Business & Finance

Amazon’s India Business Chief Explains Why He Terminated IPL


For 238 billion rupees ($3.05 billion), a Reliance-backed joint venture secured the rights to stream Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches online.

Manish Tiwary had only been in his new role as the CEO of Inc.’s India business for a few months when he was presented with a difficult decision: how aggressively should the US e-commerce giant compete for media rights to the IPL?

The acquisition of digital streaming rights to the cricket tournament would be a significant coup, potentially attracting hundreds of millions of people to Amazon. However, Tiwary and his colleagues will have to compete with deep-pocketed behemoths such as Reliance Industries Ltd. Amazon pulled the plug on the IPL auction before it had begun. Tiwary and other senior executives in Seattle determined that those billions would be better spent on Amazon’s e-commerce company.

“The ultimate decision was based on cost numbers,” Tiwary said in one of his first interviews as country head on the 27th floor of Amazon’s India offices in Bangalore’s northern neighborhood of Yeshwanthpur.

It foreshadows the difficult decisions that await the 52-year-old former Unilever Plc executive, who began his present post in February. The almost 1.4 billion-person country may be Amazon’s most intriguing long-term prospect, but it’s also exceedingly difficult, with powerful local competition, an uncooperative government, and highly price-sensitive consumers.

Amazon began to target India under founder Jeff Bezos, who frequently visited the nation and socialized with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The corporation has invested more than $6.5 billion to increase its presence in India, hired 110,000 people, and built 60 warehouses.

Tiwary believes that the next growth stage will come from expanding outside India’s major cities to Bharat, the less affluent, non-English speaking population in rural areas. He expects this campaign to bring in the next 100 million shoppers.

“I want Amazon to expand with India,” Tiwary explained. “India is expected to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy.”

The Indian e-commerce market is expected to reach $350 billion by 2030, expanding at a rate of roughly 23% as hundreds of millions of first-time smartphone users access the internet. This has attracted competition from companies ranging from Reliance to Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart and many startups. Tiwary believes numerous competitors can flourish because only a small portion of the country’s $1 trillion retail sector has shifted online.

“With less than 3% internet retail penetration, the last thing I’d be concerned about is competition,” he remarked. “Both sellers and buyers have begun to see the value of internet retail.”

His strategy for expanding beyond India’s major cities combines technology and marketing. Tiwary’s “Smart Commerce” project, announced last month to assist small merchants in going online, will be central to it. So far, the company has gotten approximately a million merchants on board, but that is only a fraction of the total.

“If 13 million or more small companies are digitized, internet shopping can reach every corner of India,” said Tiwary, who worked for Unilever in places ranging from Thailand and Vietnam to India and Dubai during his two decades there.

He also believes allowing more buyers to interact with Amazon via speech, even in local languages, is vital. As a result, the company’s engineers are improving app functionality to allow such purchases. It also extends into buy-now-pay-later, an increasingly popular method of providing credit to customers without needing a credit or debit card.

His marketing technique is opposed to Reliance, the enormous corporation led by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. For 238 billion rupees ($3.05 billion), a Reliance-backed joint venture secured the rights to stream IPLĀ  cricket matches online.

Tiwary will direct Amazon’s efforts at developing local influencers to assist in marketing to Bharat customers. These aren’t celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Addison Rae. Instead, it’s homemakers like Kajal Srivastava from Deoghar, Jharkhand, or students like Ahmad Zahid from Kashmir. They unbox and exhibit things like cheap sports shoes, memory foam pillows, or the latest fast curry concoction.

“It’s different from the TikTok influencers you see worldwide,” Tiwary added. “It’s still small, but it looks promising.” It’s a fresh approach to social commerce.

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