In part 1 of this IOS exclusive interview with Amazon India, Rohit Kulkarni talked about Amazon’s seller enablement initiatives for sellers. In our conversation with him, he shared more about the journey so far, challenges in the way, onboarding sellers and more.
IOS: Just two years old, Amazon India is already one of the leaders in the Indian ecommerce industry. How has been the journey so far?
Rohit: We are extremely excited and proud of the progress we have made over the two plus years. In less than a year we were largest online store in India. In May earlier this year, as per Comscore we became the most visited site.
We continue to see growth YOY. At the end of last quarter, we saw an approx. 500% YOY growth in terms of units. And this is on top of a 10x growth last year. India today is the largest market outside of the US for number of new customers to Amazon.
We are right now in the middle of the festive season in India. It is a peak shopping season in India. This festive season has been the greatest ever festive season in terms of traffic, unit sales, revenues & new customers for Amazon.in. In October, we hosted two festive events on the site – The Great Indian Festive Sale and The Great Indian Diwali Sale.
Between the two events more new customers experienced Amazon.in than during the entire festive season of last year. Over 65% orders came from Tier II and Tier III cities and towns across numerous categories. 70% of our traffic comes from mobiles. There has been a 300% growth in the demand for premium shipments from customers.
All this tells you where online shopping is headed to in India. India remains the fastest growing country, till date. We continue look at India as a key growth market and we will invest what it takes to grow the India business.
What were the major challenges Amazon faced, given that India is considered as a complicated and a complex country for doing business?
A global learning that we have is that India as a market is no different. Even though e-commerce in India is new, the customers are as evolved as anywhere else globally. They care about selection, low prices and fast and reliable delivery. Likewise, the small and medium sellers’ 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. Specifically as a market, I would say India is definitely much further along the mobile adoption curve than we thought it would be.
Another key learning is that the SME base is a key part of the online ecosystem. Our success with pilots like Seller Flex, Amazon Pickup, Kirana Now and AmazonBusiness.in shows that when we make them inclusive, it creates better value for the sellers, customers and for us as a company. So we are very excited with the response to such pilots so far and going forward, you will see us doing a lot more experiments in this area of enabling SMEs.
Along with buyers, sellers too form the core of ecommerce businesses. Your thoughts on that?
Sellers form the backbone of our business and we have introduced a comprehensive suite of services that meets their requirements at every stage of their business lifecycle.
Over 1,00,000 sellers across the country have already used these services. These include services like Self Service Registration (SSR) that provides sellers an accelerated and friction-free path to Sell on Amazon and reach nationwide markets; Amazon Easy Ship, assisted shipping service wherein sellers can leverage on Amazon’s investments in logistics to have their orders shipped straight from their own warehouses; Pay with Amazon wherein sellers can offer their customers a trusted and convenient payment option thereby increasing conversions; Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) wherein sellers can store their products in Amazon’s warehouse and the company packs and delivers the orders to customers plus provides customer service and manages returns; Seller Flex that allows sellers to sell their products on Amazon.in using the FBA service without moving items out of their own warehouse.
To facilitate seamless management for seller’s on-the-go, we also have the Amazon Seller App that enables direct buyer-seller communication, order notification, order details, shipment confirmation and order fulfillment notifications through mobile devices. This has already seen over 35,000 downloads.
These services help sellers reduce the operational costs for sellers considerably as well as increase sales. As the profit margins increase, sellers pass on these benefits to consumers in the form of reduced prices.
Furthermore, we also launched a Service Providers Network to help sellers connect with verified service providers and bridge the capability gap that poses a challenge for many sellers. Currently, over 7000 sellers currently use this service. We also announced the launch of Global Selling in India to allow Indian sellers to sell their products to buyers in the US and UK.
Amazon.in is the country’s largest online shopping destination with millions of consumers shopping 24×7. We offer over 30 million products across hundreds of stores. We offer the largest selection in 16 departments. More than 65% of the orders we receive are from cities outside of the 8 metros. We also received 70% of our traffic through mobile devices, making us and our sellers ready for the next level of growth.
What do you look for in online sellers before taking them on-board?
Our platform is truly unique because it gives a level playing field to all entrepreneurs –whether highly experienced or new; skilled or partially skilled; irrespective of the economic background or gender. In fact, over 100,000 sellers have already used our seller services. These sellers operate across the value chain and include manufacturers, distributors, retailers, traders and brands. We take pride in handholding our sellers by offering them the most comprehensive stack of services that enable them to sell more, earn more and thus grow.
Is Amazon India looking for sellers for specific categories, since the company is now exploring a gamut of niche and relatively unexplored product categories?
Sellers in India can get on to Amazon.in to sell products across hundreds of categories. Our aim is to enable as many SMEs in the country as possible.
What prompted Amazon to start the Chai Cart program and tie-up with agencies such as Browntape to help with the seller on-boarding & training process?
Since our launch on June 05, 2013, we have been working towards transforming the way India buys and the way India sells. These initiatives aim to spread awareness among local SMEs and sellers on the benefits of selling online and introduce them to the specialised seller services that help them sell more and earn more on the Amazon India marketplace.
On many occasions, it has been said that Amazon India’s vision is to be India’s most customer-centric company. What is your vision for sellers?
For us, both our buyers & sellers are customers and we offer our best services to them.
Many buyer fraud cases are cropping up, because of which sellers are suffering. Are there any measures that Amazon has adopted to filter fraud buyers?
We believe that an overwhelming majority of the customers are well-intentioned. We have leveraged our experience of the past 20 years to put in place robust systems and processes to detect unscrupulous behavior and we take the necessary action as and when required against repeated offenders