RSS-linked Panchjanya slams Amazon as ‘modern East India Company’ in latest broadside against corporates
Panchjanya, the RSS-linked publication which recently made news by launching a savage attack on Infosys founder N. R. Narayana Murthy, is on the warpath again. This time, it’s lashed out at Amazon, the global e-commerce giant, accusing it of being a modern-day East India Company.
The magazine accused Amazon of paying massive bribes and concealing them in different ways, including huge legal fees totalling around Rs 8,500 crore.
In a statement last week, Amazon had indicated that its legal expenses were Rs 52 crore for the year ending March 31, 2020, and that the larger figure mentioned included a range of other expenses.
Panchjanya’s cover splashed a photo of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos along with the provocative headline: “#Amazon: East India Company 2.0”.
The story inside referred to Amazon’s alleged legal payments and asked the question: “What did it (the company) do wrong it needed to bribe...Why do people consider this company a threat to indigenous entrepreneurship, economic freedom and culture?”
There was no immediate comment available from Amazon on the article. But in a statement last week, Amazon said: “Given a misleading representation of a line item from our statutory filings on legal fees in a section of the media, we clarify that the line item is actually termed legal and professional expenses.”
Under that heading are “not just the legal costs but also the costs related to other professional services such as outsourcing, tax consultants, customer research, logistic support services, merchant onboarding services, customer service cost, etc,” Amazon said. The company noted that for the financial year ended March 31, 2020, for instance, “the legal fee was INR 52 Crore, from the total legal and professional expenses of INR 1967 Crore.”
The Congress said whatever the Sangh says is “irrelevant as it does not say anything in the national interest but in the interest of the ruling BJP.” At the same time, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, "The issue of Amazon is a serious one and it merits everybody's attention. The allegations against Amazon are very serious and they cannot be ignored,"
In early September Panchjanya attacked Infosys and its founder, N. R. Narayana Murthy, accusing the company of being in league with, “Naxals, Leftists, and the tukde tukde gang (the gang that wants to divide the country). Panchjanya’s broadside was ostensibly because of the glitches in the income tax portal that Infosys has been working on with the government.
One fact that links the earlier story and the current one, is that Narayana Murthy and Amazon jointly own Cloudtail which is the biggest seller on the Amazon platform. Murthy has a majority stake in Cloudtail but the government has raised objections to this partnership and it is scheduled to be dissolved next year. The RSS had later distanced itself from the Infosys attack, saying the article was the opinion of the author.
The UK’s Financial Times had commented last week that tirades against foreign companies “are unlikely to help attract much-needed foreign investment to India.”
Panchjanya’s earlier attack on Infosys and Murthy has caused considerable consternation in the Indian corporate world because it came soon after the Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal launched a vitriolic diatribe against the Tata Group at a meeting where many top industrialists were present, accusing it of not caring about the national interest and having “foreigners’ as business partners.
The Tata Group is preparing to make a giant splash into e-commerce by launching a “super-app” which is currently being tested. The Tatas are unhappy about some proposed government regulations because it would prevent them from selling products by group companies like Starbucks. Also, it would not be able to sell products from 1MG, the online pharmaceutical retailer, which it bought recently.
The e-commerce arena is likely to turn into fierce battle-zone next year with four powerful contenders, Amazon, Flipkart, the Tatas and Reliance all in the fray.
Both the RSS and the BJP had distanced themselves from Panchjanya’s attack on Narayana Murthy and Infosys. RSS spokesman Sunil Ambekar tweeted that Panchjanya was not a “mouthpiece of the RSS and the said article or opinions expressed in it should not be linked with the RSS.” Ambekar added that the article, “only reflects the individual opinion of the author.”
“Whatever the East India Company did in the 18th century to capture India, the same is visible in the activities of Amazon," the Panchjanya article said. Claiming that Amazon is seeking to establish its monopoly in the Indian market, the magazine said “it has started taking initiatives for seizing the economic, political and personal freedom of the Indian citizens.”
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents small traders, has strongly lauded the article, saying, “it greatly appreciated” the Panchjanya story and that it shared the view that online retailers Amazon and Flipkart want to, “become a second edition of East India Company.”
The, “business model of these two companies are similar (to) that of East India Company – selling goods at cheaper rate irrespective of the quality….killing competition… and monopolising the market in their favour,” B. C. Bhartia, CAIT national president said.
The Panchjanya story added: “"For doing so, it has started taking initiatives for seizing the economic, political and personal freedom of the Indian citizens."
The CAIT chief added: “This is exactly what East India Company did…both Amazon and Flipkart want to invade our country’s economic and social culture.”