Amazon, which has invested more than $5 billion in India since 2013, said its latest programme will help SMBs participate in India’s rapidly growing e-commerce and that it hopes to export locally made goods worth $10 billion by 2025.
“Our goal is, don’t forget, to make sure that more people can participate in the prosperity of India,” Bezos told the audience at an Amazon event in New Delhi. Having arrived on Tuesday, the world’s richest man is in India on a three-day tour and is expected to go next to Mumbai, where he’s scheduled to meet businesspeople. On Tuesday, he paid homage to Mahatama Gandhi at Raj Ghat and participated in a kite-flying session with children in the capital on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Wednesday.
The company had kept the time of the CEO’s attendance at the two-day Amazon SMBhav event in New Delhi under wraps. In a conversation with Amazon India head Amit Agarwal at the event, he made two predictions.
“I want to make a prediction for you — I predict the 21st century will be the Indian century,” Bezos, clad in a blue sleeveless Nehru jacket, said to cheers. “This country has dynamism and energy and everywhere I go here we see there is improvement in growth. This country has something special.”
His second prediction was that ties between India and the US will be the “most importance alliance” in the 21st century.
Amazon plans to set up 100 Digital Haats nationwide as part of the digitisation of 10 million SMBs to enable them sell online in the next five years. Amazon executives said the programme will help SMBs learn to use online tools to sell on e-commerce platforms.
Large-scale Training Exercise
It will also train them in cataloguing, marketing, inventory management and other functions.
Amazon has previously held such training exercises, including the Chai Carts that traverse industry clusters in various cities.
“This programme is going to be on a significantly larger scale,” said an Amazon executive.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) lobby group, which has been consistently opposed to the ecommerce marketplaces, called the exercise a gimmick.
“This is certainly not an investment but a promotion financing by Amazon,” said Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary of CAIT, which alleges that Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart have flouted India’s foreign investment rules and indulged in predatory pricing that has hurt neighbourhood stores.
“Who is Jeff Bezos to help digitise small traders in India?” he said. “Is it part of Amazon’s core area? There is already government’s Digital India programme and if we want any help we will ask our government. This is nothing but a false and wrong narrative to improve Amazon’s image in India.”
CAIT staged protests in various cities against Bezos.
Amazon expects India business to be one of its biggest units in the future.
However, Amazon and Flipkart have had to contend with amended regulations for overseas-funded e-commerce marketplaces in 2018 that forced both to overhaul their business models. India allows 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce marketplaces but such ventures can only act as a platform for buyers and sellers and can’t themselves engage in the actual retailing of products. On Monday, the Competition Commission of India said there was a “prima facie case which requires an investigation” against Amazon and Flipkart over their discounting practices, exclusive brand launches on the platforms and preferential treatment they have allegedly offered to certain mobile phones sellers.
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