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Category winner: Amazon’s Big Data Strategy

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This case won the Knowledge, Information and Communication Systems Management category at The Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2019.
The case
Jeff Bezos

Who – the protagonist

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.


Amazon is the giant US online retailer that started out as an internet book shop, but is now, 25 years later, a seller of millions of items around the world.


whatAn internet services firm which offers a large range of services for individuals and corporations, Amazon has evolved into a big data company.

Big data has effectively transformed the way Amazon does business, as it has allowed them to better understand the precise products that customers want.


Amazon has opened websites in Asia-Pacific and Europe after starting life in Bezos’ native US.


After being launched in 1994, Amazon realised in the early 2000s that big data could transform their company.

By 2009 Amazon was buying Zappos for $1.2billion and using big data to check fraud in the organisation. Quite a difference from selling books from Bezos’ garage 15 years earlier.

Key quote

“At Amazon’s recommendation team, we asked ourselves, how do we take this data and make a little bit more money, how do we apply it in this channel differently and it was really neat. Now it is being called ‘Big Data’ in the marketing and media world, but at the time we were doing this stuff, it was just kind of putting one foot in front of the other.” – David Sellinger, former Software Manager (Customer Behaviour Research) at Amazon.

googleWhat next?

Amazon could use big data in a multitude of ways going forward such as limiting paid-for product reviews, or better competing with the likes of Google.

Interested in finding out more?

Download the case and teaching note

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Amazon’s Big Data Strategy
Ref 914-005-1
Teaching note
Ref 914-005-8

The authors


Debapratim Purkayastha and Adapa Srinivasa Rao

Debaparatim and Adapa discuss cases readying students for future employment and the thrill of case writing.

Preparing students for employment

Debapratim said: “Over the past decade there have been tremendous advancements in information and communication technology. Disruptive technologies have affected every business, cutting across industries. Businesses are required to have ambitious, well-considered transformation strategies if they are to stay relevant over the coming years.

Preparing students for employment“They are also looking for recruits who not only understand the changing realities, but are equipped with the right skills to tap into the opportunities presented by the disruptive change, while mitigating any potential risks. As a teacher, it is our duty to make our students ready for this, and one of the best ways is to expose them to cases that deal with these issues.”

Further experience

Adapa explained: “This is the third award I have won from The Case Centre (the other awards were in 2014 with a case on Nike, and 2015 with a case on Google). I feel very glad for getting recognition for my work, and I wish to gain more expertise in case writing in the future.

“I learned a lot from working with Debapratim over the past few years. His guidance helped me in honing my writing and analytical skills, and I wish to continue our association with him in the future.”

Case writing joyCase writing joy

Debapratim commented: “Case writing is a creative process, and the activity of crafting the case is such a joy in itself.

“Moreover, researching a particular topic when writing a case provides the writer with an opportunity to learn so many new things.

“The learning is so much more than the facts you put in the case, and the insights you put in the teaching note. It can greatly improve an individual’s teaching abilities.”

Inspiring students

He added: Amazon is one of the internet-based businesses which had a profound impact on the industry.

“Most of the students are already aware of the products and services of the company; and, having experienced them themselves, they can relate to them better. Amazon has a pioneering image and many students view it as an exciting or ‘happening’ company known for its innovation and disrupting markets. Jeff Bezos is also a very visible leader, and I am sure at least a section of the students may be looking up to him as their role model.”

No right length

Debapratim concluded: “I always believe that the depth of the case is more important than its length. It’s not always necessary for a case to be long for it to have the adequate depth.

“Earlier in my career, I used to write many cases that were nearly 30 pages or longer, yet very popular.

“Of late, I have become a little conscious and try to write cases with eight-12 pages of text and not exceeding a total of 20 pages including exhibits and appendices.”

About the authors

Debapratim Purkayastha is a Dean at ICFAI Business School (IBS) and heads its Case Research Center and the Internationalization of IFHE.
e debapratim@icmrindia.org
tw @dpurkayastha

Adapa Srinivasa Rao is a case writer at ICFAI Business School (IBS).
e adapavasu@gmail.com


View all the 2019 winners