With India emerging as one of the biggest internet markets in the world, next only to China, it is natural that big players like Amazon and Flipkart would be looking to increase profits and presence in the country. On the first day of its four-day-long annual flagship event, Amazon has announced a $250 million venture fund to invest in Indian start-ups and entrepreneurs, focusing on digitizing the small and medium-sized business enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
Called the Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund, it is set to focus on three big areas – the digitization of small businesses in the country, driving agri-tech innovations to empower farmer productivity, and the health tech industry to provide universal and quality healthcare for Indian citizens, according to Amit Agarwal, global senior vice president and country head of Amazon India. In the agri-tech sector, Amazon wants to invest in Indian start-ups which use technology to make agricultural outputs more accessible to farmers, provide credit and insurance to farmers, reduce food wastage, and improve the quality of products to consumers.
In the third (healthcare) sector, Amazon wants to invest in firms that help healthcare providers leverage telemedicine, e-diagnosis, AI-powered treatment recommendations, or the digitization of healthcare providers such as independent primary care clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacy value chain, or specialty doctor clinics for improving access to a wider patient base regardless of physical geographic location.
“In 2020, we pledged to digitize 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion in exports, and create 1 million jobs by 2025…We are committed to be a catalyst and a partner in unlocking the possibilities for a Digital India and realize the vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat as put forth by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. The launch of the Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund aims to attract the best ideas and empower entrepreneurs in the country to partner in this vision. Additionally, our initiatives to onboard 1 million offline shops on Amazon.in and digitally empower the North East region will accelerate the progress towards a digital and self-reliant India,” Amazon said. The company also plans to onboard 1 million offline retailers and neighborhood stores by 2025 through its Local Shops. It has already created over 3,00,000 jobs in India since January 2020.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are often the engine and the lifeblood of economies, and I think it’s true in India as well. We are very passionate about trying to enable the acceleration of small medium-sized businesses in fueling innovation and the economy in India. Through the Smbhav Venture Fund, we are going to help inspire more SMEs, to be able to build brand new businesses,” said Andrew Jassy, who is expected to succeed Jeff Bezos as the Amazon CEO.
The event also gave some much-needed good news for the North-East regions of India, which are often neglected compared to developments and investments in the rest of the country. Amazon’s “Spotlight North East” initiative is set to provide technology tools and customers to local women and tribal communities in India’s north-east region, while bringing 50,000 artisans, weavers, and small businesses online from the eight North-Eastern states by 2025 and boosting exports of key commodities like tea, spices, and honey from the region. Amazon would be joining forces with the NEHHDC and TRIFED in this initiative.
But wait, there’s more. The venture fund will also include an investment invoice discounting marketplace M1xchange for MSMEs established under the TReDS (Trade Receivables Discounting System) license. M1xchange connects MSMEs and banks and financiers.
Amazon has been trying to make itself an inseparable part of India’s culture, and becoming a prominent name in the country’s startup scene (which is booming, by the way), would go a long way towards achieving that goal.