Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

5 yrs on, we won't be able to imagine our lives without Amazon Prime: Jamil Ghani

Globally, Prime has over 200 million members, of which India is a key geography. During his annual visit to India, Ghani spoke to Forbes India about innovation, investing in speed and exploring newer segments for Prime

Naini Thaker
Published: May 8, 2024 05:18:47 PM IST
Updated: May 8, 2024 05:41:48 PM IST

5 yrs on, we won't be able to imagine our lives without Amazon Prime: Jamil GhaniJamil Ghani, head, Amazon Prime. Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India

Amazon launched its Prime programme in the United States with the idea to remove a key frustration of online shopping—shipping. Back in 2005, it was unreliable, slow and expensive. The team’s idea was simple: Deliver the million items sold in the country reliably at the customer’s doorstep in two days. At the time, it was groundbreaking. “Everybody thought we were crazy, and it was going to bankrupt the company,” says Jamil Ghani, head, Amazon Prime. But the bedrock of the Prime programme world over, even today, remains: Making the customers’ lives easier.

Over time, the Prime proposition grew popular, thanks to the wide selection, competitive pricing and fast, free, unlimited shipping. Soon, they expanded to video with the launch of Prime Video; music with Prime Music; gaming with Prime Gaming and more. Currently, the team is exploring what can be done in health, grocery and many other segments.

Amazon Prime launched in India in 2016. Amazon has been investing in its operational capabilities around the globe, for 25 years. “We now have a million items that are available on the same day; and more than 4 million items that are available the next day,” adds Ghani. Globally, Prime has over 200 million members, of which India is a key geography. During his annual visit to India, Ghani spoke to Forbes India about innovation, investing in speed and exploring newer segments for Prime. Edited excerpts:

On the innovating for the Indian market

The level of dynamism is unique to India. This has inspired us to innovate over the years. Often, we are innovating in India, for India… but increasingly we are innovating in India for emerging and worldwide markets. We are innovating on how more customers can access and enjoy privacy. Additionally, we are investing in fast delivery. This unprecedented combination of selection and speed really changes the way Indian consumers can run their households.

Also read: Prime Video unveils its biggest content slate with close to 70 movies and series

With our Prime Video proposition, we have pushed the boundaries of what it means to meet individual consumers in all the states, with a wide range of languages and a customer experience that celebrates those languages. We also innovated with Amazon Pay and worked with merchants for customers to get benefits and savings through their Prime membership.

We are also innovating with how our members can access Prime. Throughout relationships with mobile operators around India, customers can, via their broadband service or mobile plan, get access to Prime. We also introduced Amazon Prime vouchers that brands can include, for people to try Prime. This is something we don’t do anywhere else, it’s still early but if it’s successful we plan to scale this the world over.

Earlier, the Prime programme was selling monthly and annual packages. For India, we started quarterly plans and other formats. But, more recently, Prime is also experimenting with the combination of benefits to specifically meet unique customer cohorts. For instance, Prime Lite is for shipping and shopping benefits, along with a Prime Video subscription but on limited devices; and Prime Shopping, which is focussed just on shipping and shopping benefits. This allows customers to try out the Prime experience, before buying a full subscription.

Essentially, we're leading the way globally through India by innovating because, ultimately, this is a land of many Indias.

On same-day deliveries

Innovation, when it comes to speed, hasn’t happened over the last few months. We have been investing in this space for 25 years. As we have gotten faster and faster, we have not changed and asked more of our associates… because there's often a misconception that the faster we deliver, the harder associates have to work. That’s not the case.

Also read: Inside Amazon's game plan for India

Same-day delivery is driven by the number of miles products have to drive on the road. We have done that by regionalising our network. Meaning, we have put products that our customers need and want the most, as close as possible to them. It’s a win-win, the customer gets what they want as quickly as possible, processes for our associates remain unchanged, and our economics improve.

On improving value for customers

Historically, saving was a much less pivotal pillar of the Prime programme. But, over time, not surprisingly, we've learnt that no matter who you are around the globe, you'd prefer to spend less money. So we are also trying to ensure customers save more. We do this via the Prime Day sale, exclusive tie-ups with co-branded credit cards, among others. 2023 Prime Day was the largest ever, we had double digit growth in the number of shoppers amongst the Prime member base.

On being a global leader

It is really important that we operate with a global mindset, but with a local empathy. We want to be uniquely local in our execution. But, at the same time, infuse that and have a foundation under that of a global programme with scalability and common standards of excellence in terms of product and technology.

Also read: ONDC is India's next big bet after UPI

On expanding to newer sectors

Our core thought remains: We seek to make our members’ lives a little bit better every day. Any sector where a consumer faces friction or complexity, we ask ourselves: Could we help? One such segment we are looking at in the US is healthcare, which is very complicated and a high-ticket item for most households. So, via Prime, we’re doing things in the pharmacy and clinic space. Overtime, this could have implications globally. Another sector of interest for us is grocery—with offerings like Fresh and Pantry.

We will continue to invest in existing benefits, speed, higher quality content, bring in more merchants through Amazon Pay and move into new categories and new benefits. Five years from now, we can definitely say that we can’t imagine our lives without Prime anymore.