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

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry, attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

By Abhirup Roy and Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – 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 https://reut.rs/3eLCfJo 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 https://reut.rs/3dDlJdI and bar its joint venture partners like Starbucks (NASDAQ:) 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 https://reut.rs/3qs5aXw Amazon (NASDAQ:) and Walmart (NYSE:)’s Flipkart for allegedly bypassing foreign investment rules for e-commerce. This week, he also invoked the “Quit India” movement https://reut.rs/3AwPsho 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.

The 153-year-old Tata Group has big e-commerce plans and is planning launch of an app that will integrate several of its top brands, but the proposed policy changes have spooked it, Reuters has reported https://reut.rs/3eLCfJo.

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