A decade ago the idea of browsing online for every item that you wanted to buy and having it delivered to your doorstep on the same day would have been seen impractical; even science fiction maybe. Although, this is exactly what Amazon does in Europe & the United States on a daily basis.
Amazon has streamlined and perfected its internal process to such an extent that this science fiction has become a reality. Not only does the company sell about 350 million products in 185 countries it is also involved in everything from scientific research to the vast web servers. The full-scale of this company goes beyond imagination.
So, how did this company begin and how big is it at present? Here is some interesting information about Amazon that will answer this and many other questions: –
Amazon was started by Jeff Bezos in a garage. Although this time it was in Seattle, Washington and not in the Silicon Valley. This idea came to him while he was working at a Wall Street firm called De Shaw and Co. as the vice president. The founder of this Wall Street firm, David Shaw, had used the internet during his days as a professor in the early 90s and had witnessed the raw potential it held for the future. Bezos also saw the potential of the internet and noticed the rapid rise in its users. The concept of an online store selling unlimited products came up during one of the discussions between Bezos & Shaw once. That is when the idea of Amazon was born.
Although, the interesting fact is that at first, Bezos concluded that an online store that sold everything would be impractical. He thus decided to narrow down the list to 20 possible product categories. These categories included computer software, office supplies, music and apparels. Apart from these, the category that seemed to be the best one was – books. Books were the same no matter where or from whom you bought them. They also offered a diversity in terms of choice for the customer.
With this view in mind, Bezos registered his company in July 1994 along with his wife MacKenzie & the startup veteran, Shaw. The company was first named Cadabra Inc. but unfortunately, this name was often misheard as Cadaver (which means a corpse). Obviously, a company name that could be misheard as that representing a corpse wasn’t ideal. Therefore, it was decided that a new name was to be picked.
While searching for a new name in October 1994, Bezos came across the term Amazon in the dictionary. Amazon, being the largest river by discharge volume in the world, it mirrored his goal of becoming the biggest online retailer globally. Hence, Bezos decided to name his company after the river. Another reason for choosing this name was that websites were listed alphabetically back then and he wanted his site to be amongst the top webpages. So in November 1994, the domain name amazon.com was registered.
Leaving a high paying, high profile Wall Street job to start an internet company in 1994 was nothing short of crazy. Yet, Jeff Bezos had a strong vision and hence, in the beginning, one of the driving goals for Amazon was to build better products than existing online bookstores offered at the time. The first book was sold through Amazon on the third of April 1995. It was a computer modelling book. A few months later the site went live and became visible to all the visitors of the World Wide Web. Amazon started a searchable database of over a million titles even though the company only had around 2 thousand books with them. The rest of the books were to be ordered as needed from the wholesalers.
Interestingly there was not a single person assigned to pack the books sold through Amazon at the time. So, they would take the orders during the day and pack the books by night. These books were then driven to the post office the next morning.
After being featured on the home page of a new site called Yahoo, Amazon became swamped with orders and within the first month itself, they sold their books in 45 countries. In late 1995, Amazon was granted $1 million as investment capital to expand their business and keep up with the increasing demand, with server upgrades and hiring more staff.
Bezos predicted 74M dollars in sales by the year 2000 if things went moderately. In reality, the sales of the year 2000 amounted to a whopping 1.6 Billion Dollars. After receiving the investment capital Amazon began to frantically expand. Their motto back then was to get Big Fast.
In May 1997, Amazon had its initial public offering and raised 54M Dollars, valuing the company at a 438M. Jeff Bezos had a good sense of foresight and he predicted the small reading community would be the bottleneck for their growth. So, they decided to move into new products such as DVDs and Music.
Further, Between 1998 and 2000 Amazon acquired IMDB, Telebook & Book pages which gave the company strategic access to customers in the British and the German market. During this time they also expanded their product line to include toys and electronics. By this stage, Amazon was rapidly growing and the world took notice of that. This was evidenced by Jeff Bezos being awarded the person of the year by Time magazine in 1999.
In 2003, they added to their product lineup to include a software development centre, Amazon Prime. Over the next seven years, Amazon acquired a clothing store, a grocery store and also purchased an online tech company called Audible for 300M dollars. It also launched the Kindle digital e-reader & Amazon web services during the same period. From 2010 onwards, Amazon went on acquiring strength after strength, solidifying their position as one of the tech giants in the market.
Today, Amazon hires over 2,40,000 employees. This is over four times the number of Google employees. That being said this does includes both full-timers as well as part-time workers. During the seasonal spikes, up to 80,000 additional workers are added to deal with the influx. Last year 183 Million new visitors were recorded hitting Amazon’s website per month. This made Amazon, the seventh largest site in terms of traffic volume.
The company fulfilment centres and warehouses of Amazon are as large as 1 million sq. feet and it has 80 such structures worldwide. These warehouses are so big, they could hold more water than10,000 Olympic swimming pools combined.
Fun facts about Amazon that you probably weren’t aware of: –
Amazon is working on delivery by planes to make delivery faster and more efficient.
Amazon Prime Air is a future delivery system designed to get packages safely to the consumers within 30 miles or less using drones.
Amazon web services (AWS) sells computing infrastructure like storage, databases and computing power startups and more established companies rent these high powered servers. Amazon has big-name clients. These include Pinterest, Instagram, Netflix, reddit, adobe and even CIA!
According to the new book by author Jeff Stone in Amazon’s early days a bell would ring in the office every time someone made a purchase.
There was a huge programming error in early days that would let customers trick Amazon into sending them money.
As the company grew exponentially early employees were expected to work for more than 60 hours per week.
Today Amazon has more than 1,17,000 employees worldwide and shows no sign of stopping its rapid expansion.
The company lost $4.8 Million in August 2013 when the website went down for 40 minutes!
Despite being a CEO, Bezos only makes $81,840.