Merchants, retailers and brands to revive India’s economy: Amazon

Bengaluru | Mumbai: The revival of India’s economy will be driven by merchants, retailers and brands rebooting their businesses by tapping into the rising demand for online commerce which is induced by the lockdown, said a top Amazon executive.

“Between the reduced footfalls in physical stores and increased online demand, we need to make sure that in totality sellers come out as good, if not better than before the virus crisis hit us. That is what we are focused on right now,” said Amit Agarwal, senior vice president and country head of Amazon India.

Unfazed by the continuing backlash from offline retailers who claim small businesses have been hurt by the discounting and investments shelled out by ecommerce companies, Agarwal told ET that “not many companies have the scale, patience and commitment that Amazon (does) my organisation is supercharged and driven to be part of this phase and to help out.”

An April 15 order rolled out by the Indian government allowing all of ecommerce to be operational, was rescinded in a few days. Agarwal said he did not want to speculate on what the reason was for the withdrawal of the directive.

“I think what matters is that we are able to serve customers now and sellers are very happy that they were able to jumpstart their businesses,” he said.

Online marketplaces were finally permitted to sell both essential and non-essential goods from May 18. “I think what matters is that we are able to serve customers now and sellers are very happy that they were able to jumpstart their businesses,” said Agarwal in an interview with ET.

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Stringent safety guidelines and curfew passes required for workers during the early days of the lockdown had resulted in operations coming to a near standstill for the ecommerce company.

“It was not our choice to shut down services ……securing specific curfew passes from district administrations for every individual associate was not a trivial task,” he said.

Now, as the pandemic pushes more consumers to buy online, Amazon is seeing a sharp uptick in sellers joining the marketplace on a daily basis. Anticipating this trend, the Seattle-based ecommerce major had already launched Local Stores, its programme to onboard more offline stores onto its platform, in the weeks preceding the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on e-commerce.

The move puts the US firm squarely up against India’s largest company, Reliance Industries’ JioMart that is looking to digitise millions of Indian kirana or mom-and-pop stores and help them take orders online and even through WhatsApp.

Agarwal said JioMart’s initiatives do not worry him. “It’s easy to onboard shops, it’s very hard to make them successful,” he said, arguing that technology will play a big role in helping offline shops better embrace online selling, something which Amazon has been doing for over two decades now.

ET reported on May 25, that e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart had registered a sharp recovery in sales as pent-up demand for a range of non-essentials was helping restore overall industry volumes lost during the nationwide lockdown.



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