The Amazon Adventure
- Published 3.12.17
First it was about books. Then music, and then e-book readers. Throw original web content into the mix… and a substantial part of one’s monthly household transactions must take into consideration paying a certain Seattle HQed company.
During the dot-com crash around the turn of the millennium, the question many asked was — will Amazon survive? It did, only to ask us in reply — can we survive without Amazon? With our Kindles, Echoes and Prime TV, Albuquerque-born Jeff Bezos’s multi-billion-dollar company has become an integral part of our lives. Wherever the American e-commerce giant goes, it makes that country its own. India is no exception where it arrived in June 2013.
Amit Agarwal, SVP and country head of Amazon India, tells t2oS how he and his team are living up to the Amazon slogan: “Work hard, have fun, make history.”
WHY I JOINED AMAZON
I joined Amazon because of its obsession with innovating on behalf of its customers and its unique long-term focus, so clearly articulated right from its early days in its first shareholder letter, was inspiring and continues to be so even today.
My first proper face-to-face meeting with Jeff Bezos happened within a year of my joining Amazon. I had an idea and I don’t know why, but I sent an email to Jeff, saying I wanted to discuss it with him. Jeff replied immediately asking me to come to his office in 15 minutes and tell him what the idea was. Now I would think differently about that idea — but the fact that he was so supportive and humble about it was very inspiring.
The company’s focus on innovation and its customer-backwards approach [working backwards based on customer preference] in everything was what I found inspiring and it continues to inspire me even today. It’s still Day 1 for me.
At Amazon we are always thinking like a start-up. We are driven by the mission to create the earth’s most customer-centric company. We have been obsessed with what customers deeply care about, primarily massive selection, great value, and maximum convenience… not just in India but also globally. And since launch, we have invested heavily in infrastructure, technology, and India-specific innovations to drive transformation in the country.
It is still Day 1 for us. We are excited to see e-commerce evolve into what it should be in a diverse country like India. We have managed to make Amazon the biggest store in India with over 160 million products of which over 11 million products are Prime-enabled. We have come out with various exciting India-first innovations as well as launched new programmes towards this goal. There is never a dull moment!
As we make rapid progress towards our goal of making e-commerce a part of everyday life of Indian customers, we are opening up market access to many Indian entrepreneurs across multiple categories with our innovative programmes, such as Amazon Launchpad and Global Selling.
We are thrilled with the growth we have witnessed so far. Amazon India has shown remarkable growth of 124 per cent in units for FY17, leading the industry on how e-commerce can be a part of customers’ daily lives across categories, from mobiles and large appliances to consumables and everyday essentials.
PRIMED FOR PRIME
Prime is designed to make your life better every single day. In India, Prime members enjoy unlimited free one-day and two-day delivery of over 11 million products online, free standard delivery without minimum purchase, exclusive deals on bestselling products and instant access to latest movies and TV shows. The Indian customer cares about faster delivery and overall experience and not just about discounts.
We also launched India’s first Prime Day in July and members enjoyed shopping for exclusive first-time launches and great deals from top Indian brands.
Amazon Prime Music will bring a differentiated music streaming experience. As a part of the invite-only Echo launch, we have showcased the Amazon Prime Music experience on Alexa-enabled devices with intuitive Alexa voice controls that turn your Echo into a perfect music buddy. The service will soon be launched as a benefit across devices for Prime members at no additional cost and will offer ad-free, unlimited, on-demand music streaming.
• Echo devices currently support English with an Indian accent.
• Alexa’s natural language understanding has evolved to fully understand context and intent, even if the sentences include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, or Punjabi proper nouns (names of places, people, songs and movie titles).
• Alexa has learnt Hindi and regional language phonetics. The more you interact with her, the more she adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.
We have had an eventful year right from the start. Apart from increasing our selection to encompass over 160 million products across categories, and on-boarding over 2.5 lakh sellers, we have launched various programmes/ products, such as our standalone fashion photography studio called BLINK in NCR, the all-new Kindle Oasis, our flagship Alexa and Echo; partnered with brands such as Amul, Shoppers Stop, Ford, iPhone among others, as well as expanded existing programmes such as Project Udaan and further strengthened our logistics to having a fulfilment infrastructure of more than 41 FCs, offering 13 million cu. ft. of space.
ORIGINAL ALL THE WAY
Our long-term goal is to change the way consumers consume content and creators create content in India. With Amazon Originals, we are looking at original regional content very closely. We believe that local content is important because the stories and storytelling may be different from the norm. Customers are looking for a wide selection that is latest, relevant and exclusive.
• Eighteen Amazon Original shows were announced at launch and recently three more were added in the reality TV space, taking the count of Indian Amazon Originals to 21.
• In July, we launched our very first Indian Amazon Original in collaboration with Excel Media & Entertainment, titled Inside Edge, which received a tremendously positive response and became the most binge-watched show on Prime Video in India.
• There is a line-up of multiple new Hindi Originals coming up, while we already offer multiple latest and exclusive movies in Tamil, Bengali, Marathi and Telugu, like Fugay, Nene Raju Nene Mantri, VIP 2, Ninnu Kori, Arjun Reddy, The Ghazi Attack, Dhananjoy, Byomkesh Pawrbo and Tomake Chai… all available on Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon Fashion, just four years old, will be ending 2017 with the fastest growth in its segment. Now we have all the marquee brands that customers love to shop for. Amazon Fashion has been consistently bringing 30 per cent new customers to Amazon.in, with apparel being among the top two product categories in terms of units sold on the marketplace. We continue to make significant investment in the business of fashion.
• The company’s branded portfolio has been strengthened with some high-impact exclusive launches, like Under Armour, New Balance, Gap and other iconic brands like Marks & Spencer, Forever 21, Mothercare, Forever New. And some of the top brands, like Steve Madden Jewelry and Juicy Couture watches made their debut in the country exclusively on the Amazon marketplace!
• A standalone Fashion Photography Studio has been launched in NCR which is the largest of its kind in India and only third of its kind globally by Amazon (the first in NYC and the second in London). It’s designed to produce quarter of a million high-quality images for the fashion business.
SNAPTALK WITH AA
The most recent thing you bought off Amazon India
The best advice Jeff Bezos has given you....
This is something he talked about in his commence-ment speech to Princeton’s class of 2010 — “In the end, we are your choices.”
The most inspiring book...
Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman!
A movie that inspires you...
Rocky series — loved the resilience and humility
A day in the life...
I start my day with rigorous exercise or running, and evenings connecting with my kids.
How many Kindles and Echoes are in your house?
Every Kindle ever launched, and all the Echoes recently launched in India.
THE BEZOS TIMELINE
THE TRILLION-DOLLAR RACE
It has become a pastime among investors to speculate the first trillion-dollar company. And Amazon is certainly in the race. Morgan Stanley’s recent bullish calculations present a 12-month price target of $2,000 per share or roughly a $1 trillion market cap.
Then there is support from Scott Galloway, the author of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google, who in a November 27 interview said: “I predict it will be the first trillion-dollar market cap company.... I do not see anything getting in the way of Amazon”. Of course, nobody can rule out the march of Apple!
Meanwhile, the festive season is treating Jeff Bezos very well. Bloomberg News reported on November 25 that Bezos has broken the $100 billion mark in wealth — the first time a billionaire surpassed that mark since Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates did it in 1999.