Is the Indus App Store by PhonePe a Viable Alternative to the Google Play Store?

Is the Indus App Store by PhonePe a Viable Alternative to the Google Play Store
Is the Indus App Store by PhonePe a Viable Alternative to the Google Play Store

Google Play Store is the king of app stores for Android devices, with over 3.5 million apps and over 100 billion downloads per year. However, not everyone is happy with Google’s policies and practices, especially in India, where it faces criticism from app developers and regulators over its commission fees, content moderation, and tax compliance.

That’s why PhonePe, a popular fintech platform in India, has decided to launch its own app store, called the Indus Appstore Developer Platform. The Indus Appstore claims to offer a more localisation, enhanced app discovery and consumer engagement alternative to Google Play Store.

PhonePe is positioning the Indus Appstore as a “made-in-India” alternative to the Google Play Store. But can the Indus Appstore really challenge Google Play Store’s monopoly? Let’s see.

What's in it for App Makers?

PhonePe announced the launch of the Indus Appstore Developer Platform in September 2023. The platform is open to all Android app developers, and offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Zero Commission:

    Currently, Android developers rely significantly on the Google Play Store to list their applications, which dominated about 95% market share in India among mobile phone users. These tech giants like Google and Apple also charge hefty commissions between 15% and 25% for in-app purchases in addition to other charges.

    The Indus Appstore aims to offer an alternative to developers to list relevant apps for Indian customers at affordable prices. In comparison to the above mentioned tech giants, Indus promises zero commission for in-app purchases.

  • Localisation:
    PhonePe’s app store will be available in 12 different Indian languages and is expected to offer a localized experience for users in India.

    According to Akash Dongre, the co-founder and chief product officer of Indus Appstore “Indus Appstore hopes to provide app developers a credible alternative to the Google Playstore – one that is more localized and offers better app discovery and consumer engagement.”

  • Zero platform fees:
    Android developers can use the Indus Appstore without any platform fees. Initially, they can list their apps for free in the first year, with a small fee applicable in the following years. Additionally, Android developers will have the freedom to incorporate their chosen payment gateways into their applications.

  • Cohort-based targeted release management:
    The platform offers cohort-based targeted release management, along with real-time app vitals monitoring, analytics, and competitor analysis.

    In contrast to Google’s location-focused targeting, developers on the Indus Appstore can target user groups based on their language preferences. The Appstore incorporates a transliteration engine that provides app information in multiple languages and enables the enhancement of brand visibility through engaging videos, as stated by the company.

  • Customer support:
    Developers can also benefit from 24/7 customer support from Indus.

  • Startup Launchpad:
    The App Store includes a ‘Launchpad’ feature designed to help new developers and startups onboard their apps, enhancing visibility and optimizing search results.

  • Phone number based login:
    Indus provides a login option based on mobile numbers, catering to users without email accounts.

    PhonePe’s Founder and CEO, Sameer Nigam emphasized the significance of reducing reliance on email IDs for login, especially in India, where many users skipped email usage when they first accessed the internet. “There are fewer e-mail IDs than smartphones in the country, which means people don’t even get personalized recommendations. We are going to change that. We are going to become a mobile-first market,” he said.

As Akash Donge correctly summarizes the benefits of Indus Appstore “India is poised to have over 1 billion smartphone users by 2026 offering us a massive opportunity to build a new-age, localized Android app store. Despite being such a large consumer market, app developers have always been forced to work with only one app store – Google Play Store – for distributing their apps. Indus Appstore hopes to provide app developers a credible alternative to the Google Playstore – one that is more localized and offers better app discovery and consumer engagement. We are excited to open up the Indus Appstore Developer Platform today, and invite all developers to list their app on the Made-in-India app store.”

Expansion Plan:

In its initial expansion stage, the Indus Appstore aims to concentrate on forming a significant community of Android developers on its platform. After the apps are listed, the platform will become available to end-users. Sameer Nigam’s ultimate objective is to bring onboard 90% of the top 5,000 developers, promoting fair competition for everyone involved.

According to PhonePe, several well-known brands have already listed their apps on the Indus Appstore. Partnerships with major smartphone manufacturers are expected to further expand its reach. This strategic initiative is poised to challenge Google’s dominance in the Indian Android app market and offer diverse app-listing opportunities for both existing and new developers.

Which app is better for app makers?

The launch of the Indus Appstore Developer Platform is a significant development in the Indian app ecosystem. It provides a new platform for Indian developers to distribute their apps, and could help to reduce the duopoly of Google and Apple in the app store market.

It is still too early to say how successful the Indus Appstore will be. However, the launch of the developer platform is a positive step, and it will be interesting to see how the app store evolves in the coming months and years.

That being said, we can’t ignore the number of advantages of Google Play Store over the Indus Appstore, including a larger user base, a wider selection of apps, and more features, such as parental controls and family sharing.

In addition to that Google owns the Android ecosystem, which comes preloaded with Google suite apps and the Play Store. Additionally, companies like Samsung and Xiaomi include their own app stores alongside the Play Store. Given this setup, adding yet another app store is not a popular choice among users. They might hesitate to install a third-party app store due to concerns about phone storage limitations and the inconvenience of managing multiple app sources.

Phonepe’s app store is, however, not the first one offering alternatives to the app store giants. Several others including, the Paytm Mini App Store, Samsung Galaxy Store, GetApps (Xiaomi’s App Store), Aptoide, F-Droid and APKMirror were launched, but they have had limited success.

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