Amazon's investors are counting on its international business and expansion to help drive growth and support its USD 165 billion market value, one of the highest among US firms.

India is Amazon's third emerging market investment after Brazil and China, and Vice President and Country Manager Amit Agarwal said that it would take time to pay off.

Most Indians do not own a credit card, and less than half the 152 million Internet users have shopped online.

Online retail sales in India are forecast to grow more than a hundred-fold to USD 76 billion by 2021 from just USD 600 million at the end of 2012, retail consultants Technopak said. E-tail sales in China, by comparison, are expected to grow to USD 650 billion by 2020 from around $200 billion in 2012, consultants McKinsey predict.

"A lot of invention is required to capture the potential of this market and our focus is to build this," said Agarwal, who returned to India to head Amazon's business after 14 years with the company in the United States.

"We are going through a lot of trial-and-error to fix problems on the ground," he said at Amazon's India office in the technology hub of Bangalore.

Convincing Indians to click

Indians, on average, spend between USD 24 to USD 35 on an online transaction, a figure dwarfed by the USD 150 - USD 160 spent by US shoppers online per transaction, according to data from US based analysts comScore (SCOR.O) and Retail Decisions.

Agarwal spent two years advising Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos at the company's Seattle headquarters, and believes Amazon's long-term strategy will work in India like it did in the United States, where the company ran up losses for years.

"Right now we are focused on giving customers great service and making sure they shop more," he added, sitting behind a large desk that he brought back with him from Seattle.

Amazon's biggest local rival is Flipkart, set up by two ex-Amazon employees in 2007 and which has yet to turn a profit.

Since July, Flipkart has raised USD 360 million from investors that include South Africa's Naspers Ltd (NPNJn.J). It said it aims to have USD 1 billion in sales by 2015.

Agarwal would not give any forecasts or figures, but said Amazon's investments in India have a 7- to 10-year horizon.

He said that Amazon was building its own logistics network, which it can leverage when the rules change and it can sell directly to consumers. Indian regulations now prevent international e-tailers from making direct sales.


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