India needs to boost e-commerce to help small businesses, says Amazon exec

FILE PHOTO: A shipment moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon Fulfillment Centre (BLR7) on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/ Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo

India needs to encourage ecommerce and reduce red tape to help small businesses sell online and export goods to help revive sagging domestic economic growth, a seniorAmazon.com executive said on Wednesday.

“There is so much opportunity to just let ecommerce thrive versus trying to define every single guard rail under which it should operate,” Amazon‘s India head Amit Agarwal told Reuters, ahead of the launch of Amazon’s biggest campus in the world in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, on Wednesday.

India revised its ecommerce rules in early 2019, creating hurdles for Amazon and rival Walmart Inc’secommerce subsidiary, Flipkart.

“I feel ecommerce can actually accelerate India‘s economy in a big way, if it’s just allowed to thrive,” said Agarwal, whose comments come at a time when India‘s economic growth has slumped to near five-year lows.

Agarwal said Amazon works with some 500,000 sellers, and has created over 200,000 jobs in India since launching its ecommerce operations in 2013.

He said Amazon‘s push to get small and medium businesses in India to export has resulted in more than $1 billion in exports and it expects this to exceed $5 billion in the next three years, but red tape is holding some businesses back.

“Even a seller, who wants to sell out of their state, has to get a tax registration in the new state. How many small business owners would go through the onerous job of doing that?” he said.

“The number of basic paper cut opportunities out there are so many,” he said. “I feel we’re getting lost in the high level debate around ecommerce and data localization.”

India‘s revised ecommerce regulations, along with its push to compel multinationals to store data locally, have irked the U.S. government and heightened trade tensions between the two countries. India has argued the rules are aimed at protecting interests of its small traders and also its citizens’ privacy.

India expansion

Amazon‘s launch of a new campus in India comes just months after the Seattle-based company scrapped its plans to build a major outpost in New York, blaming opposition from local leaders. It has since picked Arlington, Virginia as the site of its upcoming second headquarters.

India is considered the last major growth market for the e-commerce giant and founder Jeff Bezos has committed investments of more than $5 billion toward Amazon‘s expansion in India.

Amazon said the new campus in India, spread over 9.5 acres, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and could house more than 15,000 employees. Amazon has 62,000 employees in India, roughly a third of whom are based in Hyderabad.

Despite weaker economic conditions Amazon has no plans to slow down its expansion in India, said Agarwal, adding that in tougher times “customers want even more value, convenience and selection.”

While declining to give any specific numbers, Agarwal said membership in Amazon‘s Prime loyalty program has doubled in the last 18 months in India and the market remains Amazon‘s fastest growing for Prime worldwide.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.