New Amazon Prime sign-ups show users value convenience: Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal, Amazon India
After spending five days at Amazon India’s Bengaluru headquarters, Amit Agarwal, the e-commerce major’s senior vice-president and country head, is optimistic about the road ahead. Having successfully closed the first phase of the festive sales, Agarwal has emerged victorious over the firm’s closest rival and has third-party data to prove it. In an interview to Karan Choudhury, Agarwal says embracing technology and not complaining is the way forward. Edited excerpts:

War-like preparations went into making this sale a success. Have you won?

The preparation was all about ensuring the customers get great selection, value, and convenience every day. This is not just a one-day preparation. Our claims are backed by real third-party data and not just internal claims. According to Nielsen, had the highest share of transacting customers, order share, and value share across marketplaces in India.

Do you think tier-II and tier-III markets are maturing? Are they becoming less of deal seekers and more about better service?
The fact that we have had new Prime sign-ups in five days, from 15,000 pin codes, shows that customers value convenience. They are paying us ~999 a year, thus promising that they will shop on Amazon. While Prime started with mostly metropolitan customers, the fact that we have had 94 per cent of pin codes represented over just five days of shopping shows customers who love being ‘Prime’ also look for convenience. 

Organisations such as CAIT have approached courts calling for a  level-playing field. Do you see actual on-ground impact?

There is nothing like ‘offline retail’ or ‘online retail’, just like there is nothing like an offline or online customer. The interest of small businesses is to maximise returns. Around 65,000 sellers from over 500 cities have offline stores. They are finding success because they are embracing technology and are focused on serving customers.  My point is: if you look at any organisation representing all SMBs in the country, these sellers are part of them. They are saying that they found tremendous success on Amazon. My message to businesses is to embrace technology, focus on serving customers, and give great value and convenience. Sitting on the sidelines and not embracing technology is no excuse to complain.

Why has Amazon India cut down on its funding? Are there policy issues to be tackled? 

We remain committed to India, are super excited by the momentum we have, and will continue investing the appropriate amount here. I would not try to track funding into the marketplace at every point in time.  We would love to have our sellers see some of the paper cuts they have, in terms of the ease with which they can sell online. For example, their ability to sell nationally and export. We continue to partner on those fronts to provide feedback on how that could be done better. 

Overall, having a predictable policy environment, which could allow us to invest long-term in our consumer and seller growth, is always welcome.     

What are the trends you are seeing this festive season?

There was an overwhelming response to the fifth Great Indian Festival, with sales in the first 36 hours nearly surpassing the entire first wave last year. The event exceeded our most aggressive plans.  With a 3x surge in Prime sign-ups, above 80 per cent of new customers coming from small towns, and orders from 99 per cent of serviceable pin codes in four days — we are humbled that Amazon is trusted by India.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel