Amazon has launched a USD 250 million Smbhav venture fund for India, the company said in a statement. It said the fund will invest in startups working on digitizing small and medium businesses (SMBs), and those innovating in agriculture and healthcare technology.
Speaking on the first day of the Amazon Smbhav Summit, Andrew Jassy, who takes over as CEO at Amazon Inc. later this year, described SMBs as the “engine and the lifeblood of economies”, including in India. “We are very passionate about trying to enable acceleration of small, medium-sized businesses in fuelling innovation and the economy in India. Through the Smbhav Venture Fund, we are going to help inspire more SMEs to be able to build brand new businesses.
The Smbhav Summit is a four-day event held by an online retailer for SMEs in India. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had attended the last summit, where he pledged to export $10 billion ‘Make in India’ goods by 2025. Amazon also plans to digitize close to 10 million small enterprises.
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Amit Agarwal, Amazon India Global SVP and Country Head India, said that the fund is aimed at inspiring the best ideas and attracting entrepreneurs. He said that the focus is on three sectors—SME digitization, agriculture technology, and health care technology.
Amazon announced the fund at its annual Smbhav summit, which has drawn protests by a group of over 500,000 offline traders in the country for marginalizing small traders by doling out heavy discounts and driving the bulk of sales on its platform through a few large sellers. The company said the fund would invest in startups that enable SMBs to launch, manage and grow their businesses online, and would scale up innovation in the sector.
Two additional focus areas will be agriculture and healthcare. In the Agri-tech sector, the Venture Fund aims to invest in Indian startups that are using technology to bring the best products to consumers. This includes making agri-inputs more accessible to farmers, provide tailored agronomy solutions to farmers to improve productivity. Other such elements include distributing credit and insurance to farmers or reducing 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, and e-diagnosis. It includes AI-powered treatment recommendations or digitizing 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.
On Thursday, Agarwal said the company will sign up 1 million offline retailers and neighborhood stores by 2025 through its ‘Local Shops’ program, aimed to help local stores gain an online foothold. The e-commerce company also introduced ‘Spotlight North East’, an initiative to bring technology tools and customers to local women and tribal communities in India’s North-East. The company looks to benefit 50,000 weavers, artisans from tribal communities, local small businesses, including offline neighborhood stores across the region by 2025. Amazon said it created close to 300,000 jobs since January 2020 and one million in total. Amazon will focus on bringing more than 5000 unique crafts, Geographical Indication (GI) products, and other local products to its India marketplace.
Additionally, with its e-commerce exports program, Amazon Global Selling, the company will help boost exports of special agri-commodities from the North East like tea, honey, and spices to Amazon customers worldwide.
As a part of its first investment through the ‘Smbhav’ fund, Amazon invested in Gurugram-based M1xchange which connects SMEs with banks and financiers.
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