As Amazon completes nine years in India, Manish Tiwary, country manager, India Consumer Business, spoke about Amazon’s focus on new growth areas such as grocery and pharmacy. In an interview, he said the draft e-commerce rules do not dishearten the company as it engages with the government on the regulatory framework and remains bullish and in sync with the vision of a $5 trillion economy driven by a digital backbone. Edited excerpts:
What are your focus areas for India in the next few years?
My focus and the team’s focus continues to be how to get the next set of customers and the next set of sellers. As far as the next set of customers are concerned, actions like investment in the social commerce app GlowRoad is a step in that direction. We believe that local influencers will give more confidence for new internet users to come and shop. The investment in voice shopping is another; we’ve seen voice shopping grow manifold over the last one year. The investment in video shopping; in social influencers, I think those are some of the initiatives besides the ones which we already have to get to the next set of customers. More than just new categories, what is more important is more and more sellers who bring unique selection and convenience to customers.
We’ve been working really hard on the grocery programme—Amazon Fresh. We still have some work to do but I personally believe that the team will have a very good offering for customers, especially very attractive for our Prime customers. On new businesses like pharmacy and food—pharmacy, we are expanding. On food, it’s still in Bengaluru and we are learning how to do it better. Our focus always is to get more customers and for the settled customers to use more categories.
Pharmacy, Food and Fresh —which will scale up much faster?
Grocery is like 50% of a shopper’s basket with very high frequency. We took some time on Fresh, but I feel good about where we are. Clearly, it is a very critical part of our strategy, given the kind of customer engagement and the size of the market. Whenever we build a service, we’re not in a hurry to expand it till we have a playbook and till we have the automation. We’ve done a lot of work in terms of staples, fruits and vegetables offerings; I think we can now scale it up very, very quickly. On pharmacy, it’s still early days. We were working on creating the right backend and we will expand pharmacy. In food, we have been experimenting, learning about the foods business and at the right time we will scale it up.
Have e-commerce growth rates dipped?
We did see an acceleration during the pandemic, both on the customer front and the seller front. We did see a more secular trend of customers coming from across the country—close to 80% of our new customers come from smaller towns, and even 60% of our sellers now come from smaller towns. So it’s becoming a habit, which is far more broad-based than what it used to be pre-pandemic.
The regulatory environment for e-commerce companies continues to be challenging. Does that impact Amazon’s business and alter future investment plans?
So, let me start with the last part. We continue to be as bullish on India as we were...I think this is a new emerging space and any new emerging space needs a framework...We work with the government very, very closely. Yes, we also want a more stable framework so that it’s easier for operators to know how to operate within that framework.