The ‘Asmbhav Summit’, successfully held virtually across India representing the voices and aspirations of lakhs of small retailers and traders across India saw enthusiastic participation from participants across industry and callings. A key point that emerged was the need for stricter regulation and penalization for wrongs done by the foreign retailers posing as marketplaces. According to Dr. Ashwani Mahajan from Swadeshi Jagran Manch, “Some government agencies have now become active and vigilant. ED is one while the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is also investigating and has gone to court too. My request is for the RBI to investigate FEMA violations wherever these have taken place so that the foreign platforms, if they are defaulters, can be checked and stopped.”
- Foreign retailers misleading the government by showing a large number of sellers on their platforms. The reality is that only five to six sellers account for 95 percent revenue from their platforms.
- Foreign e-commerce retailers misuse the data and sales trends related information of small sellers to gain insights into consumer behaviour and then use either their preferred entities for sales leads or launch private labels to serve these identified ‘hot’ customers.
- Foreign e-commerce retailers are essentially just retailers in their DNA and do not have any proven expertise of running marketplaces in other countries. Since they understand the direct-to-customer retail game better, they try to create surrogate models to achieve the same goals instead of building marketplaces in India. They have procreated just a handful of entities which do most of the business on their platforms while lakhs of small, unsuspecting traders are kept dangling with false hope.
- There is no standardisation of pricing, policies, or even business terms for small and large sellers working with so-called foreign retail marketplaces. There is discriminatory pricing and other adverse conditions making it difficult for small sellers to grow on these platforms.
Lively, informed panel discussions among legal experts and amongst leading industry associations provided practical insights into the problems and challenges facing the fair operation of the e-commerce industry today. Speakers also provided a set of solutions, both industry specific and regulatory to control errant foreign retailers from strangulating domestic retailers and from bypassing the existing laws with impunity. The summit witnessed two engaging panel discussions followed by the ‘Asmbhav Awards’, given to those individuals who had managed to the possible impossible through their actions and deeds insofar as the destruction of the small Indian retailer is concerned.