The Summers of 2018 is a miniseries about the various categories of roles offered by companies for summer internships. The author talked to interns from Consulting, Finance, Marketing, General Management, Product Management, Operations and International Intern roles to understand a bit more about their work life. The articles are meant to give the reader a glimpse into the life of an intern, and maybe help the reader understand their own fit in that particular role. This article, the sixth in the series of seven, describes the life of an operations intern.
Contributed By: Shardul Agarwal
Edited By: J K Varshika
OPERATIONS IN AMAZON INDIA
My summer internship was with the e-commerce giant Amazon at the Amazon Development Centre India (ADCI) Chennai. It was a challenging yet exciting experience to be in a $100 billion organization that still calls itself a startup. This fact reflected in the work culture of the comapnay which had an urgency to try out new ideas and the CEO leading by calling out ‘It’s still day 1’.
The onboarding was a one-day program to develop bonding between the interns. Interactive sessions were conducted with senior managers to illustrate the leadership principles followed at Amazon. For anyone aspiring to join Amazon, exhibiting the 14 leadership principles is a must. Within Amazon, India is a key center to provide backend services to English-speaking Asia-Pacific countries. I was assigned to the Retail Business Services team which was then managing the Amazon Australia marketplace. An e-commerce platform is essentially a two-sided market. The online shoppers and the vendors both are our customers. My project was to develop operational strategies to improve the vendor experience and increase the product selection available on Amazon Australia website.
Vendor management is a highly customized job. Dedicated managers are assigned to vendors with high annual gross merchandise sale. However, assigning a dedicated vendor manager to every vendor is prohibitively expensive. This requires an efficient and benchmarked process for managing vendors with low annual sales. A key target of operation management is to standardize the process to make it reliable and replicable. Successively, automation is done to scale up the operations. My project revolved around understanding the different processes in vendor management and developing standard mechanisms for each process.
A major challenge in the project was the geographical scope. Though the marketplace was for Australia, the vendors were spread across the globe from USA to China. Needless to say, most of our discussions with stakeholders happened over conference calls which happened according to different time zones. Despite being tiring, it gave me an opportunity to experience cross-cultural organizational behavior. Among the key highlights of the internship was a visit to Amazon Fulfillment Centre (FC) on the outskirts of Chennai. It was exciting to see the operations at FC which have made one-day delivery possible for the growing number of Prime customers in India. The conveyor belts running across the FC were no less than any product assembly line in manufacturing. The operations were designed in a manner to maximize the space and labor productivity both economically and ergonomically.
The perks of working at Amazon include flexible work timing, the option of work from home and no formal dressing code. Besides work, a huge emphasis was given to team bonding. Every Friday, fun activities were conducted for the employees. A team outing is also organized every quarter by the team leaders. Interns enjoy special engagement activities like tickets to an IPL cricket match and dinner with hiring managers. Additionally, as a B-school student, power point presentations are considered indispensable. But at Amazon, we don’t do powerpoint. 6-page narratives are prepared for every meeting, whether it is submitting any report or finalizing a product launch. Not just this, one is not expected to read the narratives in advance and the first 30 mins of any meeting are devoted to reading the narrative. A peculiar Amazon culture!
Internship at Amazon was a mix of fun and learning. Amazon is probably the only company that has made its mark in fields as diverse as e-commerce, video content creation, and latest technology devices. My key takeaway from Amazon was to “think backward”. You start with what the customer needs and then work backward to build capabilities to deliver.
To read more of the miniseries, stay tuned! Read part five here – www.b-heard.in/2014/the-summers-of-2018-genman