Representatives and supporters of over 6 lakh small Indian traders, distributors, and merchants, both off-line and on-line, have come together to launch a unique event, titled ‘Asmbhav Summit’.
‘Asmbhav’ or ‘impossible’, manifests the belief of the sellers that till such time that India continues to allow foreign retailers to masquerade as marketplaces and platforms in India, success for small Indian sellers would be impossible.
The Asmbhav event is being concurrently held with Amazon’s event, ‘Smbhav 2021’ which is ostensibly being positioned as a friend and guide to its small sellers and trader partners.
Asmbhav Summit goes live on April 15, 2021 and presents an important forum for participants whose lives and livelihoods have been marred by the highly discriminatory and bullying attitude of foreign e-commerce retailers posing as marketplaces to collectively raise their voice against these partisan practices and impress upon the government the need for urgent regulatory and legal intervention.
The summit seeks to forcefully bring the traders’ severe grievances and the various challenges they face while selling on-line to foreign retailers posing as marketplaces.
The summit is being organized by an Indian Sellers Collective which includes organizations like AIOVA (All India Online Vendors Association), All-India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA), PRAHAR (Public Response Against Helplessness and Action for Redressal), AICPD (All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation), FAIDA (Federation of All India Distributors Associations), and FMCG Distributors & Traders Association, Delhi.
The summit has a keynote discussion with Ashwani Mahajan from Swadeshi Jagran Manch followed by a series of panel discussions and presentations and finally culminates with Asmbhav Awards, which recognizes the destructive contribution of individuals against the business interests of small Indian sellers and merchants.
Arvinder Khurana from AIMRA along with the AIOVA spokesperson; Dhairyashil Patil from All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF); Abhay Raj Mishra from Public Response Against Helplessness and Action for Redressal (PRAHAR); Devendra Agarwal from FMCG Distributors and Traders Association; Shriram Baxi of Federation of All India Distributors Associations (FAIDA); Parminder Singh from IT for Change; and Dr. Ganeshvaran, President, TN Distributors Association are participating in a panel discussion on ‘Need for a stronger E-commerce policy to reign in the malpractices by foreign marketplace players in India.’
The Union government is working on a draft e-commerce policy which is expected soon. Small traders, who really are the most severely affected party in the e-commerce market upheaval, are hoping that enough safeguards and protection will be made possible by the government in this policy update. In fact, the event is dedicated to the aim of creating awareness around policy loopholes which are being exploited by MNC E-commerce platforms today.
Top legal experts such as Abir Roy from Sarvada Legal, M.M. Sharma from Vaish LAW, Pranav Sachdeva, Advocate on Record, Supreme Court, and Shri Krishna of FAIDA are sharing views as part of a policy panel discussion on ‘Policy loopholes being exploited by foreign E- commerce marketplaces to destroy the business of small sellers in India’.
According to Arvinder Khurana, President, AIMRA, “Being Indian, our mobile retailers deserve a level and equitable playing field. This is today just a pipe dream because of the nefarious practices adopted by the big foreign retailers operating platforms. Firstly, on the one hand, these global retailers directly tie up with leading mobile brands and on the other engage their own select resellers, who are none other than their related parties, to sell these brands on an exclusive basis. Such tie-ups are both illegal and monopolistic. Due to these malpractices thousands of retailers across India are facing un-survivable losses and are facing threats to their livelihoods. We appeal to the government to not allow foreign retailers to run marketplaces since these companies as their real intent and agenda is to run a retail operation in the name of a marketplace.”
According to the AIOVA spokesperson, “We have been seeing our members selling on the platforms suffer with lack of business and due to this, eventually forced to shut shop in many tragic instances. There are huge conflict of interests, disparity, absence of collective rights, dispute redressal mechanisms and high fees for selling. We hope to bring this stark fact in focus, both before the government and the public. Our ‘Asmbhav’ summit brings into focus and out in the open the lack and absence of regulations on platforms and their conduct with businesses which has allowed them to exploit sellers and their businesses. This needs to be looked into and stopped immediately.”
According to Abhay Raj Mishra, PRAHAR, “The pandemic has witnessed a massive destruction of livelihoods in India with the trading and merchant community being severely affected. Adding to the destruction has been the diversion of business from offline sellers to online sellers during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the small sellers did not benefit from the boom in online sales, as the earnings have been amassed by the 5-6 related parties who do 90 per cent business on foreign retailers owned marketplaces. Amazon’s summit Smbhav presents a misleading picture of helping lakhs of sellers as in reality the beneficiaries are only half a dozen. This is capitalism of another kind which is taking away the livelihoods of small sellers which must be arrested immediately.”
Speaking on the occasion, Dhairyashil Patil, National President, AICPDF, stated, “In India, the current FDI norms prohibit e-commerce companies from ownership or control over the inventory of sellers on its platform. By gross misconduct and bending of laws, marketplace companies masquerading as platforms have played havoc with their trader partners. We are very confident that the Asmbhav event will serve as a forum for action and for unity to our silent and suffering majority and also impel the promulgation of a stringent FDI e-commerce policy to safeguard Indian interests.”
The new FDI policy as it relates to e-commerce platforms is being eagerly awaited by small merchants who expect it to be strong and fair. In the absence of this, the foreign e-commerce companies would continue to amass wealth for themselves and their related parties, at the cost of small sellers. Therefore, it is intensely important for events such as Asmbhav to successfully take place and for it to sharply escalate awareness on the malpractices by foreign platforms in the deceptive garb of marketplaces thereby helping save millions of livelihoods and jobs dependent on the survival of small sellers.