Walmart-backed PhonePe set to challenge Google’s dominance with app store in India

Indian fintech giant PhonePe is preparing to launch a dedicated app store for Android users in India, the latest product push from the Walmart-backed firm that commands the mobile payments market in the second largest Asian economy.

The app store, designed to offer hyper-localized services based on customer context, aims to assist developers with “high-quality” user acquisition through multilingual solutions, according to an internal company document reviewed by TechCrunch.

PhonePe entering the app store market, still several weeks away, follows the Bengaluru-headquartered startup acquiring IndusOS, an app store maker that served customers through partnership with smartphone vendors.

PhonePe, the most valuable Indian fintech startup that competes aggressively with Google’s Google Pay app in India, plans to strengthen its engagement with smartphone vendors, including with firms including Xiaomi, and also make the app store available as a standalone app to consumers in India, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The app store, which will be available to download as a standalone product from Google Play, will offer “premiere experience for millions of users with high-quality advertisements and custom targeting,” support for 12 languages and 24×7 live chat, the document said.

In a statement to TechCrunch, a PhonePe spokesperson said that Google commands 97% of the Indian app store market and there’s an opportunity for someone like PhonePe, which has amassed over 350 million registered users in the country, to build an alternative app store that is “more localized not just from a language perspective but also from a discovery and consumer interest perspective.”

The timing is also “favorable for us,” the firm said, pointing to a recent order from the Indian antitrust watchdog Competition Commission of India that paves the way for other developers to build and launch their app stores on Google Play. A tribunal court has since delivered some relief to Google.

PhonePe confirmed that it’s holding multiple conversations with phonemakers in India and said “everyone is very receptive, especially since CCI has clarified that Google cannot engage in anti-competitive practices.”

“All the OEMs are excited about PhonePe building out a localised App store for the Indian market. We expect to be live on all Android OEMs within the first few months of launch. We have already closed terms with one of the largest OEMs and are trying the to get the others rapidly onboard over the next couple of months.”

The app store is the latest product push from PhonePe, which recently also entered the e-commerce category. The startup separated from its parent firm Flipkart last year.

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