In 1994, when he founded it in the garage of his Seattle home, Jeff Bezos wanted to call it Abracadabra, but in the American pronunciation the word sounded similar to a corpse, and so he fell back on Amazon, recalls Mariangela Marseglia, country manager for Italy and Spain of the main electronic commerce company. Except that the Amazon River washes three states, while the bald tycoon has flooded much of the planet with his products, to become the richest inhabitant: the personal wealth amounts to 201.4 billion dollars (estimate of Forbesupdated on 21 March). Sent in October 2010 to conquer our country, Marseglia did not even have an office until 2012: I worked from Paris with a small group of young people, others worked from Luxembourg. In all we were about thirty people. Today with her 46 years the veteran of Amazon Italy, whose employees have an average age of 32, and can look at Milan from the roof garden of the Viale Monte Grappa headquarters, that is, from top to bottom: she employs 9,500 people and invoices 4.5 billion a year. At the first hub of Castel San Giovanni (Piacenza), it added two in the Rome area, three in Piedmont, one in Veneto. Three more will be inaugurated by 2021.
Marseglia was selected by Diego Piacentini, at the time senior vice president and second shareholder of Amazon after Bezos, later called by the Renzi government to cover pro bono from 2016 to 2018 the role of extraordinary commissioner for the implementation of the Digital Agenda. Five interviews before meeting him.
And why did he hire her?
Certainly not in my experience. I had been in marketing for years and was set to take care of books, logistics and purchasing. I think he had glimpsed something in my way of working and being.
I would take it for granted.
Here we try to identify talent rather than test experience. Working at Amazon means starting over. I didn’t know anything about digital, for example. I learned from scratch.
Do you know Jeff Bezos?
Know a big word. I was lucky enough to observe him at work in various meetings in the year I was Piacentini’s right hand man in the Seattle headquarters. We last met before the pandemic.
What type ?
I have never met a more original and curious person than him. Bezos does not belong to today: the man of the future. He does not get distracted by the background noise in which we are all immersed. It has long-term goals and pursues them with extraordinary perseverance and skills.
So why did he buy the Washington Post? Newspapers are considered by many to be remnants of the past.
Good question. Quality information will become more and more important, in my opinion. The citizen journalism contains a deception, whoever holds a cell phone in his hand makes you believe that he is a journalist. censorship in its modern form: in the past it was practiced by hiding the news, today by multiplying it excessively, so that you can no longer distinguish the true from the false. Bezos has understood that authoritative publishing is a winner in the long run. In fact the Washington Post he grows up, his accounts are in order. And she doesn’t hesitate to criticize Amazon too, I assure her as a subscriber to the digital edition.
Do you sell goods that you buy in bulk or do you just act as a platform?
With e with.
Who chooses which ones to showcase?
Who proposes them. We trust. There are no filters on our part. As long as they are not weapons and are not offensive or blasphemous. If we see signs of fraudulence, such as a made in China object passed off as artistic ceramic from Vietri sul Mare could be, we intervene.
You didn’t do it with Juicy Fart offered by Stoked Skills Llc for Alexa, your virtual assistant.
It seems like a joke to me, not a product. We are tolerant of skill developers. Definitely do a check.
But how many products does Amazon sell?
In Italy we have reached 250 million.
If I think that Bernardo Caprotti snorted when I asked him to bring the tuna with ‘nduja to Esselunga: But do you realize that I already have 27,000 references ?.
Caprotti was very good at billing twice as much as we do with 150 supermarkets.
Now you too can take your grocery shopping to your doorstep in two hours with Amazon Fresh.
Only in two cities: Milan, including many municipalities in the hinterland, and Rome.
An idea that you tested, right?
Yes, I was in charge of the Prime Now service in Europe. Milan in 2015 was the second city after London to experience it. Today it sells 20,000 products.
Imitate Esselunga con Amazon Go.
