CCI’s Rs 136cr Google fine spurs desi startups to tackle e-titans

Gathering strength from the latest Competition Commission of India (CCI) judgment on Google, Indian startups are rallying behind founder Murugavel Janakiraman to take on global tech majors like the internet search giant and Facebook, according to three people close to the development.

The country’s fair play watchdog had found Google to have abused its dominant position in online general web search and related advertising services in India and fined it Rs 136 crore last week. The order came in response to information filed by and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012.
Janakiraman told TOI he is still fighting a trademark battle against Google in the Chennai high court and that the support he has been receiving from the Indian startup ecosystem around the case has been encouraging, in light of the recent verdict. Even though the CCI judgment was welcomed by Indian companies, many believe the quantum of the imposed fine could have been higher for a greater impact and to discourage such practices. Last year, EU regulators had slapped a fine of $2.7 billion on Google in an antitrust case for influencing online search results that promote its own services.

Sources said a bunch of established Indian tech companies and startups plan to approach government authorities and request them to keep a close watch on the space to block such infringements by big international tech majors that give them an unfair advantage. Due to the dominant position of Google in the search business, it affects the prospects of every company which has an online presence, industry insiders said.

To gain momentum from the CCI judgment, startups across the area of payments, commerce, food delivery, travel and digital mapping, among others, are expected to join the conversation. Make-MyTrip, Flipkart and Paytm are some of the startups that are expected to engage in such dialogues with government authorities. Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma had said on Twitter that technology companies can play dirty once they surpass certain levels.

Janakiraman said, “I am not against Google for its scale or any other matter, but some of its practices are unfair. We are still fighting the trademark case. It’s been a lonely fight for about six years and it’s good to see other major names getting behind the issue now.” Several companies can pay a higher bidding price to come on top of search results, even if a certain company owns the trademark of that keyword. “This has affected our overall business.

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