Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos on Wednesday said that his company would invest $1 billion to digitise small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India over the next five years and use its global footprint to export $10 billion worth of Make in India goods across the world by 2025.
The announcement made by one of the richest persons in the world in the tightly packed New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium would give the Narendra Modi-led government something to boast on at a time when the economic activity and consumption has tumbled down.
According to sources, Bezos is expected to meet Prime Minister Modi during his three-day trip to India. Moreover, the announcement comes in the backdrop of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), India’s anti-trust body, ordering an enquiry into the business practices of Amazon and rival Flipkart. The CCI in a recent study found that the two e-tailers are indulged in anti-trade practices such as deep discounting and giving preferential listing to select sellers.
Further, Bezos is also facing protests from brick and mortar traders in the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party-linked retail industry body, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) staged a protest outside the venue where Bezos was speaking. Amazon has organised its two-day Smbhav Summit that saw participation of more than 100 business leaders and over 3,000 SMBs, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
“If any foreign company dreams of occupying the country’s e-commerce or retail business through its unethical methods, then it should come out of confusion,” said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary-general, CAIT. Despite setbacks, Bezos sounded bullish about his India story and went on to say that the 21st century belongs to India.
“This country has something special: Its democracy. And I have a prediction. This century is going to be about the alliance between India and the US, between the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy,” said Bezos, who was wearing a traditional blue Nehru jacket over his shirt, which he said he bought from one of the Amazon sellers. According to trade experts, road ahead for Amazon is not going to be very easy one as it continues to face stiff competition from Walmart-owned Flipkart. Besides, Asia’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani, after disrupting the country’s telecom sector with Jio Infocomm, is preparing to go live with JioMart, an e-commerce marketplace to tap the growing sector and diversify his primarily petrochemical business interests.
Meanwhile, India’s e-commerce market is projected to grow to $150 billion by 2022, according to a 2018 report by Nasscom and PwC India. Coming back to the Bezos’ India promise, Amazon aims to digitize 10 million micro, small and medium enterprises with the $1 billion investment. The company also announced setting up 100 digital haats in cities and villages across the country.
“Our hope is that this investment will bring millions of people into the future prosperity of India and at the same time expose the world to the Make In India’ products that represent India’s rich, diverse culture,” the Amazon chief further said.