The idea isn’t new either. Justdial had something similar, and so does Paytm’s competitor PhonePe, called PhonePe Switch.

Paytm building with logo
Money Apps Tuesday, October 06, 2020 - 17:56

Paytm announced with great fanfare on Monday that it has launched a Mini App Store. This move was largely understood to be taking on Google’s app store monopoly in the country after the latter’s attempt at a policy change of charging 30% for in-app transactions on the Play Store. While Google has backtracked after widespread backlash and has deferred the policy’s implementation, Paytm said its Mini App store was supporting local developers to take their innovative products to the masses.

An app store, by definition, is an online store where users can procure, buy and download software applications, like the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

However, the Paytm Mini App Store is essentially a bundle of apps that are launched inside a specific app. For example, the Paytm Mini Store has platforms such as 1mg and Domino’s Pizza, essentially opens the mobile website of those apps inside Paytm. It is somewhat similar to a custom-made website through which users can access apps without having to download individual apps for those services. 

Medianama reported that the apps are identical to the mobile web version of the services, except that users were accessing it through Paytm, and the users’ details were auto filled.

In essence, it’s a collection of shortcuts housed in the Paytm app. Reports state that if you already have the app of the company listed on the Paytm Mini App Store, you get redirected to the app on your phone.

It is also important to note that while Paytm may have taken out full page ads across publications for the same, the idea isn’t new. Justdial had something similar, and so has Paytm’s competitor PhonePe, called PhonePe Switch, which was launched back in March 2018 and currently has over 220 apps on it. 

"PhonePe Switch was launched in March 2018, and we have over 220 apps live on the platform. Over the last few years, Switch has been instrumental in helping our merchant partners acquire millions of new customers. PhonePe Switch is a web-apps platform and not a mobile app store,” a PhonePe spokesperson said.

Even Paytm had a similar product a few months ago, called the Paytm Mini Program. According to Entrackr, Paytm Mini Program allowed businesses to showcase their products and services to Paytm’s users. Some brands that are now part of Paytm’s Mini App store were also part of the Paytm Mini Program. 

However, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma reportedly told CNBC TV18 that while the earlier model remained within the Paytm app, now the company is providing payment instruments beyond its own wallet and UPI at 2% commission. 

Narendra Yadav, Vice President of Paytm has also reportedly said that it is not an app store. "This is a mini-app store and not an app store. Essentially, without investing a lot of technology bandwidth developers can create their mini web applications, which gives end-user an app-like experience, and can be integrated with Paytm. Any developer needs two things - distribution and payment - and we are offering both, including the entire distribution of Paytm at zero per cent fee along with payments for free," he told Business Today.

HasGeek co-founder Kiran Jonnalagada told Medianama that this is “stretching the definition of an app”. 

“From a preliminary analysis of the mini apps, they appear to be websites accessed via Paytm’s servers. This is similar to how Facebook’s Free Basics operated and has the same security problem: Paytm can read everything the user accesses within the app,” he told the website.

Paytm’s Mini App Store in its current state doesn’t violate Google’s policies, but how it actually takes on the giant remains to be seen.

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