Not exactly. Ours are automated shops, without cash desks. For the moment there are two in London. I used the Seattle one. A futuristic experience. You enter, you are recognized with a QR code, take it from the shelves, go out and in a few seconds you will receive your receipt and credit card charge on your mobile.
What if you find an extra item in your account?
Contact customer service. But the system is never wrong. camera based, computer vision and artificial intelligence. I purposely tried to trick him by taking the products out, putting them back in the wrong places. No way.
Competition will get there too.
Do you know what the beauty of Amazon is? After testing a technology, it makes it available. So we could also sell it to Esselunga. If all the companies that innovate were to open up, they would multiply the benefits for the economy.
How much does your typical customer spend?
On average, buy one or two products per order and pay around 30-35 euros.
How much is left to you?
From a minimum of 5 percent to a maximum of 15, which varies if the retailer entrusts us with logistics and warehousing.
For 36 euros a year from subscribers for deliveries in 24-48 hours.
Amazon Prime also has monthly subscriptions. And in any case, it gives you shipping costs and gives you free access to movies, TV series and music.
How many items do you sell in one hour?
Frankly, I can’t tell him. We are not so obsessive in monitoring.
Aren’t you passionate about statistics?
Far from it, we like numbers very much. But more for the input than for the output.
Sell tot products per minute the result. But you get there only if you have worked well upstream. So I’m interested in running out of stocks, because I know that with every stock outage there is a missed sale and a lost income.
If the shopkeepers of the cities organized many small Amazon of proximity to deliver the shopping in an hour with the mototaxis, would you be doomed?
already happened. During the lockdown, the online turnover of physical companies increased by 30 percent. Competition welcome. Businesses that have not digitized by 2030 will suffer an inexorable decline, says the EU.
I read his motto: When there is the will, there is the way. But wanting to live on Jupiter is not enough to get there.
As you know, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, a space flight start up. important to cultivate dreams, to nurture good ambitions.
In the meantime, you are content to deliver the parcels to earth with drones.
We are doing it in Cambridge, in an experimental form. But there are weight and bulk limitations. It is clear that you cannot deliver an ironing board, even a light one, with the drone.
To transport an object to Trieste where should the drone leave?
The closest distribution center is Castelguglielmo, in the Rovigo province.
As the crow flies, it will be at least 180 kilometers. It would cost a fortune.
We are evaluating the adverse circumstances. A drone has a flight range of one hour. In addition, the customer must have a garden where he can land.
Retail traders hate you.
They are wrong. With us they can reach buyers outside their own catchment area and national borders. In Italy 14,000 small and medium-sized companies operate on Amazon, 600 of which with a digital turnover exceeding 800,000 euros. I could tell you dozens of stories about states of crisis that have been overcome thanks to us.
I settle for a couple.
Zenoni & Colombi di Nembro, household linen. During the pandemic, in full red zone, it multiplied online sales. Or Francesco Morici who from Trapani, with his Rarezze, sells almond paste throughout Europe.
They accuse you of work rhythms that would force the employees of your logistics centers to pee into the bottles.
I don’t even know what to answer. Every year 18,000 Italians visit our hubs and see toilets everywhere.
Yet CGIL, CISL and UIL have chosen to celebrate May 1st in front of the Amazon center in Passo Corese. Why?
I’m wondering too. In 2020 we hired 2,600 people on a permanent basis, we pay more than the contractual minimum, we even cover 95 percent of the retraining costs of employees who want to go to work elsewhere for four years.
Apparently you don’t pay taxes here.
False. In Italy, the tax contribution in 2019 amounted to 234 million euros.
Do you shop on Amazon?
Ah yes. Furniture, books, toys. But on weekends I buy fruit, vegetables, cheeses, salamis and honey at Cascina Biblioteca, a cooperative in Lambrate.
And why don’t you use Amazon Fresh?
Because a farm founded in 1200 by the Umiliati friars. And I find the animals there