Amazon recently hit the one trillion dollar mark in valuation – quite an accomplishment and it puts the company in rarified air. The path to the valuation has not been easy, or fast. Expansion into different services and countries were essential.
Amazon now operates in more than a dozen different countries, including India. India presents a very specific challenge to all of the companies that are operating within its borders; roughly only 10 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens understand English. In effect, this limits the access to online shopping to a majority of the Indian people.
Amazon aims to fix this situation in India. It recently stated that it will make mobile websites and apps available in Hindi – India’s most popular language. Similar to how U.S. citizens can select Spanish as their language of choice, users of the India app will be able to choose Hindi as their preferred language. Although Amazon is the second largest player in India’s multi-billion dollar e-commerce market, the English language is not sufficient to reach the country’s customers.
The task is a difficult one. Using a translation algorithm was insufficient and a far cry from the language and cultural translations that are needed to gain customers’ trust. Only 40% of Indian customers use ecommerce, and of those, roughly one-third only make a single purchase. Amazon also has 14,000 retail locations across India as part of its Amazon Easy program; this allows a local shopkeeper to help customers place orders, receive packages, and deliver them.
The push to Indian languages will be key to gaining new Internet users over the next few years. Research studies forecast that by 2021, 536 million Indians will use their native languages to access the Internet.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Ask students about their experiences at Amazon. What works, doesn’t work?
- Poll students: What are some of the challenges and barriers Amazon faces as it expands into India?
- View Amazon’s India site: https://www.amazon.in
- Discuss how to build and use a SWOT analysis grid: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a SWOT for Amazon in India.
- What are the issues and risks?
Source: New York Times, CNN, other news sources