Amazon has launched Hindi versions of its mobile website and shopping app in India to better target the more than 500 million people there who speak the language, The New York Times reported this week. The move makes Amazon the only one among the country's largest e-commerce players with such an offering, according to the Times.
Amazon executives said during a news conference in India this week that the move is part of its effort to pursue its next 100 million customers in India, where the e-commerce giant reportedly has about 150 million registered users now.
Hindi is the most widely spoken of the dozen or so languages in India, while English is believed to be the second most-spoken. However, English is spoken by only about 10% of the Indian population, according to the Times.
The language of e-commerce in India is English, and Amazon is becoming the first e-commerce marketplace in India to challenge that notion. That seems surprising, considering Flipkart, the No. 1 e-commerce player there, is an Indian venture (although now majority-owned by Walmart).
Other large e-commerce marketplaces serving India, such as Paytm Mall and Snapdeal, also are based in India. Amazon, the No. 2 player in the market, is the outsider among these firms (though it has operated in India for more than a decade) and the only one that currently believes offering a Hindi language option could make a difference competitively. Yet, others have tried this tactic. Snapdeal, for example, supported Hindi as a language option, but found that not many people used it.
Still, Amazon's attempt to reach Hindi speakers in their native language makes sense when considering how the Indian market is maturing, and where future e-commerce user growth could come from. About 40% of the Indian population speaks Hindi as a first language. Many of them may live outside of the major urban areas, and in more rural regions, where Amazon expects to expand.
There certainly is an additional investment that comes with creating sites and apps in new languages, and then promoting them to spur usage. But Amazon has never been one to hesitate about investing in innovation.
Ultimately, investing in new sites and apps supporting languages beyond English seems like a natural thing to do when trying to expand more deeply into competitive international markets.