E-commerce giant Amazon on Thursday announced a $250 million (about Rs 1,873 crore) fund that will focus on digitising small and medium businesses, and driving innovation in the areas of agri-tech and health-tech in India.
"Small and medium sized businesses are often the engine and the lifeblood of economies and I think it's true in India as well.
“And we are very passionate about trying to enable acceleration of SMBs in fuelling innovation and the economy in India," Amazon Web Services CEO Andrew Jassy said.
Building on last year's announcement, Amazon is announcing a new $250 million Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund, Jassy, who will take over as the CEO of Amazon Inc later this year, said during the second Amazon Smbhav event.
He noted that Amazon intends to help inspire more SMBs to be able to build brand new businesses.
In January 2020, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos announced an investment of $1 billion at the maiden edition of Amazon Smbhav event to digitally enable 10 million Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs), enable e-commerce exports worth $10 billion and create one million additional jobs in India by 2025.
Earlier this month, Amazon said more than 2.5 lakh new sellers have joined Amazon since the announcement, and that it has enabled more than $3 billion in exports through its Global Selling programme.
Also, the e-commerce giant has created a total of one million jobs.
Amazon India Global SVP and country head India Amit Agarwal said the fund is targeted at empowering the best ideas and attracting entrepreneurs.
"The fund is going to focus on three key priorities - SME digitisation, agri-tech innovations to empower farmer productivity and reach, and health-tech to provide universal and quality health care for citizens," he added.
As part of the venture fund, Amazon has announced an investment in 'M1xchange' -- a start-up focusing on invoice discounting marketplace exchange for MSMEs established under the TReDS license (Trade Receivables Discounting System license).
M1xchange connects MSMEs with banks and financiers (and vice versa) through the marketplace exchange and an MSME can assign its invoice dues to a bank or financier and receive financing at better rates, thereby, solving the payments challenge for MSMEs.
Agarwal said under the company's Local Shops programme, it is "committing to bring one million local shops online on Amazon by 2025".
The programme -- which brings neighbourhood kirana stores online -- has grown 10 times over the last six months to exceed more than 50,000 offline retailers.
"Additionally, we've realised that an Aatmanirbhar Bharat is only possible when you're investing in empowering every region of India. So, we are announcing a special initiative today called 'Spotlight Northeast'," he said.
Under this initiative, Amazon aims to bring 50,000 artisans, weavers and small businesses online from the eight states in the North East region of India by 2025 and to boost exports of key commodities like tea, spices and honey from the region.
To showcase unique GI products and hidden gems like Chakshesang Shawls from Nagaland, Muga Silk from Assam, different types of weaves like Moirang Phee from Manipur, varieties of teas and spices like the Mizo Chilli, Amazon will launch a dedicated North East storefront on its marketplace.
Amazon will enable participation of artisans and weavers from the region in key sale events through the year to help generate demand for their products.
The e-commerce major is partnering with government organisations, including TRIFED and NEHHDC, to engage, skill and digitally enable artisan and weaver communities across the region.
Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters