Traders protest against foreign e-commerce players, lament ‘Black Diwali’


The Indian Sellers Collective, an umbrella body of trade associations, on Monday carried out protests and burned effigies of Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos, demanding a boycott of foreign e-commerce companies operating in the country.

The trader body’s ‘Bharat Chhodo Morcha’ includes a national conclave and on-ground protests in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana to urge both the government and consumers to shun foreign e-commerce brands and embrace local sellers’ products to bring relief to small during the festive season.

“MNC e-commerce players track best-selling products on their platforms. These online marketplaces copy their design to launch private brands with similar features and at a competitive price,” the trader group said in a statement.

“They run a systematic campaign to manipulate search results to divert sales of the bestselling products on its platform to its own product lines. As a result, no seller grows by doing business with the MNC e-commerce platforms,” it added.

A Reuters report in October had revealed that an Amazon team in India “secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform”, and also “rigged Amazon’s search results” so that the company’s products would appear on top.

The report alleged that among the victims of Amazon’s anti-market practices was a popular shirt brand in India called John Miller, which is owned by Kishore Biyani-founded Future Group, currently embroiled in a legal battle with Amazon over the Indian company’s acquisition.

Amazon is also facing an inquiry by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) over alleged anti-competitive practices and a parallel inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate for violation of domestic laws.

M M Sharma, a competition lawyer, said: “Unless the competition law in India relating to abuse of dominance is suitably amended to include ‘attempt to dominate’, and the government comes out with a specific policy to regulate these digital gatekeepers like the EU and Australia, the e-commerce giants will continue to exclude rivals and exploit small vendors by circumventing the loopholes in the law and policies.”

“The Competition (Amendment) Bill pending in parliament needs to be suitably amended accordingly if the government is serious about this matter,” he added.

According to a report by e-commerce solution provider EasyEcom last month, total e-commerce sales for the calendar year 2021 are estimated to clock $67-84 billion, up significantly from $52.57 billion attained in 2020, and $40.44 billion in 2019. It expects to see e-commerce retail sales clock $11-14 billion during this festive season alone, up by anything between 32-68 per cent over last year’s figure.

In recent years, electronics has emerged as the leading category in this space, with a 34 per cent share of gross merchandise value (GMV) in total e-commerce sales for the year 2020. It was followed by fashion and apparel (26 per cent), food and groceries (24 per cent), furniture and appliances (5 per cent), with an increasing user base from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. The report says that in 2021, electronics will remain the top category followed by other major lifestyle segments.

Talking about the plight of mobile retailers, Arvinder Khurana, National President, All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) said, “Once again, it’s a Black Diwali for offline mobile retail. Chinese brands, especially Xiaomi, Realme, Oneplus and OPPO, in collaboration with Amazon and Flipkart, are killing the domestic market by deliberately diverting the offline customers to online platforms by supplying large stocks to online alpha sellers with exclusive 10 per cent instant cash-back for online customers.”

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