India threatens to deport Amazon employees over flag doormat

Selling door mats in all manner of designs sounds innocent enough, but Amazon almost fell foul of an international incident when it was spotted that one such design was the Indian Flag. It was brought to the attention of Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister of External affairs, and she went into overdrive on twitter.

Apparently in India it’s against the law to desecrate a flag which is what Amazon’s doormat flag was deemed to be doing. As is often the case it wasn’t Amazon themselves who were selling the doormat flags, but a third party merchant who has probably been happily knocking up doormat designs for years and never expected to be the subject of a diplomatic twitter storm.

Amazon replied on twitter protesting that the Indian flag products had never been sold on Amazon.in. They were being sold on Amazon.ca but the delay in taking the product down just caused the online protest to ramp up to the extent that threats of kicking Amazon employees out of India started to fly.

Amazon have now removed the Indian flag doormats from sale on their Canadian site and it’s hoped that international accord will be restored.

India is one of the most attractive regions in the world for ecommerce merchants to expand and a top target destination for Amazon. No one can afford for a single third party’s product to screw up deals of this magnitude, although I’d love to have seen the email from Amazon explaining why that particular listing had been cancelled: “Sorry we had to cancel your listing, but India’s government complained and it’s all getting a bit out of hand. You’ll be able to read about it in pretty much any newspaper you can lay your hands on…