Amazon India on Thursday announced a $250-million Amazon Smbhav venture fund to support start-ups.
The fund will invest in start-ups and entrepreneurs that focus on digitising small and medium businesses (SMB) and drive technology-led innovations in agriculture and healthcare.
The global e-commerce firm that has often been accused by local traders of backing preferred sellers and resorting to discriminatory business practices also launched a slew of initiatives for small businesses at the four-day Amazon Smbhav summit starting Thursday.
The company said that it plans to bring nearly one million Indian offline retailers and neighbourhood stores to its marketplace by 2025 through the Local Shops on Amazon programme. Besides, it will undertake a ‘Spotlight North East’ project that aims to bring 50,000 artisans, weavers and small businesses online from the eight states in the North East region by 2025 and to boost exports of key commodities like tea, spices and honey from the area.
Amazon said, “these initiatives reaffirm the company’s pledge to digitise 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion in exports, and create one million jobs by 2025″.
The firm’s annual Smbhav event it introduced last year to celebrate its growing community of SMBs has been countered by local traders who collectively launched ‘asmbhav’, a virtual event to “raise voice against practices of foreign e-commerce retailers”. The summit is being helmed by representatives and supporters of over 6,00,000 small Indian traders, distributors, and merchants, both offline and online. A key point that emerged at the event was that there is a need for stricter regulation and penalisation for wrongs done by the foreign retailers posing as marketplaces, they said in a statement.
“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,” said Ashwani Mahajan from Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Traders say that while Amazon claims to have lakhs of sellers on its platform, almost 80% of its business comes from selected sellers.
The trader groups said the issue of ill-treatment of small retailers at the “hands of so-called platform owners turned marketplaces” was also discussed. According to Abhay Raj Mishra, president at Prahar said: “the small to medium-sized traders have been constantly subjected to a cruel bias by the foreign retailers. It is apparent that these merchants serve no other purpose than just becoming lifeless statistics for the large platforms to claim bragging rights on reach and depth”.