INTERNATIONAL - Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos is likely to be greeted by an unprecedented show of opposition during his short India visit this week, after thousands of small-time local retailers pledged to protest its pricing and exclusive-selling practices.
The Amazon chief executive is slated to headline the inaugural session of Amazon India’s event for small and medium businesses -- “smbhav” -- which kicks off Wednesday in New Delhi. The billionaire is scheduled to take the stage alongside Amazon India chief Amit Agarwal in a fireside chat, anchoring an event that also features Infosys Ltd. co-founder Narayana Murthy and retail billionaire Kishore Biyani, who recently sold a stake in his retail group to Amazon.
Bezos’s visit underscores India’s growing importance to his company. Competition there is building to record levels as Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, prepares to go live with JioMart and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart Online Services Pvt delves deeper into the countryside. Yet resentment is growing toward Amazon’s traditional cut-price approach. More than half-a-million traders representing thousands of trading bodies grouped under the Confederation of All India Traders plan to organize sit-ins and public rallies in 300 cities to protest Bezos’s visit, the group said.
“We will have massive protests across the country and our biggest demonstration will be in Delhi, where we have sought Delhi police’s permission to protest outside the venue of Bezos’ event,” Praveen Khandelwal, CAIT secretary-general, told Bloomberg News.
The traders plan to mark Jan. 15 -- the day of Amazon’s India event -- “National Protest Day” and demand that Amazon and other online retailers comply with new guidelines that forbid heavy discounting and exclusive online-only deals. CAIT represents over 70 million small merchants who control more than nine-tenths of the retail trade in a country where big box retailers and chains have yet to penetrate beyond the biggest cities.