We interviewed Mr. Amit Agarwal, the Country Head of Amazon India, this month and came back with an insightful conversation about Amazon’s vision for India and Mr Agarwal’s approach towards making that reality.
Exhibit: Mr. Agarwal, you and Amazon go a long way down and you have come to become an indispensable part of Amazon India right now. How does it feel to be having such a huge responsibility?
Amit Agarwal: Naturally I am very happy, excited and humbled. While it is a personal achievement, it is more a recognition of how excited the Amazon leadership is with our progress in India in a very short time. It supports our commitment to transform how India buys and sells.
Exhibit: Jeff Bezos decided to make a substantial investment in the Indian market of $5 billion dollars. How do you see that shaping Amazon’s future in India?
Amit: We are very happy and excited by the growth we have in India over the last 3+ years. The growth has been tremendous. Today Amazon. in is the most visited, preferred and trusted e-commerce site in India. We have the most downloaded shopping app in the country, we have the largest online store with over 100 million products and we have grown 124% last year in an industry reportedly flat or negative and our seller base is growing at 160% YoY. We have always maintained that India is a key growth region for Amazon and we will continue to invest aggressively in the country with a long term horizon to transform the way India buys and sells.
Exhibit: You have spoken about the 3 pillars that Amazon operates on. Can you tell us some more about it?
Amit: Our experience of working around the world confirms our belief that customers, no matter where they reside, value three things the most – vast selection available at low prices, that are delivered fast & reliably.
Even though e-commerce in India is new, the customers are as evolved as anywhere else globally. Likewise, the small and medium seller base here in India is as evolved in their thinking as anywhere else in the world, even though they are new to online retail. They care about sales, profitability and a fair and transparent platform to operate.
“ We do believe that if we execute well and stay razor- focused on working backwards from customer needs and innovate on their behalf, India would be Amazon’s largest geography outside the US.
Exhibit: Amazon has always been subject to comparison with rival brands. What are your thoughts on that and how do you plan to combat it?
Amit: We are not competition focused but customer obsessed. Our single-minded focus continues to be on working backwards from the customer & seller needs and innovate on their behalf. This is in our DNA. It has worked for us in the past in other geographies and looking at the past over 3 years of our growth in India, we have every reason to believe that it is working here as well. As a leader usually does, we are leading in opening up new markets – launching new categories and bringing new customers into the industry.
Our goals and our targets are only focused on building a better experience for our customers and sellers. That has always been the case and will continue to be going forward. We believe that good results are the by-products of thoughtful, relevant inputs that address customer needs.Our input-driven strategy will focus on improving selection in existing categories, adding new product lines, enhancing in-stock selection, bringing efficiencies in processes, reducing defects, bettering the mobile and app experience and raising the bar of the delivery experience. For Amazon, India is one of the highest priority investments. We continue to look at India as a key growth region and are committed to investing aggressively in building a great customer and seller experience.
Exhibit: How would you like to describe the current scenario of e-commerce in India and where according to you will e-commerce be heading in the next 5 years.
Amit: The Indian e-commerce space is still at a very nascent stage with significant potential for innovation and growth. We believe growth is at an inflection point and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity. For one, the customers moved to shopping for many more product categories – we sold significantly high numbers of mobiles and smartphones and appliances but we also sold across more everyday consumables category, debunking the myth that consumers only look for high price point items. Two, we saw phenomenal growth in new customer acquisition and 75% of these were from non-metros, deflating another myth of e-commerce being a metro phenomenon. And third, we saw Prime as the highest selling product despite such high growth across categories, clearly showing that customers care about fast and reliable delivery and convenience and not just discounts. We are proud to have brought about such a significant change in consumer mindset towards e-commerce in just three years in India and are humbled that customers continue to have Amazon.in as their preferred shopping destination.
We believe there is room for multiple formats, players and most importantly, for innovation. For us it’s still ‘Day 1’ in India; we have just got started. Over the last 3 years, we have invested in incubating the seeds of a lot of innovations which we believe will grow to be game changers for us in the future. We have already started seeing the positive impact of these India-first innovations on the ecosystem – for customers or sellers alike.
Exhibit: Do you have any extensive plans to take Amazon in a particular route now that you can shape its future here the way you’d like?
Amit: We do believe that if we execute well and stay razor- focused on working backwards from customer needs and innovate on their behalf, India would be Amazon’s largest geography outside the US. We continue to look at India as a key growth region and are committed to invest aggressively with a longterm horizon and transform the way India buys and sells.
- Best piece of advice: “In the end, we are our choices” and “Take pride not in the gifts you have but in the choices you make in life.”
- Most inspiring book: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
- An important milestone in life: Birth of my daughter and first child, Aashi
- One indispensable morning routine: Exercise or Run at 5:45 am
- Most important gadget: I would consider Kindle more as an indispensable companion than a “gadget”, but surely rank it as the most important.