India’s tech regulators aren’t exactly known for being cutting edge in their thinking or nimble in their speeds. Quite the contrary.
Besides, it isn’t even clear how many regulators there are, or what exactly each one’s remit is. It’s an abundance of big egos, old bureaucrats, secretive committees, power plays and turf wars.
Pharma, telecom, financial services and e-commerce are just a few of the industry sectors where companies and business models have been either extinguished or supercharged due to regulatory decisions. A carry-over of this attitude while regulating technology companies can have disastrous consequences for innovation and conducting business. Death by compliance.
But could it be possible that India’s regulators may be at the forefront of devising regulations to check the uncontrolled growth and domination of “Big Tech”?
Could it be that Indian regulators already hold answers for their peers around the world on how best to control the unchecked dominance of tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon?
Across the world, there has been a growing call to regulate big tech companies to protect citizens’ rights and competitiveness of markets. Many smart people have argued that the free hand given to tech companies in markets like the United States has resulted in them developing into behemoths, which has, in turn, led to deleterious effects, not just to economies but democracies around the world.
Sort of like an overfed, pampered and badly brought-up child growing up to be a bully as an adult.
So, if someone must discipline these bullies and teach them how to play by the rules, it won’t be their parent countries, but other countries in which they operate.
Indian regulators had, for the most part, taken a hands-off approach to the tech industry, similar to the US. This became one of the major factors that led to the growth of tech and Internet in India. “The fact that we have had a fairly lax regulatory environment, particularly around data, is itself quite a spur to a lot of innovative activities,” says Arghya Sengupta, Research Director at policy advisory group Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
But then things changed, as Indian regulators started hitting nails pretty accurately on their heads across different sectors.
Could India be the hero the world needs, even if not the one it deserves?
Forcing Amazon to choose
Amazon India is very different from Amazon US. In the US, its e-commerce operations are highly centralised as a corporate.