Amazon ends Indian e-tail enablement joint venture

Helped over 300,000 sellers to get online – on Amazon – which was a bit too cosy in the current political climate


Amazon.com will take its leave of an Indian e-tail enablement joint venture named Cloudtail, which will close in 2022 – seemingly because it may have been a little too successful.

The JV is seven years old and saw Amazon team with a local outfit named Catamaran to help Indian merchants start selling online.

The plan worked. A statement from the companies seen by The Register says the companies "enabled over 300,000 sellers and entrepreneurs to go online and enabled four million merchants with digital payment capabilities".

Access to e-commerce is hard to argue against, but Catamaran's efforts made Cloudtail a dominant seller on Amazon.com's Indian site. That left Amazon in an awkward position, because India's government is keenly aware that big e-commerce platforms have the power to use discounts and flash sales to privilege vendors in which they hold a stake, and recently moved to stop such practices because they make it hard for independent vendors to compete.

Amazon wasn't the only target of the new rules. When India's government annoucned its new e-commerce regulations it mentioned "widespread cheating and unfair trade practices being observed in e-commerce ecosystem[s]".

The political climate for foreign e-tailers was this week further complicated by Indian courts, which green-lit an antitrust investigation into Amazon.com and Flipkart – an e-commerce outlet controlled by US retail giant Walmart.

India has even decided to create a national e-commerce platform that it hopes will compete with foreign players.

The statement from Amazon and Catamaran/Cloudtail has a "mission accomplished" vibe – neither mentions regulatory worries, preferring instead to suggest that the joint venture has signed so many merchants that it has "played an important role in transforming Indian e-commerce, and paving the way for the global scale up of emerging Indian brands".

Whatever Cloudtail's past successes, its future is grim – the company will close in May next year. ®

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