2020 Year in Review | Of startup squabbles and billionaire battles – Economic Times


New Delhi: Companies clashed over Intellectual Property rights and Indian startups banded together to take on Big Tech over its commission policy this year, even as two of the world’s richest men locked horns over dominance of India’s e-commerce market. ETtech does a roundup.

companies clashing over IP rights-trademarks and copyrights_THUMB IMAGE_ETTECHETtech

Illustration: Rahul Awasthi

Google’s Play Store Vs. Indian startups


Big Tech’s anti-competitive policies led to a global backlash in 2020.

In India, fintech player Paytm led a bunch of startups against
Google Play Store’s policy of charging a 30% commission on Indian businesses selling digital goods, in line with its global billing policy.

Top
entrepreneurs, including Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, sought a “decoupling” of Google’s Play Store from its Android operating system, which runs on over 90% of smartphones in India, in a presentation to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

Google, which was initially set to enforce the policy from October 2021, deferred it to April 2022 following resistance from the startup ecosystem.

Paytm emerged as the leader in the fight after the app was temporarily barred from Play Store for alleged violation of the technology giant’s anti-gambling and cashback related policies.

The government considered launching an Indian app store, while Paytm launched a Rs
10-crore fund for mini-app developers to encourage them to list on its mini-app store, which it launched to counter Google’s dominance in the app store space.

Amazon vs Reliance

Ambani-bezos-bccl

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani (left) and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

India’s largest offline retailer, Reliance Retail, and e-commerce behemoth Amazon battled for supremacy in India’s online retail market — and Future Group found itself caught in the middle of the standoff.

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The issue pertained to the Rs 24,713-crore
acquisition of Future Group’s retail, wholesale, logistics, and warehousing businesses by Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd.

Amazon dragged the Kishore Biyani-led company to Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), alleging that according to an agreement between Amazon and Future group last year— when the former acquired a 49% stake in Future Coupons—the merger needed its prior consent.

A series of events followed, starting from SIAC’s
interim judgment to keep the Reliance-Future deal on hold, Amazon
approaching the Competition Commission of India and market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) urging them to consider the arbitration order and not approve the deal, even as CCI ultimately
approved the acquisition by RIL.

Last week, the Delhi High Court granted Future Retail permission to proceed with the sale to Reliance, while also allowing Amazon to approach the market regulators or a higher court to oppose the transaction. On December 21, Amazon asked Sebi to wait for the final order of a Singapore court before clearing the merger.

WhiteHat Jr vs Critics

A clash between an edtech startup and its critics tested the bounds of free speech.

Byju’s-owned WhiteHat Jr Pvt. Ltd filed defamation lawsuits against two vocal critics, seeking up to Rs 20 crore in damages. It clamped down on critics Aniruddha Malpani, an angel investor, and Pradeep Poonia, a UPSC aspirant, for attacking the company’s curriculum, its teachers, and advertising practices on various social media platforms.

Things have gone WhiteHat Jr’s way for now until the next hearing in January.

The Delhi High Court granted interim relief to the startup and asked Malpani and Poonia to take down the defamatory tweets. The court restrained Malpani from posting any content that defames or deprecates the educational technology startup and forbade Poonia from telecasting or transmitting information from the company’s private communication channels.

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Khatabook Vs Dukaan


Sequoia-backed Khatabook and Dukaan, startups that enable small merchants to create digital storefronts, were engaged in a months-long battle over alleged copyright violation.

The much-publicised battle led to Dukaan being dropped from Google Play Store and other platforms after a Karnataka High Court order. The startup closed a $6 million funding round amid the fracas.

In the end, Khatabook, the petitioner, settled for a small equity and withdrew its copyright claim.





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