What will come in as some respite for both Amazon and Walmart, Indian Government has extended the deadline for submission of feedback on the draft e-commerce policy by around three weeks. The new deadline is 31st March 2019. The step of deferring the deadline was taken after demands by some companies for a separate policy on data with easier sharing norms.

During the stakeholder consultation with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), an arm of Commerce and Industry Ministry, e-commerce companies sought a broad policy which favors both traders and buyers as well as retail trade and banking. Interestingly, this also comes amid riding pressure from the US administration to make India’s business climate more suitable for companies from the States. The Trump administration had publicly warned the Indian side of consequences, if the current trade climate (specially e-commerce rules) are not mended to make it a level playing field.

Adding to that was lobbying by India’s larger e-commerce brands. According to reports, representatives from Amazon, Snapdeal, Microsoft, MakeMyTrip, Reliance Industries Ltd., and eBay attended the meeting, along with trade bodies and industry associations including CII, FICCI, and CAIT. However, Google, Facebook, and Walmart (which now owns Flipkart) did not participate in the deliberations.

Last month, on 23th February, the department had floated a new draft e-commerce policy that proposed regulating cross-border data flows along with locating computing facilities within the country to ensure job creation. It also suggested setting up local data authority for issues related to data sharing. It asserted that the data generated in the country is a national asset and citizens and the government has a sovereign right over it.

Reports indicate that Microsoft raised concerns over the restrictions on cross-border data flows. It said that the company works with startups in India developing AI products, the datasets for which are stored in centers abroad. It said that by restricting the flow of data to third parties, India’s innovative AI startups could be hurt.

On the other hand, Amazon talked about restricting the sale of counterfeit products and asked the government to come up with ways to boost exports by small manufacturers in India and also expressed its interest in sourcing products from India for the world.

The 41-page draft e-commerce policy addresses six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem — data, infrastructure development, e-commerce marketplaces, regulatory issues, stimulating domestic digital economy and export promotion through e-commerce. 

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