Retail

Amazon’s Tough Week In India

From time to time, companies will put out a product that might have seemed like a good idea at the time but that turns out to be ill-conceived at best and controversial at worst.

This time around, online retail giant Amazon found itself in the crosshairs of social media (and some diplomatic hot water) for selling two different products that struck a sour chord with the fast-growing Indian market, according to a recent report.

First, it was the sale of doormats bearing the flag of the nation of well over 1 billion on Amazon’s Canadian website. When the product was discovered last week, India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, took to Twitter to order the online retail giant to immediately stop the sale of the product, threatened to stop issuing and warned of rescinding previously issued Visas to Amazon officials if the company didn’t comply. Amazon quickly pulled the product and apologized.

But that wasn’t the end of Amazon’s gaffe. On Sunday (Jan. 15), sandals bearing the visage of Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi drew more consumer ire. Shaktikanta Das, India’s secretary for economic affairs, tweeted: “Amazon, better behave. Desist from being flippant about Indian symbols & icons. Indifference will be at your own peril.” Again, the items were soon pulled from the retail giant’s website.

Such a quick response to consumer criticism highlights India’s high importance for Amazon. The online retail giant has invested billions of dollars in the past few years to establish and strengthen its hold on the nation’s fast-growing online retail market.

In recent years, Amazon has developed a logistics network across the nation to attract customers and has since risen to the second largest eCommerce player in India behind local rival Flipkart. India now has Amazon, Amazon Prime membership options and Amazon Video, and the company is currently testing a P2P marketplace in Bangalore.

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