Indian government develops BharOS as part of 'self-reliance' program

Indian government hopes BharOS, developed at IIT Madras, will help build a vibrant ecosystem of indigenous technology.

Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor

March 15, 2023

3 Min Read
Indian government develops BharOS as part of 'self-reliance' program

The indigenously developed mobile operating system (OS), Bharat OS, or BharOS, was tested earlier this year by India's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw. With this initiative, the Indian government has taken another step to realize its vision of self-reliance and to reduce the dominance of prominent global technology firms such as Google and Apple.

BharOS is an Android Open Source project developed by JandK Operations, which is incubated by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras' Pravartak Technologies Foundation. The foundation runs a technology innovation hub and is funded by the Indian government's Department of Science and Technology. BharOS is currently in the testing phase and it is unclear when it will be ready for launch.

Figure 1: BharOS is part of India's push for greater self-reliance in tech. (Source: Per Bengston / Alamy Stock Photo) BharOS is part of India's push for greater self-reliance in tech.
(Source: Per Bengston / Alamy Stock Photo)

BharOS comes with no default apps, which means users will not be forced to use apps that they are not comfortable with. It provides access to only a curated list of apps that have met predetermined security and privacy standards. It is for this reason that it has adopted a somewhat different strategy from the existing operating systems which typically launch an app store. Instead, it is targeted at companies that deal with sensitive information and would like to use more secure systems. As per media reports, it will initially cater to the Indian government, public sector organizations and private sector enterprises.

The idea of indigenously developing an OS is not particularly new. Indus OS was developed by IIT students in India in 2013. Developing an indigenous OS is a significant step, but it is the next stage – of establishing it and building a vibrant developer ecosystem around it – that is the bigger challenge.

In India Android is the dominant OS with more than 95% market share. It will not be easy for a new operating system to take on the might of global tech giants.

Targeting Google?

BharOS is part of the Indian government's efforts to promote self-reliance. Indian developers have been at loggerheads with Google over high commission charges, which reach 15% or 30%, depending on their Play Store revenue. Until very recently, Google was also insisting on using Google Pay for carrying out transactions. From April onwards, however, third-party payment services will be allowed, leading to a discount of 4% on the commission. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a fine of 13.3 billion Indian rupees ($162 million) on the company for misusing its dominant position in the market. CCI has also asked Google to do away with all restrictions on device makers for loading apps not part of Google Play store.

The Indian government is undertaking several initiatives as part of its Atmanirbhar (self-reliance) philosophy. For instance, it is promoting the use of Koo, a home-grown social media platform similar to Twitter.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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