(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

Traders to stage protest today at Jantar Mantar as Amazon hosts event

  • The protest coincides with Amazon's two-day summit for SMBs in the national capital, which might be attended by the e-commerce major's founder Jeff Bezos
  • 500,000 traders are expected to hold protests in over 300 locations in India on Wednesday

New Delhi: The Confederation of Indian Traders (CAIT) will stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in the capital on Wednesday to display its angst against foreign e-commerce retailers. This, while American e-commerce company Amazon kick-starts its flagship two-day summit for small and medium businesses in the national capital. The event is likely to bring Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos to the country, according to several media reports.

The American billionaire who founded Amazon in 1994 is expected to face heat from several trader and retailer associations in India as scores of small retailers, distributors, and mobile phone shop owners are set to agitate against hefty discounts given by e-retailers such as Amazon and prompting them to comply with FDI guidelines. In all, 500,000 traders are expected to hold protests in over 300 locations in India on 15 January, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said. Wednesday will see traders gather at Delhi's Jantar Mantar between 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. Protests will be held in other locations, a member of CAIT told Mint.

The online retailer is hosting a two-day event in the capital starting January 15. “Smbhav", its collaborative event for small and medium businesses, will see the participation of senior industry executives—such as Kishore Biyani, Piyush Pandey, among others; while senior executives from Amazon such as Amit Agarwal (Amazon's India country head) are expected to address small business owners over collaborating with the online retailer's products, services and platforms.

Amazon will host the event in the backdrop of a probe commissioned against online retailers in India earlier this week. On Monday, India’s competition watchdog, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), said it is ordering an investigation into alleged competition law violations by Amazon.com Inc and Flipkart. CCI said it will investigate e-commerce retailers over excessive discounting, and exclusive tie-ups, following complaints by the Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh--that is also part of CAIT -- and represents the interest of small businesses. Amazon said it will fully cooperate with the CCI.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, CAIT said that the association that works towards preserving the interests of 7 crore small traders, retailers, mobile phone shop owners, among others, is working towards bringing a more level-playing field to India’s retail trade. Khandelwal said the protests are aimed at drawing the government's attention to the impact of steep discounts, preferential treatment offered to some sellers, and exclusive tie-ups by online retailers that he said are hurting scores of small physical retailers here.

Khandelwal reiterated that while the association is not against online commerce at large, it is pushing more companies to follow and comply with the rules laid down the by Indian government that govern foreign investments in the country’s e-commerce market.

Both Amazon, and Walmart-backed Flipkart are heavily invested in India’s retail market, even through online commerce is still a small part of the country’s retail trade here. But a consumer pivot to the internet is threatening existing business models here.

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