Tag: Amazon

Is Amazon planning to enter SA?

Amazon is shopping around for warehouse space in South Africa, leading to industry speculation that the company could be looking to enter the local e-commerce sector, according to a recent MyBroadband article.

Amazon did not respond to MyBroadband’s request for comment on the matter.

However, every year for the last 12 years, there have been rumours that Amazon is coming to South Africa based on incomplete information.

Where speculation was rife that Amazon was entering online retail in South Africa more than a decade ago, the company instead launched a local call centre to provide support for its products to customers worldwide.

In the event that Amazon did enter the local e-commerce space,  it is expected to go one of two ways according to MyBroadband: they could acquire a local player; or enter the market directly.

Many South African e-commerce players are hoping for a buy-out offer from Amazon, as competing against the global retail giant is seen as a losing battle.

Amazon offers seamless importing for South African shoppers by estimating taxes and import duties for items it can ship to the country.

It provides a guarantee on this cost estimate. If taxes end up lower, Amazon repays you the difference. If taxes are higher than estimated, Amazon eats the loss.

A recent example where Amazon bought out a local player is Souk.com, which was the largest e-commerce platform in the Arabic-speaking world.

Amazon Egypt is the company’s only African retail presence so far. Amazon.co.za currently redirects to the main Amazon.com website.

Amazon experiences server outage

By Richard Lawler for The Verge

Problems with some Amazon Web Services cloud servers caused slow loading or failures for significant chunks of the Internet. Amazon’s widespread network of data centres powers many of the things you interact with online, including this website, so as we’ve seen in previous AWS outage incidents, any problem has massive rippling effects. People started noticing problems at around 10:45AM ET, and just after 6PM ET the AWS Status showed “Many services have already recovered, however we are working towards full recovery across services.”

While some affected services that rely on AWS have been restored, the internet is still a bit slower and more unsteady than usual. The most important app impacted by the outage might be the ones that Amazon employees use. CNBC points out Reddit posts from Amazon Flex, warehouse, and delivery workers who say the apps that keep track of packages, tell them where to go, and generally keep your items on time went down, too.

There have been reports of outages for Disney Plus and Netflix streaming, as well as games like PUBG, League of Legends, and Valorant. We also noticed some problems accessing Amazon.com and other Amazon products like the Alexa AI assistant, Kindle ebooks, Amazon Music, and security cameras from Ring or Wyze. The DownDetector list of services with simultaneous spikes in their outage reports runs off nearly any recognisable name: Tinder, Roku, Coinbase, both Cash App and Venmo, and the list goes on.

There were reports from network admins everywhere about errors connecting to Amazon’s instances and the AWS Management Console that controls their access to the servers. After about an hour of problems, Amazon’s official status page added an update with messages confirming the outage.

The root cause of this issue is an impairment of several network devices in the US-EAST-1 Region. We are pursuing multiple mitigation paths in parallel, and have seen some signs of recovery, but we do not have an ETA for full recovery at this time. Root logins for consoles in all AWS regions are affected by this issue, however customers can login to consoles other than US-EAST-1 by using an IAM role for authentication.

With the problems coming from the US-EAST-1 AWS region in Virginia, users elsewhere may not have seen as many issues, and even if you were affected, it could manifest as slightly slower loading while the network rerouted your requests somewhere else.

Black Friday march against Amazon in Cape Town

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

An action group will be holding a march on Black Friday, 26 November 2021, to voice its opposition to the construction of Amazon’s new South African headquarters.

The Liesbeek Action Campaign, which claims to represent the San and Khoi, Goringhaicona, Observatory Civic Association, and indigenous peoples of South Africa, plans to hand over a petition with 57,600 signatures to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the site of the development in River Club, Cape Town.

According to current plans, Amazon will be the anchor tenant at the R4.5-billion project, developed on a site along the Liesbeek River by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust.

It will consist of a mixed-use space divided into commercial and housing uses across two precincts.

The commercial area will include a hotel, retail space, restaurants, a school, and conference and event facilities.

The development is expected to boost the Cape Town economy and create more than 5,000 direct jobs and 19,000 indirect and induced jobs.

However, the Liesbeek Action Campaign wants the project to be dropped on “environmental and heritage grounds”.

It states that the River Club site was a floodplain location and an area of historical significance where earlier battles between South Africa’s indigenous people Portuguese settlers took place over 500 years ago.

The march on Friday forms part of a broader global movement dubbed “Make Amazon Pay“, which is calling for a global strike against the ecommerce giant’s wage policies, tax practices, and environmental impact.

