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Explosive expansion...
When was the last time you waited in a queue to book tickets? If you have forgotten, good! With high-end technology, internet connectivity and better security, e-commerce has come to stay. From a market of $2.5 billion in 2009, e-commerce has become a $14 billion empire in 2012 and is expected to

Amit Agarwal

Vice President and Country Manager, Amazon India.

Industrial Economist (IE):  How was Amazon India born?
Amit Agarwal (AA):
Ever since we launched our operation in 1995, we have had a consistent stream of Indian customers shop from our US and  UK sites. The first order from India came in 1996, within months of Jeff Bezos launching Amazon.com.  For years, customers were asking for a dedicated Amazon site in India.  We saw in that a huge opportunity  to reach out and deliver the same shopping experience to a larger set of India consumers.

IE:  How was the Junglee.com experience in understanding the India market?
AA:
We launched Junglee in February 2012 and  it has grown dramatically. With over 1000 sellers across 23 categories and over 20 million products, customers can find virtually anything. They can also access millions of product reviews and thousands of seller reviews to decide what to buy and who to buy from, thereby making informed purchase decisions.

IE: How different is the Indian market and how do you select your merchants?
AA:
  To ensure a reliable and trustworthy shopping experience for our customers, we are asking our sellers to write  to us an evaluation of their ability to maintain high standards of customer service; we are extending our platform to them. In time, we hope to enable the self service model of doing business on the Amazon platform in India as well.

IE: What changes will Amazon India bring to the Indian e-commerce industry?
AA:
Our vision is to provide consumers with a vast selection, lower prices and  confidence to shop online. We believe this is a great opportunity for Indian businesses especially SMEs. Our globally proven and trusted services: ‘Selling on Amazon’ and ‘Fulfillment by Amazon’ are available for independent businesses in India.  Amazon does the heavy lifting and sellers can focus on their business taking advantage of Amazon’s investment in technology and innovation. They can scale as per their needs by efficiently using the secure payment infrastructure.

IE: How different is Amazon’s strategy from the existing players?
AA:
Our globally recognised A-Z guarantee ensures that  the condition of the item one buys and its timely delivery are guaranteed along with easy returns and early refunds. Essentially, we’ll provide our customers with a safe, secure and convenient online shopping experience with new and genuine products.

IE: Do you find any difference between the Indian buyers and the rest?
AA:
We have just started in India and are very encouraged by the response we have had from both sellers and customers. In each country we operate in, consumers essentially want vast selection at low prices, products to be delivered fast and reliable and a convenient and trustworthy online shopping experience. Sellers on the other hand, care about a fair, transparent, stable and robust platform that enables them to grow profitably. India is no different. The consumers and sellers have exactly the same expectations.

IE: Where do you see Amazon India ten years down the lane?
AA:
We envision becoming a trusted and meaningful sales channel for sellers of all sizes across India, helping them succeed and grow their business online. We strive to raise the bar for online shopping experience in India.

IE: What are the prospects of e-commerce business in India?
AA:
The e-commerce industry in India is still nascent, but has a tremendous potential.  We believe there is room for multiple formats and players, and most importantly for innovation. 

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Sachin Bansal

Co-founder and CEO, Flipkart

Industrial Economist (IE): How was Flipkart born?
Sachin Bansal(SB):
Our initial plan, when Binny and I were looking to do something on our own, was to create something for the Indian consumer. We thought we would set up an online shopping comparison site, but our research revealed that there were hardly any serious sites in the market. However, we were pretty sure that there was a demand for such channels with customers. We then decided to set up an online shopping site of our own – and that is how Flipkart happened. We started off with books, being an easy entry point, but we were always sure that we wanted to become a comprehensive horizontal e-commerce player.

IE: What was your market analysis when you took to e-retailing?
SB:
The biggest gap was in terms of customer focus amongst the players. For any business to succeed, especially a consumer-centric one like online shopping, this would be a key ingredient. Along with this would be the need to invest in technology and supply-chain; the two big pillars of e-commerce. After all, some of the biggest hurdles towards gaining consumer trust lay in this area: of delayed and lost deliveries, lack of transparency in the order process and so on.
    We were convinced about what we were doing. And resultantly, everything we did at Flipkart was carried out keeping these three tenets of customer-delight, technology and supply-chain investment in mind. Today we have been proven correct. E-commerce is taking off in a big way - and this is just the beginning.

IE: There was a news that e-commerce has met with its doomsday but your recent fund raising has proved it wrong. Your comments.
SB:
Every industry goes through a transition period and this is true of online shopping as well. But given the increasing penetration of internet and smartphones in India, not to mention the prior success of ticketing sites that have contributed towards building consumer trust, this industry is here to stay.
    What one needs to understand is that to truly explore its potential and scale up. The industry, needs serious investment  and that too from players and investors who can view this over the long-term. The $200 million investment we have just received is the single largest for any Indian internet company. This investment validates the belief that our investors have trust, not only in our capabilities as a market leader, but also in the potential of e-commerce in India.

IE: Where do you foresee Flipkart ten years  from now?
SB:
The e-commerce revolution in India has started. As per a recent Technopak report (E-tailing in India: Unlocking the Potential), by 2021 e-commerce will be a $76 billion market in India. I think online shopping is poised to become a completely mainstream activity; as basic as any everyday activity. And all of us here at Flipkart would like to see the company maintain its position as the market leader and lead this movement.

IE: What are the major concerns?
SB:
Some of the biggest problems that the online shopping industry is facing today have in fact, been here since the beginning. These are primarily in the areas of supply-chain and online payments. Last-mile delivery bottlenecks, failure of payment gateways, etc. are major factors that deter people from shopping online. Another area that needs attention is the implementation of a uniform GST across the country. This will help do away with uneven taxation and open up the market both for sellers and buyers alike.

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Advit Sahadev, founder and CEO oDigMa
an online marketing company which has serviced Makemytrip, Airtel, Aditya Birla, MTS, Marks & Spencer and Docomo, remarked: “Many shopkeepers have shut shops and come online to be profitable.” Catching customer attention plays a key role for a website to gain traffic. “It is important to always be at the eye of the user. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube help in this. Search engine optimisation helps to rank the website on top of any search,” said Advit.
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