Published: 29th March 2021
Amit Agarwal at ThinkEdu: Amazon created 2 lakh jobs in India during the lockdown, ahead of all targets set by Bezos
Amit Agarwal, Country Head, Amazon India gets talking about being ahead of their Digitize India pledge targets already and what keeps them going through everything, pandemic notwithstanding
The pandemic has been the harbinger of bad news, but there have been a few silver linings and Amit Agarwal, Global Senior Vice-President and Country Head, Amazon India pointed one out to us at the virtual ThinkEdu Conclave 2021. He was speaking during the session titled Small is Beautiful: Sparking the Entrepreneurship Within which was chaired by author and political economy analyst Shankkar Aiyar. Amazon India was able to create 2,00,000 jobs just last year plus it's moving full-speed ahead towards the targets of its Digitize India pledge detailed by Amazon's Founder at the first-ever Amazon SMBhav Summit held in New Delhi last year. The promise was to digitally-enable 10 million SMBs (Small and Medium-Sized Business), enable 10 billion dollars in exports and create a million jobs by 2025. Apart from referring to the 2,00,000 jobs created just last year, Agarwal says, "Cumulative exports are already exceeding three billion dollars. We have created nearly a million jobs already and are pledging an incremental million by 2025. All in all, we have made meaningful progress on all dimensions. Next four years, we are excited to be ahead of our targets to get there."
Talking about the year 2020, Agarwal said, "We had more than 1.5 lakh sellers go online. The number of sellers signing up to set up on Amazon has gone up by 50% and has accelerated since COVID." He went on to highlight the work done by their programmes like Local Shops on Amazon. This programme has brought in 50,000 local stores across 700 cities and the number is trending towards 1.5 lakh stores towards the end of the year. He also dwelled on Amazon's Chai Cart programme, under which the cart would travel to India’s business districts and engage in conversations over chai with businesses about selling online. "Our belief is that we should invest in digitising businesses, not all of them might land up selling on Amazon and that's okay with us," he shared. From there on, he went on to emphasise an easy-to-use self-service tool that will help businesses get online and stay there seamlessly.
Amazon Pay also came up in the conversation and Agarwal shared that they have more than 40 million UPI handles and more than five million merchants accept it. "Our approach is focused on making it easy and convenient for Amazon customers to pay for anything. That way we are more focused on driving adoption within the Amazon customer base versus trying to have a separate that allows anyone to access it. So we are more popular with people who are on Amazon and as we serve more and more customers in India, that base is growing all the time."
Talking about navigating the policy landscape of India, Agarwal said that they fully intend to play by the laws of the land. "But upon that constraint is the other constraint that the customers don't take that as an excuse. They still expect you to offer selection at great value and convenience. The only way out of these sometimes conflicting forces is to invent on their behalf. Like building the Sellers Flex system so that they can convert their own locations to warehouses. We had to do that because the tax regulation in India doesn't allow sellers to move their products as easily across the country." And when asked what can make things better, he said that, "Internet and e-commerce have transformed daily lives and in India, it is going to have a more profound impact because of the socio-economic structure of the country and how the internet is the only leveler. The right kind of policy should be an enabling policy that recognises the role e-commerce is playing. It should focus on the papercuts out there like the friction that SMBs face with just moving their products across the country or if you want to export, the number of forms that need to be filled and are those forms digitally available so that you can do that easily? So an enabling policy focused on removing the obvious papercuts, improving ease of doing business for SMBs online that is forward-looking, stable and predictable to attract long-term investments would serve us well."
Addressing the controversy around Amazon Prime Videos' web series Tandav, Agarwal said, "While Amazon Originals is providing an avenue to storytellers, directors, actors to showcase their potential and the streaming world is going to unlock that aspect of Digital India, having said that, we recognise that being sensitive to local sensitivities is important. Appealing to a broad customer base is a responsibility. We have already apologised as far as the Tandav content goes and we are partnering with the government to figure out what the right governance mechanism should be."
Agarwal also said that, at the core of it, e-commerce is barely at 3% of utility. "It's that shiny thing which is getting disproportionate attention when the focus should be on enabling frameworks that accelerate what is becoming a very structural shift. In my opinion, the internet and e-commerce is probably going to be our magic wand to propel India's potential in the 21st century. It will accelerate how we make Digital India real, take Make in India global at scale, create job and skills, build businesses that embrace technology and become robot businesses and so on."
When asked about competition from JioMart surging ahead and if Amazon is pacing well, Agarwal said, "Irrespective of the competition, we wake up every day in the morning feeling paranoid that customers will only shop with us until the moment they find a better option somewhere else. So our job is to remain laser-focused on serving them and in a truly transparent world, if we do our job well they will choose us. If anything, COVID has proven that customers and selling partners are relying on Amazon and we take this responsibility very seriously. It's still day one, we are here for the long-run and we are super excited about the momentum we have.”