Amazon recently announced that it will invest $1 billion to help digitize micro, small, and medium enterprises and traders across India, with the goal of bringing more than 10 million Indian businesses online by 2025. The announcement was made by Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon at Smbhav, a mega SMB summit organized by the company in New Delhi. Amazon plans to establish 100 Digital Haats to inspire, support, and onboard Indian businesses of all sizes into the digital economy. The new investment will enable US$ 10 billion in cumulative exports by Indian businesses selling on Amazon worldwide by 2025 and will help create 1 million new jobs in the next five years.
Jeff Bezos at Amazon Smbhav – the largest SMB Summit in India
Smbhav, brought together micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME’s) from across India to explore new and exciting opportunities that technology and Amazon’s global footprint provide for the country’s entrepreneurs. The event saw participation from over 3000 SMBs as well as senior leaders from across industry sectors. The main highlight of the event however was a fireside chat featuring Amazon’s Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos and Amit Agarwal, Senior Vice President and Country Head of Amazon India. Dressed in a blue ethnic jacket, a gift to him by one of the attending SMBs, he said “It's hard to remember, but 25 years ago, Amazon was a tiny little company. And you know, not only was I driving the packages to the post office myself, but I was wrapping them and, and preparing them and, you know, doing all the things that small entrepreneurs do.” Answering Amit’s question on why Amazon is the best place to experiment and fail at, Bezos said, “See if you know in advance that something is going to work, then it is not an experiment. So, you want to be doing many experiments per unit time, as many experiments per day, per week, per month, per year as you can because that's how you get innovation. Innovation is all about maximizing the rate of experimentation. And so you have to organize to be able to experiment and you have to have a culture that supports failure. Amit and I together, we've been working together for two decades and I have failed together so many times and that is that is, it's another way of learning.”
Bezos also spoke at length about his passion for space travel and his work with Blue Origin. He explained, “We have to take care of this planet, and if we want to continue to grow as a civilization, we need a dynamic, entrepreneurial civilization with space entrepreneurs that will use the resources in our solar system. Blue origin wants to reduce the cost of access to space by a large magnitude. And we need reusable rockets to do that.”
India Inc. at SMBhav
The fireside chat with Kishore Biyani of the Future Group was a big draw at Smbhav. With 1400 retail stores across 400 cities, the unassuming Biyani understands the likes and dislikes of the Indian consumer, like very few people do. Going down memory lane to when he himself started out, he said, “The most memorable days for us were when we started. It has been a journey of learning after doing something.”
On how doing the small things eventually led to achieving quick pan-India presence, he said, “We decentralized on day one, we thought of the country in terms of four zones. We created multiple offices within each zone. That allowed us to grow.”
NR Narayana Murthy, Co-Founder – Infosys in his keynote said, “The responsibility of achieving the vision of $5 trillion economy lies with the Indian SMBs.” He added that, “85% of the country's business output came from the unorganized sector, 10% from SMBs, and 5% from large businesses, which made SMBs a very important part of the economy.
Murthy shared five points that he believed would help SMBs achieve success: “a differentiated business value proposition; attracting the best quality of people; a good balance of skills, expertise and experience; a durable value system that sustains growth; and ensuring that communities, and the country at large, become better.”
Sonal Dabral, COO South Asia & Vice-Chairman (India) of Ogilvy focused on the big brands of today which had humble beginnings as SMBs. These companies have achieved billion-dollar net worth, he said, due to belief, commitment, identity, and effective communication.
Sudhir Sitapati, Executive Director of Foods & Refreshment with Hindustan Unilever and Vice President of Unilever, in his address commented on the importance of growing categories. He said, “It is easier to grow a category than to grow market share because it is easier to solve an unsolved problem than to solve a problem that someone has solved better.” He added, “Sales is not a revenue function. The main function of sales is to fulfil a demand for a product. And, in the long run, integrity pays.”
Ronaldo Mouchawar, Amazon’s VP for Consumer Retail Business in the Middle East, said, “Amazon has been good for local sellers there (in the Middle East), as well as for products from all over the world which are now sold in that region. Many of the sellers here are now able to list their products on Amazon. I met many young entrepreneurs here and was fascinated by how courageous they are.”
Amazon also awarded the 10 most impressive and innovative SMBs in India. Vahdam Teas, which sells teas and superfoods, was awarded ‘Global SMB of The Year,’ while hygiene product startup Pee Safe was named ‘Best SMB Brand of The Year.’ Tanvi Johri of Carmesi was recognized as the ‘Women Entrepreneur of The Year’ and Loom Solar was named the ‘Fastest Growing SMB of The Year.’
Utheja Rao of Bedeck Woods Pvt Ltd, who sells flat pack furniture under the brand Deckup on Amazon India, said, “We have scaled phenomenally on Amazon. By the third year, we grew 8x compared to our first year. We started with a 2000 sq ft housing space to service our orders, and that has grown to 40,000 sq ft! Riding on Amazon’s presence and becoming a global company is a great strategy for sellers like us. The two days (of Smbhav) have been very engaging. Hearing Jeff talk live…that was the icing on the cake.”
Anuj Saxena of Knowledge Ridge, an SMB from Pune that collaborated with the event, said, “People are very happy to have a platform where one can see small companies getting recognition. Many are looking forward to how this can be taken ahead.”
The event also included a comprehensive masterclass series named eDucate, where well-known industry and subject matter experts spoke about topics ranging from the challenges of eCommerce logistics and empowering SMBs via technology to communication behind the scenes, accounting, and GST compliance.
Attended by SMBs from across sectors and various parts of India, the two-day event generated enough buzz to believe that it could pave the way for a more unified SMB ecosystem in the country. As Jeff Bezos predicted, “the 21st century will be the Indian century,” and to that end, a viable and thriving SMB ecosystem is absolutely vital.
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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2020 18:16:45 IST