, in fact, the largest consumer internet market in the world…more than regulations (for big techs), it’s about how some of these policies are enforced in India,” he was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

Sharma also urged India’s domestic entrepreneurs to call out the unfair enforcement of policies by these global firms.

Last year, Sharma accused Google of “arm-twisting” after Paytm was barred from Google Play Store for several hours for alleged violation of its antigambling norms. He had then said that the internet major’s decision to take down the Paytm app from Play Store was “arbitrary”.

He was also joined by several Indian startup founders and internet entrepreneurs who reached out to the country’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), against Google’s alleged anti-competition policies and misuse of market dominance in the country.

As per media reports, various Indian companies, including Tata Steel, have issued advisories to employees asking them to avoid sharing sensitive information on WhatsApp. They have also asked employees to stop using the messaging platform for critical business calls.

Several companies in India’s pharma and financial services sectors are restricting official communications to emails or personal messages instead of WhatsApp. They are now evaluating platforms like Slack for official use.

However, WhatsApp clarified that the policy update doesn’t change its data-sharing practices with Facebook and won’t impact how people communicate privately with friends and family wherever they are in the world.

“We updated the privacy policy to describe that, going forward, businesses can choose to receive secure hosting services from our parent company Facebook to help manage their communications with their customers on WhatsApp,” WhatsApp’s India spokesperson said in a statement.

WhatsApp this week issued clarifications through full-page newspaper advertisements in India after Indian citizens flocked to rival apps like Signal and Telegram due to privacy-related concerns.

“Why does Europe get a policy and India only a newspaper advertisement?” Sharma said.

According to data from Sensor Tower, Signal saw approximately 7.5 million installs globally from across the App Store, and Google Play during January 6 to January 10 period, representing a 4,200% increase from the previous week.

Signal saw 2.3 million new downloads between 6 and 10 January, while Telegram had 1.5 million new downloads in the same period.

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