Amazon Worldwide Commerce CEO speaks about Amazon’s customer-obsessed nature, work principles and learning from the past to power the future.
“Good intentions are not good enough, it’s mechanisms that matter.” This is the mantra that Jeff A. Wilke, CEO, Worldwide Commerce, Amazon Inc., swears by. Jeff, second in line at the US-based retail behemoth after founder-CEO Jeff Bezos, handles the retail side, including the marketplace, Prime and Whole Foods.
His statement adheres to what Amazon has been building over the last 23 years since its humble beginning as an online seller of books. Today, having spun its web across continents, Amazon is focusing on India, its second biggest market after the US.
Jeff has been with Amazon since 1999. An alumnus of MIT and Princeton University, he is in charge of operations at Amazon, and reports directly to Bezos. He flew in to India’s Silicon Valley yesterday, to speak at the Amazon Women in Tech conference at JW Marriott Bengaluru.
To an audience of entrepreneurs, techies, aspiring entrepreneurs and industry experts, Jeff elaborated on Amazon’s principles, learning from mistakes, what Amazon is building now, and what is in store for its future in technology.
Learning from failures
Experiments give no guarantee on the outcome. But Jeff says Amazon’s culture embraces the idea of not being afraid to get to the next level. He recollects what he calls the “largest failure”.
“When we began our marketplace business in the US, it started as tech for auctions in 1999 called ‘zShops’. Each seller could set up a store on it, but it did not attract customers. So we listed sellers’ catalogue alongside ours – rather than open their stores – and customers liked it.”
Amazon is clear on its values. They have been working on 14 leadership principles since 2002, including customer obsession, operational excellence, invent and simplify, accept that you will be misunderstood at times, building better tools for processes and inspection to ensure that the tools work, and that people are using them.
Jeff says they are always seeking diverse perspectives.
“So even if we are misunderstood for long periods of time, that’s okay. It is not arrogance, but confidence. Listening carefully is a major principle,” he says.