He will transition into the role of executive chairman and will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who currently heads Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing platform. Jassy, who has been with Amazon since 1997, has been instrumental in making AWS the company’s profit engine.
“Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming. When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” Bezos wrote in his letter to employees, adding that he will continue to stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives while focusing on his other passions, such as his space travel firm Blue Origin and various philanthropic efforts, including the Day One Fund to combat homelessness.
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Under Bezos’s leadership, Amazon identified India as a strategic market as early as 2013 and has so far committed to invest as much as $6.5 billion to grow its e-commerce business here. On a visit to India in September 2014, Bezos seemed determined to endear himself to the country — he famously donned traditional Indian attire, rode atop a truck with a giant cheque for $2 billion, and said India “amazed and energised” him.
But his next visit, in January 2020, couldn’t have been any more different. Amazon’s India honeymoon had long ended and the company was by then being investigated for alleged anti-competitive behaviour by the country’s competition regulator. Bezos met several captains of industry but not a single minister or top government functionary, and it was rumoured that Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned down his request for an appointment.
Bezos’s transition also comes at a time when Amazon is engaged in battle with India’s largest business conglomerate Reliance Industries over the acquisition of assets of Future Group, in which Amazon had made an investment. While a Delhi court ruled in Amazon’s favour on Tuesday by blocking the sale of Future Group to Reliance Industries, Amazon’s own deal with Future Group is now being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.
Recent reports have suggested a possible further tightening of foreign direct investment norms in India, which could also adversely affect Amazon’s business here.
Amazon India did not respond to a set of questions from ET.
Parent company Amazon said Bezos will continue to be involved with large strategic decisions at the firm. “He will be involved in many large one-way-door issues as we say, meaning the more important decisions — things like acquisitions, strategies and going into grocery,” said Brian Olsavsky, chief financial officer at Amazon, in a call with analysts after the company announced its December quarter results.
As for what Bezos’s transition will mean for Amazon’s business in India, insiders told ET that the move is unlikely to have any material impact in the short term and won’t change the company’s view of India as a country with the potential to become one of the world’s largest retail markets in the coming decades.
A cursory look at Jassy’s commitments to invest big in India bear this out. Last November, AWS agreed to invest $2.77 billion to set up several data centres — termed a ‘cloud region’ — in Hyderabad by mid-2022. This will be AWS’s second cloud region in India after Mumbai, as the company looks to encourage more local and global tech firms to host applications on its platform.