Bezos makes US$1b pledge in India

Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos promised on Wednesday a new billion-dollar investment in India, just two days after the Indian authorities launched an anti-trust investigation into the e-commerce giant.

A three-day visit by Bezos, whose worth has been estimated at more than US$110 billion, sparked protests in New Delhi and other cities by traders who accuse Amazon and its main US-owned rival Flipkart of killing off India's army of street traders.

Bezos sought to head off critics by promising US$1 billion dollars to digitise small and medium-sized Indian businesses. "We will use our global footprint to export US$10 billion worth of 'Make in India' products across the world by 2025," he said, referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign to boost national production.

Amazon and Flipkart - founded in India but taken over by Walmart in 2018 for $16 billion - face increasing scrutiny. The Competition Commission of India announced on Monday that it was investigating both companies over accusations they undermine traditional traders by favouring "preferred sellers" on their platforms.

Bezos has sought a meeting with Modi, but neither the government nor Amazon would confirm if talks would be held.

Amazon has said it will cooperate with the investigation and was "confident" it was operating legally. The commission, which last year fined Google US$21 million for abusing its dominant position, said it will report in 60 days, but its inquiries normally take a lot longer.

"We are not against e-commerce," said Sumit Agarwal, national secretary of the Confederation of All-India Traders, which says it represents 70 million small businesses. "We just want the commission and the government to set up a fair and equitable playing field where the Amazons and Flipkarts cannot abuse the system with unfair subsidies and their favoured traders."

The Modi government is to announce a new e-commerce policy by March, and is under pressure to help small businesses because of a slowdown in the economy and high unemployment.

After arriving on Tuesday, Bezos paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, dressing in an Indian kurta to lay flowers at a memorial in Delhi.

Bezos will also visit India's financial capital Mumbai, where he will reportedly attend a party with Bollywood celebrities.

AFP

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