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DIPP To Release E-commerce Policy Soon, Says Suresh Prabhu

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is expected to release the final e-commerce policy soon, reportedly said Suresh Prabhu, the minister of commerce and industry and civil aviation on January 30. The minister was speaking at an event organized by the Federation of Gujarat Industries.

He further added that the central government will listen to the suggestions made by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), however, the e-commerce policy guidelines will be finalized by the government.

In a bid to improve the local business in India, the minister also announced that the central government is looking to introduce  ‘sub-national’ – ease of doing business parameters which will be measure government reforms at the district level.

This announcement comes in right just a day before changes in the FDI policy for e-commerce are set to come into effect from February 1, 2019. The draft e-commerce policy, which was initially drafted by industry stakeholders, was publicly announced in August 2018 by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

However, the e-commerce draft was stalled due to interministerial differences as many departments and ministries believed that the consultations exceeded the commerce department’s brief. In order to clarify the issues, in September 2018, the central government had set up a panel including secretaries across department and ministries led by  DIPP secretary Ramesh Abhishek. A month later, the government handed over the e-commerce policy to the department.

According to reports, the new e-commerce policy will have a provision for a sector regulator and would help boost the sector, promote exports and ensure fair play. It is mainly aimed at promoting the domestic players and ensuring a level playing field and is aimed at developing the manufacturing sector, promote foreign technology transfer and attract foreign investments.

Some of the suggested changes according to the draft policy are:

  • Up to 49% foreign direct investment (FDI) may be allowed in inventory-based e-commerce companies with a condition that they sell products which are 100% made in India
  • The etailers are prohibited from giving deep discounts through their in-house companies listed as sellers
  • Under this policy, the online sale of made in India goods will be promoted  by allowing a limited inventory-based B2C model
  • Launch of Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) for protection of consumer interests
  • It also suggests giving more control and power to the founders of e-commerce companies than the investors

It had been earlier reported that, as a part of the e-commerce policy, the DIPP has also discussed issues related to gifts from overseas, logistics industry as well as exports.

Will This Slow The E-commerce Sector?

Reacting to the suggested changes in e-commerce policy, last month (December 2018), the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) had stated that the new e-commerce rules are regressive in nature and could also potentially harm the users. The US-India trade lobby also added that these new rules can create unpredictability and might have a negative impact on the growth of the online retail market in the country.

The e-commerce rules may largely affect companies such as Flipkart and Amazon India which are backed by US-based Walmart and Amazon. At a time, when the e-commerce sector is expected to clock in revenue of $120 Bn (INR 8.5 Lakh Cr) by 2020, foreign companies are looking to slow down their business in India.

Recently, an unreleased PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study claimed that e-commerce sector in the country may suffer a $45.2 Bn (INR 3.2 Lakh Cr) loss in sales by 2022 due to the changes in FDI circular in e-commerce policy.

Recently, reports said that the US government had expressed its concerns over the new rules and is planning to slow down on the investment plans of US-based retailers Amazon and Walmart.  In line with the FDI circular, Amazon’s food retail arm Amazon Food has also revealed its plans to stop selling food products through its website if the policies are not changed.

At a time when the government has been bullish on a digital transformation across the country, these rulings might put the e-commerce companies in a pinch. However, while the etailers have expressed their concerns, the traditional Indian retail sector has welcomed this new rulings.―Inc42

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