A huge number of small Indian businesses are planning to protest in an event on Thursday against large foreign retailers like Amazon.com Inc. The protest day coincides with the U.S. e-commerce giant’s annual seller conference in India, a sign of escalating tensions in the second-largest country’s retail market by population.
The local traders have long accused global retailers Amazon and close rival Walmart Inc.-owned Flipkart of deception as platforms and employing unfair practices that snatch the livelihoods of small online and offline sellers. The trader groups’ event is named Asmbhav, or “impossible” in Hindi; it takes a dig at Amazon’s annual seller extravaganza, called Smbhav, or “possible.”
“Over half-a-million sellers and leading small trader groups are participating in the Asmbhav event which will focus on ruined livelihoods because of the bullying and partisanship by e-commerce marketplaces,” said Abhay Raj Mishra of the non-profit Public Response Against Helplessness and Action for Redressal (PRAHAR), one of the organizers of the event spearheaded by a collective of Indian sellers, according to Bloomberg.
India’s small traders, distributors, and merchants, ahead of a potential revision of foreign investment rules, have filed petitions in the country’s courts and antitrust regulators to curb the foreign retailing giants. Expectations are that the government will tighten regulations that already bar e-commerce platforms, such as Flipkart and Amazon, from owning or controlling companies that sell on their platform, faking exclusive deals with makers of consumer electronics products such as smartphones, and discounting goods sold on their platforms.
Amazon’s seller event made its debut last year with founder Jeff Bezos in attendance. The event, this year, will span four days and be held virtually. According to Bloomberg, the key business figures among panel speakers will include “former Pepsico Inc. Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi, telecom operator Bharti Airtel Ltd.’s Chairman Sunil Mittal, India’s chief economic adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian and Infosys Ltd. co-founder and Chairman Nandan Nilekani.” Participants will include startups, small businesses, retailers, and developers.
In another dig at Amazon’s Smbhav awards to select sellers, the protest event organizers will hand out tongue-in-cheek “Asmbhav awards” to Bezos, Senior VP and Country Manager of Amazon, Amit Agarwal, and its India business partner, Narayana Murthy, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys. Trade groups like the All India Online Vendors Association and the All-India Mobile Retailers Association are backing the event.