As the largest e-commerce store in its region, Ozon has been called the “Amazon.com of Russia.” But this morning on stage at Disrupt Europe in London, Ozon CEO Maelle Gavet shot down the notion that her company should be called an Amazon clone.
For one thing, she said, Ozon was founded 16 years ago, which was around the same time as Amazon in the U.S. And it’s much bigger than just selling goods online — the company also supports travel and other verticals. “E-commerce is applicable to Russia, just as it’s applicable to any other market,” she said.
Furthermore, the company has to solve for a lot of problems specific to the Russian market that some Western businesses don’t have to deal with. It’s had to build out its own logistics network, for instance, and has to deal with things like cash on delivery and expectation of always-on customer support. Gavet said that even though it’s an online commerce business, about 10 percent of orders are still placed by phone.
That said, over the years, it has made some very Amazon-like moves. Like Amazon, it bought a Zappos-like shoe retailer in Russia called Sapato. More recently, Gavet has mentioned the possibility of moving into logistics and cloud services as it diversifies its portfolio of businesses.
At the same time, Ozon could be faced with increased competition in its home market. Based on a report in Forbes, Amazon itself could move specifically into the Russian market, due to a key hire and opening of an office in Europe’s largest Internet market. And other major online retailers — like China’s Alibaba or Japan’s Rakuten — could also look to make a move in Russia.
When asked which potential acquirer she would be most interested in speaking with — between Amazon, Alibaba and Rakuten — Gavet said it would depend on their specific strategy for entering the market. She likened it to the company’s most recent fundraising efforts, in which Ozon had to decide which investor would be the best potential fit for the company.
Given that round, which closed in April, Ozon probably isn’t looking for an exit anytime soon. That round also closed before political issues in Russia could have completely derailed the process.
When asked if worries about the political climate have closed the window for investment in the region, Gavet said that there would always be investors who would be interested in putting money in regardless of what was happening. At the same time, she said investor memories are short and even those that left would return over time.