India is the second-largest technology hub for Amazon globally, with some of the most talented software developers, product managers, machine learning scientists, and research scientists as part of the team, says Amit Agarwal, global senior vice president and country head, Amazon India.
“Our teams are powering innovations not only for India, but also for customers globally,” says Agarwal, during the e-commerce company’s first-ever Career Day in India on Thursday. “They are building services that practically touch every aspect of the customer journey with Amazon.”
For instance, Amazon’s team in Bengaluru has built a cloud-based Warehouse Management System to help sellers streamline their warehouse operations, and ship orders to customers fast and reliably. While this service launched in India first, it is now being used by selling partners worldwide to serve millions of customers.
Another team developed a vision-based information extraction capability used to automate identity verification, helping streamline the new seller onboarding experience worldwide. One of the company’s AI teams is using computer vision technology and deep learning techniques for a great experience for customers. Amazon Web Services (AWS) India teams are working on the AWS Quantum Computing Applications Lab. This is in partnership with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
“Now, this happens to be the world's first quantum computing applications lab on AWS to support a national government's mission to drive innovation,” says Agarwal.
He says Indian customers are not only using Amazon for their shopping needs but they're also engaged with it every day, from paying their bills using Amazon Pay, listening to Prime Music, getting entertained on Prime Video.
Amazon has also helped bring technology to strengthen India's societal infrastructure. A case in point is its artificial intelligence-powered voice assistant Alexa, supporting schools in a remote town in central India and enabling students to engage with Alexa in Hindi, and improving their grasp of math, science, English, and general knowledge. Across all of these innovations, Agarwal says what really drives is the firm’s unique workplace culture. “Not surprisingly, the list starts with customer obsession as our first principle,” says Agarwal.
Another one on the list reminds the firm that seeking diverse perspectives is key to being right a lot. Agarwal said building a culture that is welcoming and inclusive is integral to diversity. The firm said it has numerous initiatives to attract the best builders out there. Be it hiring women, who have taken a career breakthrough, being inclusive of the LGBTQ community, attracting military veterans, or focusing the efforts on PWD (persons with disabilities) candidates. “We are committed to creating a safer, more productive, high performing, more diverse, and inclusive work environment that builders can thrive and ensure personal success,” says Agarwal.
He says India is at the threshold of a digital transformation. One that will have a profound impact in driving inclusion and equity in our societies. At the same time, it will gear India to become a trillion-dollar digital economy. This would require significant investments in technology and infrastructure. He says Amazon's global scale and local momentum over the last few years has uniquely positioned it to play a critical role as a catalyst in fueling India's transformation.
“At the same time, I strongly believe that our local innovations will also shape the experience for our next 500 million customers globally,” says Agarwal.
Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made a prediction that the 21st century will be India’s. To back it up, the firm made a pledge to digitize 10 million small businesses, enable 10 billion in exports, and create two million jobs in India by 2025.
“I find this super energizing. I wake up every day feeling grateful about the opportunity to work alongside some of the smartest people to solve some really hard problems and innovate at scale,” says Agarwal. “And with Amazon India, I feel we have once in a lifetime opportunity to tap into India's potential in the 21st century, transform daily lives and livelihoods, and leave behind a lasting legacy.”
Agarwal who has a background in computer science started nearly 23 years ago as a software development engineer at Amazon. “I still remember my interview. It was in a Fulfillment Center in Seattle, and I could watch associates skating around picking orders while I was discussing picking algorithms with the team,” recalls Agarwal. “I knew right there, this was a place focused on exciting real-world problems that use technology to invent at scale.”
When he joined Amazon, he had the opportunity to work on some of Amazon’s initial experiments, inviting other sellers to sell alongside the company and dramatically increase selection for the customers. “We started with auctions and failed. We tried building zShops or stores on Amazon and failed yet again. It was only until our third try that we invented Marketplace as we know today,” says Agarwal.
He also got the opportunity to be part of the team that started AWS (Amazon Web Services). He, later on, served as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Technical Advisor. Over the last 10 years, Agarwal has been part of building Amazon India from the ground up. He says today, Amazon in India employs over one lakh professionals across diverse areas from engineering, applied sciences, business management to supply chain, finance and content creation.