Six years ago, when we walked around popular markets in India, we would rarely meet a seller who had heard of selling online, let alone, Amazon! So, as I write this number of "5 lakh" today, my happiness knows no bounds.
Last week, we crossed 5 lakh sellers on Amazon.in - 5 lakh SMEs, entrepreneurs, artisans, and more, who have chosen to board the bullet train that is Amazon in India. While I am thrilled to announce this significant milestone and delighted to have been able to empower these sellers to sell their products to the customers on Amazon, it is nostalgic to think about the journey…
I remember when we first started off 6 years back in India, our marketplace launched with 100 sellers, 1 Fulfillment Centre in Mumbai and a few million listed products. No seller wanted to or knew how to sell online. Typically, seasoned businessmen with technical know-how were the first to partner with us and explore selling online. It was a time when Amazon’s expertise of operating in other locales had to be adapted to meet the need of Indian businesses. In many cases, sellers hadn’t even seen a laptop until then and were wary of leveraging technology for their business.
However, being customer-obsessed is our DNA and with the “virtuous cycle of growth” flywheel to guide us, we set about building the inputs required to keep it spinning in India. We knew very well that sellers and the selection they brought were critical enablers to spin the flywheel. While we leveraged the stable processes and systems available from worldwide Amazon, we also focused a lot on working backwards from the Indian seller needs and addressing the needs of Indian sellers.
We innovated multiple India-first initiatives like Chai Cart, Tatkal, Easy Ship, Seller University and more to overcome initial problems related to seller awareness, registration, launch and delivery. It took us 3 years and countless innovations to enable 1 lakh sellers.
“What makes me even more delighted is that hundreds and thousands of sellers can rely on Amazon, to feed their family, help their children go to good schools and take care of their monthly expenses. ”
As the base of sellers grew, so did our reach. More and more sellers were keen to start selling on Amazon and our existing sellers were eager for more growth. We needed to build solutions to drive disproportionate impact for a more diverse set of sellers at scale – a tall order! We invested heavily in fulfillment services, mobile app solutions and adding selection that customers really loved. We built a network of service providers in over 90 cities to offer business services our sellers could leverage like imaging and cataloging. It wasn’t enough for us to reach out to the typical Indian businessmen. We knew customers loved Indian artisanal products and so we developed programs to enable artisans and women to leverage technology and take their unique crafts and products to a national audience.
We played our part towards “Startup India”, by launching Amazon Launchpad to help enable startups to reach their dreams. Another 3 years have passed and today, we are at 5 lakh sellers. While 5 Lakh represents the total number of sellers launched through Amazon directly, we are also equally happy to see that our programs like Amazon Saheli and Kala Haat have touched the lives of more than 7.5 lakh artisans and weavers (through government partners like Tribes India and UP ODOP) and 1.25 lakh women entrepreneurs (through organizations like Kudumbashree and MAVIM). Not just that, some traditional dying Indian art forms have seen revival due to efforts of such partnerships and programs.
When I reflect on how far we have come, I am not just proud of the innovation and scale we have achieved in such a short time. What makes me proud is that among the faces of our sellers, I am seeing a more diverse set of sellers and sellers whose lives have been transformed – women entrepreneurs, artisans, weavers and sellers from remote parts of India. The success stories we hear from sellers in smaller towns in India like Bastar, Periyakulam, Kullu, Kutch, Indore, Shillong, Bhuwaneshwar and Amravati have put a personal and heartwarming touch to our journey in India.
The innovation, technology and growth we have witnessed in India is incomparable but it’s the personal milestones sellers often talk to me about that make me feel like we have come really far in India. I am reminded that for all Amazonians working on the Indian marketplace, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have an impact on the life of countless Indians, which is much bigger than all of us. It is an opportunity to be excited for the seller who bought a study table for her son. It is an opportunity to share in the pride of a seller who managed to buy a house for his family. It is an opportunity to feel the absolute joy of a seller who has started earning a monthly wage and her financial independence. While we are extremely happy that we have more than 15,000 sellers who have become millionaires and have over 3500 Crorepati sellers, what makes me even more delighted is that hundreds and thousands of sellers can rely on Amazon, to feed their family, help their children go to good schools and take care of their monthly expenses.
Our vision is to enable every motivated seller in India to reach customers across India and beyond. Not only have these 5 lakh sellers reached customers from every serviceable pin code in India, over 50,000 Indian sellers have reached 350 million customers from over 185 countries. In this journey, the possibilities are endless. We have come a long way and there is much more to come.
It is and always will be Day 1!