Dressed in a traditional Nehru jacket, Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, and chief executive, said on Wednesday from New Delhi that his e-commerce behemoth will invest $1 billion to bring small and medium businesses in India online. He also pledged that his company would export $10 billion worth of “Made in India” goods by 2025. The news—which was announced during Amazon Smbhav, a two-day summit aimed at bringing business owners together to hear speeches from Amazon representatives and other major executives—was met with applause.
With the world’s seventh-largest economy as measured by GDP, the goodwill from Bezos toward India is necessary. India’s antitrust watchdog just launched a probe into Amazon and Flipkart for predatory pricing and preferential listing toward its favoured brands. The Indian government has also spent the last year tightening its e-commerce regulations toward foreign online retailers, including rules to stop heavy discounting, in a bid to protect domestic competitors. Further, a trade organization representing millions of small and medium-sized business owners organized protests in 300 cities across the country against Amazon to coincide with the billionaire’s visit.
Bezos, the richest man in the world, has not made any announcements about meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the India trip. But Bezos’ pledge during Amazon Smbhav should be welcome news for the head of state. Prime Minister Modi, who is in his second term in office and faces heavy criticism for encouraging discrimination and violence against Muslims living in India, declared in November that he aims to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. India’s GDP in 2018 was $2.6 trillion.
In a video posted to Instagram, Bezos ended his Amazon Smbhav speech with two declarations regarding India: “I predict that the 21st century is going to be the Indian century. In this 21st century, the most important alliance is going to be the alliance between India and the United States—the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy.” Bezos then took a bow.