Fintech startup PhonePe on Wednesday launched the Indus Appstore as it looks to take on Google Play Store on Android devices.

Through the Indus Appstore, Indian consumers can now download over two lakh mobile apps and games across 45 categories. The app store enables users to discover these apps in 12 Indian languages. It also offers a short-video-based discovery feature.

PhonePe says its latest app store is an attempt at creating a more competitive and localised mobile app store economy for India, which is already the largest mobile apps download market globally.

The app store launch comes at a time when there is a growing clamour among the Indian startup ecosystem for more free market competition in the mobile app store space. Fantasy sports and gaming apps like Dream11 were not allowed on the Play Store until last year.

Developers are desperate for an alternative, says Sameer Nigam, founder and CEO, PhonePe.

"A billion people cannot be told that the way you will discover new apps in a new-age economy," he says.

PhonePe says its app store will allow faster updates on the go. "The default in Google is still that you can update apps automatically only when you have Wi-Fi. India is not a broadband market, it is a 5G market," says Nigam.

"Every time we update an app, it takes us about 60 days for 60% of the population to adopt a new version. It's a real problem when you are running a business," says Nigam.

The Indus app store will allow smart updates, says the PhonePe CEO. "Thanks to data prices in India being super cheap and most people having moved to monthly and quarterly plans, everyone has got 1 GB of data a day. Most people don’t consume that data. With a smart optimiser, you can update apps in the background based on how much data is being consumed in the wee hours of the morning," he says.

Indus Appstore allows app and game developers to choose any third-party payment gateway for in-app billing, and they will not be charged any commission if they use an external payment gateway. At a later date, Indus will also provide its own in-app billing and catalog solutions, but these will remain strictly optional for app developers.

To accelerate developer registrations, Indus is offering zero listing fees to developers for the first year. Listing fee for developers will be on the lower end from second year, says Nigam. App stores like Google Play Store and Apple App Store make money from the commissions they charge on each app's sales and in-app purchases.

Indus app store users can log in using their mobile number. "On Google Play Store and Apple App Store, one needs to have an email ID to create an account. You must have an email ID to create an account and then personalisation goes for a toss," says Nigam.

Indus app store plans to offer heavy games that are not offered by Play Store.

While users can download the Indus Appstore via a QR code available on its website, the company is partnering with mobile original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make it available of new handsets.

Speaking on how PhonePe's new app store is different from app stores of mobile OEMs, Nigam says OEMs' app stores also follow Google's and their own rules on which apps should be available on the store. "As a platform, we will not opine. The law will tell us what type of content and applications are allowed," he says.

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