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India: Amazon invests $1B despite antitrust probe

 |  January 15, 2020

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos arrived in India amid protests and an antitrust probe to attend a two-day summit and extend a $1 billion investment to digitize the country, according to reports on Wednesday (Jan. 15).

Hosted by Amazon, the inaugural summit Amazon Smbhav Jan. 15-16 at a New Delhi stadium brings over 3,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) together with policymakers and industry leaders to discuss eCommerce, logistics, payments, digitization, global trade and more.

“I predict that 21st century is going to be the Indian century… Apart from the dynamism it has, India is a democracy which is a major characteristic of the country,” Bezos said. Amazon has previously invested about $5.5 billion in India since 2014.

“The dynamism, the energy … the growth. This country has something special,‚ Bezos said at the event.

The summit and visit were met with protests and an antitrust investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). The commission alleges that both Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart cut deals with preferred sellers and influence pricing. 

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

The Confederation of All India Traders, representing over 60 million merchants in the country, planned protests across 300 cities during the summit. These businesses want Amazon to follow guidelines that prevent heavy discounting and online-only deals.

“We are not able to compete. There is unhealthy competition,” demonstrator Girish Prasad Ratha told Reuters. He said he lost 15 percent of sales in the last two years due to customers shopping online.

Bezos arrived in India with Amit Agarwal, the head of Amazon India. Aside from the summit, Bezos prayed at a Mahatma Gandhi memorial and was hoping to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government officials.

“This initiative will use Amazon’s global footprint to create $10 billion in India exports by 2025. Our hope is that this investment will bring millions more people into the future prosperity of India and at the same time expose the world to the ‘Made in India’ products that represent India’s rich, diverse culture,” Bezos said.

Amazon’s furniture business in India grew in excess of 120 percent over the last year, the eCommerce giant said as it prepared for the country’s festival season at the end of September.

“Customers typically look to upgrade their homes in the festival season. We have added more than 60,000 products this year to offer the largest selection of furniture,” Amazon India Director of Large Appliances and Furniture Suchit Subhas said.