Listen, Empathize And Build Is The Success Mantra For Small Businesses, Amazon Smbhav 2022

Sapna Bhardwaj
Sapna Bhardwaj May 19 2022 - 10 min read
Listen, Empathize And Build Is The Success Mantra For Small Businesses, Amazon Smbhav 2022
With the theme of ‘Pragati Har Disha Mein', the Amazon Smbhav 2022 summit is an effort by Amazon to do its bit in this journey of India.

At 75 years of independence, India is one of the leading countries in the world with infinite possibilities for a digital India. It has established itself as a land of entrepreneurs, manufacturers and technology services. For India to realise its true potential and achieve the goal of becoming a trillion dollar digital economy, it needs to increase the pace of digitising small businesses, creating more jobs, and making itself a hub for manufacturing and innovation.

Spread across 2 days, 18 May 2022 and 19 May 2022 this virtual summit focussed on key topics around Small Business Digitisation, Exports and Start up Enablement, Innovation, Skilling and Job Creation. The tag line was ‘Pragati Har Disha Mein.’

Today was the second day of Amazon Smbhav 2022. On day one global leaders and industry icons shared their personal journeys discussing future trends giving their insights into the role that digitisation, next generation leaders and experts will play in the growth and progress of micro, small and medium businesses in India. However, with the developments, disruptions and all that is happening in the business landscape of India it seems like we are only at the beginning of that journey.

Today, in day two Amazon Smbhav 2022 industry leaders, small business and Amazon experts spoke about skilling and innovation, emerging technologies, brand building, and sustainability. These are all key factors in spreading the gift of 'Pragati Har Disha Mein' - its tagline.

From a pen to a laptop, eCommerce has revolutionised the way India shops. Over the last two years, during the pandemic, businesses across the world have witnessed a huge impetus to innovate and build new capabilities to reach new age customers.

‘Building and Innovating for Indian Customers’ the fireside chat of today was chaired by Raghava Roa, Vice President Finance and India CFO, Amazon India; Sudhir Sitapati, Managing Director and CEO, Godrej Consumer Products; and Russell Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, International Consumer, Amazon.


In The Businessworld The Pace Of Change Is Fast And We Need To Embrace It, Says Russell Grandinetti Of Amazon

“Things can move so quickly, the pace of change is so quick and we need to embrace it; the discomfort is like going to the gym, however the outcome is worth it. We build skills. Russell quoted,"Retail is a very local business, these things are uniform even if they can be manifested. When we started, most of the things were just packing for it, we were new. It has made a different landscape today in the course of time when we got in the speed. For me things have not changed much and it is the same, it is like going backwards, innovation no matter what the scale is what the customers even if it gets better what it involves building in India - for me the challenge is like the same destination wherever I am. Being global in scale -local vs global within the organisation may be the central idea. I think decision making is a ground up job and collective intelligence is far better. Our store is far more intelligent than a collective hustle and get out of the way no organisation is perfect - however we try hard."


Spirit Of Jugaad Is Equal To Value Engineering, Said Sudhir Of Godrej Consumer Products

“Consumers across the world are surprisingly similar. It is like the mother in law concept, the same feeling towards mother in law anywhere in the world. Consumers surprising are alike in what they and the overwhelming variable are also same,” said Sudhir.

Answering to the question that no discussion in India can be complete without Jugaad. When faced with constraints in a resource how do you view it? Sudhir answered, “For me Spirit of Jugaad = Value Engineering.” He highlighted the Magic sasha pack, is the helm of innovation for the eastern world, calling it an Indian innovation at its best. He stated ecommerce has reduced the cost for new brands to reach consumers and in India consumer trends are faster at the periphery.

He asserted, “The role of a channel be it for a large or a small company is overrated, citing Nirma as a perfect example and how it had bypassed the channel mode and reached its customers. The mantra of success is to listen, empathise and to build. I don’t think ecommerce will help either big or small. The path for business is the same, nothing has changed.”


Celebrating Failure, Amazon Smbhav 2022

Russel highlighted, “For us at Amazon we celebrate failure.” On being questioned about his favourite story of innovation, he answered, “When I started in 1988 the company we sold old books. Our original model was to be a first party seller. We decided we should be buying other books and selling them as well. This was while we were selling books in Ohio we had this bright idea, however in no time we knew it was like a second ghetto. It was only after a long time we started listing these other books old and new in the same page. And this worked.”

