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Five Stains which Threaten to Critically Tarnish Mr. NR Narayana Murthy’s ‘Spotless’ and ‘Infallible’ Reputation

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NR Narayana Murthy, a name most readily accepted and respected globally as India’s call-sign for tech prowess and wealth creation, has a dark side to it which not many know of. In the light of recent and a few not so recent developments, the shining crown is missing a few sparkles—things are decidedly wobbly, to say the least. Let’s take a look see at the five chinks in the seemingly unbreachable NRN armour:

Firstly, the issue is tax theft! Cloudtail, a company owned 76 percent by NRN and the remainder by Amazon and which ostensibly ‘sells’ products but solely on Amazon has been slapped with a Rs 54 crore (GBP 5.5 m) by the DG GST. Cloudtail, it may be mentioned, has been accused by various small Indian merchants of ruining their businesses by undercutting and outselling on Amazon through gross violations of both ethical and legal practices. A flavour of the latter can be gauged by the fact that Mr. Murthy also created the venture capital firm Catamaran, a trustee of the Hober Mallow Trust, which ultimately owns the stake in Cloudtail. So much for transparency and values.

Secondly, not too many realize but the Enforcement Directorate is investigating Mr. Murthy’s business for allowing Amazon to continue with preferential treatment for a few sellers—again, no surprises here, Cloudtail is the key if not unusual suspect—at the cost and consequence of other independent and humble small sellers.

The third blemish on the ‘spotless’ visage of Mr. Murthy is the scrutiny he and his dealings with Jeff Bezos are being subjected to by the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Here too the hapless, sundry, independent Indian seller has been left holding the ball while Amazon has actively and with impunity pursued a highly discriminatory—and, as it may well turn out to be—illegal agenda to push its own mega-sellers.

Mr. Murthy has aided and abetted monopolist practices or at least that is the clear inference from the FDI investigation into Amazon’s restrictive and arbitrarily preferential policies for ‘captive ’sellers such as Cloudtail. Mr. Murthy, if the accusations prove correct, stands to get sullied for being the direct beneficiary of Amazon’s illegal largesse.

Fifthly, the world saw through Mr. Murthy’s ‘values’ when he turned out to be the real reason behind Vishal Sikka’s, the then Infosys CEO, resignation. Even the company’s board had come out strongly against Mr. Murthy’s interfering ways and constant haranguing of the then CEO who had to leave in complete desperation and disgust.

To cap it all, The Indian Seller Collective, an umbrella body that represents over 10 crore micro and small enterprises and family businesses across India has written an open letter to Mr. Murthy to end his partnership with Amazon for Cloudtail India which, the seller’s body claims, is helping the e-tailer to circumvent the many laws of the land.

About Mahender Bansal

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