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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Paytm ‘Mini App Store’: Why it is not an ‘Appy’ story

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Google removed Paytm from Google Play for a few hours on September 18 for violating policies. It called out Paytm for allegedly promoting ‘gambling’ through its IPL cashback contest. A huge uproar on social media followed soon and Paytm through its blog post showcased how they were unfairly targeted by Google. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO at Paytm himself explained Google’s bias and why Indian startups need to come together and create a parallel ‘atmanirbhar’ app store to compete with Google.
Within three weeks, Paytm has officially launched its ‘Android Mini App Store’. Some Paytm users claim that this ‘mini app store’ has been present inside the main Paytm app for a couple of weeks at least. But the bigger question is whether this is an actual app store or not? And is Paytm using the term “mini App store” to its advantage?
Paytm can’t declare itself as a full-fledged app store as long as it wants to stay on Google Play store. This is simply because Google Play being an app store itself will not allow another app store to function and let Android apps be downloaded through it. In short, Google will not allow a third party app store to stay on Google Play. In fact, to download apps from platforms other than Google Play, you need to allow “install apps from unknown sources” in the Settings menu.
This is where the term ‘mini App store’ comes handy. As per Paytm, “the mini apps are custom-built mobile websites that give users an app-like experience without having to download them”. In other words, these “mini apps” are just web pages that open from inside the Paytm app. Just because a web page pops out inside the Paytm app doesn’t make the web page an app. Also, just as Paytm can showcase a bunch of shortcuts to mobiles webpages of popular apps doesn’t make it an app store of any stature.
The Paytm mini app store can be best described as a collection of web page shortcuts or simply bookmarks of sites. The experience is similar to opening the Swiggy website on Google Chrome and ordering food. Interestingly, of you already have an app installed on your phone and if you happen to tap on the Paytm mini app of the same app then you will be automatically directed to the original Android app.
App store means rules and commission, be it Google or Paytm
What is worth noting here is that whether Paytm will allow a developer to publish a“mini app” inside Paytm if he doesn’t have a legit Android app published on Google Play. As of now, all the mini apps that are present inside Paytm already have an Android app present on Google Play. It would be interesting to see how Google reacts if Paytm independently allows third-party developers, who do not have a legit Android app, to provide services through “mini apps” on a smartphone running Google’s Android.
The basic definition of an app store is being able to be independent. If Paytm showcases “mini apps” for developers who already have a complete Android app on Google Play then it makes little sense. This is because people generally tend to download apps from Google Play for a particular service. And if they don’t want to download the app, they have the option to access the website from the browser, which is mostly either Safari or Chrome.
What about the fees?
For a legit app to be published on Google Play, a developer has to follow a set of rules. Also, very soon they will have to opt for Google Play billing. Google charges 30% for in-app purchases. If the app is free and other no paid services then developers are not required to pay anything. Now, if a developer makes money from in-app purchases then 30% goes to Google.
Note that buying food from Swiggy, ordering something on Amazon or booking a cab on Ola doesn’t mean in-app purchase. In-app purchases are mostly meant for freemium apps, for example, subscribing to Tinder Gold or buying a new gun in Call of Duty Mobile game.
What about Paytm? The Paytm mini app store will provide payment options like Paytm wallet, Paytm Payments Bank account and UPI at zero charges. But it will charge 2% if an user makes payment using credit or debit cards.
So, the entire mini app concept is basically making a way for Paytm to make inroads in the app market without violating Google’s policies and managing to stay on Google Play. In its current state, it is simply promoting existing Android apps.
Cashback and incentives for using Paytm mini apps
In order to motivate more developers to create “mini apps” and also make users actually avail services from mini apps, Paytm may need to add an extra incentive. These may be barter deals or some extra cashback. This is important because if end users don’t see any benefit in using mini apps they might as well shift to using the native apps. Meanwhile, Paytm is also hosting a developers conference on October 8 and we can expect to get more clarity.

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