Thousands took to the streets in India this week to protest e-commerce giant Amazon’s decision to expand into the country. Small shop owners say they won’t be able to compete with the steep discounts Amazon offers other suppliers.
The protests coincided with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ trip to India, where he announced on Wednesday the company’s plans to invest $1 billion in the country. He said the e-commerce giant wants to put money into “digitizing small and medium businesses,” and called a US-India alliance the “most important” of the 21st century.
While Amazon says the initiative aims at empowering small businesses, protesters insist the e-commerce titan has done “nothing to empower small traders,” adding that it will “destroy small retailers.”
“They [online companies] are indulging into predatory pricing, deep discounting which has resulted in great damage to brick and mortar businesses due to the business designs of companies with deep pockets,” said Praveen Khandelwal, the head of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
According to CAIT, protests were held in as many as 300 cities across the country, with demonstrators holding posters saying “Jeff Bezos Go Back.” More such demonstrations are planned on Thursday.
CAIT’s National Secretary Sumit Agarwal has called Bezos and Amazon “foreign economic terrorists & invaders.”
On Monday, India’s anti-trust regulator opened an investigation into the business practices of Amazon and its Indian competitor Walmart-owned Flipkart. The regulator is looking into allegations of deep discounting and preferential treatment of some sellers on their platforms. Amazon said in a statement it was “confident in our compliance,” and welcomes the opportunity to address allegations made against the company.
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