Amazon’s $250-million venture revs up SMB digital drive in India

Amazon India has launched a $250-million Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund to invest in startups and entrepreneurs focusing on technology innovations in SMB  (small and medium businesses) digitization, agriculture and healthcare. 

Amazon also announced plans to digitally empower and bring one million offline retailers and neighbourhood stores online, on the Amazon India marketplace, by 2025 through the Local Shops on Amazon program. 

Along these lines, Amazon launched the “Spotlight North East” initiative to bring 50,000 artisans, weavers and small businesses online from the eights 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.

“In 2020, we pledged to digitize 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion in exports, and create one million jobs by 2025,” said Amit Agarwal, global SVP and country head of Amazon India.

“Our initiatives to on-board one million offline shops on Amazon.in and digitally empower the North East region will accelerate the progress towards a digital and self-reliant India,” he said.

In the SMB sector, Amazon will invest in technology startups that digitize SMBs for demand access, efficient operations and supply chain efficiency. The venture fund will independently invest in startups, building solutions to empower SMBs to launch, manage, and grow their business online, automate and digitise their operations, and expand their business globally by exporting to customers worldwide.

In the agri-tech sector, the venture fund aims to invest in Indian startups that are using technology to bring the best produce to consumers, make agri-inputs more accessible to farmers, provide tailored agronomy solutions to farmers to improve productivity, distribute credit and insurance to farmers or reduce food waste by building efficient farm to fork supply chains. 

In the healthcare sector, the venture fund aims to invest in Indian startups that are using technology for doctor assistance, telemedicine, e-diagnosis, AI powered treatment recommendations or digitising operations of healthcare providers such as independent primary care clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacy value chain or specialty doctor clinics for improving access to a wider patient base agnostic of physical geographic location. 

Additionally, the fund will continue to invest in technology start-ups focusing on other sectors and themes as well where we can positively influence the livelihoods of SMBs.

Towards this objective and as part of the venture fund, Amazon announced an investment in “M1xchange” — a startup focusing on invoice discounting marketplace exchange for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) 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 the MSME is able to assign its invoice dues to a bank or financier and receive financing at better rates; thereby, solving the payments challenge for MSMEs.