Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Ravi Desai, Amazon India

In a competitive ecommerce market, Amazon India's marketing head has tried to provide the best deals for consumers, with global and homegrown competition looming.

In the space of six months, Ravi Desai has seen Amazon India’s business break all records with its Great Indian Sale and, by March, its business came to a near standstill with the pandemic and suspension deliveries of all but essentials. Four years after he took over as effectively the marketing chief for Amazon in India, he has helped Amazon build a dominant position in the Indian market.

Along the way, Desai, who spent much of his career in consumer goods and food before moving to Amazon in 2016, has learnt to transition his marketing focus from a metro city bias to tapping the hinterland—nearly nine out of 10 orders by new users come from outside large cities.

To cater to this shifting audience, which seeks both variety and competitive prices, he launched the Kitne mein mila (how much did you pay for it?) campaign in March 2019 to show off the range of brands on offer. Almost a year on he also oversaw the har pal fashionable (fashionable all the time) campaign to boost the platform’s presence in the online fashion space, claiming to deliver products from over 1,000 brands in two days.

Amazon India has also focused its marketing strategy to focus more on granularity of campaigns and promotions, both for brands and consumers. For example, in 2019, it churned out thousands of distinct campaigns for mobile handsets on the platform and that number will grow ten-fold in 2020. 

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While Amazon India was buffeted by the pan-India lockdown and curbs on sales of products outside a narrow band of essentials, it has slowly seen this constriction ease. To make the most of a tough situation, Desai and Amazon have promoted the firm’s private labels including Basics, Solimo, Presto, Symbol, as it has waited for the market to pick up. 

During the lockdown in India, Desai played a key role in helping expand Amazon India’s pantry business, focused on essentials, from just three cities to 100 locations, covering 10,000 pin codes.  

Despite geopolitical tensions with China, Desai was able to steer successful sales of brands on the platform—the Oneplus 8 was sold out in minutes on a recent sale on Amazon—even as other brands are lined up too. To cater to a mostly locked down audience, Amazon has tweaked the contents of its platform to offer home needs more prominently and ran a wardrobe refresh sale through end June to keep the brand top of mind with consumers.

Keeping in mind broader brand purpose during the pandemic, Amazon India hosted the third edition of its Small Business Day to aid homespun ventures gain during this time. Desai has helped architect other concessions such as free health insurance for sellers, 50% reduction in fees, waiver of storage fees and relaxation of performance metrics, as it has sought to aid a distressed community at this time. 

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