The Indian government has been striving to effectively regulate India’s e-commerce retail market, since its first attempt in 2000. The regulations have been a by-product of the fear of organised global retail with deep pockets adversely affecting scores of unorganised “mom-and-pop shops” and retailers. The Indian foreign direct investment policy on e-commerce retail has been amended several times, and the e-commerce business houses operating in India have restructured themselves to fall in line with every such change in policy without significantly altering their operations.
In the latest episode of this ongoing saga, the Government of India issued a Press Note No. 2 (2018 Series) on December 28, 2018, to effectively legislate against e-commerce entities that disguise their inventory-based business models as marketplaces. Reportedly, Walmart-backed Flipkart and Amazon India are undergoing complex structuring and restructuring to align themselves with the amended policy. This to and fro between the Government and e-commerce players has not only been unproductive for the country’s economy, but is also against this Government’s stated objective of certainty and Ease of Doing Business in India. While the effective implementation of the regulations governing e-commerce retail continues to be a significant issue, there are certain other fundamental concerns relating to the approach of the Indian government towards e-commerce retail, which require immediate consideration.