Jeff Bezos is having quite a trip in India — but not everyone is pleased with his first visit in more than five years.
The Amazon CEO is hanging out with Bollywood stars (see video above), meeting local entrepreneurs, driving electric rickshaws, and making a series of announcements as the Seattle-based tech giant continues to invest heavily in one of its key international markets.
But protests from local retailers and criticism from lawmakers have turned the trip into a “public relations nightmare for Amazon,” Reuters reported.
Just landed in India and spent a beautiful afternoon paying my respects to someone who truly changed the world. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi. pic.twitter.com/xDXAT9cBgf
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 14, 2020
Amazon entered India seven years ago and has poured more than $5 billion into the country.
Bezos said Amazon will invest an additional $1 billion over five years “to digitize micro and small businesses in cities, towns, and villages across India.” The goal is to help export $10 billion of India-made goods by 2025. The company will also create one million jobs in India by 2025 and “double down” on Prime Video investments.
Speaking at an Amazon India event, Bezos predicted that “the 21st century is going to be the Indian century.” He also said the most important alliance would be between the U.S. and India — “the world’s oldest democracy, and the world’s largest democracy.”
Dynamism. Energy. Democracy. #IndianCentury pic.twitter.com/U6cKJO60Rz
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 15, 2020
Bezos tweeted a video Sunday of himself driving around a rickshaw — Amazon will roll out 10,000 of the fully electric three-wheelers in India. It will also eliminate single-use plastic from its fulfillment network by June 2020. It’s part of the company’s Climate Pledge that sets carbon reduction goals and timelines for reaching them. The announcement comes just days after fellow Seattle-area tech giant Microsoft announced its own environmental initiative.
Hey, India. We’re rolling out our new fleet of electric delivery rickshaws. Fully electric. Zero carbon. #ClimatePledge pic.twitter.com/qFXdZOsY4y
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 20, 2020
Bezos’ visit came just days after India’s government opened a formal antitrust investigation into both Amazon and Walmart-owned rival Flipkart.
The CEO was rumored to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but NDTV reported that government officials turned down requests, citing potential grievances with past coverage by the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
Just to clarify: Jeff Bezos doesn’t tell Washington Post journalists what to write. Independent journalism is not about charming governments. But there’s no question the work of our correspondents and columnists fits within India’s democratic traditions. https://t.co/TzrMZoCw69
— Eli Lopez (@elopezgross) January 17, 2020
Piyush Goyal, India’s commerce and industry minister, scrutinized Amazon’s new investment.
Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal’s jibe at Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos#JeffBezos #amazon #PiyushGoyal pic.twitter.com/zfG1N7UUv0
— Business Today (@BT_India) January 17, 2020
Small business owners also took to the streets to voice their displeasure with Bezos and Amazon.
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Last year, Amazon had to remove around 400,000 products from its online store in India due to new restrictions.
The Indian e-commerce market is expected to exceed $100 billion by 2022.