Amazon bigwigs to jet into Cape Town for ‘Grand Opening’

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The world’s most famous online retailer, Amazon.com, is gearing up for a big launch in Cape Town, with bigwigs flying into the country from the States.

Among the executives will be Marc Onetto, Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Operations and Customer Service. Onetto will be joined in August by members of the press for what Amazon are calling a “Grand Opening”. The VP will view a “new facility”, which is essentially the company’s upgraded call centre that was set up last year.

The centre, which has been operational since October 2010, came with the promise of 600 new jobs in its first year, along with an extra 400 seasonal jobs annually. Call centre support is provided primarily in English and German to Amazon’s American and Central European customer bases.

Amazon also operates a development hub in Cape Town, which has been running since 2005. The team plays a key role in the building and management of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

According to the Development Centre’s site,” EC2 is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers”. The service also claims to provide “developers with complete control of their computing resources and lets them run on Amazon’s proven computing environment”.

South Africa’s time-zone proximity to Europe was cited as one the major factors in choosing to have a Customer Service Centre in the country, along with a lower staff turnover rate than in other regions, such as India, which are more well known for housing customer service centres.

Prior to the centre’s becoming operational, Brent Jaye, director of Amazon’s North American customer service division spoke about the online retail giant’s decision to situate the facility in the Western Cape and Cape Town in particular.

“…Cape Town is widely regarded for its hospitality, and we are excited about drawing upon this customer-centric talent pool,” he said at the time.

The Western Cape is becoming a choice destination both for development centres and customer service centres like Amazon’s. Previous big name entrants to the province include Google, with its startup lab Umbono and Tata Communications which opened its Cape Town data centre, in March 2010.

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