Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday asked e-commerce players to strictly adhere to FDI norms, saying it “certainly does not look and feel and smell right” when a company makes a loss of Rs 6,000 crore on a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore.
He said India would welcome e-commerce companies to work within the framework and the laws of the land.
The minister was replying to a question about his earlier statement on Amazon and whether the company is breaking domestic laws of the sector. “I had before me the CCI’s preliminary findings. Our own office is also making queries on the various practices and I do hope and believe that if everybody can stick within the letter and spirit of the law, we won’t have to go down the path of finding whether anybody is breaking the law or not but whoever makes losses will have to bring in FDI to pay for those losses,” he said. He appealed to all stakeholders in the e-commerce industry to work within the letter and the spirit of the law and said, “I am sure it would look good for everybody.”
“Promises of a certain number of people benefitting from e-commerce are very attractive, but it cannot be at the cost of a ‘10X’ number of people suffering the consequences of practices which are not allowed and certainly a trillion dollar company, competing with small retailers whose total capital may be a lakh of two lakhs of rupees is a very, very unfair competition,” he said at an event, here. It is the government’s job and duty to protect the interests of every small stakeholder in the sector, he added.
The minister said the Centre allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce for marketplace model, in which a firm is supposed to work as an agnostic platform for transaction by providing buyers and sellers. “The platform cannot have a preferred supplier, it cannot determine the pricing, the platform cannot have control on the inventory, a platform cannot push buyers to sell and in that context, when a certain e-commerce company makes a loss of let’s say over Rs 6,000 crore on a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore. It certainly doesn’t look and feel and smell right. Right? “Very clearly a platform which has to be agnostic and encourage buyers and sellers to participate in a fair trade, cannot make a loss of Rs 6,000 crore on a turnover of Rs 5,000 crore,” he added.
Goyal said obviously if the firm makes a loss of Rs 6,000 cr, they have to bring in money to pay for that loss. That is the context in which “I made that statement (on Jan 16),” he said. The e-commerce policy categorically has allowed only business-to-business transaction, so online retailers were never expected to be “a let’s say a hidden way or a surreptitious way to enter multi-brand retailing,” he added.