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Amazon at 30: what next for ‘The Everything Company’?

So the story of Amazon, since it was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, has been one of explosive growth, and continual reinvention.

There has been plenty of criticism along the way too, over “severe” working conditions and how much tax it pays.

But the main question as it enters its fourth decade appears to be: once you are The Everything Company, what do you do next?

Or as Sucharita Kodali, who analyses Amazon for research firm Forrester, puts it: “What the heck is left?”

“Once you’re at a half a trillion dollars in revenue, which they already are, how do you continue to grow at double digits year over year?”

One option is to try to tie the threads between existing businesses: the vast amounts of shopping data Amazon has for its Prime members might help it sell adverts on its streaming service, which – like its rivals – is increasingly turning to commercials for revenue.

But that only goes so far – what benefits can Kuiper, its satellite division, bring to Whole Foods, its supermarket chain?

To some extent, says Sucharita Kodali, the answer is to “keep taking swings” at new business ventures, and not worry if they fall flat.

Just this week Amazon killed a business robot line, external after only nine months – Ms Kodali says that it is just one of a “whole graveyard of bad ideas” the company tried and discarded in order to find the successful ones.

But, she says, Amazon may also have to focus on something else: the increasing attention of regulators, asking difficult questions like what does it do with our data, what environmental impact is it having, and is it simply too big?

All of these issues could prompt intervention “in the same way that we rolled back the monopolies that became behemoths in the early 20th century”, Ms Kodali says.

For Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of e-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse, its size poses another problem: the places its Western customers live in simply can not take much more stuff.

“Our cities were not built for many more deliveries,” he tells the BBC.

That makes emerging economies like India, Mexico and Brazil important. But, Mr Kaziukėnas, suggests, there Amazon does not just need to enter the market but to some extent to make it.

“It’s crazy and maybe should not be the case – but that’s a conversation for another day,” he says.

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