Angry Indian traders counter Amazon summit with own event

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an Amazon logo outside the company's collection point in Mumbai, India, March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Thousands of Indian small businesses will organise an event this week in protest at the business practices of foreign e-tailers like Inc, taking a dig at the U.S. group's summit with their own event.

Starting Thursday, Amazon is organising a virtual summit in India named "Smbhav", which phonetically means "possible" in Hindi, to showcase opportunities offered by the U.S. firm to get small businesses to expand and sell online.

Trader groups representing 600,000 sellers said in a statement they will at the same time launch a summit titled "Asmbhav", or "impossible", including an award ceremony to pin the blame on those who they think have hurt their businesses.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Indian traders, who are a crucial part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's support base, have long alleged that Amazon and Walmart Inc's Flipkart benefit a few big sellers and that the companies engage in predatory pricing that harms their businesses. The companies say they comply with all laws.

A Reuters special report published in February revealed Amazon has for years given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers on its Indian platform and used them to circumvent the country's strict foreign investment regulations.

Amazon has said it "does not give preferential treatment to any seller on its marketplace".

The Smbhav event will include more than 70 speakers and aims to allow small businesses to learn how to grow their businesses in India - a key growth market for Amazon.

The event "puts forth how Amazon and our partners leverage digitisation, technology & our ecosystem to drive infinite possibilities for a Digital India", its website said.

In a statement, trader groups including the All India Mobile Retailers Association said the Amazon event was positioning it as a friend and guide to small sellers, but argued small traders had been harmed by discriminatory practices of foreign e-commerce firms.

The latest dispute comes as India also considers revising foreign investment rules for e-commerce which could force companies like Amazon to rework the relationships it has with big sellers.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by David Holmes)

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