18 December 2015 06:54:03 IST

We can transform the way India buys and sells: Amazon

Selection, great prices and reliable delivery are the three pillars of our customer-centric strategy, says Amit Agarwal, India chief

A late entrant into the Indian e-commerce market, global e-commerce behemoth, Amazon has already emerged as the leader in web traffic in India. In an interview with BusinessLine , Amit Agarwal, Vice-President and Country Manager, Amazon India, shares the company’s achievements, innovations and investments in India.

What differentiation has Amazon.in brought in the e-commerce market in India considering that you have achieved pole position in just over 24 months since the launch of your operations here?

Our goal is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company and our mission is the same in India. Through that mission we believe that we can actually transform the way India buys and sells.

We are customer obsessed. The three pillars of our customer-centric strategy is to give them great selection in products, create great value for customers whether it is in price or quick delivery and convenience, which starts from being able to shop conveniently on their mobile phone, or PC or from wherever they are.

Today, we offer a selection of over 40 million products, and hold an in-stock inventory of over 1 million products in our Fulfilment Centres (FCs) that are ready to be shipped, which is the largest in India.

We have over 50,000 sellers and are witnessing healthy growth trends in both web and mobile traffic.

On the mobile app side, we have the fastest growing app download rate in 2015. In October alone, downloads increased 200 per cent. Our web traffic was the highest in October as per comScore data, at 30 million visitors. Our active customers have gone up 230 per cent year on year.

Amazon announced a $2-billion investment in India last year. How much more will be invested over the next 12 months?

Our India investments are not restricted to a number like $2 billion to deliver on customer experience. We are a customer-centric company and completely focused on growth in India with a very long term outlook of 7-10 years. We invest for long-term sustainability and will invest whatever amount it takes to ensure growth. We found that customers everywhere in the world care about three main things — selection, great prices, fast and reliable delivery. In India, we are focused on executing on these three dimensions.

We have invested a lot in awareness, training and enablement to bring sellers online. To give customers a great stock selection, we have brought 50,000 sellers on board through initiatives like Chai Kart, Service Provider Network, and Amazon trained e-commerce specialists. We have introduced Seller Flex, an innovation that reduces operational costs for sellers and ensures faster delivery, by letting them use our Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) service. We have invested in increasing the coverage of Easy Ship and FBA which 90 per cent of our sellers use - All of them see an increase in sales, reduction in defects and costs, which they pump back as low prices. We have introduced morning delivery, under 12 hours where, if you order as late as midnight or 1am, the product will be delivered next morning.

What are some of the customer-centric innovations that Amazon has introduced for Indian shoppers? Are they unique to India and will at any point of time, be launched in other countries.

Our innovations and investments revolve around providing selection, great value and convenience to customers.

We have launched innovations such as Kirana Now, Project Udaan and Amazon Business that will yield dividends in the next few years.

We also launched the Global Selling Program, which has empowered 5,000 small and medium businesses to sell their products in global markets. Kirana Now, launched in Bengaluru, is a way to connect customers with Kirana stores using technology, where deliveries can be made within two hours.

Project Udaan is an assisted shopping service for the digitally marginalised introduced in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, where we train people to help customers, search for/find products for customers, handle shipments, returns and some amount of customer service.

AmazonBusiness.in that we started in Bengaluru, a unique service intended for very small businesses that want to buy their weekly supplies at wholesale prices has now been expanded to Mangaluru. Yes, some of these initiatives have gone global too.

Has Amazon resolved the tax-related issues with the Karnataka government?

That issue is still in the same status. While we continue to expand we continue to work with the Karnataka government.

Our Fulfilment Centre in Hoskote Bengaluru is one of our biggest investments in India, but, it is not fully utilised.

Strangely, it is one of our biggest investments in India. We have 21 FCs in 10 States in India plus 15 seller-owned locations. We are hopeful that the tax issue gets resolved.

There is no reason why we would not add more FCs in Karnataka, once the issue is resolved.

All e-commerce firms in India are losing money, when will Amazon become profitable?

We have a long-term strategy which can be between seven and 10 years.

So, e-commerce is at such an early stage in India, we haven’t even got it started. … and Amazon is not constrained by investment when we take a long-term view.

For us, how we transform in 10 and 20 years is more important. At this point of time, the focus is on growth.

We will not shy away from investing in whatever it takes to grow.