‘Next e-comm journey is about trust, convenience’

bl13_Amit Agarwal

Amazon India head Amit Agarwal says competitors are far behind the e-tailer

Bengaluru, October 13

In a matter of a mere three years, Amazon has been able to make a major dent in the Indian e-commerce marketplace. In an interview with BusinessLine, Amit Agarwal, Vice-President and Country Manager, Amazon India, shares insight into how the company has been able to wrest lead from its nearest competitor. Edited excerpts:

How successful was the festive sale for Amazon.in?

There were two things that struck us. Over 90 per cent of serviceable places placed at least one order. Most customers opted for prime delivery, which meant they opted for faster delivery. This goes to show that customers are willing to pay more for convenience. This, I think marks an inflexion point for e-commerce players in India.

In terms of customer traffic, how many of them were from Tier II and III cities?

More than 65 per cent came from Tier II and below. Nearly 70 per cent of our new customers came from Tier II and below, again. The growth from these cities was 30 times bigger than last year. Goes to show that not only are we penetrating deeply, but the amount of products purchased by the core is also growing exponentially at a faster rate. What is happening here is that suddenly a large section of the people in the country has immediate access to over 85 million products, increasing consumption.

You have said it took Amazon.in three years to reach the level the competitors took seven years to reach…

No, no. The competitors haven’t even got to that point. They don’t even sell churun and hing (asafoetida) and complain about it. These are things every Indian consumer buys. Which is very, very sad; in fact very shocking. It is a part of the things people buy. So, you know as I said may be they don’t eat food. Or may be they find shame in selling things that are unique to India.

We have, over the last three years, built the largest selection of products — a very trustworthy platform that makes our customers shop. The customer now says: ‘I am going to pay you in advance to have access to convenience’. It took us 10 years to launch Prime membership in the US, whereas it took just three years in India. The next journey of e-commerce in India will no longer be about discounts, but about trust and convenience.

Is your latest initiative, Global Store, a result of that confidence?

We are pushing the boundaries of selection further, and making international products available to customers. It conforms to all FDI norms. Every single product in Global Store is compliant with all certifications and regulatory standards. The customer will get to see the price (in Rupees) with clearly carved-out government import duties and taxes. There are no hidden charges and the customers can return them in case they are not satisfied. We are starting with 4 million products in 12 different categories ranging from apparels, shoes, watches and sports.

Coming back to the festival season sale, where does Amazon stand in terms of the pecking order?

If you look at it from the customers’ perspective, they had access to the largest selection of products on the Amazon platform. For the first time in India, over 200 cities got guaranteed two-day delivery, and in more than 240 cities, customers got guaranteed one-day delivery. It was probably the biggest ever sale showcased in the country. We are growing at about 135 per cent year-on-year when the entire landscape is either flat or negative.

There are reports from your nearest competitor that they won the race, having shipped 15.5 million units during the season. So, where do you find yourself in that race?

I don’t think there was a race in the first place. Being a public company, we are very particular about the data points we give out, which also means we are very honest and specific about what we say as we have to comply with extremely tough SEC regulations. We had more than 15 million orders; when we declared that number, another six hours were left for the sale to end. Over 90 per cent of serviceable pin codes placed at least one order. That is the metric we gave out.

Will there be another round of funding, soon?

We will continue to invest very aggressively. If you really want to transform the way people buy and sell, I think (this business) is not for the faint hearted.

Published on October 14, 2016
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