“More than new categories, it is vital to have more sellers”

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As Amazon completes nine years in India, Manish Tiwary, Country Director, India Consumer Business, a role he recently assumed, spoke about Amazon’s focus on new growth areas such as groceries and the pharmacy. In an interview, he said the draft e-commerce rules did not deter the company as it engages with the government on the regulatory framework and remains optimistic and in line with the vision of an economy of 5,000. billion dollars driven by a digital backbone. Edited excerpts:

What are your areas of interest for India in the coming years?

My focus and the team’s focus continues to be how to get the next set of customers and the next set of salespeople. When it comes to the next group of customers, actions like investing in the social commerce app GlowRoad are a step in that direction. We believe that local influencers will give new internet users more confidence to come and shop. Investing in voice shopping is another; we’ve seen voice buying grow over the past year. Investing in video shopping; in social influencers, I think these are some of the initiatives in addition to the ones we already have to reach the next group of customers. More than new categories, what’s more important are more and more sellers offering unique selection and convenience to customers. We worked very hard on the grocery program—Amazon Fresh. We still have work to do but I personally think that the team will have a very good offer for customers, especially very attractive for our Prime customers. On new activities such as pharmacy and food pharmacy, we are developing. As for the food, it’s still in Bangalore and we’re learning how to do it better. Our goal is always to get more customers and for installed customers to use more categories.

Pharmacy, food and fresh produce — which will evolve much more quickly?

Groceries represent approximately 50% of a customer’s basket with a very high frequency. We took time on Fresh, but I feel good where we are. Obviously, this is a critical part of our strategy, given the type of customer engagement and the size of the market. Every time we build a service, we’re in no rush to expand it until we have a playbook and until we have automation. We have done a lot of work in terms of commodity offerings, fruits and vegetables; I think we can now expand it very, very quickly. In pharmacies, it’s still early. We were working on creating the right backend and we are going to develop the pharmacy. In the food sector, we have experimented, learned about the food sector and at the right time we will make it evolve.

Have e-commerce growth rates dropped?

We have seen an acceleration during the pandemic, both on the customer side and on the seller side. We’ve seen a more secular trend of customers coming from across the country: almost 80% of our new customers are from small towns, and even 60% of our salespeople are now from small towns. So it becomes a habit, which is much more widespread than it was before the pandemic.

The regulatory environment for e-commerce businesses continues to be challenging. Does this impact Amazon’s business and change future investment plans?

So let me start with the last part. We continue to be as bullish on India as we were…I think it is a new emerging space and any new emerging space needs a framework…We are working very , very closely with the government. Yes, we also want a more stable framework so it’s easier for operators to know how to operate within that framework.

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