We have a lot of patience and a very, very long term outlook: Amazon India’s Amit Agarwal — Medianama
Earlier this month, ecommerce behemoth Amazon launched its India marketplace at Amazon.in, offering books and movies. Since then, they’ve launched the Kindle, and today, they went live with electronic gadgets. In a market which doesn’t allow foreign investment in B2C multi-brand retail online, Amazon has another offering – a price and seller discovery platform called Junglee.com. We spoke with Amit Agarwal, vice president and country manager, Amazon India, about the company’s approach to the Indian market, their selection of sellers, why Junglee.com exists and will continue, taxation challenges and of course, India’s FDI policy for ecommerce. Note that this interview was conducted before Amazon’s launch of Kindle and electronic gadets in India.
MediaNama: What took you so long to launch? You’ve been around for two years, but have launched Amazon.in only now.
Amit Agarwal: We actually started with Junglee 15 months ago. For Amazon.in, our vision for Amazon in India is the same as the global vision. We want to be the most customer-centric company and build a place where customers can find, discover and buy virtually anything online. The approach that we have in mind in India is how do we do the heavy lifting for sellers of all sizes across India so that they can offer customers the Earth’s biggest selection of products.
For us to put together the infrastructure, the team, to make sure that we are ready to deliver the customer experience. Even in the most mature geographies, and the most mature categories, books, we still believe it is Day One and we are still adding selection and expanding categories, lower prices, and making the delivery fast and reliable. India is so nascent that I would say that we are early.
MediaNama: How do you go about selecting sellers?
Amit Agarwal: Our overarching vision for sellers is that we want to be a meaningful sales channel for every seller, no matter what their size and shape. If you look at Amazon marketplaces globally, we have self service registration where we invite anyone, from individual to the largest retailers to come and sell on the platform. We have the same vision for India. As we get started, in order to make sure that the starting point offers the right critical mass of selection, we are asking sellers to contact us. We do look at the three dimensions that matter to us – vast selection, low prices, and fast and reliable delivery. We look at these three pillars and ask ourselves is this the right seller to come and seed our category. But over time, you will see us, very quickly, open it up for anyone.
MediaNama: Any reason for charging a convenience fee for cash-on-deliveries?
Amit Agarwal: We are not charging it. What we’re saying is that it’s free at this point of time, but we are indicating to customers that that’s what the charge would be at some point in the future.
MediaNama: What’s the thought process behind this? There are competitors giving it for free.
Amit Agarwal: At present I’ll leave it at that. We will listen to our customers and decide what makes sense. At present, customers have parity.
MediaNama: Why haven’t ebooks been launched and what about self publishing options?
Amit Agarwal: There is an ebooks store hosted on Amazon.com, and I would encourage you to shop, and choose the country as India.
MediaNama: Why isn’t it directly accessible from Amazon.in?
Amit Agarwal: You’ll have to stay tuned for that.
MediaNama: Why does Junglee still exist?
Amit Agarwal: Because it has a very important vision to fulfill. The vision that we started it with was to organize all selection in India, online or offline, inside of India or outside. The objective was to help customers find where to buy anything, anywhere. Think of it as a map of products and sellers. Clearly we have a long long way to go, but it has done a fabulous job aggregating selections from most if not all online sellers there. We have more than 900 websites integrated, more than 20 million products across 23 categories, across organic teas to fresh flowers to home furnishing, to jewelry, and sellers are using it to advertise their selection. We’re told that many sellers have seen more than a 4X increase in traffic, and 40 per cent higher conversion than the other channels that they rely on for selection. All in all, Junglee has a very important place.
The way I look at Amazon.in is that it’s job is to become one of the most trusted destinations or places on that map. Amazon.in has its work cut out to earn customer trust as a place they can buy, while Junglee.com has its work cut out to earn customer trust as a place where a customer can find where to buy. Both these visions are very complementary, if I look at the overall Amazon vision to help find and discover and buy anything online. Both are very important services for us, and we are going to aggressively invest in both of them.
MediaNama: What are some the challenges that you see in the Indian market? It’s not an easy market to be in.
Amit Agarwal: The execution brings challenges. There, I would say that Amazon has proven over time that that drives invention. Junglee is a great example. We do not have such an offering anywhere in the world, but we had the courage to take the risk to start with an offering that we don’t have anywhere else. We thought that there was a need that the consumer had, and a need that the sellers had, because the cost of driving traffic was very high, and providing a level playing field to sellers of all sizes, and selling on Amazon and fulfilment by Amazon do the same thing.
MediaNama: What about challenges on the regulatory front? You’ve been having conversations with the ministry about FDI. How do you think that is going to go?
Amit Agarwal: I don’t control those and I have no idea what the government would do, so I would leave it to them. From our side, if you look at our global offering, we provide a fair and level playing field to sellers of all sizes. The second thing we do is, we participate in that marketplace ourselves. In case of India, we’re doing the first part, not the second part, because that is the part that is precluded. We would welcome changes that make it more convenient to serve customers. A policy that allows Amazon to be a seller would allow us to offer more selection that our sellers are not able to offer. And smoother taxation laws would make it easier for sellers to move their goods around, but at the same time, our job is to hide that complexity from our customers.
MediaNama: On build vs buy, you are building right now. But would you acquire something in India?
Amit Agarwal: We have a long standing tradition of not talking about what we may or may not do. I would only say that we are very excited about getting started. We do not speculate about what we or may not do.
(c) Medianama 2013. This article is brought to you in association with Medianama, the premier source of information and analysis on Digital and Telecom businesses in India
Featured image credit: Amazon/ Glassdoor