E-commerce giant Amazon India on Thursday announced a $250-million Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund that would invest in startups focussing on technologies that help in digitisation of small and medium businesses (SMBs), and innovations in the agriculture and healthcare sectors. Besides the venture fund, Amazon also plans to bring one million offline retailers and neighbourhood stores across the country on its online marketplace by 2025. In April last year, it had launched a programme to digitise businesses of small local shops across the country. Today it claims to have over 50,000 retailers across 450 cities on its platform.

“In 2020, we pledged to digitise 10 million SMBs, enable $10 billion in exports, and create one million jobs by 2025. Through our initiatives, we are committed to be a catalyst and a partner in unlocking the possibilities for a Digital India, and realise the vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” Amit Agarwal, global senior vice president and country head, Amazon India, said in a virtual even at the second edition of its annual summit for SMBs (Amazon Smbhav 2021) on Thursday.

At the virtual event, Amazon also launched the ‘Spotlight North East’ initiative to bring 50,000 artisans, weavers, and small businesses online from the eight states in the Northeast region of the country by 2025. The initiative aims to boost exports of key commodities such as tea, spices, and honey from the region.

As part of its new venture fund, Amazon also announced an investment in MSME-focussed fintech startup M1xchange. However, it did not disclose the funding details. But according to reports, M1xchange, a Reserve Bank of India-approved trade receivables discounting platform, raised $10 million in its latest funding round led by Amazon’s Smbhav Venture Fund. The round also saw participation from BEENEXT and existing investor Mayfield.

“The launch of Amazon Smbhav Venture Fund aims to attract the best ideas and empower entrepreneurs in the country to partner in this vision. Additionally, our initiatives to on-board one million offline shops on Amazon.in and digitally empower the Northeast region will accelerate the progress towards a digital and self-reliant India,” Agarwal said.

At the inaugural Smbhav Summit last year, Amazon had announced an investment of $1 billion and said it would help digitise businesses of 10 million MSMEs, drive e-commerce exports worth $10 billion, and create one million additional jobs in India between 2020 and 2025.

Since then, Amazon has added 300,000 direct and indirect jobs in India and added 250,000 new sellers, putting it well on track to fulfil these commitments, the e-commerce major noted in its blog post last week, adding that Amazon has enabled cumulative exports worth $3 billion and created nearly one million jobs in India till date.

Amazon India claims that currently more than 2.5 million MSMEs work with it, including sellers, artisans, weavers, delivery and logistics services. To boost its MSME services, Amazon today offers seller registration and account management services in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, and Kannada. It has over 75,000 sellers registered on its online marketplace in regional languages.

On Thursday, Amazon kicked off the second edition of its annual four-day virtual summit for SMBs which is expected to have virtual participation of over 50,000 people. Corporate leaders such as Indra Nooyi, Sunil Mittal, Sanjiv Mehta, and Nandan Nilekani are speaking at the online event.

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