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CCI needs to be more active on tech side, need better laws to check monopolies: Deep Kalra

The Competition Commission of India perhaps needs to be more active in technology and take measures to prevent monopolies, MakeMyTrip’s Deep Kalra said on Wednesday. Kalra was replying to questions about monopoly of technology giants, which have received renewed focus in India after Google updated its billing policy to get a 30% cut on sale of all digital goods on Play Store apps.

“Why only single out one player? Any kind of monopoly is bad,” Kalra said, adding that it’s not just technology monopolies that we should be worried about, but all monopolies that use their power to the wrong effect. Even governments, for instance, can be monopolies in many things, “but they are responsible”, he said.

Kalra added that the issue is less about being Indian or foreign, “we cannot conveniently forget that a lot of Indian companies also have foreign capital”.

“We should have better laws to check those [monopolies] and we should cry fowl. There have been cases where small companies have won cases against big companies, but the legal process is long. The norms should move with the times, and should be clear that a company can’t get away [with abusing monopoly power]. We can learn from the US and Europe, which had made sure that large companies do not have an unfair advantage on their size. There are also some companies that grow organically that they are so good at something. We then need a regulator to ensure that consumer interest is not undermined.”

Ever since Google announced the change, Indian start-up founders have accused the company of being a monopoly and abusing its power. The start-ups have considered developing their own app store and forming an Indian internet founders association. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) also held a meeting with the startups, and has asked for a compilation of issues around Google. After a similar meeting with the CCI earlier this month, Indian start-ups planned to send a written communication to both MEITY and CCI. Meanwhile, Google gave Indian developers an extra six months to comply with the changes and is now meeting with start-ups to discuss their concerns.

30 MakeMyTrip employees worked on Aarogya Setu

Kalra also reiterated that 30 people from MakeMyTrip worked round the clock to build the Indian government’s contact tracing app Aarogya Setu. “There was a lot collaboration, we had other companies like 1mg participating, volunteers, and lot of government help, it was a classic PPP project. But most of the development work was done by our team, 30 people from out team were working for 18 hours a day,” Kalra said.

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MakeMyTrip’s Rahul Goyal had the idea of building a contact tracing app, Kalra and him took the idea to the government and Amitabh Kant way back in March. Kant asked them to build it. “There was a competition, many other people also tried. Happy to say our app was chosen. I [Kalra] was defacto business head for this. We took it to 130 million downloads and then handed it to the government. We continue to be there on call for any help. It was a great learning on how you can leverage tech to build something.”‘

Until June, MakeMyTrip had maintained that all any involvement of MakeMyTrip employees with the development of Aarogya Setu was in a personal capacity. Even Arnab Kumar, who spearheaded the project from NITI Aayog, had said that all private individuals who are contributing to this project are doing so in their personal capacity. A list of contributors to the development of Aarogya Setu acknowledges 1mg CEO Prashant Tandom and at least three people from 1mg’s technical team.

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