Amazon's Bezos Pledges New $1 Billion India Investment Amid Pushback

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01/15/2020 | 01:18 pm
Jeff Bezos


By Newley Purnell



NEW DELHI -- Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos pledged to invest a fresh $1 billion in the company's Indian operations, part of a charm offensive in a promising but newly challenging market.



Speaking Wednesday at a gathering in New Delhi for local Amazon sellers, Mr. Bezos said the money is meant to help more small businesses start selling on the company's marketplace. The new funds will be in addition to $5 billion Amazon has said it is spending to build out its Indian business, a spokeswoman said.



The Indian environment has turned increasingly challenging for Amazon since it launched in the country in 2013. Hoping to match China's success at building tech titans, Indian policy makers have been tightening restrictions on the American companies that have begun to dominate the country's internet economy.



"We're making this announcement now because it's working," Mr. Bezos said, referring to Amazon's continuing efforts to get India's legions of small mom-and-pop shops connected to its platform. "And when something works, you should double down on it," he said.



Mr. Bezos, dressed in an indigo Nehru jacket, also praised U.S.-India ties and said he believes the 21st century "is going to be the Indian century." At the end of his talk he clasped his hands together and bowed before the crowd to great applause.



On Tuesday, after touching down in New Delhi, Mr. Bezos posted a video on his Twitter account showing him paying tribute at a memorial to India's independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.



India's antitrust watchdog on Monday ordered an investigation into whether Amazon and Walmart Inc.'s Flipkart have violated competition laws. Amazon and Flipkart say they are compliant with local laws. Between them, the two account for more than 80% of online sales in India, according to Morgan Stanley.



After Walmart sealed its $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart in 2018, India altered its rules dictating how foreign-owned online retailers -- but not local rivals -- can sell goods online, forcing Amazon and Walmart to rewire their supply chains.



Regulators have also talked about the need for stricter rules for storing user data in India and new regulations governing social media.



Meanwhile, the Confederation of All India Traders, a body that says it represents millions of online and offline domestic sellers, has in recent months criticized Amazon for what it calls unfair practices.



The group said it was holding protests across the country, angered at Mr. Bezos' visit. Praveen Khandelwal, the confederation's general secretary, said in a statement that the new funds would only further hurt retail trade in India.



Amazon says it has helped boost India's online shopping sector by enabling small merchants and shops to sell online.



Rajesh Roy contributed to this article.



Write to Newley Purnell at newley.purnell@wsj.com





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