By: ENS Eco­nom­ic Bureau | New Del­hi |

Pub­lished: Jan­u­ary 15, 2020 4:39:09 am

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Ama­zon CEO Jeff Bezos at Raj Ghat in New Del­hi on Tues­day . (Screen­grab from Twit­ter han­dle @JeffBezos)

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.”

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