Women’s Day: How women are leveraging different Amazon platforms to succeed on their own terms

HerStory presents some incredible women who are using the technology of different Amazon platforms for gainful employment. They include entrepreneurs, Alexa skill developers, and authors.
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With cheap data rates and increased knowledge of technology facilitated by internet access even in remote places of India, women now have more avenues to turn their passion into reality. They are able to earn from their homes and contribute to the family income pool.

The ability to understand and use technologies can have a positive impact on women’s freedom of expression, education, and employment opportunities.

“It is inspiring to see how women entrepreneurs across the country are leveraging digitisation, ecommerce in particular, to create products customers love and build scalable businesses that have a meaningful impact on society. We are humbled to be a catalyst in their journey, and committed to enable global access to customers as they unlock their potential in a Digital India," says Amit Agarwal, SVP & Country Head, AmazonIndia.

All over India, many women are using different Amazon platforms to gain success online. These include women-owned businesses benefiting from cloud computing through Amazon Web Services, those selling their products on the Amazon India marketplace, authors who self-publish through Kindle Direct Publishing, developers working for Amazon Alexa Fund, and delivery executives, who are part of Amazon India’s vast logistics and operations network.

Meet the inspiring women who have used tech and Amazon India to break social and cultural barriers and attain success online on their own terms.

Sushmita Singh, Naanjil - Amazon Karigar

Sushmita Singh has been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug more than once. In her teens, she established two companies, both in event management.

“I secured my first client, the second-largest computer coach in Delhi, at 18,” she says. “I ran a small event for them for student enrolment.”

Her enterprising nature is evident when she says that she had sold the maximum number of toys/idlis at her school sports day stalls, was the fastest runner, and enjoyed cycling and athletics in school.

“I even sold three plasma televisions when it launched in India and were priced at Rs 8 lakh per unit many years ago.”

On a family trip to her hometown, Nagercoil, she had the opportunity to closely interact with local artisans, who were keeping their crafts alive. It lit a spark in her.

“I wanted to contribute to their mission and learn more about artisans and handicrafts in other states and villages,” she says. “The need to create a solution for their lack of opportunities to showcase and sell their handicrafts to a wider audience continued to build and Naanjil was born out of that almost obsessive and compulsive feeling.”

Sushmita and her team at Naanjil work with artisans on a range of unique handcrafted items ranging from toys and decor to sarees and other handloom crafts. In 2019, Naanjil joined the Amazon Karigar programme, registered two times growth in sales, and there has been no looking back since, says Sushmita.

“It was an obvious decision to take advantage of this initiative, which pushed Naanjil to go through a faster and more structured learning curve, increasing our sales multifold,” she says. “This was reflected not just on the Amazon marketplace, but also through other channels such as Instagram, Facebook, and our website. I remember in one of the events our sales increased by over 500 percent. We could have never imagined doing that by ourselves.”

While 2020 was devastating for artisans, with the pandemic and climate change scuttling growth, Sushmita says the resilience of the community has been admirable.

Naanjil’s biggest success has been to enable local artisans to take their crafts to a wider world and acquire bulk orders, which were otherwise restricted to local retail sales and business generated from occasional trade fairs and events promoted by the local government.

Sushmita is currently working on relaunching Naanjil with a fresh outlook.

“We are exploring and playing with the idea of setting up manufacturing units in some unexplored areas of southern India, which will create employment opportunities and help revive some of the weaving/craft forms,” she says.

Sakshi Khandelwal, Shiv Electronics – Local Shops on Amazon

Born and raised in Alwar, Rajasthan, Sakshi moved to Delhi after her wedding.

“After completing my education, I was preparing and applying for government jobs to keep myself occupied, but then I heard my husband talk about the Local Shops programme and how it has been helping sellers grow on Amazon,” says Sakshi. “I saw this as a good opportunity to expand our offline business, which is why I decided to venture into entrepreneurship. Now, I manage the online aspects of our business completely.”

The family’s consumer electronics and home appliance showroom, Shiv Electronics, is located in Delhi’s Nangloi area.

“Before joining the Local Shops programme on Amazon, we used to only target customers in the neighbourhood, but now selling online has helped us expand our customer base to Delhi-NCR,” she says. “We are hoping to further expand and reach customers in various parts of the country.”

