Amazon India is more enthusiastic about the size of its new building it inaugurated in Hyderabad on Wednesday, August 21st than to discuss the financials of the facility and the changing contours of the Indian e-commerce landscape. This message was amply clear to financial journalists drawn to the facility on the back of an invite from Amazon to witness the "launch of its largest campus building in the world in Hyderabad." Amit Agarwal, senior vice president and country manager, Amazon India, spoke to BusinessToday.In and shared some insights on the India operations and the nature of work.
However, firstly, here are the details that Amazon was eager to share about its newest office facility in Hyderabad. Close to offices of Microsoft, Apple and other IT companies apart from the sprawling campus of the Indian School of Business, the new Amazon facility is spread over 9.5 acres and built to support more than 15,000 employees. The new campus is its first owned office building outside the US, and is the single largest building globally.
John Schoettler, VP, Global Real Estate and Facilities, Amazon said, "Going purely by the weight, this campus building of Amazon has two-and-half times more steel than the Eiffel Tower." With 15,000 work points across 1.8 million square feet in office space built on 3 million square feet of construction area, the facility features casual, collaborative work spaces, as well as private areas. Interfaith prayer rooms, mothers' room, quiet rooms, showers, helipad, and an all-day open cafeteria are some of the features in the building. There is also apparently an eye on efficiency with destination control systems to manage elevators that can move 972 people simultaneously. And, perhaps equally important 290 conference rooms (one conference room seat for every 3.25 workstations, higher than the global ratio of 1:5) apart from 3 scrum areas per floor to foster collaboration.
Speaking to BusinessToday.In, Amit Agarwal calls the building "a development centre that allows people to build services that get used for serving global customers and is not a back-end centre that supports internal customers." Some Amazon employees are already getting relocated from a few of the rented premises in Hyderabad and then some new hires will also join them soon. These are all to be a mix of software engineers, machine learning and data scientists, product managers apart from folks from the finance department.
In India, Amazon has over 62,000 full-time employees currently. It is the largest tech base outside Seattle and a third of this -- about 20,000 -- are already in Hyderabad. Apart from this, Amazon in India engages around 1.55 lakh contract employees.
On the role that Indian talent is playing in the new revenue stream businesses of Amazon, Agarwal says, "In India, we have great minds in software engineering, AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and product management, working on a wide variety of services that pretty much power most of our operations. AWS (Amazon Web Services) for instance, is a very important revenue stream for Amazon; we have a service called ProServe that is managed out of here. That service was able to serve 25 million concurrent requests during the India - New Zealand ICC cricket match at a scale level that is several times what you would normally see in a Super Bowl in United States."
"Just look at the Amazon India website," he says, "you can buy appliance on the website and we would come to your place, install it, repair if there is a problem in future, provide insurance. All that work flow and the ability for us to engage a large contractual workforce to do that work is built out of Hyderabad. Take a look at any part of the website from the deals page or trying to look how to search for products or find products, some features out there - search algorithms, ranking algorithms, AWS infrastructure, and financial services - is housed in Hyderabad. In fact, Amazon Pay, which is a key part of our investment in India, is pretty much based in Hyderabad - all the technologies for it are housed out of Hyderabad and these include bill payments and flight bookings to person-to-person payments or scanning QR code - all the technologies are built out of Hyderabad."
Right now, in terms of product development, outside of Seattle, India, he says, is a big hub and the largest centre for Amazon. "We practically touch every service you can imagine. In Alexa, lot of skills are built out of India. We have more than 60,000 people working on all kinds of services that power the Amazon ecosystem today. Amazon has tried to maintain its start up like nimbleness over all these years to solve newer problems so that makes our company very attractive," he says.
On the competition, Agarwal quite candidly says, "We don't really care about competition, we are only obsessed with our customers and we ask ourselves how can we serve them better and to do that, while our principles are the same globally, we innovate locally - great examples of that are Amazon Pay or Easy Ship. That is another great example of what we do locally. Here, we go to local stores and pick up items from the store to be shipped to customers, which we don't do elsewhere. Or we have Prime Now. Here we pick up things from local stores and deliver in two hours. In fact, we are doing so well that we are taking them elsewhere."