New Delhi, (Aryavarth) Indian Sellers Collective, a non-governmental trade association committed to bringing to the fore the voices of micro and small enterprises and family businesses across India, on Monday carried out protests and burned effigies, as part of the nationwide campaign ‘Bharat Chhodo Morcha’, to demand a boycott of MNC e-commerce brands.
The campaign also involved a national conclave and on-ground protests in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana to urge the government and consumers to shun MNC e-commerce brands and embrace swadeshi sellers’ products to bring relief to small traders this festive season.
ISC said that MNC e-commerce players track best-selling products on their platforms and then copy their design to launch private brands with similar features and at a competitive price. Moreover, the trade association said, 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.
Delivering the keynote speech at the national webinar, Ashwani Mahajan, National Co-Convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch stated, “MNC foreign e-commerce companies are indulging in illegal business practices in India.
These firms are blatantly flouting rules through front companies like Appario Retail that indulge in predatory pricing and discounting thereby destroying the business of offline retailers and small sellers. MNC e-commerce platforms are also manipulating the algorithm to promote their own private labels and brands such as Amazon Basics, Symbol, and Solimo at the cost of Indian sellers besides influencing the Indian judicial system to twist laws through questionable practices to suit the company’s business interests.”
“We, at Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, hope that the ‘Boycott Amazon’ along with the ‘Bharat Chhodo’ campaign will prompt consumers and the government to reject the products of FDI e-commerce companies completely and bring a smile back on the faces of Indian sellers”.
Setting the context for a panel discussion, Abhay Raj Mishra, Member & National Coordinator, Indian Sellers Collective, observed, “Foreign e-commerce retailers have taken sheen of Dhanteras for small retailers for the past several years. Observing that the repeated attempts to get these MNC e-commerce companies to change their unethical business practices have fallen on deaf ears, Indian Sellers Collective has embarked on a nationwide campaign to galvanise consumers and the government to shun products of foreign e-commerce companies and embrace products of Indian sellers.”
Delving on the legal hurdles that come in the way of bringing erring MNC e-commerce companies to books, M.M. Sharma, Advocate and a Competition Lawyer, commented, “The remedy lies only under competition law. The unfair trade practices by the large e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart, which have become ‘digital gatekeepers’, like predatory deep discounts through massive cash-burns, self-preferencing, absence of platform neutrality, exclusive arrangements with preferred dealers, etc, are now well known and are being investigated globally.
However, in my view, 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 on the patterns of either EU (the Digital Markets Act) or Australia (making Google pay for the news content), we will just continue to debate and 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 Govt is serious.”
Highlighting the adverse impact of MNC e-commerce companies on small retailers, P.M. Ganeshraam, National Chief Patron, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF), said that MNC e-commerce companies have contributed majorly to depressed footfalls in retail stores in the state of Tamil Nadu thereby hampering growth plans of small retailers.
Underlining the urgency of the challenges posed by MNC Retailers and their unethical business, Shriram Baxi, General Secretary, Federation of All India Distributors Associations (FAIDA) opined, “Over ambitious and cash-rich MNC retailers are using all means to evade and twist laws. We must stop them before they destroy the Indian retail industry and cost small traders their livelihood forcing them into poverty.”
Urging consumers and the government to buy products only from Indian sellers this festive season, Devender Aggarwal, President, FMCG Distributors and Traders Association said, “Small traders faced challenging business environments and depleted sales amidst Covid pandemic. We hope to change this and recoup our sales this festive season, but MNC e-commerce companies are spoiling this by indulging in predatory pricing to push their brands.”
Supporting ‘Bharat Chhodo Morcha’ Campaign spokesperson from All-India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) said, “Pseudo marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart have been following anti-competitive practices by giving preferential treatment to certain companies by which they can undercut the marketplace sellers. These companies copy popular Indian brands and offer similar products at unrealistically low prices under their private brands. This has affected the sales of both local Indian sellers and traders selling on the psuedo marketplaces.”
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, and retailers are under tremendous pressure due to collusion between Chinese mobile brands and online platforms. 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. Conglomerate between online platforms, Chinese brands and banks have destroyed the mobile retail business in India.”