Nirmala Sitharaman, stakeholders discuss FDI in e-commerce sector
Photo Credit: Nirmala Sitharaman

The government today discussed various issues related to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the e-commerce sector with several stakeholders, including Flipkart, Snapdeal and industry associations. 

"It was the first meeting... We are not taking any position this way or that way from the Ministry. We have heard everybody. In fact, this is not going to be sufficient," Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters here. 

Sitharaman said the meeting was to understand the broader context of e-commerce and "the way in which they need FDI, they may not need FDI, is it affecting the level-playing field of the the brick and mortar stores. All these are being discussed". 

"I need more meetings with everyone, individual operators and association," she pointed out. 

The minister would also hold meetings with some state governments, particularly on taxation and definition of e-commerce. 

"I may have meetings with state governments also to understand how they have taken a position because it is important for me to know in each of these cases, what is the issue," she said. 

During the meeting, Sitharaman said stakeholders have raised issues related to taxation, definition and inclusion of e-commerce within the framework of domestic trade policy. 

At present, 100 per cent foreign direct investment is allowed only in business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce and not in the retail segment. 

Global retail giants, including Amazon, and the domestic industry want the government to relax the foreign investment norms in the e-commerce space. 

Global players are looking at India because the country is one of the fastest-growing markets in Asia-Pacific, along with China. Rise in Internet penetration, adoption of smartphones and lower data rates are completely changing the way India shops. 

According to estimates, the sector's market size in the country is at around USD 5 billion annually. Analysts said online shopping is expanding at a massive rate. 

Representatives from CII, FICCI, NASSCOM and Amazon, and trade body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) were present in today's meeting. 

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