By John Markman / www.forbes.com / June 22nd, 2016
Amazon.com is doubling down on India. Actually, in the interest of accuracy, Amazon is doubling and a half down, increasing its initial investment in the country from $2 billion to $5 billion.
India is a fast growing market. In the recent Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker, it was one of the few places in the world where the rate of growth is still expanding. And that is echoed in the rapid rise of online sales. Last year, online sales exploded from $6.3 billion to more than $16 billion. That’s not bad considering Internet connectivity can be spotty at best and most people don’t even have credit cards. Still, fast growth or not, it seems like an awfully big investment in what is still a small and relatively poor market.
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 07: Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon,(R), is presented with the 2016 USIBC Global Leadership Award by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 41st Annual Leadership Summit at the Mellen Auditorium, June 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. . (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
At the Recode conference last week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spoke at length about what makes the business model work. He explained how people thought it was crazy to make such a huge investment in Amazon Web Services given the small footprint of its online book selling business. Despite this the company forged ahead, adding storage and compute power, then analytics. As Amazon moved into other categories and its retail business expanded, AWS started to make more sense. However, the genius of it became apparent when Amazon made it available to software developers all over the world. Amazon created a business where it was the first and very best customer and only then did it sell those services to others.
In India, the cost of doing business is high. The lack of Internet and banking framework is dwarfed only by the poor physical infrastructure. Logistics is a nightmare yet Amazon is dutifully building a network of many warehouses and distribution hubs. Unlike at home, it can’t rely on the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Services
and Federal Express
to deliver packages affordably. So it’s finding networks to get stuff out to customers in a standard befitting the company brand. It’s even testing drones
in particularly rugged terrains. This isn’t cheap yet Amazon pushes forward because the investment in its India logistics business is justified given its first and best customer is Amazon.com.
Recently Amazon made headlines with very large investments in logistics infrastructure. It started with talks to lease 20 Boeing 767
cargo planes. Although that raised a few eyebrows most dismissed it as the company simply ensuring it could move goods during peak holiday sales periods. The company then had its Chinese subsidiary register as anocean freight forwarder
. That’s a technical way of saying Amazon got into the overseas shipping business. Again, most put that off as a way to help move goods from Chinese suppliers during peak times. We you add in the new massive investment in India, the framework for a logistics business capable of efficiently reaching the fastest growing consumer markets in the world starts to take shape. And it’s owned by Amazon.
The power of this business model is scale. Bezos has been making this argument since way back in 1997 when he wrote
about scale leading to higher revenues, profitability and capital velocity. In other words, the bigger these businesses become, the greater the network effects. At the time analysts scoffed.
Ultimately Amazon built a massive empire on the back of getting businesses to scale. When Amazon.com reached scale it used its profits to build and its patronage to get AWS to scale. It’s now doing the same thing with logistics. Amazon is a buy on dips and you might want to use rallies to close long positions in United Parcel Services and Fedex.