Virtual war rooms set tone for mega e-commerce sale in Covid-19 times

Platforms such as Amazon Chime to Google Hangouts are being tapped 24X7 to ensure things go as per plan while the consumer demand is put to test for the next two days
The pizza boxes were missing, and so was the chatter, at Amazon’s World Trade Centre office in Bengaluru even as the e-commerce major started the Prime Day sales—one of the biggest in the online universe—Wednesday midnight. Unlike other years when employees stayed back in office and slept there as well for days to prepare for mega sale events, this time the action had to shift to the virtual space. While there’s been no dinner on the house in the run up to the D-Day, the typical war room or the command centre has silently moved to the laptop and mobile screens of the executives coordinating the first such drill during the pandemic.

At the city’s deserted headquarters of Flipkart, owned by American chain Walmart, it was quite the same. Ahead of Fipkart’s Big Saving Days sale, coinciding with the Amazon’s Prime Day, back-to-back virtual activity was the new normal as employees have been told to continue working from home. So, platforms such as Amazon Chime to Google Hangouts are being tapped 24X7 to ensure things go as per plan while the consumer demand is put to test for the next two days.

“The 48-hour Prime Day sale is the first event that is being managed by Amazon India virtually,” said a person familiar with the development.

Amazon Chime, a communication service that lets one meet, chat, and place business calls inside and outside the organisation using a single application, will be live for employees to flag any issues and get them resolved. In fact, every team has appointed contact points who have to be available throughout the sale period over the phone.

Flipkart, where the teams are running the event remotely using various digital and video tools including Google Hangouts, had undertaken research to understand the requirements of customers and had shared those insights with sellers so that they could keep such products ready. Flipkart works with over 200,000 sellers and 250,000 small sellers such as artisans, weavers, and craftsmen.

“The consumer purchase behaviour is changing and they are more looking for products that could be used at home,” said a person familiar with Flipkart’s sale event. “An increasing number of customers are opting for online shopping including those preferring vernacular languages such as Hindi and Tamil.”

The e-commerce firms are offering deals on products ranging from smartphones, laptops to televisions and refrigerators. According to analysts, these companies are expected to witness an increase of at least 35 per cent in demand in business compared to the pre-Covid time.

Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader, e-commerce and consumer internet at consultancy EY India, said these events would act as an important barometer to gauge overall consumer sentiment. “The events will also help the companies gauge the stickiness of their service amongst new customers who largely turned to buy online for essentials,’’ he said.

At, which has over 600,000 sellers, several small and medium businesses (SMBs) would launch more than 1,000 new products across 17 categories on Prime Day this year. Also, thousands of local shops will make their Prime Day debut in India.

Prime Day in India will also see artisans and women entrepreneurs stepping up. An Amazon executive said the event provides an opportunity for small businesses to participate and rebound from recent challenges.

According to a survey conducted by research firm Nielsen, for Indian small businesses participating in Amazon Prime Day 2020, business revival is a primary objective. It said these 77 per cent sellers are participating in Prime Day for the first time. About 68 per cent sellers are from metros and 32 per cent sellers are from non-metros.

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