Behind the scenes of Amazon Prime Day – the India head shares how e-commerce giant planned its biggest sale event amidst a pandemic

Akshay Sahi, Director and Head of Prime, Amazon IndiaAmazon
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Akshay Sahi, Amazon Prime India head shares how the e-commerce giant’s Prime Day preparations paused five months ago and was redone.
  • Prime Day is now live, having taken a detour from being a global event, making India the first country to host the sale event this year.
  • Being a major sale event at a time when customers have not been able to go out and shop, could also be an added advantage for Amazon.
Amazon’s marquee sale event – Prime Day is now live, having taken a detour from being a global event at the same time to India being the first country to host the sale event this year. Usually, the planning for any Prime Day begins right after the current one concludes and it was going the same way for the 2020 sale event, until the coronavirus pandemic hit.

So, five months ago, the team put a stop on their initial planning and revisited their entire approach to Prime Day. “As we came across unprecedented times, we all paused. That’s the beauty of Amazon – our leaders are always ready to step back to serve the customers the right way. We went back and reevaluated and looked at what the reality is in each country. Eventually, we have planned the entire event in one-third of the time that we would normally take to plan Prime Day,” Akshay Sahi, Amazon Prime India head told Business Insider.

Sahi shared that with the situation looking so different everywhere, each country was given the ability to determine when they would host the sale event. The India leadership team of Amazon sat down with stakeholders and came up with what they felt was the right time for Prime Day – with the shopping season setting in in India.

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“A lot of festivals are coming up. And we also felt that this is the right time to help our sellers and help them get back on their feet. We also got the same feedback from our delivery partners,” said Sahi.

Amazon collected its findings, based on a Nielsen Holdings survey, which said that 43% of the sellers were looking forward to Prime Day as an opportunity to revive their business. During this Prime Day, over 1,000 new products are being launched by small businesses, while 150 new exclusive prime launches are also taking place.

Being a major sale event at a time when customers have not been able to go out and shop, could also be an added advantage for Amazon. But Sahi believes there are two sides to that. “Customer needs have changed but they haven’t disappeared. There hasn’t been any large sale like event so there's pent up demand but also the current economy has to be taken into account,” he said.

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Safety became the biggest priority

Until last year, one of the biggest priorities for Amazon was to deliver as fast as possible. This time it is added on with the challenge of several employees working from home, and also keeping the safety of all in mind while managing a huge sale event.

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“We have taken the last 5 months to organize and ensure that the biggest priority is actually safety, across the ecosystem that we serve – sellers, delivery partners, our employees and obviously our end customers. We have taken steps to ensure that the product is safe while in the Fulfillment Centre, leaving the FC and of course while reaching the customer. It is confidence in our ability to do that which has allowed us to host something like Prime Day,” said Sahi.

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Amazon has made over 100 changes in its on-ground operations to maintain social distancing in its buildings. These include staggered break timings, reduction of number of people allowed in the canteen at any time, marking on the ground to maintain distance, only one person allowed to unload and the arrival time of drivers and delivery associates have also been staggered to avoid crowding.

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“We have also built technology which allows us to prioritise essentials between non-essentials so that necessary items can reach consumers first, deliver in containment zones safely and more,” said Sahi.

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