Business | Amazon drops Indian flag doormats after visa threat
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Amazon drops Indian flag doormats after visa threat

Minister Sushma Swaraj intervenes to halt sale of product, which is withdrawn by Canada unit of e-commerce giant

NEW DELHI, January 12, 2017 4:57 PM (UTC+8)

Amazon’s Canada unit has removed all doormats bearing the Indian flag from its site after New Delhi said employees of the US e-commerce giant will face visa bans if it did not stop selling the product.

Under Indian laws, any disrespect of the flag will invite a fine and jail term.

Amazon said the mats were no longer available for sale on the site, but did not clarify whether it had tendered an unconditional apology as demanded by India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

Swaraj intervened after a Twitter user from Mumbai sent her a screen-grab of the flag-themed doormats on sale on Amazon Canada and sought action against the company.

She immediately tweeted that if Amazon officials failed to apologize, its employees would face visa bans. Even visas already issued to them will be canceled.

Swaraj also instructed the Indian High Commission in Canada to look into the matter.

Soon after, the mats were removed from Amazon’s website.

In Canada, Amazon sells such doormats of all countries and it is legal, a source said.

Amazon is growing fast in India where it faces tough competition from local firms like Flipkart and Snapdeal.

Swaraj, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has millions of followers on Twitter and she responds to problems tweeted by its users.

In August 2015, an Indian woman illegally held in a Dubai hotel room was released after her brother tweeted to Swaraj for help.

The same year, the minister rescued some Indians detained in Iraq after their story went online.

In a social media post, the Canadian Chapter of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the “insult of the Indian flag”.

Meanwhile, a Hindustan Times report says Amazon’s United States unit is selling shoes and shoe lace metal hoops with Indian flags.

The Chukka Canvas shoes and lace accessories are available on Amazon from a Los Angeles-based company N.Y.L.A.

In November last year, Amazon had been in trouble for selling doormats bearing Islamic inscriptions.

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