“More than 70 trade unions, civil society organisations, environmentalists and tax watchdogs across 26 countries will take action on its infamous Black Friday sale to demand the shopping giant provide better treatment to its employees and address the concerns of communities impacted by this corporate behemoth,” said the group.

It is calling on supporters to join it at the planned development site to “reclaim the river as a protected life-giving entity that can’t be buried to make way for 150,000 square metres of concrete”.

“The Liesbeek Action Campaign is joining Make Amazon Pay to remind the world that the struggle against the River Club development is a global struggle because Amazon doesn’t appear to care what impact it has on workers, communities and the environment in whatever country it operates.”

“We see the same indifference here in Observatory as it shows when it exploits its workers and prevents their unionisation, and dodges taxes,” it added.

According to the group, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) is busy grading the site as a national heritage resource. At the same time, the developers “ploughed ahead with indifference, constructing Amazon’s behemoth buildings that will forever destroy the intangible heritage of a key heritage site”.

Former Cape Town mayor Dan Plato previously warned that blocking the headquarters could cost the city and South Africa dearly.

Plato said not only would thousands of jobs be in jeopardy, but money expected to flow into the city, provincial, and national government’s coffers would be lost.

The objections raised by the Liesbeek Action Campaign have also been dismissed by the First Nations Collective, led by Chief Zenzile Khoisan.

The First Nations Collective includes leaders and structures who form part of the “Khoi and San” resurgence.

Khoisan explained that there was an agreement with the Liesbeek Lesure Properties Trust that would ensure the heritage, history, and culture of the First Nations group were preserved on-site.

The development will include an indigenous garden, heritage eco-trail, garden amphitheatre, and other symbols central to the First Nations narrative.

“This is the first developer in South Africa’s history to honour indigenous groups,” stated Khoisan.

“It’s a massive triumph because the entire 6km of this site is going to be landmarked with the searing narrative that represents our dispossession, our genocide,” he said.

“All of the crimes that have been committed are going to be signposted across this entire development.”

The developers have also promised to rehabilitate the River Club’s degraded lands and surrounding ecosystem, which ecological assessments regard as a “biodiversity bomb” due to the disintegrated river system and illegal dumping in recent years.

 

Amazon to launch own-branded TVs

By Jay Peters for The Verge

Amazon is set to release Amazon-branded TVs as soon as October in the US, according to Insider. The TVs will have Alexa, screen sizes “in the range of 55 to 75 inches,” and will be designed and manufactured by third parties such as TCL, Insider reports. The company is also developing a TV designed in-house, Insider says, but it’s unclear when that might be released.

Amazon already has many irons in the fire with TVs — it partners with Best Buy to sell Toshiba and Insignia TVs that run Amazon’s Fire TV software, offers an AmazonBasics-branded TV in India, and has the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV Cube, which you can hook up to your TV. But this rumored new Amazon-branded TV could indicate that the company is stepping up its television efforts to take on TV stalwarts like LG and Samsung more directly.

Amazon didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Amazon slayer: open e-commerce

Source: Mint

The investing world is enthralled by a determined Beijing as it cuts China’s private sector down to size by relentless regulatory action. That’s good news for New Delhi: its more subtle manoeuvres in the same direction are going largely unnoticed.

Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.’s Flipkart, however, would surely have felt the rising temperatures. Even as they weigh draft e-commerce rules that seek to restrict online marketplaces — not just theirs, but also the planned super-app by India’s Tata Group — a new existential threat lurks around the corner: a state-sponsored open network for digital commerce.

In China, homegrown stores like Taobao, Tmall and JD.com have an unshakable dominance in online retail. But now, the only other billion-people-plus opportunity open to American capital is also slipping away from its grasp.

It’s unclear how exactly India’s open e-commerce network will work — or if it will work at all. The template, according to the press statement, is the country’s highly successful Unified Payments Interface, a public utility that allows any entity to process real-time payments over smartphones provided a set of common protocols is followed. The UPI network has in a short time eclipsed proprietary card-based payments.

Fashioning a similar open network for online commerce will be a lot trickier. It’s easy to make a set of rules where there’s a simple, single-point objective of satisfying the central bank that the same funds aren’t being spent twice. Commerce, by contrast, involves far fuzzier outcomes. Did the consumer get the product she paid for? Did it arrive in one piece? Was the article genuine or a counterfeit? Was the returns policy enforceable? Additionally, brands selling online have to worry about resellers’ creditworthiness and their ability to manage complicated distribution logistics in a country with poor physical infrastructure.

