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“Amazon is the best place in the world to fail…and the reason for that is we have a lot of practice,” Bezos said during his chat session with Amazon India country head Amit Agarwal at SMB-focussed Amazon SMBhav here.
Stating that he believes failures through experiments can sometimes lead to innovation of new things, Bezos also pointed out that operational excellence failures exist and those should be avoided.
“Nobody likes to fail… failure, even when you know it’s important and good, it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t feel good. We’re all human. We had a good idea. We thought it was a good idea, and nobody came to the party. That happens. And here’s the great thing, though. One success, one winner can pay for dozens and dozens of failures,” he said.
Bezos, who is in India this week, said he had flown kites with few children and had enjoyed the time. He spoke about spending summers at his grandfather’s ranch from age four through 16.
“I have learnt so much from my grandfather, and I think it is true of many people in rural areas, they are very resourceful and very self-reliant. That really made a big impression on me,” he told an enwrapped audience comprising hundreds of small and medium business owners.
The two-day SMBhav event will see business leaders like Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy and Future Group’s Kishore Biyani.
The event kicked off late, which seemed to irk Murthy, who was to deliver his address at the event on Wednesday morning.
He started his address by saying that the event was delayed by more than an hour and a half, and therefore, he was paraphrasing his talk as he is “not used to delays”.
During his speech, he praised Bezos for his comment that 21st century will be India’s century and said it would be the responsibility of people here to make that prediction come true.
“Nearly 85 per cent of India’s business output comes from the unorganised sector, about 10 per cent from SMBs (small and medium businesses) and probably 5 per cent from large companies. Therefore, you do play an extremely important role in making 21st century as India’s century,” he said, adding good work ethic and values are also critical.
Amazon has stake in Cloudtail, a joint venture between Amazon and Murthy’s Catamaran Ventures.
Sporting a blue Nehru jacket, Bezos talked about his interest in rockets and rocket propulsion, and how that has influenced his decision to start his space venture Blue Origin.
Asserting that the cost of access to space needs to be lowered, Bezos said: “Long term, if we have to grow our civilisation, we have to use resources in the solar system. We need space entrepreneurs”.
From a stable job in 1994 in New York City, Bezos came up with the idea of selling books online.
“I went to my boss, Davis, whom I liked a lot. I went to him and told him that I had this idea to start a company that would sell books on the internet. He took me on a long walk in Central Park in New York and listened to me in great detail. He said it sounds like a great idea to me but I think it would be a better idea for someone who didn’t already have a good job,” Bezos said.
He told the audience that he did not want to have any regrets because of the decision he was to take.
“I pictured myself 80 years old and thinking back on my life at a quite moment of reflection. Would I regret leaving this company in the middle of the year and walking away from my annual bonus?…What I did know is that I had this great idea, and if I don’t try, I will regret never having tried. And I know also, that if I try and fail, I’ll never regret having tried and failed,” he said.
Bezos embarked on the journey and has since then scaled the Seattle-headquartered Amazon to become a 7,00,000-people strong organisation.
Asked what he would have done if things hadn’t worked out, Bezos said: “I would be an extremely happy software programmer somewhere.”
He also advised the businesses that they should ensure they hire the right people from whom they can also learn new things.