American e-commerce giant Amazon made its first foray into South-east Asia with the much- anticipated launch of its fast delivery service Prime Now in Singapore yesterday.
But instead of seeing this as a threat, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran urged local retailers to leverage such global e-commerce companies to increase their reach.
Through the Prime Now mobile app, customers can get products stocked at Amazon's new warehouse in the Jurong industrial area - ranging from groceries to electronics and sporting goods - delivered to them within two hours.
Amazon can also serve as a valuable partner for retailers, local brands and individual merchants as they embark on their own digitalisation strategies, said Mr Iswaran, speaking at Amazon's warehouse.
Local brands such as Tiger Balm, which has products on the Amazon platform, are working with the company to make their businesses e-commerce ready, such as by improving their supply chain management and digital inventory, he pointed out.
Accessing global markets used to be a challenge, but with the right strategy and mindset, "a business can (now) be born global from the first day", he said. The digital economy is disrupting traditional business models, but it is also giving rise to new opportunities, such as the hundreds of jobs that will be created by Amazon, he added.
Mr Henry Low, director of Prime Now for Asia-Pacific, told The Straits Times that he is open to discussing potential partnerships with retailers who are keen.
The digital economy is disrupting traditional business models, but it is also giving rise to new opportunities, such as the hundreds of jobs that will be created by Amazon, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said yesterday.
Prime Now is typically part of the paid Amazon Prime membership programme, which will be launched in Singapore soon, he said.
In the meantime, the service, which offers two-hour delivery with a minimum order of $40 and one-hour delivery for a fee of $9.99, is being offered without having to be a member.
Items, sourced from hundreds of local vendors and distributors as well as imported from overseas, can be delivered between 10am and 10pm.
Amazon's Prime Now Fulfilment Centre in Singapore is now its largest in the world, occupying about 100,000 sq ft at the Mapletree Logistics Hub in Toh Guan Road East.
"This is the first time we are launching Prime Now and making it available to the whole country at the same time," said Mr Low, 42.
Singapore is a good country to launch the service as it is a dense urban city with high demand for convenience, he said. As Amazon does not yet have a local website, items ordered off its international stores currently take days to deliver. "We started with a mobile application because we found that was what matched the Singapore consumers' habits," said Mr Low.
To make the fast deliveries, employees in the warehouse locate and pick up items within minutes of an order, which are then sorted into batches to ensure the most efficient delivery route.
Asked about the launch of other services and products currently unavailable here such as Amazon's Kindle e-reader, Mr Low said he was unable to comment.
"Let's just say there are a lot of different experiments and innovations that we are trialling and testing. For us, this is day one in launching a physical offering to Singapore, and there will be more things to come," he said.