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While most of us had been expecting Amazon.com to launch its India site, it comes as a slight surprise that it launched Junglee.com instead. With a name that is at once a nod to its parent company and the South American rainforest, Junglee.com also subtly separates itself in form and function from Amazon.com. It officially refers to the Hindi word - ‘of the jungle’, and is a site that helps customers “navigate the jungle of products, brands, sellers, shipping options, and payment methods, and make informed purchase decisions.”
Junglee.com is called an ‘online shopping service’ where customers can search for products from the online and offline retailers in India, and would have been called an aggregator if it didn’t also sell stuff from Amazon.com. The site currently boasts of a wide product range, spanning 12 million products and 14,000 brands, with a plethora of retailers lined up including such online stores and deal-of-the-day sites as Letsbuy.com, Saholic.com and Snapdeal.com, and others, such as Homeshop18, UniverCell, Hidesign, Gitanjali, The Bombay Store, Fabindia, Bata India Limited, Dabur Uveda, Microsoft India Store, and Reebok.
Rather than buying directly, users of Junglee.com will be directed to the seller’s website, and in cases of physical stores, be given directions and contact details to place an order. Apart from promising a fine selection of buying options for almost anything, Junglee.com will also let customers write reviews, rate products and sellers, and share their finds with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter or email. Customer reviews from Amazon.com will also be available. Seller information, contact details, shipping rates, delivery times, and return policies of all sellers are listed on Junglee.com itself, helping buyers compare more than just prices.
Junglee.com is currently in beta mode, and in the next few months, the company hopes to be “continuously evolving Junglee by listening to customers and sellers, and innovating to meet their needs.”
Amazon.com Inc. has had a history of proving industry pundits wrong, turning what seem to be self-defeating business models into thriving lines of business. The niche it has cut out for itself in the Indian market already has quite a few contenders, from online retailers, deal-of-the-day sites, to marketplaces and aggregators. For now, one doesn’t know if this is just stage one in India for the company, and if it will actually decide to bring its full retail presence into the country, with or without an Amazon.co.in.
The online retail and web services giant is probably asking itself the same questions, awaiting the Indian government’s final go ahead for FDI in multi-brand retail. Of course, the launch of Junglee.com might just be a sign that Amazon.com has decided not to venture into India - no use muddying the waters with a different brand name before arriving. With Junglee.com, the company could also be pitting India's various online retailers, marketplaces, and deal-of-the-day sites against each other. Some think Junglee.com may start charging per listing as well, if not just referrals, or a portion of the sales.
What do you think of Amazon.com’s Junglee.com initiative? Do let us know in the comments section below. Do also stay tuned for our comprehensive look at just how well Junglee.com works, its pros and cons, in our upcoming feature.