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Unilever Gulf chief Manish Tiwary joins Amazon India

This year, Amazon India has added several senior executives to its ranks, including Sriraman Jagannathan from Citibank in January to head payments and Puneet Gupta as sales and marketing head for the fashion, food and grocery retail from online fashion retailer Jabong.Photo: ReutersPremium
This year, Amazon India has added several senior executives to its ranks, including Sriraman Jagannathan from Citibank in January to head payments and Puneet Gupta as sales and marketing head for the fashion, food and grocery retail from online fashion retailer Jabong.Photo: Reuters

Manish Tiwary will become one of only four people at Amazon India who holds the coveted position of vice-president

Bengaluru/New Delhi: Amazon India has finalized the appointment of Manish Tiwary, the head of Unilever in the Gulf region, as its second senior-most executive, with an eye on grooming him for the top job when country manager Amit Agarwal moves to a bigger role at parent company Amazon.com Inc.

Tiwary will replace Samir Kumar, vice-president of category management at Amazon India, who is moving back later this year to Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, US.

Tiwary is among the handful of candidates being lined up to take over Agarwal’s role over time, three people familiar with the matter said.

Agarwal is being considered for a bigger role at Amazon, these people said on condition of anonymity.

The people cautioned that Agarwal isn’t leaving his post this year and that Tiwary’s progress at Amazon India will be considered before a final decision is made on the role of country head. Agarwal may continue if Amazon doesn’t find a suitable replacement, they said.

Last month, Amazon.com chief executive officer Jeff Bezos promoted Agarwal to his senior leadership team in recognition of how fast Amazon has grown in India under Agarwal.

Amazon confirmed Tiwary’s appointment.

“As a key member of Amazon’s launch team in India, Samir (Kumar) has contributed immensely in helping build Amazon.in as India’s largest online store and delighting customers. He has also been a key advocate of Amazon’s culture, helping teams imbibe the unique Amazon Leadership Principles. We are very grateful to Samir’s contribution and are excited to have Manish join the team," an Amazon spokesperson said by email.

When asked if Tiwary is among the candidates being lined up to replace Agarwal and whether Agarwal is being considered by the company for a bigger role, the spokesperson said, “Amit Agarwal will continue to head Amazon India".

Two executives from Unilever’s Indian unit have joined the country’s booming e-commerce business over the past one year. Flipkart appointed Samardeep Subandh, vice-president of modern trade at Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), as chief marketing officer in December. Snapdeal hired Govind Rajan, another senior marketing executive at HUL, to head its payments unit FreeCharge last July.

A 1995 graduate of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Tiwary spent two decades at consumer goods giant Unilever. He headed sales at HUL before being promoted to the role of managing director, Gulf region, for Unilever.

This year, Amazon has added several senior executives to its ranks. It recruited Sriraman Jagannathan from Citibank in January to head payments and Puneet Gupta as sales and marketing head for the fashion, food and grocery retail from online fashion retailer Jabong. Tiwary will become one of only four people at Amazon India who holds the coveted position of vice-president, along with Agarwal, Jagannathan and Kumar.

Tiwary joins Amazon at a time when the online retailer is running neck and neck with rival Flipkart in the race for leadership of India’s e-commerce market, expected to grow to $60 billion by 2020 from $4.48 billion in 2014, according to UBS AG.

Amazon entered India only in June 2013, years after Flipkart (2007) and another rival Snapdeal (2010) started operations, yet analysts and investors say there’s a strong possibility of Amazon overtaking its local rivals this year.

Amazon has rigorously applied its mantra of widest product selection, lowest prices and fastest product delivery to mount one of the fastest catch-ups seen in recent times in business. The firm offers more than 55 million products from more than 85,000 sellers. In comparison, Flipkart offers more than 40 million products from more than 90,000 sellers, while Snapdeal offers more than 35 million products from 300,000 sellers. The US-based online retailer also owns 21 warehouses across the country and has provided technology tools and processes for 50 others owned by its sellers. In comparison, Flipkart owns 17 warehouses, while Snapdeal doesn’t own any.

Mint had first reported on 15 August 2015 that Amazon India was gaining significant market share from Flipkart and Snapdeal. At that time, the two local companies were still comfortably ahead of Amazon. Since then, Amazon’s market share has grown.

Amazon is desperate to succeed in India, the last big e-commerce market in the world, after losing out in China to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Alibaba is an investor in two Amazon rivals, Snapdeal and Paytm. Alibaba is also expected to make a direct entry in India’s e-commerce business at some point, probably through an acquisition. Some analysts expect India’s e-commerce sector will eventually see a battle for leadership between Amazon and Alibaba, either directly or indirectly.

In February, Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd (Amazon India) nearly doubled its authorized capital to 16,000 crore, exceeding its massive capital commitment of $2 billion made in July 2014 and indicating the company’s intent to splash whatever cash is needed to become the country’s largest e-commerce firm. Amazon India’s authorized capital was 1,500 crore in July 2014.

mihir.d@livemint.com

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