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Amazon’s Pledge of $1 Billion to Indian SMBs Met with Government Probe

Indian business owners are fed up with Amazon, and they’re done hiding their disdain for the e-commerce titan.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is touring the country in a gesture of goodwill, bringing with him a gift of $1 billion in potential investment capital for small businesses. The Seattle-based company said it would erect 100 digital centers across 100 cities and villages across India, designed to help businesses get online, Reuters reported.

Amazon will offer help building out marketing and logistics operations, too. The massive windfall will help enable exports of India-made goods worth $10 billion by 2025, Amazon claimed.

Speaking at a company event that brought together more than 3,000 small business, Bezos told onlookers that Amazon was committed to being the country’s long-term partner.

But despite having paid his respects at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial and promising a massive cash infusion to the country’s economy, Bezos isn’t catching a break.

Amazon has come under fire from India’s brick-and-mortar businesses ever since it began targeting the country for expansion. Between Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart, the country’s stores are being increasingly pummeled by online marketplaces owned by outsiders.

Earlier this month, Amazon also struck a deal with Future Retail Limited (FRL), one of India’s largest retail players. Seeking to capitalize on the store network’s reach, which totals 1,500 locations across 400 cities, Amazon will provide the online expertise to make FRL a true omnichannel threat.

In the face of Amazon’s growing presence in the country, India’s nonplussed store-owners are becoming an increasingly vocal contingent. They have accused Amazon of violating Indian law by offering impossibly deep discounts that undercut local merchants, and of effectively handicapping them by favoring select large sellers over smaller ones.

Protests organized by the Confederation of All India Traders were set to take place in 300 cities during Bezos’ visit, Reuters reported. The group represents about 70 million merchants across the country.

To date, the protests have been modest in size and largely drowned out by the excitement surrounding Bezos’ visit, but they do signal growing tensions between Amazon and India’s business community.

The country’s government has also heeded citizen concerns. Though Amazon has denied wrongdoing, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) launched an anti-trust probe last week to investigate the allegations.