India’s commerce minister faces heat for criticism of businesses including Tata

Sat Aug 14 2021
Rajesh Sharma (2040 articles)

India’s commerce minister faced heat on social media on Saturday for his remarks that many big domestic businesses had overlooked national interests and that $106 billion Tata Group’s objections to proposed policy changes for e-commerce had upset him.

At an event organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on Thursday, Minister Piyush Goyal criticised Tata and more broadly said local businesses should not just focus on profits or think of bypassing local laws, according to media reports and a source who attended the event.

The comments caught public attention and stoked a debate on social media after The Hindu newspaper reported on Saturday the government had asked the CII to block videos with Goyal’s comments.

Two links to those videos on Goyal’s speech shared with journalists were now marked private and blocked. The CII and Goyal’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

“The kind of language used against industry captains & calling their work against nation’s interest is shameful … CII should demand an apology instead of helping him by pulling down the video,” said Priyanka Chaturvedi, a lawmaker and opposition leader.

A spokeswoman of India’s main opposition Congress Party, Supriya Shrinate, said on Twitter Goyal’s remarks were “undignified”.

Goyal’s comments on Tata came after Reuters last month reported the conglomerate was among most vociferous in telling the government in a July meeting that proposed e-commerce rules will have a major impact on its business and bar its joint venture partners like Starbucks from selling goods on Tata’s shopping websites.

At the CII event, Goyal said Tata’s objection to the rules had hurt him, saying he had conveyed that position to Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran, the source who attended said.

Tata declined to comment on Saturday.

Goyal has also repeatedly criticized Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart for allegedly bypassing foreign investment rules for e-commerce. This week, he also invoked the “Quit India” movement in parliament as he welcomed a court order that allowed an antitrust probe of the two companies to continue.

The Confederation of All India Traders, however, welcomed Goyal’s stand on Saturday, saying it was “highly unfortunate” that Tata was opposing government’s e-commerce rules.

Rajesh Sharma

Rajesh Sharma

Rajesh Sharma is Correspondent for Stock Market of South East Asia based in Mumbai. He has been covering Asian markets for more than 5 years.