While Google has market capitalisation of almost $753 billion and Facebook commands one of $515 billion, it is the wealth of user data they have that one fears
In the fight between information technology, fintech and e-commerce firms in India and Google and Facebook, the global giants seem to be winning hands down.
It is becoming a matter of survival for these sectoral ones, as one-stop solutions such as business listings, travel bookings, money transfers and financial services are available on both platforms and these firms rely on Google and Facebook to promote their services.
Google has in the past two years systematically got into a host of sectors and businesses.
Starting from listings where it competes with firms such as Just Dial and Zomato. Google Tez competes with mobile wallets such as Paytm.
And, most recently, Google Flights has taken on MakeMyTrip, Yatra and others in the travel sites segment.
Facebook is launching its own wallet via WhatsApp Pay. It also has its own e-commerce arm and plans to bring more services.
According to experts, Google has been placing its sponsored flights unit prominently on a search result page, pushing down travel sites such as MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip and Yatra in favour of Google’s own specialised search service, Flights.
Players in other sectors have raised similar issues.
While Google has market capitalisation of almost $753 billion and Facebook commands one of $515 billion, it is the wealth of user data they have that one fears.
Many believe it is this data that gives them the power to create a monopoly on almost everything under the sun.
“The kind of data they generate on individuals, they can tailor that to offer a wide range of products and services.
"Their algorithm is such that they push options to people. That information can be marketed, which they are currently doing.
"In Europe, we are seeing authorities taking notice of this and taking measures to curb their powers. We also need to take significant regulatory action.
"The Competition Commission of India and the government need pro-actively work on it, so that sector players are not pushed out and a monopoly not created,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director, Technopak.
Recently, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, the country’s biggest mobile wallet and financial services firm, in an interview with Business Standard actually said: “I believe Facebook is the most evil company in the world.
"Earlier, they tried to dupe the country with what called free internet. Now, they are flouting all guidelines and rules and bringing out an app that does not need three-step authentication to make online and mobile payments.”
This was in response to chat messenger WhatsApp launching its WhatsApp Pay wallet, for a beta test without the complete authentication process mandated by National Payments Council of India.
According to experts, WhatsApp has already started WhatsApp for Business.
From getting e-ticketing, delivery updates from online marketplaces, paying utility bills, buying financial services to even booking a plumber, the app is rapidly adding a host of products to its platform.
Critics contend this is not a protectionist attitude. “India is an open country. Most of the major firms are owned by Chinese, Japanese or American companies.
"It is not about India versus global players. Global players such as Google should not misuse their monopoly status. They should not put their reference on top or take undue advantage,” said Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and chief executive, Matrimony.com.
His company took on Google and this later led to CCI imposing a Rs 136 crore fine on the latter for 'search bias' and abuse of a dominant position.
Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters