Business Today

Mentoring Talent

Encouraging employees to be creative and identifying talent early makes Amazon a preferred employer.
By Venkatesha Babu   Delhi     Print Edition: March 12, 2017
Mentoring Talent
Photo: Nilotpal Baruah

The narrow lanes of Dharavi in Mumbai, home to one of the world's largest slum, would not be considered as a place where dreams come true. Nadeem Shaikh, who is employed at a leather workshop in Dharavi, would, however, vehemently disagree. Nadeem had found that making ends meet on his meagre salary was a challenge and had been looking for an opportunity to expand his income.

That is when he came across Amarinder Singh Chahal, Business Development Manager at Amazon Global Sales. Chahal and his team were enlisting Indian sellers - big and small - for hawking their products on Amazon's global platform.

With a little bit of handholding from Chahal's team, Nadeem - who initially had zero knowledge about how to use the World Wide Web - today sells, on an average, $8,000 worth of leather jackets every month on Indeed, he gets a higher margin from his international customers. An upbeat Nadeem is now contemplating quitting his job and expanding his online business. "We came up with this dedicated programme called Amazon Global Sellers in May 2015 and we now have 18,000 sellers, listing 25 million products on nine international Amazon marketplaces," says Chahal, who relishes the challenges thrown at him at Amazon.

Aditya Kanade, a colleague of Chahal who works as a software development engineer in the payments division of Amazon India, agrees on the uniqueness of the challenges in the Indian market. A challenge for Kanade and his colleagues was that after adding goods to a shopping cart on the site, often people would abandon it after the payment gateway failed. Mostly, the fault lies with poor network connectivity or failure of the bank or credit card gateway mechanism.

Now the moment you abandon a cart due to payment gateway failure, an SMS lands on your phone with a link which will help you complete the sale. "We came up with a solution for a uniquely Indian challenge. In India, people check SMS more quickly than an e-mail. I had the freedom, support and resources to come up with this solution and that is why I love working at Amazon India," says Kanade.

Stories such as that of Chahal or Kanade is one reason why the world's largest e-commerce company has succeeded in India. Though it was seen as a late entrant into India - in June 2013 - Amazon is now the most visited e-commerce website in the country, ahead of rivals Flipkart, Snapdeal, Paytm and Shopclues, according to several independent studies by analysts.

"In just over three years we have managed to make Amazon the biggest store in India with over 100 million products" says Amit Agarwal, VP and Country Head, Amazon India. While its business-to-consumer (B2C) website might just be a little over three years old, Raj Raghavan, Director, HR, Asia Pacific, points out that the company has been present in the country since 2004. "We have presence in technology (software) development and offer cloud services through Amazon Web Services and, of course, our B2C business."

The company is an employer of choice, in large measure, because of its relentless focus on the customer."Employees love the fact that they can come up with innovative solutions to solve any issue a customer faces. " says Raghavan.

While Amazon does not disclose its country-specific employee numbers, Raghavan says that it has grown by 38 per cent in 2016 over the previous year, even as its business has more than doubled in the same period. He also says that attrition 'is significantly below the industry average'.

The company is working with engineering colleges to promote and mentor women in the workforce. Raghavan says the company has beefed up its internship programme so as to identify talent early on. "For about 60 per cent of the interns we make a job offer and almost all of them accept it," he adds.

With the company continuing to look at India as a key growth region, it announced an additional $3 billion investment in the country last year. "Amazon India is looking forward to making rapid progress towards our goal of making e-commerce a part of everyday life of Indian customers," says Agarwal.

The CEO of an executive HR consultancy says: "They pay competitively but run a very tight ship. It is a demanding workplace but the company is the global leader in its space and has been doing very well in the country, with a lot of learning and leading opportunities. Talent wants to work with Amazon in India."

That would be music to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ears.

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