If the series of marathon stakeholder meetings Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal is holding in the last three days is any indication, Modi government's national e-commerce policy is likely to take final shape soon. Two days after spending a long evening with the representatives of e-commerce and IT companies, Goyal on Wednesday (June 19) met the representatives of associations of Kirana stores, traders and retailers to discuss the same topic. While the industry representatives have been given 10 days to share their views on the draft e-commerce policy, traders and retailers have been asked to submit their feedback within the next five days.
The minister reiterated the government's stand that India will not allow multi-brand retail by foreign companies, including a backdoor entry on the pretext of business to business (B2B) channel. Responding to the concerns raised by the retailers over the adverse impact of anti-competitive practices such as predatory pricing and other discriminatory methods from multinational e-commerce platforms, Goyal said that predatory pricing will not be allowed and necessary action will be taken against defaulters. Stating that the government will give all support and assistance to small traders and retailers to grow their business, he wanted the small stores, traders and retailers to be part of the government's e-commerce (GeM) platform, which has already achieved a turnover of Rs 25,000 crore. The minister also exhorted the small retailers and Kirana stores to embrace modern technology and said that no matter how protective laws can be, it can only help (insulate the retail sector from competition) to a certain point as India cannot remain in isolation and will have to be part of the global value chain in order to become a $5 trillion economy.
On Monday (June 17), Goyal had sought industry comments on the draft e-commerce policy. The discussion saw industry expressing their concerns over data protection related policies across various arms of the government and regulatory framework. Goyal said attempts will be made to see the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) work in synergy towards realising the full use of digital technology together with trade and investment while being mindful of India's priorities and sensitivities.
The IT firms, domestic as well as foreign, put forth their concerns related to RBI data storage requirements and processing related guidelines. Industry representatives also informed that while the consultations for the Data Protection Bill by MeitY was satisfactory, a lot of time has elapsed and the industry was not sure about the final shape of the Bill.
Goyal said the meeting was meant to understand industry concerns and take their suggestions towards building a robust data protection framework that will achieve the dual purpose of privacy and innovation and strengthen India's position as a global tech leader with a focus on trust and innovation. Deputy Governor of RBI, B.P. Kanungo, and MeitY Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, assured the e-Commerce companies that their concerns will be looked at.
E-Commerce and tech companies welcomed India's participation in the discussions on the free flow of data in the recent G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy and wanted India to participate in the discussions on digital trade but issues of concern for the country must be taken up as and when they arise during the G20 discussions.