The IAMAI often speaks up about issues pertaining to Indian startups and the country’s broader tech ecosystem, but some entrepreneurs allege that the organization is now Indian only in name.
IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India), a non-profit body which claims to represent the digital services industry in India, has been taken over by big foreign firms, some Indian entrepreneurs have claimed. “It’s distressing to know that IAMAI is parroting & promoting views that are Anti-Indian and Pro-Foreign Big Tech,” MapMyIndia founder Rohan Verma tweeted. He pointed out that both the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the body were from foreign tech giants — Chairman Sanjay Gupta is the Country Head and Vice President at Google, and Vice Chairman Shivnath Thukral is the Public Policy Director at Facebook-owned Whatsapp.
“Sad to see an organization originally founded by and for Indian companies, taken over & now promoting a false narrative. IAMAI views & submissions to govt & media on digital policies, regulations, laws etc are completely wrong and antithetical to what Indians – consumers, industry, government – need,” Verma alleged.
“Either IAMAI must change immediately to truly reflect the voice & aspirations of India – OR IAMAI must be given no credence. Every country has its own trade bodies who promote their domestic companies in their domestic market & enable them internationally. Sad to see various Indian trade bodies lured by & acting on behalf of the interest of Foreign companies. Foreign companies are certainly welcomed in India, and appreciated – but know that it is your privilege to have access to the Indian market, and that you definitely don’t have a right to plunder India,” he continued.
Verma’s views were echoed by some other voices in India’s tech ecosystem. “Hope @PMOIndia knows this!!!! Policymakers don’t want to be seen towing to Big Tech. Hence they consult an organization pretending to represent Indian cos, IAMAI, but run by Big Tech,” said IndiaQuotient VC Anand Lunia.
BharatMatrimony CEO Murugavel Janakiraman also chimed in. “Unfortunately today, a Google employee is the chairperson (of IAMAI) and a Meta employee is the vice chairperson. So, it is largely influenced by the interests of the global big tech companies. For example, IAMAI did not do anything on the Google billing issue,” he said.
Shaadi.com founder and Shark Tank’s Anupam Mittal went even further, calling IAMAI a “failing lobby for Big Tech propaganda”. “Lies!”, he reacted to an article which had said IAMAI had said that startups opposed a separate law on digital markets. “Startups are strongly in favor of a strong anti-monopoly Digital Act. In fact, IAMAI is a failing lobby for BigTech propaganda & misinformation,” he tweeted.
Most of the people who have spoken out against IAMAI have locked horns with foreign big-tech players — MapMyIndia has a mapping product that competes with Google Maps, and BharatMatrimony has taken Google to court for forcing it to use its billing system on the Play Store. But concerns around foreign control of a body that, on the face of it, seems to be representing Indian interests might be genuine — not only are IAMAI’s Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from foreign big tech firms, 13 of the 23 members listed on its website’s leadership section also represent foreign comapnies including Visa, Mastercard, Amazon, Airbnb and Twitter.
Now foreign companies are a large part of India’s tech ecosystem, and are legitimate stakeholders in the fledgling sector. But big-tech companies headquartered outside India have often been seen as pushing aside smaller Indian firms — Facebook had been pilloried many years ago for trying to launch Facebook Basics in India which would’ve essentially created a walled garden for India’s internet, and Google has been called out for misusing its monopoly by charging developers a 30 percent commission on all money they make on the Play Store. Indians, for their part, have a deep mistrust of foreign interference in their economic affairs, given how the country had been once ended up being ruled by a people who had first landed on its shores as traders. And with an “Indian” internet body being controlled by foreign interests once again, the Indian entrepreneurial community is perhaps being justifiably wary of what might lie ahead.