PhonePe Launches Indus App Store To Take On Apple, Google

There has been much consternation among Indian startups over how Apple and Google have a virtual monopoly on the app store business, but an Indian startup has now come up with a solution.

PhonePe has launched its Indus Appstore, which aims to be a homegrown alternative to the Google Play Store and the Apple App store. The Android app store was launched at an event at the brand-new Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi today. Dignitaries such as IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, former NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and startup founders including Info Edge founder Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Dream Sports’ Harsh Jain and ixigo’s Aloke Bajpai were present at the launch.

“Indus Appstore challenges the status quo, ushering in an era of more healthy competition in the mobile app marketplace, which in turn should help create a more democratic and vibrant Indian digital ecosystem,” said PhonePe CEO Sameer Nigam.

The Indus Appstore will offer users the ability to download over 2,00,000 mobile apps and games spanning 45 categories. Several Indian companies, including Zomato, Myntra, Domino’s, Flipkart, Dream11, Swiggy, have already published their apps on Indus Appstore. To cater to the needs of Indian users, Indus Appstores’s app discovery feature is available in 12 Indian languages. The app store has also looked to innovate over Google and Apple’s offerings, with a new short-video-based discovery feature to engage consumers in app exploration.

But most crucially, Indus Appstore allows developers to choose any third-party payment gateway for in-app billing without incurring any commission charges. This has been a major bone of contention with both Google and Apple, as both these app stores take away commissions of as much as 30 percent from app developers for sales of non-digital goods made on their apps. Allowing for third party billing will allow companies to bypass this so-called app store tax, and help their bottom lines.

It could, however, be a while before Indus App store begins having an impact. In the past, Paytm had also launched a mini app store, but it has largely failed to make a splash on the overall app ecosystem. There had also been reports that the Modi government was planning to launch an indigenous app store, but that has also failed to yet materialize. And there’s no telling if PhonePe won’t eventually look to monetize the Indus app store like Apple and Google — the company says that it’ll charge no commissions till 1st April 2025, but could plan to introduce its own in-app billing and catalogue solutions later. PhonePe has however assured users that these will be optional, and they’ll still be able to use third-party solutions.

But running an app store isn’t straightforward. Indus app store will need to ensure that it takes down harmful apps that could contain malware; it will also need to take down apps that break the law. The app store will also have to make judgement calls on promoting apps that could cause vulnerable people to lose money — PhonePe already seems to have taken a stance on this issue by inviting Dream11 founder Harsh Jain to the launch. But while there might be niggles along the way, the fact that a major Indian company has launched an app store, and it seems to have the backing of many major Indian startups, Indus App store could help make a dent to Google and Apple’s virtual monopoly in the app store space.