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Amazon agents making deliveries in Kerala.

Amazon agents making deliveries in Kerala.

Photographer: Mahesh Shantaram for Bloomberg Businessweek

Amazon Wants India to Shop Online, and It’s Battling Walmart for Supremacy

The prize is 1.3 billion customers.

Like many neighborhood stores in India, the Sri Lakshmi Venkateshwara Kirana is tiny and cramped. Single-rupee shampoo packets and bags of potato chips hang from ceiling hooks, jars full of colorful candies and sesame brittle sit on the counter. Sacks of rice and lentils are stacked waist-high, occupying nearly every square inch of the floor. It may not look like it has much to offer in the way of merchandise, but this kirana, in the southern village of Madikere, sells practically everything.

Last year the shop’s 27-year-old owner, Gangadhar N., joined thousands of other small Indian retailers in partnering with Inc. While cows and roosters ramble outside on the dirt lane and women walk by with bales of hay balanced on their heads, Gangadhar, who uses only a single letter as his last name as is common in India, displays Amazon’s selection to villagers on a smartphone and shows them how to find things and get the best prices. “I’m the person between Amazon and the people who shop online,” he says proudly.