The ministry says that merchants will be able to save their data under the open network to build credit history and reach consumers, breaking silos imposed by platforms “to drive innovation and scale.” Several questions arise: Are Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart, which aren’t directing even 10% of India’s $800 billion annual retail sales between them, stifling innovation to a point where the harm exceeds their positive influence from aggregating demand? Should they, therefore, be mandated to operate their merchant-onboarding processes according to some preset rules, eroding much of their power to determine what goes on over platforms in which they have invested billions of dollars? Like everywhere else, the danger with dominant marketplaces in India is that they will copy the bestselling ideas of merchants and introduce them as private labels. But is this threat currently so large as to require a systematic downgrading of platforms?

Not allowed to own inventory, the two dominant foreign-owned marketplaces have solved many of the underlying problems of trust by using a handful of large sellers they can control. This practice, challenged by some traders’ groups as discriminatory, is now in the crosshairs of India’s competition regulator. So intense is the scrutiny that Amazon’s joint venture with Indian software tycoon Narayana Murthy has decided to fold up by the middle of next year. The seven-year-old JV owns Cloudtail, the largest seller on Amazon’s India website. As the news website Morning Context notes, Cloudtail helped relatively smaller manufacturers — such as a saree brand from Rajasthan — acquire national reach on Amazon, something they may not have achieved on their own. Consumers are getting more choice than before. Once large platform-aligned buyers like Cloudtail are chased out, Amazon’s customer satisfaction scores could be hard to sustain.

As India deliberately de-emphasises the platform model, even the conglomerate Tata Group, which is planning a marketplace extending from fashion and lifestyle to electronics, may be handicapped if it’s unable to sell a cup of Starbucks coffee on its website. That’s because Starbucks Corp.’s joint venture in India with Tata makes it a connected party, which can’t act as a seller on the super-app, according to draft e-commerce rules. Ditto for Walmart Inc.’s separate wholesale unit. As an affiliated entity of Flipkart, it may not be allowed to hawk a shirt on the retail website.

The winner may be someone pursuing a different business model for aggregating supplies. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, controls both the largest chain of physical stores and the biggest telco. Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. could carry its own inventory, using its $180 billion balance sheet to buy and stock third-party merchandise and sell it online or offline — or in a hybrid online-offline setup.

A deliberate assault on the economics of digital platforms will possibly rank among the most far-reaching separations of platforms and commerce seen anywhere in recent years — save China’s recent forced restructuring of Ant Group Co.‘s operations. America’s historic moves to segregate coal from railroads, commercial enterprises from banking, and television networks from programming took place in a very different era that ended with breaking up AT&T Inc.’s lock on communications in 1982. But the pendulum is swinging again. Lina Khan, chosen by President Joe Biden to chair the Federal Trade Commission, is a keen proponent of a more muscular approach to reining in tech platforms.

This shifting zeitgeist gives New Delhi the perfect cover to prepare its Amazon slayer, even though digital commerce in India is at present just a sideshow. Far bigger anticompetitive forces are at play in sectors ranging from telecoms and ports to airports.

But then, politicians like to invent challenges that don’t exist, rather than tackle those that do. An open digital commerce network is one such solution searching for a problem. Emasculating the economics of platforms will give a big advantage to retailers who are allowed to own inventory. It could turn out to be more efficient, but not necessarily more competitive.

 

Competition Commission to investigate Amazon

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

The Competition Commission’s enquiry into South Africa’s digital market will include international platforms, which means the Amazon Store, the Apple App Store, and the Google Play Store would form part of its investigation.

The Commission announced it would be launching the Online Intermediation Platforms Market Inquiry (OIPMI) in February 2021, a few months after it published its “Competition in the Digital Economy” whitepaper.

The Commission said it had reasons to believe that market features exist that impeded, distorted or restricted competition amongst the platforms and undermined the Competition Act’s purposes.

South Africa’s biggest online retailer Takealot was singled out for its dominance in e-commerce.

Responding to recent requests for clarification on the scope of the inquiry, the Commission said the OIPMI was not restricted to only platforms that had a physical presence in South Africa.

“The scope of the OIPMI includes foreign-based online intermediation platforms that have an economic effect in South Africa even if such platforms do not have a physical presence in the country,” the CC said.

“Foreign-based or international platforms that lack a physical presence — for instance through an incorporated entity in South Africa — still fall within the jurisdiction of the Act and hence the Inquiry itself.”

“The inquiry is whether the platform has an effect within the Republic, not whether it has a physical presence,” it added.

The Commission said some international platforms might be market leaders domestically in areas such as app stores and online travel and accommodation platforms, which is why they form part of the investigation.

“Whilst some types of online intermediation platform may require a physical presence, it is apparent from the nature of digital markets that services can still be provided to consumers and business users domestically without a physical presence.”

