Amazon pledges $1 billion to small businesses in India as Jeff Bezos is met with protests

Key Points
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has announced a $1 billion investment to help digitize small and medium businesses in India.
  • Bezos appeared on stage Wednesday at Amazon's annual Smbhav event in New Delhi.
  • It comes as Amazon faces a fresh antitrust probe in the country, as well as nationwide protests by a group representing small businesses in India.
Amazon's Jeff Bezos announces $1 billion investment into India businesses as business owners protest his visit
Bezos announces $1 billion India business investment as biz owners protest his visit

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a $1 billion investment in India, as his company faces a fresh antitrust probe and waves of protests in the country.

Bezos appeared on stage Wednesday at Amazon's Smbhav event in New Delhi for a fireside chat alongside Amit Agarwal, who heads Amazon's India operations. He said the $1 billion investment will be used to digitize small and medium-sized businesses in the country and that Amazon hopes to export $10 billion worth of India-made goods around the world by 2025.

"I predict that the 21st century is going to be the Indian century," Bezos said on stage, while wearing traditional Indian attire. "The dynamism, the energy ... this country has something special. 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 tweet

Bezos touched on other topics during the fireside chat, including climate change and the future of space exploration.

Smbhav is a two-day event held by Amazon that's aimed at helping the company connect with millions of small and medium-sized businesses in the country. Amazon has already poured more than $5 billion in its India business. It went on a hiring spree in the country last year and announced a partnership with India's Future Retail earlier this month.

The announcement builds on Amazon's efforts to expand the marketplace in India. The company said there are more than 550,000 sellers on the Amazon India marketplace and more than 60,000 Indian manufacturers exporting their goods worldwide on Amazon.

Amazon's investments in India haven't always been met with enthusiasm. While Bezos appeared on stage, a group of small business owners criticized his trip, hosting protests across 300 cities in India. The Confederation of All India Traders, a group that represents 70 million traders and 40,000 trade associations, called Amazon "the worst enemy" of traders in the country and held signs saying "Jeff Bezos Go Back."

Mobile dealers and members of Ahmedabad Mobile Dealer's Association hold placards as they protest against online shopping platform Amazon outside their closed mobile shops in Ahmedabad on January 15, 2020.
Sam Panthaky | AFP | Getty Images

The company also faces a fresh antitrust probe by India's antitrust watchdog. The Competition Commission of India on Monday launched a probe into whether Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart have violated competition laws by promoting "preferred sellers" on their platforms and offering deep discounts. Flipkart and Amazon say they're fully compliant with the country's competition laws.

In addition to his appearance at Smbhav, Bezos has also sought a meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and celebrities from the Bollywood movie industry, according to Bloomberg. On Tuesday, Bezos also paid his respects to a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi.

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