The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitization of various sectors including e-commerce by almost a decade, said Manish Tiwary, vice president, Amazon
India. The e-commerce firm is launching its biggest month-long flagship event ‘The Great Indian Festival’ (GIF) 2021 from October 3. In an interview with Peerzada Abrar, Tiwary said during this year’s GIF, over 850,000 sellers are offering crores of products to customers on Amazon.
What kind of preparation went into conducting the Great Indian Festival 2021?
In the last 18 months, considering the pandemic, there has been an acceleration of interest from offline trade shops to actually sell online. We now have 850,000 sellers. But the last 300,000 of them (came onboard) in the last 18 months. The sellers can not only use the (Amazon) app in English but also Hindi, South Indian languages as well as Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati. We launched a program called ‘Local shops on Amazon’ in February 2020. At that point in time, it was an experiment. But because of the pandemic, we saw a very high interest. This Diwali, we would have about 75,000 local stores from 450 cities selling online.
What were the challenges to host this event at such a massive scale amid the pandemic?
One of course is scaling up of technology because you have millions of more customers, which means we have a playbook to do that. The second is the storage space. This year, as we enter into Diwali, Amazon
has expanded its fulfilment network in India to more than 43 million cubic feet of storage capacity. That is a nearly 40 per cent increase in the storage capacity over the last year. It is not only about the space, but also getting closer to our sellers. For example in Lucknow, we launched two new Fulfilment Centres (FC) because we can see the interest of the sellers over there. We have also created more than 110,000 seasonal job opportunities across the (operations network) to ensure the customers get their goods fast and in a safe manner.
What are the expectations from this year’s Great Indian Festival and the impact that you aim to create?
The biggest focus for us is on our customers and the sellers. We have finished a survey which indicates that more sellers are finding interest in selling online using technology. About 90 per cent of them expect an increase in sales this year vis-a-vis last year. About 40 per cent of them said the sales will increase more than 50 per cent. That's what our seller partners are preparing for and we are enabling the infrastructure and tools to help them to do that. Given the trends, I believe this is Diwali (festive event) is going to be a really big one for our sellers.
How different is this event going to be compared to last year?
The big thing which will be different this year from last year is the (role of) the 75,000 local stores. I am very excited about the kind of business that I am expecting them to see. With learning from last year, in the run-up to the Great Indian Festival, we are running a special incentive for our customers to shop from small and medium businesses. If the customer shop from the 6 crore offering till the (start) of the GIF, they get financial incentives that they can use during the event. We also have Amazon Business, the B2B marketplace, which will serve customers who have GST. We have close to 15 crore products involving GST on Amazon Business from close to 400,000 sellers. Any registered buyer on the Amazon Business platform would get some cashback if (she) shops for a certain amount.
What are the innovations you are bridging in to reach out to more sellers and customers?
Our intent is to get 50,000 sellers from the Northeast, because of the quality of products. They usually don't have access to the physical retail space all over the country. We have various models of fulfilment. Today as a seller you can sell from home and we would pick up the goods from there. You can also sell using our warehouse. We have various models depending on what a seller prefers, by which we can fulfil. The local stores (on Amazon), can decide if they want to enable their own people to deliver the goods. If they want professional delivery (people), we can enable that also. So, we provide fulfilment solutions, which are very dynamic. Every year, we try to make the onboarding process simpler for our sellers, like reducing the number of clicks for registration, bringing in more languages and video tutorials. This year, we launched our first Digital Kendra in India in Surat, Gujarat. It is a one-stop-shop to facilitate anyone who wants to sell in India or anywhere in the world using the Amazon network.
What kind of growth is being driven by new consumers in tier-2, tier-3 towns and beyond?
We are seeing the trend that, more than 65 per cent of the customer orders are coming from the smaller towns. If you look at the new customers that we acquire every year, close to 85 per cent of them now come from smaller cities. It is not just the new customers, but also the quantum of business. As we get more customers, we are introducing new languages, so that they feel more comfortable shopping online. Customers can now access Amazon.in, in Marathi and Bengali, (in addition to the 6 previously available languages). Also, you can do voice shopping in Hindi and English. A lot of our customers prefers to shop using voice or local language. Over the last few quarters, we've seen more than 5 million customers have actually shopped using their regional language.
How Amazon is enabling SMBs to rebound from the operational challenges caused by the pandemic?
Since the time the pandemic started, we have introduced several initiatives for small and medium businesses. During lockdown one, we waived off their fee, as the biggest problem for small sellers is cash flow or working capital. We relaxed policies (related to performance measurement) as there were challenges due to shutdowns in some pin codes. We provided insurance against Covid to all of our sellers. We are giving vaccination support and reimbursing the cost of vaccination for them. Also, if you buy anything from the smaller sellers, you will get a cashback which you can use during the GIF.
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