The retail giant can’t sell products directly to Indian consumers. Here’s a look at three merchants who sell glasses, cameras and mobile phones on Amazon.in.

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Eyeglasses seller is sold on Amazon analytics

Gurpreet Singh, Triniti Eyewear, New Delhi

Gurpreet Singh’s grandfather started selling eyeglasses in the 1940s in the part of India that is now Pakistan. His father took over the business, and now Singh runs a nine-employee, three-store operation based in New Delhi.

Three years ago, he took his business online, selling through India’s Internet marketplaces. E-commerce now accounts for 40 percent of his roughly $140,000 in annual sales.

“I’m selling all over India,” says Singh. “I couldn’t have done that even if I opened 50 stores across India.”

Those Internet sales have allowed Singh to launch his own eyeglasses brand, which he’s dubbed “Ted Smith.” He thinks Indians are drawn to western brands. The word “London” is written on the cases that come with Ted Smith frames; etched inside the temples of the glasses are the words “Design in Italy.” Singh smiles and says that he has customers in London, and that his designs are inspired by Giorgio Armani frames.

His Amazon business accounts for only 10 percent of his online sales. But he says it’s growing quickly. And he rates Amazon higher than its rivals for its technology, particularly the analytics that allow him to track sales on its Seller Central website.

“Every day, it’s morning prayer, then it’s the Amazon platform,” says Singh, a Sikh. “We have to see what we sold.”

Vendor worries about pressure on India to change laws that protect sellers

Sunil Nichani, Fotocolor Emporium, New Delhi

For six decades, India shutterflies have turned to Fotocolor Emporium for cameras and lenses. In that time, it’s become the largest Canon dealer in the country, said Sunil Nichani, director of the company started by his grandfather. Adding online sales has turbocharged its growth.

“We have a customer base across India,” Nichani said. “But selling on Amazon has increased that incredibly.”

Fotocolor Emporium’s $5 million in annual sales include roughly $1 million from Amazon customers, Nichani said.

His big fear, though, is that Amazon might one day take that business for itself. India’s foreign-direct investment (FDI) laws currently preclude Amazon from selling products, forcing it instead to rely on third-party companies such as Fotocolor Emporium. But Amazon is pressing the Indian government to change that.

“I think everything is good as long as FDI is there,” said Nichani, who pays Amazon 6 percent of every sale on the site. “It is very difficult for me” to compete with Amazon on price.

Sunil Nichani’s Fotocolor Emporium is the largest Canon camera business in India. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Sunil Nichani’s Fotocolor Emporium is the largest Canon camera business in India. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

‘Amazon has the advantage with technology’

Sumanth and Hemanth Lingala, Green Mobiles, Bangalore

When Sumanth Lingala returned to India in 2013, after a stint with Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., he knew he wanted to jump into the mobile-phone business, which was about to explode. Along with his younger brother, Hemanth, he launched Green Mobiles, an online-only business, and began selling devices on the e-commerce site Flipkart. Within a few months, he was selling on similar sites including Amazon.in.

Sales, as Sumanth Lingala guessed, soared. In the fiscal year that ended March 2014, Green Mobiles sold $5 million worth of devices. A year later, sales climbed to $35 million. Lingala said the company is on pace to sell $60 million in the current fiscal year, though margins hover between 1 and 2 percent.

The Lingalas still sell on all the major online retail sites. To them, Flipkart is the brand most Indians associate with e-commerce. Amazon’s advantage is its Seller Central website, which gives the brothers data such as the number of clicks their products get, the number of conversions those clicks generate, last week’s sales data and more.

“Amazon has the advantage with technology,” Sumanth Lingala said.

Sumanth Lingala and his brother Hemanth own Green Mobiles, an online-only mobile phone business. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Sumanth Lingala and his brother Hemanth own Green Mobiles, an online-only mobile phone business. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)