India takes a lot of pride in its national flag, and Amazon is learning that the hard way today.
India’s outspoken external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj lambasted Amazon on Wednesday after the Seattle-based ecommerce company the company’s Canadian store was found to be selling doormats depicting India’s flag.
The 62-year-old minister threatened to expel all foreign employees of Amazon from the country if it did not remove the controversial doormats from its store.
Swaraj also demanded the Seattle-based company to offer an “unconditional apology,” and “withdraw” all “products insulting our national flag immediately,” she tweeted Wednesday, urging the Indian High Commission in Canada to consider the matter at “the highest level.
If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official. We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier.
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) January 11, 2017
Amazon has previously removed the controversial items from its stores. In a statement to Mashable, a spokesperson said: “The item is no longer for sale on the site.”
It is an embarrassing episode for Amazon at a time when it is looking to India as a major source of growth. Last year, CEO Jeff Bezos announced an additional $3 billion investment in India, adding that the company sees a big opportunity in the country. Amazon has so far invested over $5 billion in the country, and has already challenge the local giant Flipkart for the tentpole position.
Late last year, Amazon launched on-demand video streaming service Prime Video in India (along with 241 other nations and territories). In the run up to its launch, the company partnered with several of India’s largest movies and distribution studios for exclusive content rights.
The company is offering Prime Video access in the country for less than a dollar per month. Just to please the Indian authority, it is censoring some content in its catalog, an insider told us last month.