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News Roundup: Amazon’s ‘Smbhav’ Jamboree Fetches Embarrassment As Small Sellers Say ‘Asmbhav’

News Roundup: Amazon’s ‘Smbhav’ Jamboree Fetches Embarrassment As Small Sellers Say ‘Asmbhav’

Several sellers associations protested even as Amazon celebrated its work with SMBs and announced a new fund

Offline retailers lamented that they can’t compete with the heavy discounts offered by ecommerce companies and their seller entities

Meanwhile, Amazon has also challenged a recent reopening of an antitrust probe into its operations based on a news report from February 2021

Ecommerce giant Amazon’s annual ‘Smbhav’ jamboree, where it celebrates its association with small businesses, brought some embarrassment as well this year. Several sellers associations such as the All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA) and the All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) used the occasion to host a parallel event titled ‘Asmbhav’.

At the protest event, small business owners with their brick and mortar retail stores and those selling online on Amazon expressed their grievances with large ecommerce operators such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

While offline retailers lamented that they can’t compete with the heavy discounts offered by ecommerce companies, online retailers observed that Amazon and Flipkart fulfil a bulk of their orders through a few seller entities and that the thousands of other small retailers on their marketplaces are just a statistic for both companies to claim bragging rights at events such as ‘Smbhav’. 

Meanwhile, Amazon also faced a hearing in the Karnataka High Court this week, over the Competition Commission of India’s planned probe into Amazon and Flipkart’s anti-competitive practices. 

On Thursday, Amazon told the Karnataka HC that a Reuters report from February 2021, into the company’s alleged malpractices in India, was no reason to resume CCI’s antitrust probe into the company, which had been halted in February last year. 

Last month, Amazon was hit by fresh allegations after a Reuters report detailed how it had seemingly circumvented India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) and ecommerce regulations to acquire indirect stakes into two seller entities, Cloudtail and Appario, through which it fulfils a bulk of its online orders in India. 

During the court hearing last month, the CCI counsel had read parts of the Reuters report in court, also submitting clippings of the report as part of its submission to the court. 

On Thursday, Amazon’s counsel Gopal Subramanium told the court the company did not agree with the news agency’s report and CCI could not use it as evidence, as the article was published months after CCI ordered its investigation. Subramanium said news articles are treated as secondary hearsay, not even primary hearsay.

Other News

  • The year 2021 has taken a 360-degree turn and we are back to where we were last year. No one expected the second wave of Covid-19 to hit India this late and this bad, we’re again seeing more than two lakh cases per day and the healthcare system is on its knees. While the government is somehow managing the situation, the travel and hospitality sectors, which barely survived the crisis of 2020, are staring at another tough year despite the vaccination drive.
  • the Delhi High Court granted bail to activist Umar Khalid seven months after his arrest under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (aka UAPA) of 1967 for his alleged involvement in the Delhi riots of 2020. While the charges under UAPA are still pending, the court has decided to let Khalid out on bail against the payment of the INR 20,000 bond and a surety of like amount. While all that is part of due legal procedure, there is one condition that has most definitely raised a lot of eyebrows — Khalid has to install the Aarogya Setu app on his mobile phone.
  • Info Edge (India) has proposed the amalgamation of its subsidiary Makesense Technologies, which provides solutions regarding placement consultancy, personnel recruitment, staffing and professional hiring, with PB Fintech Limited, the parent company of PolicyBazaar, an insurance tech startup. 
  • Social media giant Facebook has once again been accused of being hand in glove with ministers from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A recent report from The Guardian has found that Facebook allowed a network of fake accounts to artificially inflate the popularity of a BJP Member of Parliament (MP). 
  • Recent years have seen India’s edtech platforms address these problems with a host of offerings, from K12 to test prep to short-term courses for working professionals, to full-fledged online degree programs. Their prominence in our education system has grown since last year, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted our entire working environment online. Now, Hero Group, one of India’s best-known business houses and a legacy player in the education space, has joined the bandwagon with its own edtech platform, Hero Vired

Stay tuned for next week’s News Roundup!