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What if Amazon takes over Flipkart? India's antitrust watchdog starts study

In a country where Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart dominate, the agency is surveying online retailers to understand the sector's 'implications for competition'

Newley Purnell & Rajesh Roy | WSJ  |  New Delhi 

Flipkart and amazon
India’s e-commerce industry is still small compared with those in the US or China but it is expected to grow quickly as more consumers get online

India’s antitrust watchdog is assessing the domestic sector, a step that could have consequences for com Inc. and Inc.’s Flipkart, which dominate online sales in the country.

In a questionnaire dated May 17, the says it is seeking to understand the evolution of the industry, the sector’s methods and strategies, business practices and “implications for competition,” according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. is conducting the study, according to the 14-page document, which is marked confidential.

The questions cover the percentage of products sold by categories, inventory practices, how pricing decisions are made and total sales volume, among other subjects.

“What if tomorrow takes over Walmart-controlled or vice versa? Wouldn’t there be a complete monopoly? This needs to be checked,” said an official at India’s who declined to be named. The ministry oversees the Competition Commission.

A spokesman for the didn’t respond to a request for comment about the questionnaire Tuesday. Representatives in India for Ernst & Young, and also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hoping to emulate China’s success at promoting homegrown technology companies, Indian policy makers have been discussing in recent months ways to restrict US players in what many consider the world’s biggest untapped tech market.

“They’re picking up from global trends, discussions about how online marketplaces dominate sales,” said Satish Meena, an analyst at research firm Forrester.

Last year, New Delhi established a clearer set of rules for e-commerce that forced Amazon and to adjust their operations. Also, the country’s telecommunications regulator has considered new policies that could force Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and other social-media platforms to permit authorities to read encrypted messages between users on national-security grounds.

Flipkart, which acquired for $16 billion last year, has a roughly 38% market share in India, according to Forrester. Amazon, which is investing $5 billion to expand its operations here, has about 31% of the market, the research firm said.

India’s e-commerce industry is still small compared with those in the US or China but it is expected to grow quickly as more consumers get online, thanks to inexpensive mobile data and smartphones. India’s online-retail market was valued at $26.9 billion in 2018, but should rise to $84.6 billion in 2023, according to Forrester.

It couldn’t be determined which e-commerce have received the antitrust watchdog’s questionnaire. A disclaimer in the document says that it is “purely a fact-finding exercise to develop a clear understanding of the function of e-commerce in India.”

The Competition Commission has also been investigating whether Alphabet Inc.’s Google used the dominant position of its Android operating system to block rivals in India, according to an official with knowledge of the matter. Google has said Android has led to “more competition and innovation, not less.”

Last year, the assembled a panel to review the country’s competition rules “in view of changing business environment and bring necessary changes, if required,” the agency said at the time.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

First Published: Wed, May 22 2019. 22:01 IST
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