Amazon.com Inc.‘s Andy Jassy, who will be taking over the post of chief executive officer (CEO) this summer, is going all-in on India and risking it even as challenges mount in what is arguably the American e-commerce giant’s most important target market.
Jassy told customers and partners in India, in one of the first appearances since his appointment, that the U.S. company’s goal will be to ensure the country’s small and medium businesses will prosper and grow when working with its platform. A $250 million venture fund was announced by him to invest in startups working on innovations for such businesses, as well as health care solutions and agriculture.
“Small and medium businesses are the engine and lifeblood of economies,” Jassy said in an online discussion with Amazon’s India head Amit Agarwal on Thursday, the opening day of its four-day local seller event called ‘Smbhav’ (‘Possible’ in Hindi) that’s held virtually this year. “We are passionate about accelerating SMBs.”
Just hours before the event, it was announced that Jassy will be making an appearance. This is a sign of India’s importance for the U.S. giant that, as part of its global ambitions, is trying to tap the market of 1.3 billion people. Bezos was the star speaker at the event’s debut edition in New Delhi last year.
Amazon’s expansion tactics are being protested by local vendors, who are holding a parallel virtual summit called “Asmbhav” (meaning impossible in Hindi), a dig at the title of Amazon’s event, ‘Smbhav’.
The organizers of the rival event on Thursday, including the non-profit Public Response Against Helplessness and Action for Redressal (PRAHAR), called for stricter regulation, and demanded that central agencies investigate foreign platforms “to save the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of small retailers.” India’s central bank should investigate foreign-exchange “violations by foreign e-commerce platforms,” the groups said in a statement.
The 53-year-old cloud-services veteran, Jassy, has said little on how he intends to steer Amazon through the next years, since being named as successor to founder Jeff Bezos in early February. While Amazon seems to be flourishing in markets such as the U.S., which is fueled by demand for web services and online shopping, in markets like India, the company is facing challenges such as opposition from local small-business owners and stiff competition.
Jassy said that Amazon’s goal is to bring 1 million digitized neighborhood shops onto its platform by 2025.
The ascent of Jassy is coming at a distraught time for the Seattle juggernaut. Its businesses have racked up profits from the coronavirus pandemic, but the company is also facing antitrust investigations and market challenges in countries around the world.