The ecommerce giant has launched new offerings in Hindi, banking on a better user experience to attract India’s half-billion non-English speakers.
While only 10% of India’s population speaks English, ecommerce in the country has mostly been available in English only. Now that India is a $33 billion ecommerce market, and home to the world’s fastest-growing pool of internet users, U.S. tech firms are eager to engage. On September 4, Amazon made its local Amazon India website and mobile apps available in Hindi, the company’s first Indian language. This marks a major step in its ambition to make India its next big market.
With about 150 million registered users, Amazon is already No. 2 in the Indian ecommerce market, but English poses a barrier to reaching customers in many regions of India. “The next 100 million customers will have to be in the vernacular language,” said Kishore Thota, Director of Customer Experience and Marketing for Amazon India. “The level of trust increases when they see something in their own language,” he added. If its Hindi offerings are successful, Amazon plans to add other Indian languages, such as Bengali, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.
Amazon’s Hindi site is the most ambitious effort yet to tap into the non-English speaking segment of India’s ecommerce market. Another ecommerce site, Snapdeal, tried local-language versions several years ago, but pulled the plug after failing to attract enough users, the New York Times reports. Paytm Mall, which has the No. 3 ecommerce site in the country, started supporting 10 Indian languages in October. Success has been limited, but this could be because most of Paytm Mall’s listing are still in English.
Getting the language right is not the only hurdle. India is adding 40 million internet users a year, according to a study by Bain, Google and Omidyar Network, an investment firm; however, only 40% make transactions online. Roopa Kudva of Omidyar Network said that shopping online is the last step in the journey of a new internet user. Amazon is well aware, and according to Amazon India CEO Amit Agarwal, the company is “focused on all the barriers”.
Amazon believes the Indian ecommerce market is ready, especially given the widening availability of cheap mobile data. To ease the transition to shopping online, Amazon India provides customer support in multiple Indian languages. The company has also brought about 14,000 retail locations into its Amazon Easy program, in which the local shopkeeper helps customers place orders, and receives and delivers their packages.
A study by KPMG and Google last year determined that by 2021, 73% of India’s internet users will prefer to use languages other than English, compared with 57% in 2016. In light of this, every ecommerce site in India will have to address the language issue. “Anybody who is serious about this country will have to do it,” said Amit Sinha, COO of Paytm Mall.