On Thursday, India’s first Amazon ‘Digital Kendra’ in Surat, Gujarat was launched. The centre was virtually inaugurated by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. It is set up as part of its commitment to bring in the digital way for 10 million, Indian micro, small and medium enterprises by 2025.

About ‘Digital Kendra’

Amazon Digital Kendras are resource centres that will provide MSMEs information about the benefits of e-commerce and help avail third-party services such as shipping and logistics support, cataloguing assistance, digital marketing services, GST and taxation support to start their digital journey.

At the launch event, Amazon India Senior VP and Country Head Amit Agarwal said e-commerce was mostly an urban phenomenon when the company had started its operations in the country in 2013.

He said that-

“People would buy certain products on selected events, and it would not be common for people to pay for shipping. The seller base was new to digital, they didn’t have the skills to go online yet and on the customer side, the majority were using mobile phones to access the internet for the first time, and transactions are primarily cash.”

Further adding he said that the company has focused on enabling sellers to reach customers across India and globally, and has made significant investments in technology, logistics, delivery infrastructure and digitising payments that collectively helped more customers and businesses to come online.

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Jeff Bezos’s investment plan in India

In January 2020, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had announced a US $1 billion (over Rs 7,000 crore) investment in India to help bring small and medium businesses online and committed to exporting US $10 billion worth of India-made goods by 2025.

The investment would also be utilised to digitise 10 million micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and traders across India, including manufacturers, resellers, local offline shops, and brands. As part of this effort, Amazon was supposed to establish 100 digital centres throughout India, amongst which first centre is successfully launched.

Amazon’s endless efforts to ace the e-commerce league

Amazon, which competes with players like Flipkart and Reliance Industries’ JioMart, has been ramping up its efforts to expand the base of sellers on its marketplace.

Fair trade watchdog CCI has initiated a probe on the basis of complaints alleging that Amazon and Flipkart promote select sellers on their marketplace platforms and that deep discounts have brought a large difference in the competition.

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How Gujarat can benefit the project?

Agarwal noted that Gujarat is a manufacturing powerhouse for auto, auto components, textiles, gems, jewellery, ceramics and many other sectors and that Surat is one of the key MSME hubs in the state.

HE focused on the fact that-

“So, we have set up the first Amazon Digital Kendra in one of the most important MSME clusters and will cater to thousands of MSMEs located in and around the city. The state has been a key geography for us and we have made significant investments in the state.”

Amazon has three fulfilment centres with more than 1.5 million cubic feet of storage space, along with a strong delivery network of more than 100 Amazon-owned and delivery service partner stations across the state.

What CM Vijay Rupani had to say about this initiative

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the initiative will help equip MSMEs with the right knowledge, skills and support to benefit from technology adoption and e-commerce. He stated that economic activities have been impacted by the pandemic and that steps like these will be important as MSMEs look at reviving and rebuilding their businesses and boost their economy again.

Rupani said that-

“We need to empower and enable MSMEs to play an even stronger role in the Indian economy going forward. I am happy that the first Amazon Digital Kendra has come up here in Surat, which is home to thousands of MSMEs and traders. I am sure they will be benefited by becoming digital entrepreneurs.”

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Amazon’s global selling programme, and how this centre will benefit India

Amazon India VP Manish Tiwary said over the past few years, there has been a rise in sellers wanting to sell online, those looking at using digital forms of payment, and even exploring becoming a part of Amazon’s global selling programme.

Tiwary stated that from January 2020, close to 3,00,000 new sellers have joined Amazon.in to grow their business, especially during the pandemic as customers turned to e-commerce to shop while staying safe within their homes.

The centre will also provide the opportunity for MSMEs to avail on boarding services if they are interested in registering as sellers on Amazon.in or engaging with other Amazon programmes.