Technology and mobile internet have transformed daily lives globally, and India is no different. But these are likely to have an even more profound impact on India, as a scalable lever to drive inclusion and equity for society. Urban centers will no longer claim preferential access to products, education, healthcare, or entertainment. MSMEs will not be limited by their local catchment as they dream big. Entrepreneurs will not be held back by their scale, with access to world-class infrastructure at the outset. We are likely to look back at mobile internet, and e-commerce in particular, as a social and economic leveler that transformed lives in livelihoods in India.
“We are likely to look back at mobile internet, and e-commerce in particular, as a social and economic leveler that transformed lives in livelihoods in India.”
Indian e-commerce is early in its evolution, barely 3% of total retail consumption, but is already ushering in faster digitization across the consumption value chain, and enabling expanded access and opportunities for customers and businesses across the country. I come across many inspiring example every day – a school teacher based in Leh is able to access all the art and craft material she needs for her students; a local startup, Jack in the Box, is redefining creativity toys for kids and receiving thousands of orders from customers in the US without having to invest in distribution infrastructure.
E-commerce is blurring the lines between online and offline, between local and global. Businesses will no longer have to choose – they can seamlessly complement in-store services with doorstep convenience for customers in their locality; and dream beyond to reach customers across India, even globally. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian SMB is already at play as they embrace e-commerce. Chandrakala Creations from Varanasi, a two-decade old offline apparel business, decided to go global with Amazon in 2016. Today they are recognized as an Indian fashion brand among customers in the US, UK, Australia, and the Middle East.
“E-commerce is blurring the lines between online and offline, between local and global. ”
Digital payments have started competing with cash in convenience and trust as e-commerce ushers in a wave of innovation in payment systems. Technology and Machine Learning will enable universal access to credit. Customers will aspire for more as relative gap in disposable incomes are bridged. Similarly, easy and convenient access to credit will fuel aspirations and innovation amongst micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The shopping experience itself is likely to transform. The experience will be highly personalized, adapting real-time to customer preferences and limitations, be it language, digital sophistication, or internet speeds, while keeping privacy and control with the customer. Customers would seamlessly move across using voice and touch, between reading information and watching videos, even experiencing the product from the comfort of their home. Services will anticipate what customers need and when they need it, to enable unique zero-click experiences that might seem science fiction today!
“Customers would seamlessly move across using voice and touch, between reading information and watching videos, even experiencing the product from the comfort of their home. ”
We should expect the rate of change to only accelerate, with more innovation ahead of us than we have seen. At Amazon, we like to adapt to this constant change by focusing on highly stable needs customers deeply care about. Customers value wider choice of products, greater value, and faster reliable delivery. Similarly, businesses care about wider reach, greater sales, and reliable infrastructure that elastically adapts to their scale. Plus the unique dynamism, resourcefulness, and inventiveness will remain a constant that continues to propel India. Focusing on things that will not change over time allows us to take a long-term view on our investments as we obsess with customers and invent on their behalf.
As we battle COVID-19, customers and businesses are increasingly relying on e-commerce to get back on their feet. The crisis has particularly highlighted the resilience and optimism of the Indian entrepreneur, as more small businesses and shops are embracing technology and online to reinvent themselves. This is likely to be a structural shift that propels us faster towards the vision of a Digital India, catapults Make in India to go global at scale, and creates digitally enabled robust businesses that will power millions of livelihoods and help us realize an atmanirbhar Bharat. India must grab this rare opportunity with both hands, by focusing on enabling policies that accelerate this shift to e-commerce.
We at Amazon, truly feel fortunate and humbled to be able to play our part as e-commerce unleashes India’s potential in the 21st century.
It’s still Day One!
(This piece first appeared in the Economic Times on Oct 28, 2020)