Amazon and Walmart face the ire of 70 million Indian shopkeepers

In the heart of New Delhi’s largest wholesale bazaar, merchants who normally compete with each other have united against a common enemy. “Amazon, Flipkart!” one merchant after another shouts into a microphone from a small stage in Sadar Bazaar’s central traffic circle. Some 50 other shopkeepers gathered around shout back in unison: “Go back! Go back!”

The sit-in, which created more chaos than usual among the rickshaws, motorbikes and ox-carts plying the market road, was one of as many as 700 protests against Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. -- owner of local e-commerce leader Flipkart -- that organizers say took place at bazaars across India on a recent Wednesday.

India’s shopkeepers are mobilizing against the global e-commerce giants, alleging they are engaged in predatory pricing in violation of new rules meant to protect local businesses. At stake is the future of retailing in a country with 1.3 billion consumers, where Walmart and Amazon have sunk billions of dollars trying the crack the market and capture its growth potential.


Amazon and Flipkart are a second version of the East India company,” said Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary of the Confederation of All India Traders at the Delhi protest, referring to the British trading house whose arrival in India kicked off nearly 200 years of colonial rule. “The motive of Amazon and Flipkart is not to do business, but to monopolize and control.”

India’s government in October announced an investigation into the allegations of predatory pricing. Amazon and Walmart said in statements to Bloomberg News last week that their operations comply with Indian laws, and that they act only as a third-party marketplace.

The conflict comes amid a broader global backlash against the breakneck expansion of tech firms -- from protests by taxi drivers against an Uber-clone in Jakarta, to couriers for a Softbank-backed delivery startup creating a bonfire of their backpacks in Bogota in protest of low wages and poor benefits.