After Doormat, Amazon Receives Flak For ‘Gandhi Flip Flops’

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Credit: Reuters/Files

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. Credit: Reuters/Files

New Delhi: Even as it seemed that Amazon had managed to tide over the controversy over a doormat, India on Saturday asked the online marketplace that it should keep “Indian sensitivities and sentiments” in mind while allowing third party vendors to sell their products.

Amazon had already apologised after the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj threatened to rescind and stop issuing visas for its officials after the Canadian version was found selling doormats printed with the Indian flag.

On Saturday evening, social media was rife with posts again, of flip flops being sold with the photo of Mahatma Gandhi superimposed on them. The item was titled as “gandhi Flip Flops” and was being sold by a seller called ‘CafePress’.

A few hours after the initial brouhaha, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup issued a statement – not Swaraj herself.

Screenshot of the flip flops on sale on Amazon

Screenshot of the flip flops on sale on Amazon

“As a follow up to the matter regarding the sale of doormats with the Indian flag on Amazon, our ambassador in Washington has been instructed to convey to Amazon that while providing a platform for third party vendors, they should respect Indian sensitivities and sentiments,” he said.

Unlike the previous move, there was no public threat included with this statement. The Indian high commission in Canada had been the purveyor of India’s views in the earlier incident.

Amazon has an investment of $5 billion in the Indian market, which has put its domestic competitors, like Flipkart and Snapdeal on the backfoot.

Last month, Flipkart founder Sachin Bansal said that the Indian government needs to adopt a “more India-centric approach” to regulation and approach towards US technology companies in India.

The lure of a billion dollar market means that foreign companies can’t risk displeased governments.

China has also been rather successful in getting multinationals to do their bidding. Recently, Apple withdrew the New York Times apps from the Itunes store in China following a request from Chinese authorities. The IT giant has, of course, refused to accede to the FBI demand for access to phone data from a mass shooter and even launched a legal challenge. At the same time, Apple was already allowing Chinese ‘security checks‘ of its devices. Apple was only one among many US IT companies allowing China to conduct security reviews of its products.

Disney had to make several concessions before it opened the doors of its theme park in Shanghai. The negotiations could start only after the Disney CEO had apologised for releasing a film on Dalai Lama in 1997.

Categories: e-commerce

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