Amazon targets next 100 million customers in India in 5 years

Amit Agarwal, senior vice-president and country manager, Amazon India
After being pipped by rival Walmart in the race to acquire a majority stake in India’s largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart, Seattle-based online retail giant Amazon says it will stay its course in organically growing its business in the country, a model that has worked wonders for it so far.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary of doing business in the country on June 5, Amazon has set itself a lofty goal of bringing the next 100 million customers onto its platform in the next five years. While it will continue to focus on its core competencies of enhanced selection, delivering value, and convenience, the next big focus will be to work towards making its services more accessible, Amit Agarwal, senior vice-president and country manager at Amazon India, told Business Standard.

“I think the next five years will get underlined in our ability to bring the next 100 million Indians to discover and aspire with Amazon. It will be a time where ‘Prime’ becomes the most loved programme in improving the daily lives of our customers and where the Indian small and medium businesses will use Amazon to become national and global brands,” Agarwal said.

Amazon says the next 100 million customers will not only demand the same quality of service and convenience that it offers today, they will also require far better ways to use its service. While some of the technologies such as Alexa, which allows customers to order products on Amazon just by voice command, have already been rolled out, more such features need to be built. This will include better regional language support and better ease of paying for products and services, he added. Agarwal says the resultant view of what Amazon wants to become in the next five years is in line with the vision that the people of the country have about “New India”.

“If you don’t really have a financial institution that can give you credit, then we will give you credit, because we know you so much more because you come to us everyday,” added Agarwal, without divulging further details on when Amazon could bring its own credit offering to customers and merchants in India.

While competition has become far stronger, Amazon maintains it is committed to winning in India over the long term. It says it will continue to invest any amount of money that is required to do so and will not be restricting itself by placeholder figures such as the $5.5 billion CEO Jeff Bezos has committed to investing here.

For Bezos, India marks the most important market, probably second only to Amazon’s home market of the United States. It’s also why he has given Agarwal, a key aide, such a free hand to run and customise the business to suit the needs of Indian customers. A big example of such frugality is the company’s Prime subscription service, which was launched in India last year and has seen its fastest growth compared to any other country.

For Amazon, Prime will be a big weapon for winning in India. The service already has 40 million products available for free delivery within two days and it would look at vastly expanding the scope of the service in the next five years, said Agarwal.

Agarwal says India is the only country where Prime members enjoy services such as one-day delivery and free access to Prime Music. The company will sink a large portion of its future investments into the country, using local content and music as hooks to lock customers onto its platform. While a lot of what Amazon plans for the country, the company will do on its own, it is also looking at synergies with other local businesses through investments. The company has so far made four investments in India - a gift card company Quicksilver, home services firm HouseJoy, offline retailer Shoppers Stop, and most recently in insurance firm Acko.

“Our organic structure of obsessing over customers and thinking long term is working and we will continue to invest in this approach. But, when we see visionary entrepreneurs who are motivated by the same mission (to serve customers) we could work together and will partner them,” said Agarwal. Agarwal said with India not being a homogeneous country, it was imperative that Amazon continued to invest in building new warehouses as it moved deeper to serve more customers in the hinterland.

        The journey so far

  • June ‘13: Launch of Amazon in India (marketplace)
  • June ‘13: Launch of 1st Fulfillment Centre
  • Sep ‘13: Launch of Amazon Shopping App
  • April ‘14: Launch of Easy Ship
  • May ‘15: Launch of I Have Space
  • May ‘15: Launch of Global Selling
  • Sept ‘15: Launch of Seller Flex
  • Oct ‘15: Launch of Project Udaan
  • Mar ‘16: Launch of Amazon Now app
  • June ‘16: Launch of AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region
  • July ‘16: Launch of Prime in India
  • Dec ‘16: Launch of Amazon Prime Video in India
  • Dec ‘16: Launch of Launchpad
  • Apr ‘17: Launch of Fire TV Stick with Remote
  • Apr ‘17: Launch of Amazon Pay