Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, on a three-day visit to India, promised to create an additional 10 lakh jobs across the country by 2025 amid strained ties with the government over regulations and the coverage of The Washington Post, a newspaper he owns.
"We will use Amazon's global footprint to enable US$10 billion in exports of Indian products to the rest of the world by 2025. Our investments in India will create an additional 1 million jobs across the country by 2025," he said in a letter posted on Amazon.in on Friday.
"I fall more in love with India every time I return here. The boundless energy, innovation, and grit of the Indian people always inspire me," the American billionaire said.
Mr Bezos has already pledged an investment of $1 billion to digitize micro and small businesses in cities, towns, and villages across India.
The announcements come amid pushback from leaders of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet.
Revealing tensions with the US online retail giant, Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday had said Amazon hasn't done India any big favours by announcing the new $1 billion investment.
"They may have put in a billion dollars but then if they make a loss of a billion dollars every year then they jolly well have to finance that billion dollars," Mr Goyal told a security conference in New Delhi.
"So it's not as if they are doing a great favour to India when they invest a billion dollars," he said.
Amazon and its rival Flipkart, owned by American retailer Walmart, are facing mounting criticism from India's brick-and-mortar retailers, which accuse the US giants of violating the law by racking up billions of dollars of losses to fund deep discounts and discriminating against small sellers. The companies deny the allegations.
The allegations were "an area of concern for every Indian", Mr Goyal said.
The BJP, meanwhile, slammed editorial policies of The Washington Post. Vijay Chauthaiwale, the chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) foreign affairs department, said there was "a lot of problem" with the newspaper's coverage of India.
"The Washington Post editorial policy is highly biased and agenda driven," he told news agency Reuters, without giving specific examples.
The US-based newspaper has often been critical of PM Modi's government, including with the Citizenship Amendment Act, calling it "discriminatory" in a recent editorial.
About a month ago, PM Modi's office turned down a request for a meeting from Mr Bezos during his visit, sources said.
But the Amazon founder's announcements of investments and jobs come amid India's worst slowdown in decades and concerns over rising unemployment.
Thousands of people have lost jobs in the manufacturing and the construction sector and debt-ridden companies have cut their investment plans.
The unemployment rate rose to 7.7 per cent in December from 7 per cent a year earlier, data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a Mumbai-based think tank, showed.
Here is the full text of Jeff Bezos' letter:
Dear Customers, Sellers, and Partners,
Over 550,000 small and medium businesses are using the Amazon.in marketplace to offer India's largest selection of products. Karigar and Saheli have enabled over a million artisans and women entrepreneurs to go online. More than 60,000 businesses are exporting 'Make in India' products globally, with cumulative exports exceeding US$1 billion.
Millions of Prime members across India enjoy unlimited free and fast delivery, and ad-free online streaming of blockbuster movies and TV shows, including Amazon Originals such as Mirzapur and The Family Man. Alexa can now speak in Hindi and English seamlessly, and offers more than 30,000 skills from practicing yoga to reciting Panchatantra stories.
Amazon is invested in sustainable growth and is the first company to sign the Climate Pledge - with a commitment to meet the Paris Accord ten years early. In India, we've announced that we will eliminate single-use plastic from our fulfillment network by June 2020, and we are adding 10,000 electric rickshaws to our delivery fleet.
I fall more in love with India every time I return here. The boundless energy, innovation, and grit of the Indian people always inspire me. I'm excited to share that we will invest an incremental US$1 billion to digitize micro and small businesses in cities, towns, and villages across India, helping them reach more customers than ever before. As part of this initiative, we will use Amazon's global footprint to enable US$10 billion in exports of Indian products to the rest of the world by 2025. Our investments in India will create an additional 1 million jobs across the country by 2025.
It's still Day 1.
Jeff Bezos Founder and CEO, Amazon