The Indian government, along with some start-ups and academicians, is working on a project to create an indigenous mobile operating system. Tentatively named Indos, the operating system will compete against the two dominant operating systems — Google’s Android which has 97% market share and Apple’s iOS. The success in the endeavour will depend not just on the ease of use, but also about the usefulness of the product and the novelty on offer.
The government may struggle to emulate the success of the Unified Payments Interface. UPI was a unique offering which was unrivalled at the time of launch. With UPI revolutionising the digital payments ecosystem, it now enjoys the first mover advantage and any new player in the segment will struggle to find a foothold in the payments space. Compare this to the mobile operating systems which is already a saturated market and users do not really have any issue with the existing options.
Instead of setting its eyes on an already established segment, the Indian government must look into bettering its e-governance systems. E-governance is essentially for the efficient distribution of public goods. Rapid digitisation and increased internet penetration have helped the government to disseminate the benefits of economic growth to all segments of the society in an efficient manner. This also entails that the government activities could be turbocharged through a combination of technology and citizen centricity to achieve a safer, more efficient, and sustainable society.
In the past too, other operating systems have tried to make a dent in the market. Technology giants such as Microsoft, Nokia and BlackBerry OS failed to compete with the dominant Android OS from Google. While there is no doubt that the monopoly enjoyed by Android is alarming for various reasons, there is a reason that it is the most widely used operating system. Nevertheless, that simply does not mean that the market cannot do with a new operating system.
Why does India want its own mobile operating system
India is one of the largest markets in the world for mobile devices. The government is keen to create a secure Indian mobile operating system that could also create choices in a market dominated by Android and iOS. The Indian mobile phone market, comprising feature phones and smartphones, is forecast to generate Rs 2.4 trillion revenues by FY26, up from Rs 1.4 trillion in FY22, according to a recent Frost & Sullivan report.
The government is also getting confidence from the fact that Google is under scrutiny in the country and the Competition Commission of India has already slapped a fine for allegedly abusing its dominant position through the Android Play Store. The technology giant has also been ordered to allow the sideloading of apps from developers to reduce its stranglehold in the space.
The homegrown mobile phone manufacturers are supporting the move for an Indian operating system for phones which, they believe, will provide more security and safety for consumers from bad actors.
Even if the government fails to profit from the new operating system, the underlying message is of great importance. It has been sometime since companies like Google and Apple have been on the radar for their efforts to trample competition using their dominant position. They have an impact on the day to day lives of the users and the ecosystem is created in such a way that it favours products from their own brands, leaving little space for rivals. So, when any government decides to provide for research and development to counter such monopolies, it sends a strong message that big tech needs to mend their ways.