“It’s Still Day 1.” Jeff Bezos’ famous words, painted on a white wall, greet the 6,000-odd Amazon employees every day as they swipe their IDs to enter the e-commerce company’s biggest office in Hyderabad financial district, Gachibowli. The words are a constant reminder of the billionaire’s core ideas of a successful startup: be obsessed with the customer, focus on results over process, quickly make high-quality decisions and embrace outside trends early on.
If that’s not enough, the interiors of the building—which can house 15,000 people, is spread across 9.5 acres, and has 2.5 times more steel than the Eiffel Tower—are splashed with Bezos’ core beliefs in art, text and pictures.
That’s just one focus area of Amazon’s largest office building in the world, though.
Each of the 12 floors has a separate theme that showcases the diversity of India—from art and culture to languages and movies—and blends it with the company’s ideals. Think a collage of mandalas placed together like the Buddhist prayer wheels to create a 5ft artwork, and a line below it reading, “Separate parts come together to make a whole.” Or a cut-out of “The Empty Chair” with a paisley pattern, pasted on a wall in a way that it gives a 3D effect, representing the “invisible but always present customer who makes the company more resilient”. (As a tradition, Amazon meetings across the world have an empty chair, representing the customer.)
“We had three things in mind when we started working on this building. Amazon’s core principles, the work Amazon is doing in India and the diversity of India,” says an Amazon India spokesperson, who wishes to remain anonymous.
It’s all about work
Each floor has about 1,000 workstations and hundreds more, what my tour guide called, “work points”. There’s never an opportunity to not work. Most spaces in building have “work points”, where employees can sit, in a group or solo, and work with their laptops. “We have actually seen their productivity increase when they are not sitting at the workstations,” says the guide.
If they want to take a break from work or simply stretch, there are billiard tables, yoga rooms, and areas dedicated to cricket and wall climbing. “The playing helps,” says a 25-year-old who works in the data team. “Whenever I get stuck with an idea, I come and play cricket. It refreshes me.”
The cafeteria spread across the second floor is another hit with employees, for it offers a variety of cuisines, including Oriental, Italian, north and south Indian and “home-like” food, at reasonable prices. Work points follow them in the canteen as well.
The belief that “ideas can pop up anywhere” is so deeply embedded in the Amazon office design that even the 49 elevators, which move one floor per second, have whiteboards installed. There are Huddle Rooms on each floor, where people can sit together and ideate and discuss, scrum areas, with tall tables and chairs and work points, right next to the workstation areas, and Focus Rooms, where employees can peel themselves away from distractions and concentrate in isolation.
“We wanted to create a seamless experience, whether you are an Amazon worker in the US or the UK. Our designs are based on our global standards,” claims the India spokesperson. But why Hyderabad, and not Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley, or Delhi-NCR, the newest hotspot for startups and unicorns in the country? “One-third of Amazon employees are based here. So it makes sense.”