Traders switch off festive lights to protest e-commerce

Doom and gloom

Brigade Road remains lit up for the festive season. DH PHOTO/B H SHIVAKUMAR

Taking the sheen off the festive season, several trade associations in the city have decided not to decorate the markets and shops in protest against e-commerce companies and their “unfair” business practices.

The decision is in line with a call given by the Confederation of All India Traders’ Association. 

Sajjan Raj Mehta, of Karnataka Hosiery and Garments’ Associations, said the government must regulate e-commerce players. “We’re calling for a complete relook into the business practices of online players that are fast expanding into retail trade and disturbing small-scale traders,” he told DH

Many traders appear to be honouring the protest call. There’s hardly any decoration or lighting in the central business district and the thriving textile and electronics hubs of Chickpet and Cottonpet. 

“No trader will decorate their shop. Markets won’t wear the festive look,” a trader from Cottonpet announced. “Except for the usual sales, there won’t be any promotional activities or sales events that are usually associated with the festive season.” 

Mehta explained why he thinks e-commerce companies are indulging in “unfair” trade practices. Government rules stipulate a levy of 12% GST on products priced at Rs 1,000 or more. He suggested that e-commerce companies were charging lower GST on products that cost Rs 2,000 or more, and making “huge profits”. 

“The big-time traders may not be feeling the pinch but small- and medium-scall shopkeepers are clearly hit,” Mehta said. “There’s a slump in the sale of electronics appliances and consumer durables. The same is the case with apparel and gift items.” He warned that if the government didn’t intervene, many traders would shut up shop early next year. 

But not every trader is as pessimistic. Traders associated with different organisations have remained quiet about the protest call. Suhail Yusuf, the secretary of the Brigade Road Shops’ and Commercial Establishments’ Association, said the festive mood in the famous shopping hub was “as usual”. “We are affiliated to the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FKCCI) and haven’t heard anything from them,” he said. 

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