Categories
India Journalism

India Antitrust Watchdog Sniffs Around E-Commerce Players

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That’s the headline on my newest story, a scoop out yesterday with my colleague Rajesh Roy.

The lede and first few grafs:

NEW DELHI–India’s antitrust watchdog is assessing the domestic e-commerce sector, a step that could have consequences for Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart, which dominate online sales in the country.

In a questionnaire dated May 17, the Competition Commission of India says it is seeking to understand the evolution of the e-commerce industry, the sector’s methods and strategies, business practices and “implications for competition,” according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Ernst & Young is conducting the study, according to the 14-page document, which is marked confidential.

The questions cover the percentage of products sold by categories, inventory practices, how pricing decisions are made and total sales volume, among other subjects.

“What if tomorrow Amazon takes over Walmart-controlled Flipkart or vice versa? Wouldn’t there be a complete monopoly? This needs to be checked,” said an official at India’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs who declined to be named. The ministry oversees the Competition Commission.

A spokesman for the Competition Commission of India didn’t respond to a request for comment about the questionnaire Tuesday. Representatives in India for Ernst & Young, Amazon and Flipkart also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
Book Notes Books

Book Notes: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Note: From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited after many years. For more such posts, see the Book Notes category

everything_store

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone

Published: 2013
ISBN: 0316219282
Amazon link

Brief Summary

The fascinating story of the rise of Amazon, which is the story of Jeff Bezos himself. He is brilliant, analytical, highly competitive, and driven. Bezos built Amazon not only to create the best contemporary company of its kind, vanquishing all rivals, but engineered systems to innovate and continue to succeed well into the future.

My notes:

  • I read this book as part of the research for my Wall Street Journal story, published in November, about Amazon’s rapid progress here in India. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Amazon. I couldn’t have picked a better book.
  • Author Brad Stone, who covered Amazon for years for the likes of The New York Times and Newsweek, provides the fascinating story of Bezos’s personal background, his early academic success, and his bold decision to leave a high-paying Wall Street job to move out west and found Amazon.
  • The book is not a hagiography, however. Bezos and Amazon are presented warts and all. Anecdotes show the Amazon founder to be at times ruthless in his quest for success, and other times enormously generous. And the high-pressure nature of Amazon’s corporate culture is plain to see.
  • I’m old enough to recall the dotcom bust, but “The Everything Store” serves as a good reminder to younger readers just how bleak things got for Amazon, when its stock fell and many believed one of its e-commerce competitors, eBay, would be the runaway success, not Amazon.
  • From a communications perspective, it’s interesting to note the book highlights several instances when new public announcements have been timed over the years to conincide with competitors’ quarterly results, as a way to steal their thunder. And Bezos himself is a master at messaging, honing “Jeff-isms” to express the company’s point of view in a pithy manner, often deflect various criticisms of the company along the way.
  • If you want to learn more about Bezoz, Amazon, and its culture, Stone has helpfully provided a list of “a dozen books widely read by executives and employees that are integral to understanding the company. Some of the titles include the novel “The Remains of the Day,” books by Sam Walton and Alan Greenberg, and modern-day business classics like “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Black Swan.”
Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon Pulls Indian-Flag Doormats as New Delhi Threatens Punishment

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That’s the subject of my story yesterday, which begins:

Amazon.com Inc. pulled doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag from its Canadian website after the South Asian nation’s foreign minister threatened to oust the Seattle company’s employees.

“This is unacceptable,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to a posting from a user showing an image of the doormats for sale.

Ms. Swaraj, who has 7 million followers on the platform, called on Amazon to remove the “insulting” products and threatened to rescind visas for Amazon’s foreign staff in India if action wasn’t taken.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

By Me on Friday: How Amazon Has Taken India by Storm

The story begins:

NEW DELHI– Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

“We are winning in India,” Mr. Bezos said at a conference in San Francisco, arguing that Amazon has pulled past Flipkart to become “the leader in India now.”

Amazon’s attempts to push into developing markets—marked by difficult logistics and significant cultural differences in shoppers’ expectations—reflect the e-commerce giant’s search for new routes to growth as it saturates the U.S. market. Countries such as China and India promise rapidly growing populations with steep rates of online shopping adoption as technology becomes more accessible.

Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

Categories
Journalism

By Me Recently: E-Commerce Logistics in India, Outsourcing, Cyber-Security and More

2015 10 25 ecomm

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal and online here is a story I’m especially proud of.

My colleagues and I followed — literally — a sari across India, illustrating the logistical challenge e-commerce startups in the country face.

The story begins:

MADURAI, India—The future of India’s booming e-commerce market is in the hands of small-time customers like 27-year-old Gayathri Rajamansingh.
Each Sunday, the owner of a small hair salon browses the Shopclues website from her home, hunting for bargains. Recently, she fixed on a floral-print sari, a traditional Indian one-piece garment, and clicked “Buy Now.”

Ms. Rajamansingh’s impulse purchase of the 199 rupee ($3.06) sari, set in motion a logistical operation that is complex and costly. Delivering the item involved a three-day, roughly 1,200-mile journey from Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, to her home in Madurai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. More than 30 people moved the package, through two overnight truck journeys, a long-haul flight and, finally, a motorbike to her doorstep.

There’s also an interactive feature with some fun videos and maps.

Meanwhile, here are some of my other recent stories:

  • Indian Startup Seclore Gains Traction Amid High Profile Hacks
  • Investors to Scrutinize India’s Information Technology Company Earnings
  • Ad-Focused Malware Targets Apple Users in China and Taiwan
  • Don’t forget that you can get my latest stories — and other links that catch my eye — delivered to your inbox. Sign up for my weekly email newsletter here.