‘E-comm platforms have reduced export barriers’

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on February 14, 2021

(Clockwise from left) Abhijit Kamra, Director Global Trade at Amazon India; Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor and Business Strategist; Raja Rajan, Founder CEO, Boston Creative Company and Shanti Srinivasan, MD, Premier Fine Linens with the moderator (extreme left) Thomas K Thomas, Senior Associate Editor, BusinessLine, at the webinar

The advent of e-commerce platforms has not just enabled India’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to sell their products across different markets in the country but has also reduced many of the entry barriers that small businesses face as they try to foray into the export market, according to players from the e-commerce, exports and small business sectors.

“When we studied the export ecosystem, we realised that the entry barrier was indeed high. There were challenges around market access, market intelligence, supply chain, payments and compliance. So, we went back to the drawing board and said how can we use technology as an enabler to solve some of these challenges,” said Abhijit Kamra, Director Global Trade at Amazon India.

He was speaking at a panel discussion as part of a special webinar – ‘Taking Local Global - Accelerate your exports business with Ecommerce’ – organised by the Hindu BusinessLine and Amazon on Saturday.

Highlighting the benefits of e-commerce-led exports as opposed to offline exports, Kamra said, “First thing is about market intelligence. If you are doing it offline, then it comes down to your own research. But in online exports, by virtue of our data, we can provide machine learning-based insights to help Indian manufacturers and MSMEs understand the kind of products that are in demand in a particular geography.”

He also added that in offline exports, an exporter has to travel to different trade fairs like CES in Las Vegas to get electronics orders, Germany for toy fairs and Europe for linen fairs, etc, which involves a lot of fixed investment. “If anyone chooses to create an account with Amazon, they could do so in five minutes on mobile. Market access has become that easy.”

Amazon, which started its Global Selling programme in 2015, hit $2 billion in cumulative exports in early 2020 benefitting over 70,000 exporters and MSMEs over the years.

Shanti Srinivasan, MD, Premier Fine Linens, said there will be a time in any business when sales will start plateauing and businesses need to look at new avenues for growth and expansion. ‘We launched our brand Westbrooke Linens on Amazon US in 2017 and it has been a real learning experience,” said Srinivasan.

“People who never shopped online (before pandemic) are now beginning to. That is how we saw a higher growth in 2020. For 2021, we are definitely building our team and looking at e-commerce as a large contributor of our total revenue,” she added.

On global perception about Indian products, Raja Rajan, Founder CEO, Boston Creative Company, said the company is selling products in six countries through e-commerce platforms and 98 per cent of the feedback is positive. ‘Earlier, we were focussed on certain products like leather and textiles and handicrafts but now people have started to accept other industry products as well,” he added.

Angel Investor and Business Strategist Lloyd Mathias said that India’s foreign trade policy document — which guides the country’s international trade priorities — is weighted towards the offline world.

‘Policy not MSMEs focussed’

“In a sense, the government is looking at exports through the prism of large manufacturers who have full-fledged export departments, and a lot of incentives and schemes are really tailor-made towards that,” Mathias, who is also the former President of Tata Docomo, said. “I think the recognition ought to come, that to really make the Atmanirbhar mission successful, it’s really important to enable the MSMEs, who account for 48 per cent of India’s exports,” he added.

Earlier delivering the keynote address, Neeraj Mittal, MD & CEO, Guidance TamilNadu, said Tamil Nadu is a great place for e-commerce because it has the highest urbanisation rate in the entire country at about 50 per cent.

“E-commerce creates lot of job opportunities in the service sector and has a good multiplier effect,” Mittal said, adding, “The e-commerce space is integrally linked to good logistics and warehousing ecosystem and Tamil Nadu is seeing a very good development of logistics with investment from DHL, Nippon Express and Flyjac Logistics in recent times.”

Published on February 14, 2021

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