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Inside Amazon's Newest And Largest Office, Thousands of Miles From Seattle


Sept. 18, 2019

Amazon.com Inc.’s only company-owned office campus outside the U.S. opened at the end of August on the other side of the globe, thousands of miles from their Seattle headquarters.
The 15-storey  building in India’s southern city of Hyderabad towers over the landscape in its technology and financial district, signaling the giant online retailer’s ambitions to expand in one of the world’s fastest-growing retail markets.
The building has 1.8 million square feet of office space, or about 50 times the footprint of the Taj Mahal’s mausoleum., set in 9.5 acres of land and can house up to 15,000 employees. Amazon has over 62,000 workers in India and a further 155,000 contract employees. "This new Amazon campus building is a tangible commitment to that long-term thinking and our plans for India," said Amit Agarwal, the company's India head.
The Seattle-based retailer has pledged over $5.5 billion so far for India, a country vital to its plan for global dominance. After floundering in China, Amazon is leaving nothing to chance in the country where it’s going head-to-head against rival, Walmart Inc. which paid $16 billion for a majority stake in India’s biggest online retailer Flipkart. It’s an ecommerce market forecast by KPMG to grow to $200 billion by 2027.
“E-commerce is so small in India relative to the total consumption, less than 3%,” Agarwal said in an interview at the building’s formal opening. Most of India relies heavily on small neighborhood mom-and-pop stores called kiranas for its shopping needs, and it’s a market largely untapped by organized retailers such as supermarket chains or departmental store brands.
“We see tremendous growth here”.
Photography by Dhiraj Singh
The new campus’s built up area when spread out spans over 68 acres, the equivalent of 65 football fields. It contains over 2.5 times the steel by weight of the Eiffel Tower. It has 110 km of fire protection system conduit. It also has an 850,000-liter water recycling plant. “We plan ahead for three years and we always get it wrong," said India chief Agarwal "Because we grow faster than we anticipate.”
Amazon began its online retail operations in India in the summer of 2013. It has over 30 office spaces, 50 fulfillment centers and hundreds of delivery stations and sorting centers sprinkled across the country. This new building has 290 conference rooms and 3 collaborative work areas per floor.
Amazon’s motto “Work hard. Have fun. Make history”, its vision statement and founder Jeff Bezos's quotes are depicted in original pieces of indigenous art and craft on the walls. “The most important things are the same in any Amazon facility globally,” says Agarwal. “But you can see the Amazonian-ness come through”.
The campus ticks Indians’ biggest two emotional check boxes -- cricket and Bollywood. There are indoor cricket nets and an entire Bollywood-themed ninth floor replete with retro photos. For recreation, workers can pick from a variety of activities including playing video games and air hockey.
If staff are not interested in shooting pool they can enroll in Zumba and yoga classes.
The gleaming new glass campus tower was over three years in the making. About 2,000 people worked on the site for 39 months and spent 18 million man hours building it. The campus has over 300 trees, some over 200 years old.
The 86-meter tall facility is accessed by 49 elevators which can transport 972 people simultaneously and move at speeds of one floor per second. Amazon declined to reveal what it has spent on the gigantic new facility but said it cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” to build.
The building has interfaith prayer rooms, quiet rooms, showers, a helipad, and an all-day cafeteria, which has a multitude of food options all cooked in-house.
Employees can order at their desks via an app, and have their food plated and ready when they arrive at the cafeteria.
All transactions are digital and food is subsidized. Choices range from south Indian savory crepe dosas to northern India's stuffed paratha bread, a variety of kebabs, as well as pizzas and pasta.
In contrast to this 15,000-worker building, the largest Amazon buildings in Seattle average 5,000 workers. Product managers, AI scientists and software developers hurry about in the new campus helping build global services such as Kindle, Audible and AWS, and support online retail operations and payment services within the country. They innovate and localize services for India, adding to existing offerings such as doorstep pickups, installation and repair of home electronics.
Hyderabad is a technology center that is booming in south eastern India. It’s a crowded, hot and humid city, hometown to one of India’s most successful tech émigrés, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The metropolis houses the operations of other global technology giants including Apple and Google.
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