Barbs against Jeff Bezos hurt India's image as FDI destination

MuMBAI: Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal's dig at Amazon chief Jeff Bezos's investment plans for India is a case study in poor signalling by the government. At a time when the economy is in dire straits, adopting such a stance could severely hurt sentiment and dent inflow of foreign investments.

A quick recap: at an event in New Delhi, Goyal said Amazon was not "doing a great favour to India" by investing $1 bln on digitising small and medium businesses in the country.

The remarks came a day after Bezos announced the investment as part of his India visit. In his defence, Goyal has said that his comments were misconstrued but stopped short of withdrawing his statement.

It is disconcerting that a government which has persistently woos FDI and tom-toms each time India jumps a few places in the 'ease of doing business' rankings has publicly snubbed the world's richest man, who also happens to be a major investor in India. Combative posturing by the government dents India's image as an investment destination and undermines its potential.

Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart have been facing protests from small-scale traders in India on accusations of predatory pricing and deep discounts. Bezos's ongoing India visit, too, has witnessed protests from traders' bodies.

Interestingly, Bezos's trip has coincided with the Competition Commission of India launching a probe against Amazon and Flipkart over these allegations. Requests by Bezos to meet PM Narendra Modi and Goyal were also reportedly turned down.