Amazon rolls out programme to list local shops as sellers

Amazon has been piloting this program for six months with over 5,000 local shops and retailers from over hundred Indian cities

Amazon rolls out programme to list local shops as sellers

Online retailer Amazon on Thursday said it will invest Rs10 crore in ramping up a pilot program that saw the online seller already reach out to 5,000 local stores selling electronics, apparel, toys, furniture, grocery, home furnishings, to list on its platform as the company continues to expand its range of sellers and products.

Amazon already works with millions of sellers in India—those that are manufacturers, online-only sellers or even retailers who sell their products on its marketplace.

However, given how shopping patterns will alter after the Coronavirus outbreak, the retailer said it has ramped up the programme that will enable offline retailers, some with no prior experience of selling online, to list on its website.

This makes India among the first markets where Amazon will engage at scale with local shop owners that drive a bulk of the country's retail trade and are indispensable to daily shopping habits here.

The ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ programme “helps customers discover products from local shops in their city from the convenience of their homes, while helping shopkeepers supplement footfalls with a digital presence and expand beyond their normal catchment," the company said.

Amazon has been piloting this programme for six months with over 5,000 local shops and retailers from over a hundred Indian cities, Gopal Pillai, Amazon India vice-president for seller services, said in an interview. The pilot includes sellers from different categories like groceries, kitchen appliances, home, furniture, apparel and automotive.

Currently, shops that sell groceries and essentials are already live on its platform as under India's strict lockdown directives sales of only such products are permitted.

Pillai said the company is awaiting relaxation in rules, once the lockdown is lifted, to be able to roll out the programme fully.

Making a case for accelerating the launch of the programme, Pillai added that the company took the decision because the viral outbreak has prompted shoppers to increasingly order more products online. This switch, many retailers believe, will prevsil well after the global pandemic is over as consumers avoid visiting busy areas and prefer to browse for goods online.

“What we are saying now more than ever is that we need to step up and help small businesses and local shopkeepers," he said. “We are committing Rs10 crore in investment to expedite onboarding and training and enablement of these stores to take advantage of this opportunity," said Pillai. Once the lockdown is lifted, Pillai added, "this programme can bridge the gap for customers who want to maintain social distancing".

Amazon has been doing more work with India’s small business owners, manufacturers and suppliers as it tries to rapidly draw more sellers and partners into its fold to grow its share in India's retail market.

Earlier this year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos pledged $1 billion in new investments to help take small Indian businesses online, as the world’s richest man pulled out all the stops to woo merchants and the government amid regulatory scrutiny and protests by traders. The investments, said Bezos, will touch as many as 10 million small and medium businesses, including manufacturers, resellers, local offline shops and brands.

However, Pillai added the investment in this programme is over and above the investments promised in January.

The move also comes at a time when more and more retailers are asking the government to allow sales of non-essential goods to include summer-related electronics, laptops, mobile phones, home appliances and other goods.

The programme allows shopkeepers to choose areas where they can deliver products.