From 100 sellers in 2013 to 10 lakh sellers in 2021 on Amazon.in, it is an incredible feeling. When I joined Amazon six years ago, I never imagined that we would reach this incredible feat in such a short span of time. I believe that several initiatives we introduced over the years helped businesses to explore ecommerce and benefit from it.
One of the most recent initiatives we launched was our first Amazon Digital Kendra in Surat, Gujarat. What is Digital Kendra? A brick and mortar resource center that helps SMBs access a range of services that are essential to kickstart their journey as digital entrepreneurs. Just before this launch, I had a long conversation with an electronic appliances store owner there who also sells on Amazon.in. The conversation spanned a number of things – his business, the pandemic and the challenges it has brought, the internet, and the significance of going digital. In the end, he said and I quote him, “Manish bhai, digital is no longer an option.Yeh toh ab zarurat aur aadat ki baat hai.” (Digital is no longer an option, it is a necessity.)
Another seller story that is really close to my heart is that of Harbhajan Kaur from Chandigarh, who started selling homemade barfi on Amazon.in at the age of 94. It's been a life-long dream to earn her own money, and her products are gaining a lot of popularity.
Each seller associated with us has an incredible story to tell.
What stands out for me is the zeal and willingness to learn, to adapt, to reinvent, be it an offline business owner talking so passionately about digitization and ecommerce or an entrepreneur defying age and using technology to create income opportunities. And I have seen this spirit at play every day in interactions with sellers, from our teams at Amazon and others.
Rewinding to 2013
Things were a little different during the initial days of Amazon in India. The quality and reach of the internet weren’t what they are today, customers and sellers didn’t have the same digital fluency, logistics infrastructure wasn’t as evolved, digital payments were largely restricted to debit and credit card transactions, and ecommerce overall was a big city phenomenon. Also, Amazon.in just had 100 sellers selling books in about 10 cities across the country.
“We were the first ones to enable sellers to manage their business through a mobile app.”
Having said that, we had already started investing in the infrastructure and ecosystem needed to support small businesses to adopt ecommerce. From taking Chai Carts and Tatkal vans to markets and MSME hubs in cities across India to launching several India first innovations like Seller Flex and Easy Ship, to creating focused programs for weavers and artisans, women entrepreneurs, and emerging direct-to-consumer brands – our teams have been focused on enabling these spirited businesses to expand their reach across India and the world through ecommerce. We were the first ones to enable sellers to manage their business through a mobile app. Our thinking has been simple: to digitally enable sellers using technology to unlock selection for customers, reduce cost of operations so that they can offer greater value, and building the infrastructure to offer fast and reliable delivery to customers.
We have continued to innovate at scale for both sellers and customers to enable nationwide deliveries, introduce local languages for them to shop- and sell on Amazon.in and a lot more. In January 2020, we made three important pledges in line with the government’s focus areas – to digitally enable 10 million small businesses, to enable cumulative exports worth $10 billion, and to create 2 million jobs in India by 2025. We are humbled by the impact it has brought to so many people by encouraging entrepreneurship, driving digital transformation, and enabling new job opportunities across the value chain.
Driving digitization of small businesses
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, it caused widespread disruption for everyone. But this period has once again brought the entrepreneurial spirit, adaptability, and resilience of our SMBs to the fore. It is heartening to see how the ubiquitous neighbourhood dukaans are also transforming into digital stores. Importantly, within 20 months of launch, our Local Shops on Amazon program already has over one lakh offline neighbourhood stores from across India selling on Amazon.in. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy and I am excited about the work Amazon can do to help these small businesses succeed.
The pace of businesses coming online to engage with customers has increased rapidly. Since January 2020, over 4.5 lakh new sellers have come online with Amazon. Just for perspective, it took us almost seven years to go from 100 sellers to 5.5 lakh sellers, and just 23 months to go from 5.5 lakh to over 10 lakh today. This signals to the great trust small businesses are placing in Amazon to grow their businesses. These 10 lakh sellers in turn create lakhs of livelihood oppurtunities and are playing a small, but significant role in driving India’s economic revival post the pandemic.
“They help bring crores of products for customers across India to choose from.”
For us, these sellers are an integral part of our selection, value and convenience flywheel. They help bring crores of products for customers across India to choose from. So, while we started off selling just books, today customers across India come to Amazon for everything from their grocery needs to apparel to the latest smartphones and everything in between.
During the lockdown, a customer wrote me something that truly touched me. A farmer based in Karnataka didn’t have access to basic essentials to continue farming during that difficult phase. His son, living in the city, placed an online order for seeds and they were delivered just before the monsoon hit the region. The customer said that if there had been any delay, it would have led to a huge crop loss for them. He thanked us for making this possible.
Just goes to show that we've had quite a journey from 2013 to 2021, but these are still early days for Amazon and ecommerce in India. This journey ahead will be spearheaded by millions of small and medium businesses, their spirit, their passion,and we will continue to innovate for them and enable their growth and success.
As always, it is still Day 1 and we are just getting started!