Amazon has launched a $250 million venture fund to invest in technology-led startups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in India. The fund will also focus on driving innovation in the areas of agri-tech and health-tech.
Amazon Web Services CEO Andrew Jassy, who will take over as the CEO of Amazon Inc later this year, said that SMBs are often the engine and the lifeblood of economies. “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,” he said during the second Amazon Smbhav event.
In the agritech sector, the venture fund will invest in Indian startups using technology to bring the best produce to consumers, make agri-inputs more accessible to farmers, distribute credit and insurance to farmers or reduce food waste by building efficient farm to fork supply chains.
In the healthcare sector, the fund will invest in Indian startups using technology for doctor assistance, telemedicine, e-diagnosis and AI-powered treatment recommendations.
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.
The company also said that it would “digitally empower” and bring 1 million offline retailers and neighbourhood stores online, on the Amazon India marketplace, by 2025 through the Local Shops on Amazon program, which has grown 10 times over the last six months to exceed more than 50,000 offline retailers in 450 cities across India.
Amazon will launch a dedicated storefront on its marketplace, which customers can access in regional languages and encourage these local stores’ participation in onsite sale events. To enable additional revenue streams for them, the company will also allow them to be part of programs like I Have Space for last-mile deliveries and Amazon Easy for assisted shopping.
Amazon also launched the ‘Spotlight North East’ initiative to bring 50,000 artisans, weavers, and small businesses online from the 8 states in India’s North East region by 2025. The initiative aims to boost exports of key commodities like tea, spices and honey from the region.
In January 2020, Jeff Bezos announced an investment of $1 billion at the first edition of the Smbhav event to digitise 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion in exports and create 1 million jobs by 2025 in India
Amit Agarwal, Global Senior VP and Country Head, Amazon India, said that the latest venture fund aims to attract the best ideas and empower entrepreneurs in the country to partner in this vision. “Through our initiatives, we are committed to be a catalyst and a partner in unlocking the possibilities for a Digital India,” he added.
The company also announced its first startup investment under the venture fund in ‘M1xchange’, which connects MSMEs with banks and financiers and vice versa through the marketplace exchange.