[YS Exclusive] Amazon India boss on why work-life balance has to make way for work-life harmony
With Amit Agarwal at the helm of Amazon India, the global e-tailer has witnessed a staggering growth in the past six years in India.
Growth for Amazon in India has been fuelled by investments of over $5 billion in the market on innovation, seller and customer-focused initiatives, infrastructure, and technology.
Under Amit Agarwal, India is today the ecommerce behemoth’s fastest-growing market, winning over customers and sellers in even the most remote corners of the country to become the most transacted and most trusted Internet brand in India. But these Amit humbly credits to Amazon’s laser-like focus on its culture of ‘customer obsession.’
Having spent close to two decades in Amazon – two of which were as Technical Advisor to Jeff Bezos himself – Amit does not just speak the same tongue as that of the customer-focused e-tailer and its inspiring founder, but also “lives and breathes its culture.”
His determination, clarity of vision, and drive are unmistakable, as is his passion for improving customer lives and driving the economic flywheel of the country.
In an exclusive interaction with YourStory’s Founder & CEO Shradha Sharma, Amit talks about the company culture and how for him, it is still day one in India.
Shradha Sharma: You've said that people working in Amazon don’t need to respond to emails from 6 pm to 8 am, so they enjoy 'work-life harmony'. Does that really happen?
Amit Agarwal: To set the context, so that people understand, is that it is very important for people to feel energised by the purpose and to be able to give their best. And hence, you want a culture where you're not really talking about work-life balance because when you talk about balance, you talk trade-offs; you have to give something up to create a balance. Would you talk about work-life harmony? That was the context of this.
Harmony is achieved when you're really intensely involved in the things that you love. So, when you're with your family, you're giving them all your attention. Then, when you're working, you're giving all your attention there. And to achieve harmony, it's also important for us to respect people's personal times.
So the guidance was that there would be moments where we all need to huddle together and work long hours and days to serve our customers because it is a need of the day, but you don't have to make that the norm and things could wait.
While the expectation is not for people to not do what they wish to do in that period, we wanted them to respect people's personal time. As for the things that can wait, they can wait.
Shradha Sharma: How do you maintain work-life harmony with 15 days in the US and 15 days in India in a month?
Amit Agarwal: Well, it's not that bad as you may think about my travel schedule. But yes, I do have to travel a lot. First of all, I do something that is a dream job. I don't know how many people can claim they have the ability to create such a large impact.
I feel very energised by the work that I'm doing and by the challenges we're solving. I personally leave at 6 pm so that when I'm with my family, I'm present there, and I'm enjoying with my kids and my family. And when I'm at work, I'm really intense about doing that.
So, I think it doesn't matter the relative hours you're spending, but the quality of time matters more. I try to balance that.
Shradha Sharma: Personally, what have you learned from being here in India in this role for the last six years?
Amit Agarwal: I mean, there are learnings of all kinds. I talked to you about some of the business learnings that are there. I think, personally, for the last six years, it has allowed me to test my boundaries on customer obsession, invention, and long-term thinking.
I think you never know till you challenge your limits and boundaries of how much you can stretch yourself.
So, I feel very excited about that process of learning how to actually make this happen.
I feel that our purpose is far bigger than just ecommerce. I genuinely, without any bias, believe that this thing can actually change the lives of people in a really meaningful way and could really drive the economic flywheel of the country.
Just being a participant in that with such a broad-based investment is very fortunate. I would say just learning how to think about that purpose and challenging my boundaries are things that are very fortunate.