India's Version of Amazon Is Selling Hard Drugs

India's Version of Amazon Is Selling Hard Drugs

By Keri Blakinger 02/23/16

The burgeoning online marketplace says its efforts to block illegal drug sellers are "evolving."

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India's Version of Amazon Is Selling Hard Drugs
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Even though many Americans have probably never heard of it, IndiaMart is the second-largest online wholesale marketplace in terms of the number of products available for purchase. Basically, it’s like an Indian version of Amazon or Alibaba.

However, in addition to the usual electronics, batteries, jewelry and clothes, IndiaMart also offers hard drugs. You don’t need a prescription or access to some hidden part of the site – it’s all out there in the open and, according to some sellers, the cops don’t even seem to mind.

“We don’t really have police trouble from this,” an IndiaMart meth dealer who identified himself as Daiichi told GlobalPost.

“Look, I know this is a controlled substance,” he said. “But we’re very discreet. We ship worldwide. We’re a verified seller and you can even confirm that with IndiaMart.”  

It’s not that the company is unaware that sellers—even verified sellers—are offering hard drugs. It’s more that they don't seem to be treating the issue with the same urgency as Amazon and Alibaba.

Sumit Bedi, an IndiaMart marketing VP, said that illegal drugs are a “very small percentage of our trade.” He added, “It’s at a very minor level for us.”

Selling illicit drugs is against the company policy, which states that it’s not okay to sell illegal products of any kind. However, unlike its competitors, IndiaMart doesn't seem to be enforcing that policy. By contrast, Amazon and Alibaba don’t have drug dealers openly advertising on their sites.

“I’m sure Alibaba would have faced this a few years earlier than us,” Bedi said. “This kind of trade has probably already happened in those marketplaces and they’ve learned from it already.” IndiaMart says they’re working on getting to that point and that their means of detecting and preventing online drug-dealing are “evolving.”

One of the problems, they say, is identifying which listings even refer to drugs, given the ever-evolving drug lingo.

“Typically, what you’ll see are slang names,” Bedi said. “The problem with slang names is that neither the government nor marketplaces like us are able to figure them out.”

Despite that claim, it seems that some of the listings are pretty straightforward. You can simply type in the name or street name of drugs like codeine cough syrup, meth or ecstasy, and results pop up immediately.

Unfortunately for would-be buyers, the site doesn’t vet supposedly verified accounts any better than it vets sellers for drug activity. All it takes to be a verified seller is a working email account – so IndiaMart is also a hub for fraudsters. That means that some 2-pound illegal online LSD orders may get you actual acid – but you might be more likely to end up with nothing or plain paper with some pretty designs on it.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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