Sakshi found that running a business online allowed her to work from home according to her convenience. Last year, Shiv Electronics clocked Rs 2 crore in sales during Amazon’s Great Indian Festival.

“Our biggest success was selling online through Amazon,” she says. “We have seen three times growth in our business, which is hard to achieve in such a short period, especially online. The challenges mostly related to efficiently delivering products on time. Over time, we have been able to deliver products to our customers before the scheduled time.”

Sohini Pattanayak, Alexa Student Influencer

At 22, Sohini Pattanayak is a developer advocate at Dabble Lab. She advocates/evangelises on Alexa skill development.

“I build custom and premium-quality Alexa skill templates that support developers to learn and provide business solutions for enterprises,” says Sohini. “I live-stream every Friday to evangelise the tech aspects associated with Alexa Skills from the Dabble Lab’s Youtube Channel. Apart from these, I am an official Amazon Alexa Student Influencer.”

Sohini is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree from the Haldia Institute of Technology and is three months away from graduating.

As an Alexa Student Influencer, her work involves building custom, high-quality skills for Alexa customers. She also contributes as an Alexa technical architect for students on campus to address their queries and evangelise Alexa skill-building by organising meet-ups, hackathons, and workshops.

“When I began building Alexa Skills, I was 18 and in my first year of engineering school,” she says. “I never imagined voice development-related activities could be this much fun. It has been four years working with the programme and today I build Alexa Skills at the enterprise level. I feel very confident and optimistic about my journey. The way voice development is evolving, I believe the human-chatbot interaction would soon be converted entirely to human-voice bot interaction.”

Sohini plans to develop more Alexa Skills, Skill Templates, and evangelise them until she sees more growth.

“I wish to be a leader in the voice-first industry at some point in time. I also want to continue sharing my knowledge with people and transform the voice-first communities that are larger and influential.”

Anita Dave, A1 Collection – I Have Space

Anita Dave runs a boutique, A1 Collection, in Mulund, Mumbai. She started it to support her family after her husband passed away.

“My earnings from the boutique were quite meagre and I was looking for ways to increase my income and that’s when I found out about I Have Space (IHS),” says Anita. “The programme allowed me to make deliveries for Amazon, along with running my boutique. This helped drive supplemental income, allowing me to support my family.”

While selling clothing for men and women through her boutique, she uses the IHS programme to make deliveries to various Amazon customers in and around her neighbourhood.

“The ability to earn a supplemental income is one of the major benefits associated with the IHS programme,” she says. “The earnings from this programme have even helped me support my boutique business during tough times, helping me pay rent for my store and wages to my employees.”

Her earnings through the IHS programme range from Rs 12,000-15,000 a month.

During the pandemic, the rise in the number of customers shopping online allowed her to earn more from deliveries.

Anita says that since demand for clothing has fallen in the past year, she intends to start a food-related business with her son. This will be in addition to making deliveries for Amazon, the income from which will be useful in setting up her new business.

MV Kasi, Author - Kindle Direct Publishing

Kasi was working full time as an IT manager, writing on the side. When she had her first manuscript ready, she chose to take the self-publishing route.

“I did not have the time to submit my manuscript to traditional publishing houses and wait for months to hear back from them, if at all,” she says. “Also, at that time I had been reading a lot of self-published books that I felt were much more interesting and edgier than the heavily edited traditional published stories. I chose Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) because it was the biggest self-publishing service with an established reader base.”

Kasi has self-published more than 17 full-length novels and six short stories in genres such as comedy, suspense, thriller, and drama.

“On KDP when a reader likes a book, they are sent recommendations of the other books available of the author,” she says. “Once they follow the author profile, they get timely updates of upcoming books and the dates of release. As an author, I have used the helpful tips of placing my books in the right book categories and using keywords that would bring up my books in related searches and analytics of other popular books of a similar category.”

Kasi says that if planned well, one can make a good amount of money from writing. Also, the number of books and the quality of stories written add to the retention of a good reader base.

Writing is now Kasi’s full-time profession. “I will continue to tell stories through my books and hopefully I will begin to explore different formats such as having my books converted to web series on OTT platforms.”

Edited by Lena Saha