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Amazon, Walmart find success in rural India during sales season

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The latest sales by the American competitors are a high-stakes battle that ran on the same days and concluded over the weekend.

Bangalore

AMAZON.COM Inc. and rival Walmart Inc. reported record revenue for their six-day India sales festivals as e-commerce catches on with buyers and sellers in smaller Indian towns, moving beyond the country's urban, English-speaking population.

The American competitors have been duelling in India since Walmart cut a US$16 billion deal for control of local pioneer Flipkart Online Services Pvt last year. Their latest sales, which Amazon calls the Great Indian Festival and Flipkart calls Big Billion Days, are a high-stakes battle that ran on the same days and concluded over the weekend.

Both focused on expanding their online commerce to smaller cities and rural areas, an enormous swath of the country known by its historic name of Bharat. Neither company gave specific revenue figures, though they claimed record activity. "This has been our biggest celebration ever, a digital Bharat festival," said Amit Agarwal, Amazon's India chief, during a telephone call from his Bangalore headquarters. "Over 65,000 sellers from 500 cities sold products."

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Millions of Indians are moving online thanks to inexpensive smartphones and some of the lowest wireless data rates in the world. That is boosting all kinds of internet businesses, from streaming video and online gaming to e-commerce and services.

"There is a big wave of consumers in Bharat shifting their offline spending to online during these sale days, and increasing the ticket size of their purchases," said Satish Meena, a senior forecast analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "Online retailers have been efficiently getting their message about the discounts, the product assortment and affordable credit offerings to the internet users in small cities."

Flipkart said in a note that it recorded almost 50 per cent growth in new customers compared with last year's sale days, and a 100 per cent increase in units sold to shoppers in small, so-called tier 3 cities. More than 40 per cent of sellers during the sale days were from Tier 2 cities and beyond. BLOOMBERG