Jeff Bezos steps down: From flipping burgers to taking the moon shot(s)

Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon, a company he built out of his garage into a global behemoth, ahead of his flight to space

Harichandan Arakali
Updated: Jul 6, 2021 10:01:41 AM UTC
Image: Manjunath Kiran / AFP

Later this month, Amazon’s founder CEO Jeff Bezos (57) will be going to space in a capsule atop a rocket all built with his own money—symbolising the rise of one of the most influential human beings in the modern world. Mid-life distractions and all.

Today, he hands over the reins of Amazon to trusted lieutenant Andy Jassy as CEO.

Bezos’s fame today as the world’s richest person has of course made his first job famous too—flipping burgers at a McDonald’s outlet as a 16-year old. But it was his entrepreneurial venture—over the last 27 years—that changed the world.

Bezos went from selling books online from his garage to selling everything online, catalysing the invention and planet-scale commercialisation of cloud computing in the process, and building a media and entertainment business that now wants to give Netflix a run for its money.

People in markets far away from Seattle, Amazon’s headquarters, are now used to same-day and next-day deliveries of everything from daily essentials to refrigerators from local sellers using Amazon. In the US, Amazon is also an online pharmacy.

In India, the company is both loved and seen with suspicion. Bezos wore a beige bandhgala when he visited the country in 2014, first time since his ecommerce platform launched in India the previous year, and leaned out of a lorry driver’s cabin for pictures. He has invested billions of dollars in the market, and installed one of his trusted S-team [Shadow team, executives who work closely with Bezos] executives Amit Agarwal as the country head of its operations.

It has created hundreds of thousand of jobs and facilitated over a billion dollars in exports from local sellers. It is also facing investigations over allegations that it favours some sellers over others and is building up its own brand of products in many categories.

In fact, Bezos is stepping back from day-to-day running of Amazon at a time when big tech faces the most scrutiny at home in the US, where lawmakers have introduced a raft of bills to reign them in, and Lina Khan, the new chairperson of America’s competition authority, the federal trade commission, is one of Amazon’s biggest critics.

Bezos’s personal life too, in recent times, has caught attention—his divorce from the mother of his children, MacKenzie Scott, made her one the richest women on Earth. Two years later, fellow tech tycoon Bill Gates is doing the same, separating from his wife.

In addition to Blue Origin, the space tech company that Bezos has funded, which is building rockets and space modules, he has also committed billions of dollars to fighting climate change. “I’m committing $10 billion to start and will begin issuing grants this summer. Earth is the one thing we all have in common—let’s protect it, together,” he said, on Instagram, when he announced the fund in February last year.

This may become his biggest legacy.

Read our interview with Andy Jassy:

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

Check out our end of season subscription discounts with a Moneycontrol pro subscription absolutely free. Use code EOSO2021. Click here for details.