• Bezos started his three-day visit by paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi; and even wore a Nehru jacket.
  • Yet, he received a tepid response from the government – probably due to the backlash from trader unions.
  • The union commerce minister Piyush Goyal scoffed at Bezos’ $1 billion investment in the country saying, “he is not doing India a favour.”
  • BJP’s foreign affairs head Vijay Chauthaiwale had blamed Washington Post, owned by Bezos, for unflattering coverage of India and Modi.

The world’s richest man had a bittersweet experience in one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets. Jeff Bezos did everything that is needed to show India, respect. But the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unmoved, so far.
He started his three-day visit by paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi; and even wore a Nehru jacket which is now also referred to as Modi jacket. He also drove an e-rickshaw and fondly joked with India’s sweetheart, Shah Rukh Khan.

Bezos got a lukewarm welcome from India’s trade and industry minister Piyush Goyal


Yet, Bezos received a tepid response from the government – probably due to the backlash from trader unions who are blaming him and his industry for weeding them out. The union commerce minister
Piyush Goyal too scoffed at Bezos’ $1 billion investment in the country saying, “he is not doing India a favour.”

Though the minister backtracked on the snub, he also added that any curbs that they might place on India are in its best interests. Goyal and the government are probably trying hard to placate the small traders who were protesting Bezos’ visit.

There may be a reason for Goyal playing hard to get. After all, India is supposed to be one of world’s largest e-commerce markets, which will scale to the size of $84 billion by 2021,
according to Deloitte.

The government too has to play it safe since its foreign direct investments fell for
the first time in six years in 2019. Last time this happened, the country was blamed for a policy paralysis and seems to be in similar throes this time around.

Bezos finds himself in a standoff with Narendra Modi, just like the one he has with Donald Trump


Early last year, Amazon had to remove hundreds of thousands of products from its platform as government does not allow foreign players to sell products of companies that it has a stake in. Further, the draft e-commerce policy wants to curb foreign players with deep pockets like Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart from doling out deep discounts.
Some of these rules not only put the early movers like Bezos at a disadvantage, but also provide a flatten the ground in favour of the likes of Mukesh Ambani ⁠— the owner of India’s biggest conglomerate Reliance Industries ⁠— who is now entering technology-related businesses.

Bezos probably wanted to meet the Prime Minister to possibly appeal against the roadblocks for his
business in India. But government officials had flatly
refused a meeting. Narendra Modi might have concerns other than elections and traders – his own image.

BJP’s
foreign affairs head Vijay Chauthaiwale had blamed Washington Post, owned by Bezos, for unflattering coverage of India and Modi, especially with regards to
abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir. Added to that, a Post column had also referred to Modi
as India’s Trump, but not before both of them made many public appearances and Modi also called him, “a good friend”.
The Post columnist said “1.3 billion Indians are seeing their freedoms erode under the autocratic rule of Modi”. This did not go down well with the government which has spent millions on Modi’s international campaign.

Bezos had already ruffled a lot of feathers in his home turf after he lost a lucrative contract due to Trump’s anger against the newspaper. In India too, his fortunes might be tied to the post, if he doesn’t placate Modi, and the trading community that he belongs to.





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