Published: January 15, 2020 4:39:09 am
The last time Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos visited India in 2014, there was a new government in New Delhi led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he had met during the course of the trip. While Bezos has reportedly sought a meeting with Modi once again on his India trip that began Tuesday, the visit comes at a time when his company is facing an investigation opened by the Competition Commission of India, in addition to strident protests from traders who have organised sit-ins and public rallies in 300 cities across the country.
Even as Amazon has not officially disclosed Bezos’ itinerary, speculation is rife that he is likely to attend the firm’s annual event ‘Smbhav’ in the capital on Wednesday. Bezos is also likely to meet corporate leaders including Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata in Mumbai later during the week. Amazon has committed to an investment of $5 billion in the Indian market, where it has been facing headwinds in form of competition from Walmart-owned Flipkart and regulatory hurdles on account of India’s foreign direct investment norms for e-commerce players. To add to this, the firm has been in a constant kerfuffle with small traders and online vendors who have alleged the online retailer’s involvement in unfair trade practices.
The Competition Commission of India on Monday ordered an investigation into alleged malpractices by Amazon India and Flipkart insofar as deep discounting and preferred selling of mobile phones are concerned. The antitrust body ordered the probe on a complaint by an MSME body, which alleged that both the retailers were engaged in deep discounting and preferred selling of mobile phones and related accessories “which have led to a foreclosure of other non-preferred traders or sellers from these online marketplaces”. Moreover, throughout the duration of Bezos’ stay in India, thousands of small-scale traders are expected to hold protest demonstrations in 300 cities across the country.
Despite facing these headwinds, Amazon has not slowed down on its investment and has pumped in close to $5 billion in India since 2012. As per the latest regulatory filings, Amazon has pumped in over Rs 1,700 crore into its payments and wholesale business units in India. Going ahead, in addition to the potential speed-breakers it faces from the regulatory ecosystem in India, the world’s largest e-commerce firm is expected to see a charged competitive market here with the entry of India’s largest retailer Reliance Retail venturing into the online commerce. In a research note on Friday, Fitch Solutions said: “Despite continued investment, our view is that international e-commerce players face the risk of increasingly coming under pressure in 2020 due to key policy changes and Reliance Retail entering the digital market space with new e-commerce platform JioMart, in January 2020.”
In his first public appearance during the ongoing trip, Bezos visited the Raj Ghat memorial in the capital and paid a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. Captioning his video at Raj Ghat posted on Twitter, Bezos tweeted: “Just landed in India and spent a beautiful afternoon paying my respects to someone who truly changed the world. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever – Mahatma Gandhi.”