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Amazon Bends Over Backwards for India’s Online Shoppers

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Amazon

The Amazon that India’s 1.25 billion-strong population knows is a far cry from the one that U.S. buyers and sellers are used to.

For one, it’s the only market where the online behemoth offers motorbike delivery. But according to a feature in the January issue of Fortune, that’s not the only business practice that’s unique to the 2-year-old operation.

Because less than 60 percent of Indians has a bank account and even less use credit cards, Amazon allows shoppers to pay with cash when their orders are delivered (roughly half of its customers take advantage of this option). The Seattle-based e-tailer has also roped in thousands of small stores around the country to function as pickup points.

Sellers get a good deal, too. Amazon will take orders over the phone for them, as well as pick up items and deliver them. So it’s not surprising to learn that the number of Indian sellers on the website grew 250 percent in one year.

It’s all part of the company’s mission to overtake Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce site that currently holds about 44 percent of the market and is valued at around $15 billion. (Notably, it was founded by former Amazon employees.)

Last July, the company announced plans to invest up to $5 billion to turn the South Asian nation into its second-biggest market after the U.S. and as Jayant Sinha, the minister of state for finance, said to Fortune, “India is the logical No. 2.”

Here’s why: The United Nations has said India will surpass China as the world’s most populated country within seven years and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted its economy will grow 7.5% in 2016. Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, has said that e-commerce revenue could hit $137 billion by 2020.

It’s far from smooth sailing ahead, however. As Fortune pointed out, less than 25 percent of Indians have access to the Internet at home and an even smaller percentage has bought something online—which explains Amazon’s overzealous sales tactics.

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