Jamil Ghani, vice-president of Prime and Marketing International at Amazon.com, is very familiar with India, given that he is responsible for the Prime membership programs offered to customers in Europe and Asia and defining the launch of Prime in new countries. Ghani perceives this country as one of the most dynamic market segments around the world, and attributes this to the huge amount of India-first innovation in the payments space, in content and consumer experience.

In an exclusive interview, Ghani and Akshay Sahi, Head of Prime in India, share their views on Indian consumers, the Prime strategy globally and in India, and their take on the stiff competition in the market. Edited excerpts:

How would India rank among the 18 countries where you have introduced Prime till date?

Ghani We can’t comment on specifically where India is numerically but I can tell you this that India is one of the fastest-growing geographies.

How does the global strategy for Prime tie in with your international market strategy, especially India?

Ghani: Prime was originally introduced in 2005 to make fast, free shipping a daily occurrence instead of an occasional indulgence. In 2011, we realized we had the ability to bring the same level of disruptive convenience to the entertainment side of how we spend our lives, and now we have a program that is the best of shopping and the best of entertainment.

Strategically, point number one is that customers are more similar than they are different and everybody wants to have ways to make their life better. We address that by bringing together the best of shopping and best of entertainment. The second key element is that we know there are differences, and so we ultimately want to have a local program. We are adding more and more content for languages beyond Hindi all over the country.

On the shipping side, we are constantly adding more selections. We have programs like Prime Now available in four cities, (and) we innovate on Prime Day. Additionally, we are investing to get more and more members from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. This involves introducing customers to shopping online and shopping on mobile phones for the first time, and innovating on the payment side (existing tie-up with ToneTag, and just launched a co-branded credit card with ICICI).

India is a great case study where we started with this promise of one- and two-day shipping on millions of items in mid-2016. By the end of the year, we had launched Prime Video but I don’t think anybody involved at that point could ever have forecast how important it would become to customers, which then unlocked an opportunity to work with content creators and invest in Amazon Originals at a rate that is the most robust local investment roadmap compared to any other geography around the world.

How do you perceive the stiff competition, especially in the video streaming segments from companies like HotStar and Netflix?

Ghani: We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about competition. We start with the customer, and build products and services to meet those needs. We embrace competitive activity because we think ultimately--and this has proven out in multiple other geographies--that the more the competition, the better the customer outcome is. Customers are the ones who ultimately win. We care about all our customers but Prime members have shown through their commitment that they want more and we want to give it. We don’t think of Prime as a loyalty scheme. We think about it as a membership that you pay a little bit more to get more. There are other such attempts around the world (but they) have to meet a bar.

How is Prime Day going to look in India this year?

Sahi: We think of Prime Day as a celebration versus just another deal-led event. So how do we make Diwali come a little sooner for customers? Other than great deals, Diwali is all about new brands and new launches and buying new things. So, we partnered with brands and they were really excited about this concept. Last year we had more than 200-300 products. The other part is entertainment. So for the first time (last year), we lined up new releases on a daily basis leading up to Prime Day in India. Also, we launched a 1 MB App (lite app) because all young folks don’t want to use the memory on their phone for apps. This continues to be relevant.

Ghani: We are not quite ready to talk about all the specific things that are coming in Prime. Prime has become a global celebration of our members and that celebration is across the globe in the 18 countries where we offer Prime. The first is, we want great deals to be there. We work really closely with our selling partners--whether they are multinational organizations or small and medium businesses that are starting out sales in our store for the first time. The second key pillar is entertainment--no celebration is complete without entertainment and we are doing more in India and across the globe on video, music, and with Twitch Prime. The third thing is that any celebration also has news and a whole host of products and content.

Do you plan to unbundle Prime Video from the Prime package?

Ghani: It’s hotly debated, internally. Both the customer anecdote and data suggest that we should provide more value to customers, and that customers should get more value from the program by having access without any further friction, namely having different plans for having an All-in-One membership. For the foreseeable future, that’s our priority.

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