Amazon appears to be making a strong push into a fast-growing market with the news that it has taken a 26 percent stake in Indian publishing house Westland, with an option to buy the rest of the company in future. Westland is one of India’s top five publishers, according to the Times of India report, with a particularly strong list of local authors.
Amazon’s exact plans with this investment aren’t fully clear. Westland’s own statements speak of using the Amazon platform to take its authors global, and Westland’s parent Trent Limited, in its official disclosure to the National Stock Exchange in Mumbai, states that “the investment would facilitate Westland Limited to take Indian authors and their works to a far wider audience.” Sarah Jane Gunter, Director of Amazon Publishing, was quoted by the Hindu Business Line as saying: “Our investment in Westland continues Amazon’s commitment to innovating and investing heavily on behalf of customers in India.” Westland has already partnered with Amazon previously on ebook distribution deals, including one that landed rival digital distributor Flipkart in court. Flipkart subsequently exited the ebook market in December 2015.
Despite Westland’s talk of outbound ambitions, Amazon itself is more likely to be out to tap India’s fast-growing and subcontinent-sized market. As reported previously in TeleRead, India’s ebook market has seen 25 percent growth over the past three years, fueled mainly by smartphone use. Other Indian sources, though, are citing claims from Indian booksellers that Amazon has approached them to discuss a bricks-and-mortar presence. If so, this would fit well with Westland, which sits alongside the Landmark bookstore chain in the holdings of powerful Indian conglomerate the Tata Group.
Amazon’s plans for India are also indicated by its reported opening of a “Make in India” store on its Indian website, supporting an Indian government initiative to promote domestic manufacturing and crafts. According to other reports, Amazon India is also offering loans to Indian SMEs through its Amazon Seller Services unit.