Sudhir also spoke about the importance for selling partners and how from a vantage point running a consumer business in India was. He said that being close to the products is the key. If you are a small business and many of the audience here were passionate and close to the product and not the periphery, if the company is passionate enough, it will work.

The fireside chat was an interesting one, while on the other side it was an Indian multinational company which has a legacy of 125 years of presence in India and of it, the consumer products division has been in India for the last 25 years. Having served customers in India, this company is now spreading its wings and is building a presence and a franchise in Southeast Asia, Africa, Middle East and parts of Latin America, representing this company was Sudhir Sitapati, Managing Director and CEO. Sudhir has distinguished experience across both Indian multinationals as well as Indian multinationals and as a senior seasoned marketing professional.

On the other side the panel had Amazon. Amazon is one of the largest consumer technology companies across the world. And having built its franchise across the world. It has now been serving customers in India for the last eight years. Representing Amazon was Russel Grandinetti. Russell is the International Senior Vice President for Amazon Consumer Business in India. And he has the privilege of leading a team that serves customers all the way from UK and Western Europe to Singapore and Australia and on the other side all the way from Brazil and Mexico, Middle East India, to customers in Japan and China.


Role Of Innovation Across The Value Chain, Amazon Smbhav 2022

Godrej’s business is of building brands for consumers. Essentially it buys raw material, and converts it into a manufactured finished product, distributes these products across customer selling points, and then you market it.

Speaking on the role of innovation across the value chain and where it is most effective, Sudhir said, “I think Raghava it will be easy for me to say that innovation is effective across the value chain but the truth is that in consumer goods businesses the way you phrase it, innovation is far and away most important and you know what you're calling conversion of raw materials to finished goods, which is to solve unsolved consumer problems with products. And that's the heart of innovation. I mean, obviously, there's innovation in media and sales and distribution, etc. But this is really the role of consumer good companies. And we should keep sort of remembering the fact that these are chemical engineering companies, chemical technology companies that solve unfulfilled consumer needs in this space.”

To the question: what excites you most about India? And perhaps what worries you about India? Russell answered, “Well, the excitement is pretty palpable, every time I come. I mean, the actual level of, I might even start with hustle and energy. I see both from our own teams, and from our selling partners, and frankly, from the marketplace, in general, things move quickly. And the cleverness, the creativity, the willingness to see an opportunity and run towards it."

"I think India ranks as high as any other country, so I get the chance to go visit. I will say like, there’s a little bit of the other side of this coin that maybe answers the other thing, which is, things can change so quickly, sometimes the ground can move under your feet in ways that are surprising. So that we just have to pay attention and look out and be willing to be nimble and flexible. That could be technology, it could be infrastructure, it could be regulatory, and it could be lots of different things. And the pace of change, I think, is so great that any organisation ourselves or any other here has to really. And the pace of change, I think, is so great. And the pace of change, I think, is so great that any organisation ourselves or any other here has to really that any organisation ourselves or any other here has to really almost be prepared for and embrace that kind of change, almost organise for it. And we do our best to do that. But it takes hard work to stay on top of the wave, that's for sure,” added Russell.

Raghava, moderating the fireside, asked Russell. You joined Amazon, when it was a small company, a small organisation that probably sold just books. Today, you lead an organisation that is several times the scale of what it was when you joined. So what stories can you share about how Amazon has innovated and grown so fast? And what's the role played by innovation in that growth journey?

Russell answered, “Maybe not 100 people in the office. And, we were a small business like any other here, I worked even the first holiday season in 1998. We could not hire enough staff for the Christmas rush. And we all worked a day job at the office and then worked the night shift in the fulfilment centre from about 8 at night till about 2:30-3 o'clock in the morning for those six weeks of the holiday. So like any small business, we worried about competition, and we worried about keeping up with demand if we're lucky enough to have it, and we worried whether demand would show up. And, but a lot of the way that we talked about the business is the same as it is today. And probably the principal way is really just about focusing on the customer and the principal way is really just about focusing on the customer and asking what she or he wants, and how do we get it to them. And then the same simple set of questions applies to when we then started selling at the time, VHS tapes, or CDs and then all kinds of categories and in all kinds of countries. So that, you know, there are still a few of us from that time walking around Amazon, and we try to help people understand that, that our way of thinking about the business, you know doesn’t necessarily change just because the company has grown a bunch. And I feel very good about the degree to which that culture is, still holding it in the business today. I think the culture is still in business today. I think the innovation point is really, I agree, with what was just said, which is companies really often want to try to make products they want customers to buy as opposed to make products. The key principle is first to focus on the customer and second to ask what they want.” 



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