Amazon says it doesn’t care about protectionist calls by Flipkart, Ola

Amazon India chief Amit Agarwal says the e-commerce company will raise its India investments further in 2017


The bar set by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is so high on focus that the e-commerce firm doesn’t really care or get distracted by these conversations, says Amit Agarwal. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
The bar set by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is so high on focus that the e-commerce firm doesn’t really care or get distracted by these conversations, says Amit Agarwal. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Bengaluru: Amazon India chief Amit Agarwal on Wednesday said his company was fully prepared to deal with protectionist measures if such a situation arises at all, a fortnight after the founders of homegrown unicorns Flipkart and Ola sought government help to take on global rivals.

In an interview, Agarwal said the Seattle-based e-commerce company will raise its India investments further.

“The bar set by (Amazon CEO) Jeff Bezos is so high on focus that we don’t really care and get distracted by these conversations. The good part is we have figured out three things that matter to customers and that are not going to change over the next 10 years—so, I don’t care about things that are going to change, things that are being talked about that should change because I know there are things that will not change, no matter what happens,” said Agarwal.

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“We always keep complying with whatever rules are set (by the government),” he added.

Earlier this month, Flipkart chairman Sachin Bansal and Ola chief executive Bhavish Aggarwal said at a panel discussion in Bengaluru that India should protect its start-ups against “foreign” rivals in a similar way that China did with its own in the first decade of the millennium. The suggestion comes in the backdrop of Amazon and Uber winning market share from local rivals Flipkart and Ola in the past 12 months.

Amazon, which initially said it would invest $2 billion in India, in June said it would invest an additional $3 billion.

“Our journey in India has barely started. We have a very long-term outlook for India and if we execute well, there’s no reason why India should not be one of our largest geographies. E-commerce is at such an infant stage that it will take many years of substantial and significant investment in all of these to build the foundational blocks where e-commerce can really scale to the level that India deserves. We will invest whatever it takes. I would stop tracking these numbers,” said Agarwal.

ALSO READ | Do Flipkart and Ola really need protection?

Amazon has also expanded its product offerings. “We have grown to 95 million products; soon it will be 100 million products,” said Agarwal. “In 2017, you will probably see us massively scaling our investments in infrastructure, technology and reach.”

“Our philosophy is everyday low prices. We track that (new customers) very closely and those new customers are coming back and are active. More importantly, how many of them are we converting into Prime members. I won’t be able to share those numbers, but we track those very closely. It’s very healthy for us—it’s at par, if not better, than many of our geographies,” he added.

Amazon, which launched the Prime Video subscription programme in India last week, has also witnessed a jump in subscriptions for its flagship Prime loyalty programme.

"In 2017, you will probably see us massively scaling our investments in infrastructure, technology and reach"- Amazon India chief Amit Agarwal

“In the week that we launched Instant Video, the number of free trials (on Prime) has gone up 100%, the number of paid Prime memberships has gone up by 70%. Instant Video is doing its job to drive the Prime flywheel,” said Agarwal.

While rivals are still tackling the impact of demonetisation and struggling to get growth numbers back to pre-demonetisation levels, Amazon claims its business is back to normal and in fact has grown even more rapidly in the one month since the government withdrew large-value notes.

ALSO READ | Flipkart, Ola take note: protectionism isn’t the same as patriotism

“We are already at pre-demonetisation levels and growing at triple digits. It disrupted our operations during those 48 hours, not had a trajectory impact on us. The good part is that since Amazon has generally been trusted, the share of cash on our platform was already lower than what others had. So, the depression for us was much lower during that period,” said Agarwal.

“Taking motivation from that, we launched Amazon Pay—that has seen 100X growth in one month. When I look at the one month since demonetisation, our system has been further cleaned up and has become significantly prepaid or digital,” he added.

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