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We are only on Day 1 of the e-commerce revolution

Amit Agarwal | Updated on January 27, 2019

India mustn’t squander this once-in-a-generation opportunity

Every generation gets a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. History has taught us that when a prescient few seize upon it, it can catapult their nation or civilisation to a new and better future. India has been on the cusp of such a moment for a few years now.

E-commerce - or doing business digitally - is revolutionising every aspect of industry, giving more choice to consumers, lowering costs, improving infrastructure for manufacturers and businesses big and small, streamlining processes and bringing more transparency. History has also taught us that it is up to each of us to choose our side: that of the path-breakers who want to make the lives of millions better, or of those who want to settle for the status quo. This is true for e-commerce too.

A win for all

As we strive to offer Indian consumers a more convenient, transparent and efficient way to shop for products, our growing reach to remote areas is playing a deeply inclusive role, providing access of varied kinds of products to remote areas – from the Andamans to Leh to far-flung areas of the North-East. The smaller towns and cities – the Tier 2-3 or even smaller towns – now account for more than 85 per cent of our new customers (as well as more than 50 per cent of new sellers).

Interestingly, it is also helping bring about financial inclusion: during our last Great Indian Festival in the Diwali period, customers accessing any kind of credit instrument for the first time ever grew 19x (YoY)! Digitising payments and bringing financial inclusion is an important and logical step towards a more transparent economy.

We see online commerce as a means of national and global connect for small businesses to scale up through larger market access. Already the impact is there for all to see. For example, in a short period of five years, we at Amazon are already the largest ecosystem of SMBs, with more than 400,000 businesses across India, offering a massive nearly-200 million items for sale to over 100 million Indians, in the process creating over 2 million jobs.

This is Digital India on an enormous scale. Similarly, just last year, more than 50,000 manufacturers and Indian sellers became global entrepreneurs, offering more than 150 million products to customers in over 190 countries. This is ‘Make in India’ seeing real scale.

And all of this with e-commerce barely a low single digit percentage when compared to the overall retail industry. A willing, hungry entrepreneur has a world of opportunity ahead of her: we are merely at the very beginning of what is possible for what could be the most scalable engine for inclusive growth in India.

In Amazon’s five years in India, I have been most excited by the response from these grassroots entrepreneurs who have found ways to scale up. We are humbled by the many amazing stories we receive from the corners of the country about transformed lives.

For instance, Abdul Gafur is a National Awardee Rogan Art artisan from Kutch who successfully revived his dying art simply by going online to find a large customer base. The local entrepreneurs are our biggest and most innovative partners in this journey. For instance, through ‘I Have Space’ or Amazon Easy programs, we have more than 30,000 local entrepreneur partners for last-mile deliveries and assisted shopping and we are proud how these innovations have allowed us to deliver to customers in 100 per cent Indian pincodes.

Driving economic momentum

We are thus seeing an immense multiplier impact from our investment, with hundreds of thousands of jobs created across the country, emergence of new businesses, boost to local economies with new warehousing, packaging, trucking and other ancillary industries growing, strong support for ‘make in India’.

The sector already employs one million and the industry is estimated to create 12 million new jobs by 2022, according to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). In logistics alone, e-commerce is expected to generate one million jobs by 2022 of which about 43 per cent will be in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, and in rural areas.

We are in one of the most promising watershed moments of the century, probably bigger than the IT revolution and the mobile revolution. Mobile internet in India is a true leveller, one that allows anyone, anywhere to be connected and realise her aspirations, with no boundaries related to social, economic, cultural differences. While this is a global phenomenon, its uplifting impact on a diverse society like India is unimaginable.

E-commerce can easily be one of the most scalable, inclusive and transformative engines of growth for the country, unleashing Indian entrepreneurship and finding a place in the sun for Indian manufactured products. It is still Day 1, barely the beginning of what is possible as the new India dreams big and flexes its muscles. We at Amazon are grateful to be part of this defining moment and are committed to play our part in the transformation ahead.

The author is Senior Vice-President and Country Head, Amazon India

Published on January 27, 2019

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