jeff bezos

CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos during the Amazon's annual Smbhav event in New Delhi on January 15. Bezos’ visit was met with protests across the country by small and medium business owners. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Jan. 15 that his company plans to invest $1 billion in digitizing small and medium businesses in India.

Bezos, who is currently on a three-day visit, also said that Amazon is going to use it size, scale and global footprint to export $10 billion in goods made in India by 2025.

He addressed representatives of small and medium businesses in New Delhi. Amazon.com launched e-commerce in India through Amazon India in 2013.

"We are super excited about this. We are making this announcement now because it is working. When something works you should double down on that,” he said.

There are more than 550,000 sellers on Amazon India and more than 60,000 Indian manufacturers and brands are exporting their products to customers worldwide through Amazon, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Bezos’s visit comes at a time when the government-appointed Competition Commission of India is investigating alleged deep discounts, preferential listing and exclusionary tactics adopted by Amazon India and its e-commerce rival Flipkart.

The Confederation of All India Traders, an association of about 70 million brick-and-mortar small store owners, says that online retailers were driving small businesses out by offering sharply discounted products.

“I predict that the 21st century is going to be the Indian century,” Bezos said. “In this 21st century, the most important alliance is going to be the alliance between India and the United States, the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy.”

IANS adds: Traders across 300 cities in India staged protests Jan. 15 against Bezos arrival under the aegis of the Confederation of All India Traders.

In a media briefing, Praveen Khandelwal, the Secretary General of CAIT, reiterated that around seven crore traders and their families have been "extremely adversely affected due to the predatory and malafide business practices of Amazon and Flipkart.”

Khandelwal also claimed that Amazon and Flipkart have caused huge GST and Income Tax revenue loss to the government and CAIT will soon meet Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and urged her to institute a investigation into avoidance of GST and Income Tax liability on both Amazon and Flipkart.

"The visit of Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder tomorrow to India will be greeted with strong protest from traders across Country in about 300 cities. The protest at New Delhi will be held at Jantar Mantar," said a CAIT statement issued Jan. 14.

The organization has been protesting for long against what its calls the 'deep' discounting practices of e-commerce majors, among other issues.

On Jan. 12, the Competition Commission of India, a fair market watchdog, ordered an enquiry into the operations of both Amazon and Flipkart on multiple counts, including deep discounts and exclusive tie-up with preferred sellers.

Finding merits in the allegations, the Commission has asked its Director General to complete the investigation in 60 days from the receipt of the order.

Khandelwal said that order of CCI is given under section 26(1) of the Competition Act and since it is not appealable, there is no scope left for Amazon & Flipkart to avoid the investigation.

Commenting upon the statements of both Amazon and Flipkart that they are complying with FDI policy, he said that they should specify how they are able to give huge discounts.

Both the e-commerce majors reiterated their stand that they have complied with the laws.

"We welcome the opportunity to address allegations made about Amazon. We are confident in our compliance, and will cooperate fully with CCI," said an Amazon India spokesperson.

A Flipkart spokesperson said: "We are currently reviewing the document. The Flipkart group is fully compliant with all applicable laws and FDI regulations. We take pride in democratizing e-commerce in India and giving market access to lakhs of MSMEs, sellers, artisans and small businesses, making quality and affordable goods available to consumers through our transparent and efficient marketplace while creating lakhs of jobs."

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