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Delivering Amazon Packages to the Top of the World

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LEH, India — Perched high in the Himalayas, near India’s border with China, the tiny town of Leh sometimes seems as if it has been left behind by modern technology. Internet and cellphone service is spotty, the two roads to the outside world are snowed in every winter, and Buddhist monasteries compete with military outposts for prime mountaintop locations.

But early each morning, the convenience of the digital age arrives, by way of a plane carrying 15 to 20 bags of packages from Amazon. At an elevation of 11,562 feet, Leh is the highest spot in the world where the company offers speedy delivery.

When the plane arrives from New Delhi, it is met by employees from Amazon’s local delivery partner, Incredible Himalaya, who then shuttle the packages by van to a modest warehouse nearby. Eshay Rangdol, 26, the nephew of the owner, helps oversee the sorting of the packages and delivers many of them himself.

The couriers must follow exacting standards set by Amazon, from wearing closed-toe shoes and being neatly groomed to displaying their ID cards and carrying a fully charged cellphone.

Amazon began offering doorstep delivery in this region last fall, as part of an effort to better serve the remotest corners of India. Sales volume in Leh is up twelvefold since Incredible Himalaya took over deliveries from the postal service, which was much slower and required customers to pick up packages at the post office.

Local delivery partners like Incredible Himalaya are vital to the American company’s global strategy, especially as it tries to diversify beyond traditional package delivery companies like United Parcel Service or FedEx. Last week, Amazon announced a program to entice more small businesses to join the company’s delivery network in the United States.

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