Amazon is building the Largest Collection on Earth for India [Interview with Amit Agarwal, VP & Country Manager]

amazon_thumb.jpgEarlier today, e-commerce giant Amazon launched in India. The much anticipated roll out will be spearheaded by Amazon veteran Amit Agarwal who looked after the company’s launch in Spain and other markets. “Step by step, by launching categories, we want to build the largest collection on earth for India,” Agarwal told NextBigWhat in an Interview. Edited Excerpts:

What took you so long to launch in India?

Part of our bar is to bring in the right customer experience at launch. The seller experience is also important for us. We wanted to make sure that people get the same global experience when they come to us in India from day one.

Foreign direct investment rules say that the government doesn’t allow FDI in e commerce. How does it work for you?

We have a marketplace in all the countries that we operate. The service provides an ecommerce platform and pay as you go fulfillment. Nearly 40% of our business comes from this. Over 2 million sellers are on the platform. Then we have our own sales. In India, we are doing the first part. That is, we do all the heavy lifting for sellers. Its a completely established practice and we have many marketplaces in India.

On the customer side, we are looking to provide a vast selection, convenient and trustworthy experience which is fast and reliable as well.

How do you localize your services for India? Many find that a challenge.

Our core focus is to bring a vast selection at low prices, fast and reliable delivery. Its very rare for a country to say I want it costlier. We will learn as we operate and roll out additional features.

For example, if you go to Amazon.in, you will see that on product pages, we will provide pin code level delivery estimates. Its hard to have that. We deal with the complex taxation laws and cover it up with a simple platform for sellers.

What are the major categories you will target next?

The global vision is that we want to be the most customer centric company. We build a place where customers can buy anything online. In the US we are constantly adding and expanding into new categories.  Since 1996 customers from India have shopped for books and television shows on Amazon. We will add more categories like mobile and cameras. The rest, we have to wait. But the idea is to create the largest selection on earth.

What are some of the numbers you are targeting? Say for instance how many transactions a day?

Honestly, we’d spend zero time thinking of outputs. We can’t control that. We can’t control how many people will go online, how many people will come to us or buy from us. The only things we can control are the three things I was talking about. We want to build the earth’s biggest selection in India. Step by step, launching categories, ensure that keep investing in creating lower cost for sellers and keep optimizing fulfillment network we have.

How do you handle logistics?

We have over many years developed significant expertise in warehousing and fulfillment. In India, we have a fulfillment center in Mumbai. We are testing a mix of our own delivery and with partners.

Who is your competition in India?

We are busy obsessing about customers and don’t really think about competitors. We think customers will come to us only if they find no better to buy from and we work backwards.

Are there any sourcing norms that you need to comply with in India?

None, because we are a marketplace. Our sellers would probably have to comply with that.

Do you have sellers from outside the country?

Right now only from India. But we will learn as we go along.

What are your near term future plans?

We have plans to work towards the strategic vision I talked about earlier. But those are operational in nature and I can’t share that for obvious reasons.

How many people do you have now? Hiring plans?

We don’t disclose our headcount numbers.

Acquisitions? If at all, what kinds?

Its been 10 hours since launch. So its a bit too early to talk about that. We have a long standing tradition of not talking about what we are about to do.