Business leaders say such statements may drive away foreign investments.
Ratna Bhushan, Rasul Bailay
NEW DELHI: Top executives at several multinational and Indian companies on Thursday took umbrage at commerce minister Piyush Goyal’s comment that Amazon was not doing any favour to India by announcing a fresh $1 billion investment in the country.
“Until now it used to be a matter of pride to announce such big investments into India,” said the chief executive of an MNC. “But if this is the response companies are going to get from the current dispensation, they will think twice before making or announcing investments here.”
The top executive of another company said this did not “reflect well” on India. “It will only drive foreign investments away,” he said.
On Thursday, while speaking at a security conference in New Delhi, Goyal sounded unimpressed by Amazon’s pledge. “They may have put in a billion dollars but then if they make a loss of a billion dollars every year, then they jolly well have to finance that billion dollars,” Goyal said. “So, it;s not as if they are doing a great favour to India when they invest a billion dollars.”
Several of the business leaders ET talked to said they were offended by the minister’s statement. They spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“This is not Indian culture. Mr Goyal’s choice of words could have been better,” said the chief executive of an Indian company.
Over the months, the government has been taking a tough stand on alleged circumventing of Indian ecommerce rules by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart. The chorus against Amazon and Flipkart is also getting louder every day from small traders to politicians.
Really Mr Goyal, why are all Bjp propaganda sites cheering & celebrating Modi & your boycott of #Bezos https://t.co/5fHbFGbc4C— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) January 17, 2020
Earlier on Thursday, Vijay Chauthaiwale, the in charge of BJP’s foreign affairs department, responded to a tweet by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos that many believed was suggesting the world’s richest businessman to rein in the Washington Post – also owned by Bezos – from making critical coverage on India. “Mr @JeffBezos, please tell this to your employees in Washington DC. Otherwise your charm offensive is likely to be waste of time and money,” Chauthaiwale wrote, while reacting to tweet of a video by Bezos announcing the $1 billion investment in India. The American businessman has also made a comment that the 21st century belonged to India.
A CEO of a large consumer-facing company said Goyal was making those comments out of compulsions to please small retailers and traders, who form the backbone of BJP’s vote-bank, as the segment is perceived to be hurt by deep discounting and alleged predatory pricing by Amazon and Flipkart. “The government doesn’t want to antagonise the trading community,” he said. “But such statements would send a wrong signal to investors.”
The chief executive of a frontline consumer electronics maker lauded Amazon’s investment plans and said any such capital infusion, especially at a time when the country was battling one of its worst slowdowns in years, should be welcomed. “Statements like these may impact MNC investor sentiments, especially at a time when the government is trying to promote Make in India 2.0,” he said.--ET