When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Wednesday that the e-commerce giant would invest $1 billion into the country to bring some of its small business online, he was met with protesters who said that Amazon will “destroy small retailers.”
The protesters said Amazon offers deep discounts that small- and medium-sized businesses in India just can’t compete with.
Protesters held signs that said “JEFF BEZOS GO BACK!” and “SECOND VERSION OF EAST INDIA COMPANY,” a reference to the British company that colonized India, parts of Southeast Asia, and Hong Kong. The theme echoed Agarwal’s comments that companies like Amazon are “foreign economic terrorists” and “invaders.”
This criticism from small-business owners comes as India’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), said it would investigate Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart for what it said were discounts given to “preferred sellers.”
These discounts lead to a “foreclosure of other nonpreferred sellers from the online marketplace,” the regulator said, adding that “preferred sellers are also alleged to be affiliated with … Amazon either directly or indirectly.”
The CCI said e-commerce titans like Amazon use their market dominance to price “below cost,” resulting in the “creation of high-entry barriers and high-capital costs for any new entrant in the market.”
Ashok Kumar Gupta, chairman of the CCI, told Reuters that large e-commerce companies should not provide large discounts and that they should disclose policies on discounts.
Amazon has faced similar criticism in Europe: In 2018, Andreas Mundt, the president of Germany’s antitrust regulatory office, said that Amazon’s size and dominance over the e-commerce market gives it the role of a “gatekeeper” to the market. Since Amazon has a “double role as the largest retailer and the largest marketplace,” Mundt said, it has “the potential to hinder other sellers on its platform.”