Internet retailers ‘colonizing’ India: trade body

Internet retailers ‘colonizing’ India: trade body
Amazon, Flipkart and Walmart are among digital retailers targeted by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which warned the country is being “colonized” by e-commerce. (Reuters/File)
Updated 07 December 2019

Internet retailers ‘colonizing’ India: trade body

Internet retailers ‘colonizing’ India: trade body
  • The trade body’s calls for government intervention follow a major protest by traders demanding strict regulation of online giants

NEW DELHI: India’s leading trade body has accused global e-commerce giants of relying on “unfair trade practices and predatory pricing” amid demands for tougher regulation of online retailers.

Amazon, Flipkart and Walmart are among digital retailers targeted by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which warned the country is being “colonized” by e-commerce. 

In a petition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the trade body said digital retailers “are bravely violating the FDI (foreign direct investment) policy of the government by indulging in all kinds of unethical and unfair business practices.”

It accused online retail giants of “offering deep discounts, indulging in predatory pricing, controlling inventory, having exclusivity of products and maintaining preferential seller system.” 

Vipin Ahuja, president of CAIT’s New Delhi chapter, told Arab News: “We are in favor of online business, but some of the big foreign online companies are hell-bent on destroying shop owners across India. They are selling products with heavy discounts, and offline traders are suffering huge losses.”  

He likened the situation to India’s colonization.

“The British East India Company colonized India in the 17th century after entering the country as a trader. Now these foreign traders are doing the same. The e-commerce giants have huge debts, yet they pump money into India and harm local traders with their deep pockets,” Ahuja said.

The trade body’s calls for government intervention follow a major protest by traders demanding strict regulation of online giants.

On Nov. 20, after Diwali, a major festival in the Indian calendar, more than 700 traders gathered in the heart of the capital “calling for regulation against Amazon, Walmart and other companies.”

The retailers said they had lost market share to big online traders during the peak festival season in October and November.

Another protest has been called for Dec. 12, with businessmen from around the country expected to participate.

India has 70 million retail traders who control more than 80 percent of the market. Traders traditionally support Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal issued a warning in October that “e-commerce companies have no right to offer discounts or adopt predatory pricing.”

New Delhi tightened regulations for online retailers last year, forcing companies such as Amazon and Walmart to restructure their businesses and withdraw some sale items.

Amazon and Walmart said last week that their “operations comply with Indian law, and that they act only as a third-party marketplace.”

An Amazon spokesperson said the company is “a third-party marketplace where sellers offer their products to customers for sale and have the complete discretion to decide what products to sell and at what prices.”

Amazon India has 550,000 sellers, including micro, small and medium enterprises, and the company has “enabled exports of over $1 billion, helping to create more than 20,000 millionaires in 2019, and almost 200,000 jobs,” the spokesperson said.

Ashish Gupta a mobile phone trader in Noida, a New Delhi suburb, blamed online traders after he was forced to close his shop following two years of losses.

“The kind of discounts that e-commerce companies have been offering is mind-boggling. As a retailer, I cannot think of offering 60 percent off a mobile phone,” he said.

“I invested close to $45,000 in my shop, but that money has gone down the drain,” he told Arab News.

With the Indian economy struggling, losses suffered by retailers have led to rising unemployment.

“Shop owners employ large numbers of people and if their business is under threat then these jobs are also under threat,” Prof. Arun Kumar, an economist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said.

He said regulation is needed “to save shopkeepers from predatory pricing.”

“Only better-off consumers are benefiting. Poorer people are not into online shopping as they don’t have the Internet and other facilities,” he said.

“This is malpractice. You have deep pockets and you can drive out competition. The benefit that the consumers are getting is short-lived. Once local shops are driven out, then the e-commerce giants will raise their prices.”


Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
Updated 23 January 2021

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests

Russia detains dozens of Navalny supporters at anti-Putin protests
  • The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia
  • Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed”

MOSCOW: Russian police detained dozens of protesters on Saturday as supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny took to the streets following his call to protest against President Vladimir Putin’s rule.
Putin’s most vocal domestic critic called for mass rallies after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent and returning to Moscow last weekend following months of treatment in Germany. He was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport and jailed.
The rallies — planned for dozens of cities across Russia — are expected to be a major test of the opposition’s ability to mobilize despite the increasing Kremlin pressure on critics and the coronavirus pandemic.
The first protests took place in the Far East and Siberia including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Chita where several thousand took to the streets, Navalny supporters said.
OVD Info, which monitors detentions at opposition rallies, said around 50 people were detained in 10 cities.
Authorities vowed a tough crackdown with police saying unsanctioned public events would be “immediately suppressed.”
In Moscow, which usually mobilizes the largest rallies, protesters plan to meet in the central Pushkin Square at 2:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) and then march toward the Kremlin.

On the eve of the rallies, Navalny, who is being held in Moscow’s high-security Matrosskaya Tishina jail, thanked his supporters.
“I know perfectly well that there are lots of good people outside of my prison’s walls and help will come,” he said on Friday.
Navalny’s wife Yulia said she would join the protest in Moscow. “For myself, for him, for our children, for the values and the ideals that we share,” she said on Instagram.
Ahead of the demonstrations several key Navalny aides were taken into police custody for violating protest laws and handed short jail sentences to keep them away from the rallies.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Friday it launched a criminal probe into the calls for unauthorized protests.
A hastily organized court on Monday jailed Navalny for 30 days, and his supporters fear that authorities are preparing to sentence him to a long prison term to silence him.
Navalny’s team this week released an investigation into an opulent Black Sea property allegedly owned by Putin.
The “Putin’s palace” report alleges the Russian leader owns a 17,691 square meter mansion that sits on a property 39 times the size of Monaco and features a casino along with a theater and a hookah lounge complete with a pole-dancing stage.
The two-hour video report had been viewed more than 65 million times since Tuesday, becoming the Kremlin critic’s most-watched YouTube investigation.
The Kremlin has denied the property belongs to Putin.
Many Russians took to social media — including video sharing app TikTok hugely popular with teens — to voice support and urge a large turnout on Saturday.
A hashtag demanding freedom for Navalny was trending on TikTok as Russians flooded the Chinese app with thousands of videos.
Russia’s media watchdog warned online platforms against encouraging minors to participate in the rallies or risk hefty fines.
The watchdog said on Friday that media platforms, including TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, removed content at its request.
Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte blocked groups created to coordinate the protests in different cities.
But a number of public figures — including those who usually steer clear of politics — have spoken out in Navalny’s support.
Navalny, 44, rose to prominence a decade ago and has become the central figure of Russia’s opposition movement, leading large-scale street protests against corruption and electoral fraud.
His arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release.