Amazon says India customer base surges during festive sale By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A shipment moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon Fulfillment Centre (BLR7) on the outskirts of Bengaluru

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A shipment moves on a conveyor belt at an Amazon Fulfillment Centre (BLR7) on the outskirts of Bengaluru

By Sankalp Phartiyal

MUMBAI (Reuters) – U.S. online giant Amazon (NASDAQ:) said its festive season sale in India had got off to a strong start, with three times the number of people signing up to shop in the first two days compared to last year.

Amazon and homegrown Indian rival Flipkart, owned by Walmart (NYSE:), kicked off competing sales events on Wednesday, jostling to grab shoppers in India’s October-December festive season when households make most big-ticket purchases.

“We are particularly excited by the three times higher new customer and Prime sign ups,” Amit Agarwal, Amazon’s India head said on Friday, adding the site is becoming the destination of choice for existing and new customers across India.

The comment comes after Flipkart chief Kalyan Krishnamurthy, late on Wednesday, told Reuters Amazon was losing relevance in the country.

Amazon and Flipkart are locked in a battle to dominate an Indian e-commerce market tipped, within a decade, to be worth $200 billion annually, according to Morgan Stanley (NYSE:).

Agarwal said the company’s push on attractive credit facilities, product insurance and a Hindi-version of its mobile website were among measures paying off this time around.

Amazon’s ‘Great Indian Festival’ sale will go on till Oct. 15, while Flipkart’s version ‘Big Billion Days’ ends a day earlier.

Amazon, which already has over 100 million registered users in India, is making a deeper push in the country’s small towns and cities in a bid to attract another 100 million customers by investing in infrastructure and partnering with local players for quicker deliveries.

Its Prime loyalty program, which offers free delivery, early access to deals during sales and free music and video streaming, has helped Amazon win tens of millions of clients, making India its fastest-growing Prime market globally. Flipkart now offers a similar scheme.

Large appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines as well as TVs are selling in huge numbers in this year’s sale, Agarwal said, with fashion products becoming the largest selling category.

Neither company gave specific sales numbers, but said their festive sales will break last year’s record as competition intensifies after Walmart’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Bengaluru-based Flipkart this year.

“Amazon remains the most visited, most transacted, most trusted online marketplace in India,” Agarwal said. “We look forward to maintaining this momentum for the rest of the holiday season.”

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