Amazon founder billionaire tycoon officially hands over reigns to his successor Andy Jass on Monday, July 5th. At 57 Bezos is stepping down as CEO but will remain the executive chairman and also the company’s largest shareholder.
Bezos’ reign has span three decades seeing the company grow from a meagre online bookstore to currently the largest online global retailer with a market cap of over $1.7 trillion. Beyond online retailing Amazon’s Amazon Web Services is also the world’s top cloud services provider while ‘Alexa’ is arguably the best virtual assistant.
Speaking to Aljazeera president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) Robert Atkinson called Bezos “….one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, up there with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.”
“Back in 1994, you could see that computing power was doubling every 18 months, and they knew at some point that you would have hand-held devices like the iPhone that would make connectivity vastly faster and cheaper. [Bezos] saw those trends and had a transformative effect on how people buy things,” he added.
Bezos tenure will also be remembered for key innovations like Amazon Prime, an ‘elite’ subscription package with same-day delivery and premium content that now serves over 200 million people all over the globe.
In addition to Alexa, Amazon has utilized artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve working conditions for its over 1.3 million employees globally. This has been a much-needed innovation as the company has faced a lot of criticism due to its poor working conditions.
Bezos’ time at Amazon has however not been without its troubles. As mentioned earlier, the tech giant has faced a lot of criticism due to alleged poor working conditions.
Amazon’s fulfilment centres for instance have been reported to be highly taxing. In a PBS documentary employees complain about long and tiresome working hours with little to zero breaks. Delivery drivers even reported being forced to urinate in water bottles.
Contractors on the other hand have also complained of wrongful termination which is effected using algorithms whose mechanics ‘make no sense at all.’
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Lebaron Sims, associate director of policy and research at progressive think-tank Demos says that while Amazon’s treatment of its workers is not as insidious or parasitic as its brick-and-mortar counterpart Wal Mart it is ‘much grander in its scale.’
“The way I will remember [Bezos] and his lasting legacy will be an almost shockingly cynical and bleak worldview that has informed Amazon’s institutional design and how it relates to rank-and-file delivery workers,” Sims added.
The company’s termination of hazard pay during the pandemic also did not help its cause.
Amazon was able to take massive breaks amounting to a whopping $2.3 billion due to investments in development and research as reported by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Despite these criticisms, Amazon remains optimistic and has placed huge bets to back this. Purchases and investments such as Whole Foods Market in 2017, Project Kuiper and MGM earlier this year indicate the company’s bullish outlook. These however may take some time to prove to be wise business decisions. Failures like Fire Phone show that not every investment decision pans out.
Bezos himself is all too aware of the risks involved.
“Let me assure you, I can guarantee you that none of these ideas are guaranteed to work,” he said in a recent shareholder meeting. “All of them are gigantic investments and they’re all risks…The only way to get above average returns is to take risks and many won’t pay off. Our whole history as a company is about taking risks, many of which have failed and many of which will fail but we continue to take big risks.”
What Next for Bezos?
The world’s richest man is however not taking permanent retirement from everything to enjoy his wealth. He is instead turning his attention to other more ‘exciting’ projects, most notably his space tour.
Scheduled for July 20th, Bezos’ is planning a famous sub-orbital tour with his brother and best friend Mark. With his company Blue Origin, Bezos alongside fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk are pioneering a new age of travel into space.
“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of travelling to space,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.
Bezos is also expected to turn more of his attention towards philanthropic activities such as his Bezos Day One Fund that helps improve education for children in low-income families while his $ 10 billion Bezos Earth Fund will support scientists and charities tackle climate change.