Amazon India chief Amit Agarwal said on Thursday that the online retailer plans to double down on its investments in India, especially in key areas such as digital payments and the Prime membership programme.
Agarwal also reiterated the e-commerce firm’s earlier claim that it was the largest online retailer in India and dismissed research reports that the company had lagged arch-rival Flipkart during the Diwali season sale.
“Of course, this was our biggest season ever… Let’s look at last year and look at how many people came back. If we look at last Diwali, more than 70% of the customers repeated many times during the year. So, that’s very exciting…In fact, one out of every five of them became Prime members. And this year, the number of transacting customers from last year was more than two times,” said Agarwal.
Agarwal declined to comment on the exact number of units that Amazon India sold during the three phases of its Diwali season sale or the total merchandise value of goods sold during that period.
“The pieces that we were tracking were the sheer number of customers that were transacting…and the sheer number of things purchased. In terms of GMV (gross merchandise value), I’ve always said I don’t understand the metric. I find that a vanity metric. And we don’t optimize our website to run a single day of sale—that’s not how we run our website. What I can tell you is that all the claims made out there were wrong, knowing my data…Those are completely wrong,” said Agarwal.
Last week, Amazon India had claimed that the Great Indian Festival was its biggest ever shopping event, and that it had grabbed a 44% share of total customers and shopping volume, which was higher than any of its competitors. Flipkart had at the time disputed Amazon’s claim and claimed that it had been the undisputed leader during the festival season.
Mint had reported on 27 September that Flipkart generated gross sales of more than Rs5,000 crore, led by sales of Apple Inc.’s iPhones, Xiaomi phones and VU televisions, during its Big Billion Day sale. Flipkart’s numbers include sales at Myntra and Jabong, its specialty online fashion retail businesses.
Amazon India (Amazon Seller Service Pvt. Ltd) generated gross sales of Rs2,500-2,700 crore during the first round of its Great Indian Festival that was held between 21 and 24 September. At the time, Amazon had disputed the figures mentioned above and said it was consistently well ahead of Flipkart on metrics such as app downloads, desktop visits and mobile website visits.
Amazon has also repeatedly said its methodology of calculating gross sales could be different from Flipkart’s. Gross sales refer to the value of goods sold on a platform, not net revenue.
On Thursday, Amazon indicated that it plans to ramp up its selection through more partnerships and joint ventures, such as recent deals with Shopper’s Stop and the Patni Group, while also launching more India-specific innovations in areas such as payments and financial services.
“I think our investments are still squarely in the same three areas—how do we add more selection, how do we make it easier for sellers to offer more competitive prices and how do we build for faster deliveries. I don’t think we do anything else,” said Agarwal.
“A layer on top of that is that we keep investing in Prime—so video, music, Echo, etc are our key areas.”
Amazon has so far committed to invest at least $5 billion in India, and has already spent well over $2 billion building out its business in the country.
Amazon also plans to add a feature in its Amazon Pay service in India where users can also pay using channels such as unified payments interface (UPI).
“(Payment) has been and always will be a big area of investment for us,” said Agarwal.
“We will launch UPI (soon) and it will be part of the Amazon Pay experience.”