Mohammed Naved of Bijnor district in UP was happy with his sub 5k smartphone. His days looked the same - some WhatsApp forwards, a little Facebook browsing, the usual. “But I soon discovered that with a slightly more expensive phone, I could stream news, music, and movies and learn a whole lot more about the world on my smartphone,” he says. That’s how Naved met Amazon in his village, bought a brand new smartphone, and his worldview and his horizons expanded that much more. All thanks to the access and convenience of online shopping that he discovered in the lone village banking correspondent outlet – now also an Udaan point.

Small towns are ready
In close to five years that Amazon has been in India, we have seen a multitude of shoppers like Naved buy from our platform. It is clear that beyond metro cities, small town India is ready to wield the power of convenience and choice, pricing and accessibility that comes with online shopping. However, a lot of these customers have shopped from trusted stores and individuals for generations. Touch and feel before investing in mid- to high-budget products continues to be important for them. They see the benefits in online shopping but its novelty also leads to some lack of trust. The roadblock is often compounded by issues like lack of digital access, language barriers and the complexity and novelty of online payments among a target group where even offline banking penetration is low. To counter these exact barriers, we launched the assisted ecommerce program - Project Udaan - in 2015.

What is Udaan?
Udaan brings together several aspects of enabling digital commerce via assisted shopping beyond metro cities, including skill development, self-employment and in several cases, even Amazon Pickup, i.e. select offline stores where customers can choose to have their orders delivered. All of these go hand in hand in introducing online shopping to new consumers who have heard of Amazon but haven’t experienced the convenience of shopping on it first hand.

Partnering with the offline retail ecosystem to bridge the trust gap
Project Udaan works with small entrepreneurs in these towns – mom & pop stores retailing electronics, mobile phone recharge, banking etc or entrepreneurs looking to set up exclusive Udaan Points. We equip these offline stores and entrepreneurs with content and tools that train them in assisted online shopping. These training materials include skills like searching, browsing, and navigation on Amazon.in, helping customers set up Amazon accounts, check outs, payments, answering status and delivery queries, and refunds and returns if required.

Expanding network
Customers have existing relationships with stores that are selected as Udaan Points. So when they get online shopping and payment assistance from Offline Associates at these Udaan points or are able to pay cash on delivery, it becomes easier for them to shed their inhibitions about shopping and paying online. Today, Amazon works with 12000 such stores across 21 states and 3000 PIN codes to bring multitudes of new customers into the online shopping fold.

Inclusive and mutually beneficial
From logistics and retail startups and small businesses to hundreds of mom and pop stores across the country, Project Udaan is creating a sound, self-sustaining retail ecosystem whose very nature is inclusive and mutually beneficial. And with a diverse range of orders – Adidas shoes, designer wear, Apple Watches and Amazon Pantry and even Pedigree pet food - coming in from far flung towns, it is evident that Project Udaan is meeting its objective of making online shopping the new normal in India.

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