“Foreign-based platforms contract directly with South African business users to be present on their platforms and facilitate transactions with South African consumers, as well as with foreign consumers using South African businesses.”

“Their economic activities, therefore, have a direct effect on both business users and consumers within South Africa.”

Although the Commission did not name specific platforms, its statement implies it will likely be looking into the role of Amazon.com, the world’s biggest e-commerce store, which also ships products to South Africa and last year started allowing South African businesses to sell on its platform.

Given that Android and iOS are the two leading smartphone platforms in the country, the Google Play Store and Apple App Store are the dominant mobile stores in South Africa, and would be subject to investigation.

Under travel and accommodation, leading players likely include Airbnb and Booking.com.

The Commission said while certain international platforms raised the issue of whether their economic effect within South Africa was substantial or not, the Inquiry would determine this.

“Substantiality cannot be determined simply by reference to the share of South Africa in the overall business of the platform or to the number of transactions taking place,” the Commission said.

“The determination needs to be properly assessed within a context which cannot occur if there is no co-operation around information which provides the Inquiry with a better understanding of the context.”

“For this reason, the Inquiry will require that any international platforms which have an economic effect within South Africa respond to information requests and participate in public hearings if requested to do so.”

 

Amazon on a hiring spree in South Africa

Amazon is advertising 168 jobs in South Africa, including work-from-home positions that can be done anywhere in the country.

South Africa is one of the countries where Amazon is expanding its presence. Last year Amazon Web Services (AWS) went live with the Cape Town region, which opened many new positions.

This followed an announcement by Amazon in June 2020 that it was hiring 3 000 new staff members in South Africa, ranging from customer service associates to technical experts.

Amazon customer service director in South Africa, Andrew Raichlin, said they were “thrilled with the talent in South Africa.”

This hiring spree will take the number of employees of Amazon in South Africa to 7 000, which makes it one of the largest tech employers in the country.

Another vote of confidence in South Africa is Amazon’s decision to base its new African headquarters in Cape Town.

The company is the anchor tenant in the new R4-billion River Club development, which received the go-ahead from the City of Cape Town earlier this year.

Amazon’s expansion in South Africa continues and the company is now advertising many new vacancies in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

There are also a few work from home vacancies where successful candidates can work from anywhere in South Africa. Applicants must have a fibre broadband connection at home.

Most of the new Amazon jobs are technical, including operations and support engineering, software development, and technical product management.

TOWER reaches Amazon UK’s digital shelves

In May 2021, leading South African self-adhesive products brand TOWER launched their range on the proverbial shelves of online retailer giant, Amazon.

This move will give TOWER a boost as well as inspire fellow South African brands to brave the international online shopping space, especially within the United Kingdom.

Despite its small size geographically, the United Kingdom is a big e-commerce player, with annual online sales at $99 billion, a 14.5% share of the global e-commerce market.

TOWER’s main purpose for expanding their online presence and selling on Amazon is to grow the reach of the brand. CEO of TOWER, Stephen Beattie, comments: “We’ve established ourselves to be a strong brand with solid values and an unwavering commitment to quality products. We are now looking to the future to scale up the business internationally.”

Beattie explains that, “TOWER is an international company that happens to be headquartered in Cape Town. We want to honour our roots and leverage our international ties to share the benefits of our products in every office, school and home worldwide.”

What stands out about Amazon to TOWER, however, is not just their impressive distribution channels, but their dedication to the consumer experience. Partnering with a company like Amazon is a good fit for TOWER who is a consumer centric business that champions the stories and experiences of business professionals, teachers and parents.

TOWER’s focus on the consumer drives their product development and TOWER understands the needs of parents and teachers who guide and encourage the developing minds and confidence of children.

TOWER has chosen the 30 best-selling range of school labels and stickers to sell on Amazon, which focus on encouragement and rewards. Acknowledgment of a job well done, or the encouragement to keep trying, are important affirmations to provide children when they are learning, and TOWER hopes they can spread joy and positivity to children and inspire other South African businesses to reach for success beyond the borders of South Africa.

 

Amazon to build new headquarters in Cape Town

By Dan Meyer for The South African

The City of Cape Town has given the go-ahead for the construction of a R4-billion mixed-use development to be occupied primarily by global retail giant Amazon, with some 19 000 jobs promised to those responsible for carrying out the project.

Executive mayor Dan Plato said in a statement on Monday 19 April that the 15-hectare parcel of land in the River Club has been approved for development by the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, with development promising to provide “a significant boost to the Cape Town economy as the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown [continues]”.

Plato said that the 150 000 square metre mixed-use space will be divided into commercial and housing uses across two precincts, and said that heritage considerations have been accounted for.

