Amazon is often accused of copying and selling own-brand versions of successful products, using its control of the marketplace and its unique insight into sales there to give itself an overwhelming competitive advantage. Though Amazon denies doing this, a Reuters investigation confirms this claim with documents from Amazon itself that implicate top executives in the strategy—in its Indian subsidiary, at least.
Thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents examined by Reuters – including emails, strategy papers and business plans – show the company ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India, one of the company's largest growth markets.
The documents reveal how Amazon's private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform. The employees also stoked sales of Amazon private-brand products by rigging Amazon's search results so that the company's products would appear, as one 2016 strategy report for India put it, "in the first 2 or three … search results" when customers were shopping on Amazon.in.
Nothing new about the wheeze—grocery stores have been doing this to name brands for decades—but Amazon finally dethroned Wal-Mart as the world's largest retailer only weeks ago. So the growing scale of the practice (especially its extension beyond grocery-store categories already dominated by a handful of multinational food and drink conglomerates) is troubling.