When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic earlier this year, it affected everyone irrespective of their location or social stature. Overnight, the whole of India went into lockdown. Even getting food supplies and essentials became a challenge. Once the Government allowed e-commerce players such as Amazon to deliver essential goods, several people could benefit since they were able to get essentials at their doorstep without having to step out.

Battling lockdown

Charan Singh, a Delivery Associate from Gurgaon, recalls how customers thanked him for delivering essentials during the lockdown. He talks with pride about playing a part in enabling people to ‘Stay Inside, Stay Safe’. Ayaz Pasha, another Delivery Associate in Gurgaon also recalls customer appreciation for the work they were doing during these tough times. He’s grateful for the support from Amazon and the local police because of the measures taken to ensure associates’ safety while they delivered essentials to customers.

Entertainment moved online too. With movie theatres closed, some of the biggest films of the year right from Amitabh Bachchan starrer Gulabo Sitabo to Vidya Balan starrer Shakuntala Devi were released exclusively on Amazon Prime. Thus, these movies became accessible to viewers across over 4000 towns and cities, not mention more than 200 countries and territories. Also, as students and teachers alike woke up to the new reality of remote learning, companies such as Impartus and CareerLauncher, using AWS, worked to quickly and securely enable remote learning solutions at scale. This enabled several students to continue their education anywhere, anytime - without compromising their learning experience.

In the words of Edward Young, the seventeenth century English poet, critic, philosopher, “Affliction is a good man's shining time.” There are countless stories that emerged from the lockdown experience where entire communities, police authorities, ecommerce and food delivery services emerged as corona warriors, helping the society to survive this difficult period.

Post-lockdown recovery

Overall, the lockdown was a difficult time for a vast majority of sellers owing to selling restrictions and lower demand. Amazon took steps to support sellers during the lockdown period through measures such as 50 percent waiver on Selling on Amazon (SoA) Fees, waiver on storage fees, refund for cancelled orders etc. However, once the lockdown lifted, stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines played a role in growing the popularity of ecommerce. Post lockdown too, e-commerce was a preferred option since people were wary of shopping in crowded malls. While ecommerce had already been growing over the years, the current pandemic has helped truly demonstrate its value. A lot of growth came from first time online shoppers fromtier 2 and tier 3 cities. And these shoppers are likely to stick around. According at a Nielsen study of 2000+ Amazon sellers conducted mid-September 2020, 85 percent mentioned an increase in sales. 74 percent mentioned a recovery of business post the lockdown.

Empowering small businessness & local ecosystems

Amazon’s special selling events such as Amazon Great Indian Festival, Great Indian Bazaar, Small Business Day, All India Handicrafts week also helped boost sales, especially for small business, artisans etc. This was significant given that traditional sales vehicles such as tourism, exhibitions etc. were not accessible to artisans in 2020. During the festive season, over 100,000 Amazon-enabled local shops, kiranas and neighbourhood stores from across India are geared up to serve customers and celebrate with them. More than 20,000 offline retailers, kiranas and local shops from “Local Shops on Amazon” program participated in their first “Great Indian Festival” and catered to customers in their cities and across India, selling everything from daily essentials to large appliances and from home décor items to gifts and fresh flowers.

Exports get a fillip

One highly successful initiative was the Amazon Global Selling which helped significantly accelerate the exports business for our sellers, especially during the global holiday season. The program helps make exports easy and accessible for MSMEs across India and contribute to the Government’s vision of boosting exports. For example, Mumbai-based Skillmatics, which designs brain games for children, saw its US sales jump 12 fold between January – November compared to last year.The superior insights derived from ecommerce sales also help sellers better capture the pulse of the customers and tweak their products to align with customer demand. For instance, Estalon, a leather goods manufacturer witnessed a 40% increase in sales compared to last year during the five days of lack Friday and Cyber Monday sale. The growth in sales was attributed in part to the company’s decision to build out more product lines such as wallets, belts, gloves and masks rather than sticking to the luggage category, which was undoubtedly hit due to travel restrictions. Similarly, California Design Den, which sells high-end bedding found that customers had switched preferences to more natural products and designed their offerings accordingly.

While ecommerce certainly emerged as a lifesaver in 2020, the next few years will certainly be significant in terms of uptake of online sales. Onwards and upwards from here for our partners, sellers, and entire fulfilment network ecosystem!‘