Asia Minute: Amazon’s India Surprise

Jan 20, 2020

The world's richest person spent several days last week in the world's largest democracy. But the trip of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos didn't turn out quite the way he expected.

 


Jeff Bezos says he wants to spend a billion dollars in India, and bring a million jobs over the next five years.

You might think that would have brought an enthusiastic reception during his trip to India at the end of last week, but it didn’t work out that way. He left without even meeting a single government minister.

Indian broadcaster NDTV reported Bezos’s request to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been turned down a month ago.

Indian news agency ANI quoted a senior government official as saying there were no high-level meetings because Amazon is “engulfed in controversies.”

Some of those controversies include allegations of unfair competition — a topic raised by India’s trade minister. Amazon is under an anti-trust investigation by India’s government, along with Walmart’s online delivery service in the country, Flipkart. Officials are looking into charges of illegally deep discounting and potential discrimination against small business owners.

And then there’s the Amazon founder’s ownership of the Washington Post.

A top leader of Modi’s political party said there was “a lot of problem” with the Post’s India coverage — although he did not give any specific examples.

For his part, Bezos says “the 21st century is going to be an Indian century” — calling the relationship between the U.S. and India “the most important alliance in the 21st century.”