Lakhs of small traders and businessmen of India organised a protest on April 15, against large monopoly e-commerce companies such as Amazon.com Inc.
The protest coincided with Amazon’s annual promotional event in India, named Sambhav (possible), which was held on-line this year, on April 15-18. The event is held to promote the lie that Amazon is a “friend and guide” of small traders and start-ups, and “provides opportunities to small businesses to expand and sell online”.
The protest action was named Asambhav (impossible) to counter Amazon’s event.
Small traders and shopkeepers in India have been protesting consistently over the past two years, against the penetration of giant global e-commerce companies into India’s retail market of 1.3 billion people. They have accused the giant global e-commerce monopoly companies such as Amazon and its competitor Walmart Inc.-owned Flipkart of masquerading as platforms and using various methods to destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of small shopkeepers and retail traders. This is the latest such protest action of shopkeepers and traders.
The protest action is being held to draw attention to the aggressive practices of the giant global e-commerce companies. These global monopolies own or control hundreds of smaller companies that sell on their platform. Through such companies, the parent e-commerce companies make exclusive deals with the manufacturers of products such as smartphones and other popular goods, engage in predatory pricing, and offer discounts on the goods sold on their platforms to attract customers.
A Reuters special report published in February this year revealed that Amazon has for years given preferential treatment to a small group of companies on its Indian platform. These companies are in fact owned by monopoly capitalists. Amazon has used its close links with the capitalist owners of these companies and the Indian state to circumvent foreign investment regulations.
It must be noted that rapidly expanding into the e-commerce sphere in India today is Reliance Industries, one of India’s biggest monopoly capitalist houses, headed by Mukesh Ambani. The Reliance group is tying up with Facebook. The competition between the different giant e-retail companies over the Indian retail market is extremely sharp. Amazon and Reliance are engaged in a court case in which Amazon is trying to block the acquisition of Future group by Reliance. The Future Group is currently India’s second biggest retailer with over 1700 outlets all over the country. It includes such brands as Big Bazaar, Easyday, Nilgiris, Seven Eleven and many others.
For many small shopkeepers and traders, already reeling under the aggressive and predatory practices of the giant global e-commerce monopolies like Amazon, the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown, leading to a massive surge in online sales, have been the last straw – hundreds of thousands of shops all over the country have had to close down. Several collectives representing traders and small producers have petitioned the courts and the state regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), to revise the rules for foreign investment and frame strict rules of operation for the giant retail monopolies.
Organisers of the protests include collectives of small producers and traders, such as All India Online Vendors Association and the All-India Mobile Retailers Association, Public Response Against Helplessness and Action for Redressal (PRAHAR) and several others.
At the protest event, the traders gave ‘Asambhav’ awards to Bezos, the founder of Amazon, to Amazon India head Amit Agarwal and to its India business partner, Narayana Murthy, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys, and other top representatives of the global e-retail monopoly that is responsible for this massive attack on their livelihood.
The Indian state defends and promotes the interests of the biggest Indian and foreign monopoly capitalist houses. The small producers and traders are demanding that the government protect their interests.