Amazon chief seeks to win over critics in India

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday (January 15) his company will invest US$1 billion to bring small businesses online in India, reaching out to some of his fiercest critics in a goodwill visit that saw him donning traditional Indian attire.

NEW DELHI • Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos said his company will invest US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) to bring small businesses online in India, reaching out to some of his fiercest critics during a goodwill visit that saw him donning traditional Indian attire and flying a kite with children.

Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart have been hit with a barrage of criticism from India's brick-and-mortar retailers, which accuse the US giants of violating Indian law with deep discounts and discriminating against small sellers by promoting select big ones. The companies deny the allegations.

Just this week, the Competition Commission of India launched an antitrust probe to look into those allegations.

Amazon said it will set up digital centres in 100 Indian cities and villages to help businesses get online to sell their goods, and will offer support in marketing and logistics.

The investment of US$1 billion will help bring more than 10 million Indian businesses online and enable exports of India-made goods worth US$10 billion by 2025, it added.

Speaking at a company event at a New Delhi stadium that Amazon described as "a first-of-its-kind mega summit" bringing together over 3,000 small businesses, Mr Bezos praised India and said his company was committed to being its long-term partner.

"The dynamism, the energy... the growth. This country has something special," Mr Bezos, who wore a blue-coloured traditional Indian jacket, said to the audience, which responded with cheers.

Other events in India have included Mr Bezos paying his respects at a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. Sources said he has sought a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government officials.

The Confederation of All India Traders, a group representing roughly 70 million brick-and-mortar retailers, has said it will protest in 300 cities during Mr Bezos' visit. But protests so far have been small.

Mr Bezos, who arrived on Tuesday, is due to fly out on Saturday.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'Amazon chief seeks to win over critics in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe