After 27 years, Amazon will have a new CEO for the first time. It’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, shall step down in July and pave the way for Andy Jassy, a company executive with the company since 1997.
Jassy is a long-time veteran of the company, and Jeff Bezos paid him a rich compliment when he announced the change: “Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence.”
For the last 15 years, he has run Amazon Web Services (AWS), a mundane but very essential and highly profitable cloud computing business that controls about a third of the industry. We usually associate the Amazon brand with online shopping, but after two decades of growth, the company has multiple verticals, and this requires someone who’s been at the centre of it all since the beginning.
Jassy has been a key player, but one who has worked largely in the background. While there’s no doubt he’ll be able to manage Amazon’s cutting-edge technology, the challenge is to handle all other investments of the company that range from an air cargo business to book publishing.
So, why did Bezos choose Jassy to lead Amazon’s future?
Jassy is the man behind the success of AWS. The unit started in 2006 and managed to take on internet giants like Microsoft and Oracle. Most importantly, it was able to make the business as efficient as possible by constantly monitoring every bit of data. It’s widely known that Jassy would regularly conduct review meetings to ensure managers are meeting their goals, and if not, what’re they doing to change the status quo. AWS always ensured that scaling is directly proportional to efficiency, and the demand for cloud computing is going to be endless. Today, AWS has a whopping 35% market share while Microsoft’s Azure is at 20%. And, this division is bound to grow in the coming years since most IT infrastructures are yet to move to the cloud.
Amazon is at a critical juncture right now because it gained massively from the pandemic. With more than $100 billion in quarterly revenue, it’s in a very turbulent storm that’s changing direction every day. Amazon needs a CEO that’s a quick follower. Bezos was always far-sighted and could see where the industry was headed, so he’d try to be ahead of everyone in reaching there. A fast follower recognises the company’s strengths and builds upon them to ensure the customer has even more reason to do business with you.
After initially working as a marketing manager for Amazon’s e-commerce business, Jassy served as Bezos’s first technical adviser, a position famously also known as the shadow internally. This is a very critical position because it means Jassy was following Bezos to pretty much every meeting for a couple of years. And, this is where one gets to peek inside Bezos’ mind. According to the book, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, Bezos is said to be an excellent teacher who comes up with unimaginable insights and spends the next few minutes explaining his thought process. That’s where the duo hit a cord, and Jassy informally became Bezos’s shadow. Amit Agarwal, senior VP at Amazon and country manager for India, was also a Bezos shadow and led the company’s international expansion.
Jassy encouraged AWS to build services for the people who were actually doing the work, who would build their own applications and services around AWS, and come back for more. Although Jassy had no formal training in computer science, he’s earned a reputation as an exceptional executive who understands complex technology and can explain it to business laypeople.
As per a report by Insider, Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reached out to Jassy and wanted him to be replaced. Apparently, when Travis Kalanick stepped down as Uber CEO, Jassy was considered for the same. So there’s no doubt Jassy is a very valuable player for Amazon.
Bezos and Jassy both are known for their win-at-all-costs thinking, and it could brew from Jassy’s love of football, and especially his New York Giants. He also recently became a part-owner of the Seattle Kraken, a franchise in the National Hockey League.
When Jassy becomes CEO, it won’t be a smooth ride. He’s got a lot of issues to look after.
Regulators worldwide are examining Amazon’s business practices and the debate around big tech is only getting louder. Tech giants for decades have enjoyed light-touch regulation so far, but this could change in the near future. While Bezos appeared for the big tech senate hearing and fought the battle head-on, Jassy has also dealt with regulatory issues for the longest of time. AWS has invited a lot of criticism because its technology is used for a wide range of applications like facial recognition, powering controversial government infrastructure, and more.
Amazon and labour issues go hand-in-hand and Jassy will have to immediately address their concerns. Amazon has made changes since the pandemic started, but its labour issues go well beyond the pandemic. More scrutiny is likely now that Amazon is the second-largest private employer. A few thousand workers are going to cast their vote and decide their future of unionization. If successful, it’ll be the first union election in Amazon’s history.
Lastly, future growth. We know that Jassy is well-equipped to be able to look into the future, but there’s a crisis brewing in the medium-range. Once the pandemic is over, users’ purchase habits will change, and many shall shift to conventional methods like physical stores. Obviously, Amazon will not be able to sustain the peak for too long, so how will it cope with the correction or drop in sales? This is where Jassy needs to get creative and fill the vacuum. A few pointers to get started include faster delivery, deeper expansion, and strategies that include the new world, a changed world after the pandemic.
While he’s proved himself as capable of leading a cutting-edge technology provider, Jassy’s leadership skills will be rigorously tested as he steers the company at a crucial point in its history. And, it’s also safe to say that Bezos isn’t going entirely take a back seat and shall continue to exert control. After all, he’s still the biggest shareholder of Amazon.
Words: Shivam Vahia
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