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Reliance supports the push for tighter rules for e-commerce marketplace in India: Report

Reliance, an Indian retailer, has advocated for tighter regulations of marketplace e-commerce channels to ensure that all sellers are treated similarly, according to Reuters citing four sources. While Reliance being India’s largest retailer with over 12,000 stores, has grown its e-commerce operations in recent years, it is still behind market leaders Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart, which it counts as major competitors.

A Reliance logo can be seen in Kolkata, India

Credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Reliance advised authorities in a closed-door government meeting on Tuesday that India needs special guidelines to ensure “non-discriminatory” treatment of sellers on marketplace platforms, three sources with knowledge of the meeting claimed. According to the sources, Reliance did not name any companies, but its statements reflect calls for stricter regulatory monitoring of e-commerce behemoths Amazon and Flipkart in India.

These suggestions were presented during a virtual meeting with Anil Agrawal, additional secretary of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), on Tuesday regarding the impending E-commerce Policy. Representatives of Flipkart, Amazon, Reliance, Snapdeal, among other e-commerce platforms were also present at the meeting.

Amazon, for example, outlined its initiatives such as Amazon Saheli, global selling, Karigar, local shops, and many others. Pepperfry, ShopClues, and Udaan were also present, as were Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), FISME, Retailers Association of India (RAI), Laghu Udyog Bharti, and other associations.

The move by Reliance, which is managed by one of India’s richest men, billionaire Mukesh Ambani, underlines the company’s rising rivalry with US-based e-commerce platforms in the quest for dominance in one of the world’s fastest expanding retail markets. As a local player, Reliance is capable of offering goods directly to customers through its website or apps, which international platforms are unable to do due to tougher regulations meant to safeguard the local retailer base.

The industry department’s proposed e-commerce policy, which will be announced anytime soon, is likely to outline ways to assist small retailers, farmers, and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in embracing digital technology. The proposed policy will also require the Centre to promote the government-backed e-commerce network Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC). ONDC’s goal is to lower the cost of doing business. It will help small and established retailers while also minimizing digital monopolies.

The government has yet to announce the revised draft e-commerce policy and rules, despite the fact that work on national policy and rules directly relating to the e-commerce industry in India has been ongoing for nearly four years. The traders’ body CAIT, in particular, has criticized Amazon, Flipkart, among other marketplaces of shady business practices such as heavy discounting, preferential seller treatment, etc.

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