Amazon halts sales of Indian flag doormat after visa threat

An Amazon delivery truck is seen in Los Angeles
An Amazon delivery truck is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

January 11, 2017

By Sankalp Phartiyal

MUMBAI (Reuters) – <AMZN.O> removed doormats resembling the Indian tri-color flag from its Canadian website on Wednesday, after an Indian government threat to rescind visas of the U.S. company’s employees if they did not stop selling the product.

“Amazon must tender unconditional apology,” India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter. “They must withdraw all products insulting our national flag immediately.”

“If this is not done forthwith, we will not grant Indian Visa to any Amazon official,” she added. “We will also rescind the Visas issued earlier.”

The doormat, sold by a third-party on Amazon’s Canadian portal, was taken down late on Wednesday.

“The item is no longer available for sale on the site,” a spokeswoman for Amazon said in an email.

Amazon’s portal in Canada sells doormats fashioned around other national flags, but under Indian law any desecration of its flag is punishable with fines and imprisonment.

Amazon’s official support account on Twitter had earlier responded to angry user comments on Twitter by saying the mats were not being sold on their Indian portal and the concerns had been escalated.

Swaraj tweeted that she had asked the Indian High Commission in Canada to take up the issue with Amazon, after it was brought to her attention by a Twitter user from India’s financial capital of Mumbai.

Swaraj is a prolific user of the social media website and often responds to tweets directed at her.

Amazon is making a huge bet on India and has vowed to invest more than $5 billion as it takes on home-grown Flipkart and Snapdeal for a bigger share of the world’s fastest growing internet services market.

In an event attended by Indian premier Narendra Modi in Washington last year, Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said India was the company’s fastest growing region.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha, Elaine Hardcastle and Alexander Smith)

  • stevens123

    Interesting. I wonder if there would be such a stink would have been raised had the direction of the colors had been turned 90 degrees to the right. (which would make it look like an Irish flag) Racism is not hard to find if you look for it. I say this is closer to the muslims attacking those cartoonists for drawing a picture of allah.

  • piper60

    Sounds like India is a bit touchy.

  • matt

    Amazon is a liberal haven of morons and anti-american nitwits.
    They’re all for tearing down the USA and replacing it with a socialist nation.
    The founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post and now uses it to promote his socialistic agenda.

  • 4th Gen SF

    IDU this. I’ve seen USA flags as doormats & don’t think it’s disrespectful. I would think the people buying these doormats would be Indians themselves to show that they love India.

  • So you want to do lots of business in the country with the second highest population, then Pi$$ them off by selling doormats that look like their flag. They don’t like it, and you have to fall all over yourself to make it better.

    I thought you guys were smart.

    • Dwayne Pennel

      First of all it wasn’t Amazon selling the item ‘tard’ So India wouldn’t get the same reaction banning the 3rd party seller from India, not that anyone in their right mind wants to visit that disgusting place. Second, Canada is made up of a bunch of spineless, apologetic yes men and should have more guts for capitalism.