“The city has carefully and thoroughly considered all of the submissions and concerns during the appeal process. We are acutely aware of the need to balance investment and job creation, along with heritage and planning considerations,” he said.

“It is clear that this development offers many economic, social and environmental benefits for the area. We are committed to driving investment to revitalise the economy, which is slowly recovering following the impact of COVID-19,” said Plato.

The proposed development will contain the following:

  • 59 600 SQM office space;
  • 20 700 SQM retail space;
  • 8 200 SQM hotel;
  • 4,100 SQM gym;
  • Restaurants, conferencing, school and events space

The developers of the project have pledged to assign 20% of the residential floor space to affordable housing opportunities. A total of 31 900 SQM of the development is intended for residential purposes.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomed the announcement, saying that the potential job creation is vital.

“The DA welcomes the announcement that Amazon will establish its South African headquarters in the City of Cape Town. This project has the potential to create up 19 000 jobs – 5 239 during the construction phase alone – and will inject an estimated R4 billion into the local economy,” they said.

The DA said that the announcement highlights the City of Cape Town’s success in “setting itself at the forefront of investment and economic development in the country, while keeping local concerns front of mind”.

“The extended COVID-19 lockdown has caused devastation on the South African economy, with Cape Town not escaping this economic fall-out. This development that will serve to revitalise the local economy and increase the trust already placed in the competence of the Western Cape government, once again proving that the DA does it better.”

 

Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO

Source: EWN

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced that he will stand aside later this year as chief executive of the company he built from a startup into one of the world’s most valuable firms.

The world’s richest person based on his Amazon stake, Bezos said he will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter, handing over the CEO role to Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon Web Services.

The news came as Amazon reported a blowout holiday quarter with profits more than doubling to $7.2 billion and revenue jumping 44 percent to $125.6 billion – as pandemic lockdowns caused online sales to explode around the globe.

In a letter to Amazon employees, Bezos said he would “stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives” but would pivot towards philanthropic initiatives, including his Day One Fund and Bezos Earth Fund, and other business ventures in space exploration and journalism.

“I’ve never had more energy, and this isn’t about retiring,” Bezos wrote.

“I’m super passionate about the impact I think these organisations can have.”

Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in his garage in 1994 and went on to grow it into a colossus that dominates online retail, with operations in streaming music and television, groceries, cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and more.

His other businesses include The Washington Post newspaper and the private space firm Blue Origin.

His successor Jassy joined Amazon as a marketing manager in 1997 and in 2003 founded AWS, the cloud services division of the company which has been one of the most profitable but least-known units of the tech giant.

“He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence,” Bezos said of Jassy.

“Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition,” he said.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives saw giving command of Amazon to Jassy as a “major step up in the clouds arms race with crosstown rival Microsoft.”

Vast expansion

Bezos’s tenure at Amazon has been marked by a vast expansion globally and surges in profitability.

The company is based in Seattle, Washington, and is developing a second headquarters outside the US capital.

Amazon’s market value was some $1.69 trillion as of Tuesday, a tenfold increase from a decade ago, making it one of the world’s most valuable.

Bezos’s stake gives him a personal fortune worth an estimated $196 billion, slightly more than Tesla chief Elon Musk who had briefly captured the title of world’s wealthiest person.

Amazon has led other businesses by guaranteeing a minimum $15 per hour wage and has invested billions in COVID-19 mitigation – but it continues to face criticism over workplace conditions at its warehouse operations.

“The company Jeff Bezos started nearly three decades ago is under a cloud of scrutiny,” said Maurice BP-Weeks of activist group coalition Athena.

“Workers are speaking up, walking out, and organizing against miserable working conditions … Small businesses are banding together to challenge Amazon’s anti-competitive practices.”

The company employs more than one million people worldwide including 800,000 in the United States.

The transition comes with Amazon and other large tech firms under heightened scrutiny from antitrust enforcers in the United States and elsewhere for their dominance of key economic sectors, which has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Amazon has become the leading force in online commerce, Bezos has brushed aside criticism over its dominance of the sector.

He told a congressional hearing last year that Amazon accounts for less than four percent of retail spending in the United States and has a “range of retail competitors.”

The latest quarterly results showed growth across all business segments including its cloud computing as Amazon has expanded its streaming media offerings and grocery operations.

Neil Saunders of the research firm GlobalData said Amazon has boosted sales during the pandemic “off the back of its superior logistics network,” but also faces growing competition.

“We maintain our view that Amazon will emerge from the pandemic as a bigger and stronger business,” Saunders said.

“We welcome the leadership change, if only because it will allow Jeff Bezos to focus more on innovation and new ideas.”

 

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