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E-commerce innovation in India: how localization is fueling Amazon’s growth

Localization efforts are helping Amazon penetrate further into Indian regional markets

Multinational e-commerce platform Amazon has expanded in almost every available direction in recent years. In India, its director of mass and brand marketing tells The Drum how localization efforts are powering further growth.

Amazon has been in India for over six years and is now one of the best known global brands operating in the country. But with some Indian consumers still to get online, the company predicts that it has plenty of room to grow.

Speaking to The Drum as part of the Digital Transformation Festival, Ravi Desai, director of mass and brand marketing at Amazon India, talked about how Amazon has adapted one of the world’s biggest tech brands to the local Indian audience and how localization will play a huge part in its future growth plans.

A core factor in Amazon’s growth, according to Desai, is timing, as the brand grew alongside a huge shift in e-commerce and digital adoption in the country. Amazon’s journey has both driven and been driven by India’s e-commerce innovation journey.

“Six years ago internet adoption was trickling deeper into the country, you had newer customers joining the internet revolution, thanks to the coming together of a couple of key forces. One was that the smartphone is the key access point to the internet for customers in India and smartphone prices were becoming more and more affordable to people in middle-income segments of the country.

“The other force was that access to data was becoming cheaper and cheaper in India. When you marry these two, and the aspiration that we typically find in Indian customers, it was not surprising that internet adoption was exploding. Amazon’s journey has been a mirror to that,” he explains.

Amazon has since focused its marketing around marrying global messaging around its core services (helping small businesses and sellers reach customers and bringing cheaper products to the masses) with fundamental local insights. The combination has been the backbone of much of its marketing and advertising campaigns over the past six years. The next step is greater localization in languages and starting to capitalize on the need for better e-commerce options outside key metropolitan areas and into rural India.

“When you look at the number of languages that are spoken or understood by Indians, India is home to hundreds of languages and dialects. There are 20 plus languages that are spoken by at least one million people in India, so language is a very big dimension of diversity in India,” he explains.

Recently, Amazon has added the ability to transact in some of the top languages in India, as well as English. Desai says that while tech companies are expected to bring new innovations to market, Amazon still hews to the principle of being obsessed with its customer.

“You can keep your ears close to the ground if you remain customer-obsessed, that's one of our key leadership principles. For our marketing team, I think it’s our operating motto and technology then becomes a great solution.

“You’re essentially deploying solutions towards trying to solve customer needs, so the anchor point for us is the customer and what she needs, and how we can serve her better with our solutions as a product of the business, he explains, “I think we are a customer-obsessed team and then we are thinking about what solution.”

To hear more about Amazon India’s marketing and innovation strategy, watch the interview between Amazon IN’s Ravi Desai and The Drum’s APAC publisher Charlotte McEleny as part of The Drum Digital Transformation Festival.