What Jeff Bezos would have done if Amazon had failed

At Amazon Smbhav, Jeff Bezos discussed what life without Amazon would be in a fireside chat with Amazon India Head and Senior Vice President Amit Agarwal.

15th Jan 2020
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On Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that he had never expected the ecommerce major to become as big as it did.


He added that had the company failed to take off he “would be an extremely happy software programmer somewhere”.


This was during a fireside chat with Amazon India Head and Senior Vice President Amit Agarwal at the first edition of Amazon Smbhav – a summit for small, micro and medium business (SMBs), underway in New Delhi. 


Amit first asked Jeff, “Did you think Amazon would be so successful?”


To this, the Amazon chief responded that the global ecommerce giant has become “way beyond” his expectations.


Amazon CEO Bezos

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos




Then, Amit asked Jeff, an electrical engineering and computer science graduate from Princeton University, what he would have done if Amazon had not worked out.


“I would be an extremely happy software programmer somewhere,” Jeff responded with a smile.


Speaking of Amazon’s early days, the entrepreneur described the beginnings of the Seattle-based company as an SMB. 


He reminisced, “I was an SMB myself. Twenty-five years ago, Amazon was a tiny, little company. I was driving the packages to the post office myself. I was also wrapping the packages."


When asked about his views on failure, Jeff responded, “Amazon is the best place in the world to fail."


This was met with thunderous applause from the audience in the packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the national capital, mostly filled with SMB entrepreneurs.


Explaining why Amazon is the “best place to fail”, Jeff said,


“We have a lot of practice. There are two kinds of failures that are important. Experimenting, trying to figure out something that’s not been done and failing - that’s a high-quality failure. Amit and I have been working together for two decades and we have failed together so many times,” he said.


The other kind of failure – the one to avoid, according to Jeff – is an operational failure.


“We should avoid operational failures. For example, opening a new fulfilment centre – we know how to do that, but if we fail at that, it is just bad execution. You should never celebrate that kind of failure,” he said.


The Amazon chief said that while nobody likes to fail, “one winner can pay for dozens and dozens of failures.”



(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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