Saturday, November 01, 2014

Amazon ACErs: The story behind the glory

Motivational speeches start with the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough”. But here, we were more scared of making a fool out of ourselves. There were 18 cases under 6 different categories in the first round. When most of the teams were jostling over the Operations case, we were quick to tag it out of our league. Sales was the next obvious choice for most of the teams, but we were scared of the “war” in that category. With an eye on the Amazon Kindle, we chose the least preferred category “Onboarding Operations”. Initially, we thought of approaching the case with “structured gas” strategy. But after secondary research, we understood the importance of Onboarding Operations team in Amazon India Operations. All the cases given were live cases and needed “deep diving”. To understand the issues faced by the sellers, we registered ourselves as sellers in and the evaluators really liked this approach. We started liking the case more and more with passage of those 96 hours in hand. Two consecutive night outs, and bang- we scored a CV point in our minds by submitting the case 10 minutes before deadline.

“Team Hakuna Matata into the national finals!!! We are among the top 18 shortlisted teams out of the 3800 entries, only team from SPJIMR to qualify for the National finals this year. The other teams in our category--- IIM, Ahmedabad and ISB, Hyderabad. “Now this was big enough. We now started getting scared of our dreams. The burden of self-expectation dawned upon us. The team had this unsaid vow of touching the shore having swum across the entire river.

A new case was given and we had 120 hours to solve this case. 4 consecutive night outs and we could make some sense out of the case. We submitted the “white paper” 12 minutes before the deadline and the presentation slides 11 minutes before the deadline. All this was intentional to make our all submissions as 10min, 11min & 12min before deadline. Then we started our journey to Amazon Development Centre, Hyderabad. We felt like hot-shots with the hospitable treatment from Amazon. An A/C Tata Innova from college to Mumbai airport, business class tickets in Jet Airways, representatives standing with name placards to receive us in Hyderabad airport. We were in awe of this moment being PGP-1 students. Then came the stay at Hyatt Regency (a5-star hotel), and we were more than satisfied. Those awesome complimentary breakfasts, those spongy mattresses, and bathroom fittings which we took at least 5 minutes to figure out--- it was an experience in itself. We loved every minute of our stay at Hyatt, but now we were hungry for the big glory.

The final night out, making a presentation script and having 8 run-throughs of the presentation throughout the night was a lot of hard-work. Reworking on the strategy of presentation based on the philosophies of Amazon was a challenge but we pulled it off quite well. We were all geared up for the D-day. We tried to keep it light by joking around and not thinking about the presentation. Our slot was around noon and we listened to the other team presentations till then. We pepped ourselves up when the moment came, went on to the stage for execution. We promised ourselves to give our best and not care about the rest. We are proud to say that we were all “big match players”. Our final presentation was better than any of our run-throughs or rehearsals. We just nailed it in the presentation and the Q&A session. We were satisfied and proud of doing justice to all the night outs that we had put in. It was an out and out team effort. We had won each other’s respect which was more than the trophy for us. IIM-A presentation was good too, but it lacked the team dynamics we had. These nitty-gritties become important when competition is close.

The prize distribution starts and we have our fingers crossed. The judge takes the mike and announces “The national winners for Amazon ACE Onboarding operations goes to the team which ensured “all izz well” and whose team name means “no worries”—Team Hakuna Matata”. And we have not jumped that high ever in our lives. It was an unexplainable feeling. A feeling of satisfaction, a feeling of realization of a dream which really scared us. All the materialistic rewards apart, the best gift to us was when the Amazon General Manager came to us personally and said, “This is one of the best presentations I have seen”. Along with these inspirational words, each of us received a PPI from Amazon, a Kindle Paper White, goodies and a certificate of excellence. Team Hakuna Matata was awarded a cash prize of INR 1,50,000.

In hindsight, I feel we actually used a lot of concepts that we learn in classrooms. For example- we used the Porter’s 5-forces model in our analysis which we thought to be “gas” otherwise. Specially, the business communication classes taught us delivery of presentation which came in really handy.

Special thanks to the entire SPJIMR family and to all who believed in us and pepped us up throughout the journey.

~Abhishek Mitra PGDM2014 Marketing

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