Focus on the customer, all else is a distraction, says Amazon India head

By Karan Choudhury , Business Standard, New Delhi | In Digital | April 20, 2017
Amazon India Country Head Amit Agarwal says talk about Flipkart-Amazon merger is 'noise'.

For AMIT AGARWAL, senior vice-president and country head for Amazon India, everything other than customer focus is a "distraction". He refers to all the talk about a possible merger between Flipkart and Snapdeal or mega fund-raising in the industry as "noise" that hurts the customer. Agarwal tells Karan Choudhury how Amazon is ready to invest in the India market for many years and more. Edited excerpts:

A lot has happened in the last few days in Indian e-commerce. SoftBank, other than reports of putting money in Flipkart, is planning to invest in Paytm. Do you see SoftBank and Alibaba coming together to fight Amazon?

Our strategy has always been to be laser-focused on the customer. In all this noise, the stakeholder who is most dissatisfied is the customer. We are always thinking of building a better service. We are happy with our plans of providing massive selections and great pricing and will continue to do so.

There is also talk about who is Indian, who is not.

All this is a distraction, when the focus should be on the customer. I really do not spend much time trying to figure this out. At the end of the day, what matters to us is how to earn customer trust. They come to us only because we provide a better experience. Our focus is best invested there.

Has the customer-centric focus helped?

We have seen Amazon's growth in the recently concluded quarter at 85 per cent, year-on-year, while most of the landscape remained flat. That shows our focus on customers is allowing us to acquire a leadership position in all things that matter.

You have applied for 100 per cent FDI in food retail. What are your offline plans?

I will not speculate on what we may or may not do at this point.

When does Amazon Pay become an open wallet?

We are excited about the opportunity to offer convenience to customers when they shop on Amazon. What we have seen is customers using Amazon Pay shop more from us every month.

What is your plan for repeat customers?

We have always been focused on our selection, pricing and delivery and that is why we are relevant to customers. When all these things are done, you earn their trust and they buy more from us. The Prime programme is one such example and we are seeing a lot of repeat customers become Prime members.

Do you see Amazon Pay offering direct competition to market leader Paytm?

If we do a good job and are able to earn customer trust then we will become the payment method they prefer.

What has been the growth in the grocery segment?

Customers can buy gourmet speciality grocery on Amazon, we have Amazon Pantry that has been launched in 53 cities, we have Amazon Now, which offers two-hour delivery. The combination of these three is doing quite well and grocery is probably one of our fastest growing categories. Amazon Now has partnered with local retailers that are most relevant for that area.

Flipkart just closed a $1.4 billion round. Is capital an issue for Amazon India?

Right from Day One, we have been focused on building skills and capabilities to provide a great customer experience. We do not hold ourselves back from investing to be able to do that.

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