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On December 14, 2015, Alfonso commented on Fast fashion? Faster distribution! :

Fantastic read Nina! You had a great description of the key factors that make Zara’s operating model a huge success in the fashion industry. It is fast, trendy and affordable! Indeed, the most healthy and sustainable Spanish company at the moment. What impresses me the most is how its outstanding logistics can lead to low inventories that can actually create an urgency to buy for customers. This goes also on top of the sense of exclusivity that Charlotte rightfully pointed out. When visiting the stores, the customers know that they have to buy clothes before they are sold out!

Thanks for writing about this amazing company!

On December 14, 2015, Alfonso commented on FinTech in Latin America: The New Age of Lending with Kueski :

Great post! I went to their website and it looks like a very straightforward process. I realized that loans can only be set for a maximum of 30 days there. Is that common approach for other fintech companies in the region? Really interesting that they work with information from social media accounts to build their credit rating algorithm.

Thank you for your great comment, Sid! Your question is spot on touches one critical area for effective renewable energy integration. Below my view on it, both at large scale projects and residential systems.

First Solar has been almost completely focused on the deployment of large utility-scale standalone PV plants (in the 20-300 MW range), giving the grid operator the capacity to regulate / dispatch power offtake from solar PV plants with other sources of generation at its territory (coal, gas, hydro, pumped storage, etc). In other words, overall grid integration was the responsibility of the grid operator. However, just last week First Solar announced a stake on a $50m investment in Younicos, a German start-up focused on deployment of large scale energy storage (big battery blocks). This interesting development might lead First Solar to integrate energy storage systems together with the PV system, hence facilitating the integration and dispatching functions for the grid operator. So to answer your question, First Solar is exploring already this option at the large scale project level.

On the residential level, First Solar is not present neither at PV nor at energy storage. This segment is dominated by players like SolarCity, which recently partnered up with Tesla for a bundled product including solar modules (SolarCity) and batteries (Tesla’s Powerwall). The partnership makes definitely sense and is not surprising at all (Elon Musk is a common factor in both companies).

With all this in mind, I believe First Solar will progressively integrate energy storage as an add-on in its offering for grid operators. Should the company enter the competitive residential market, it will have to evaluate how to differentiate and outcompete tandems such as SolarCity-Tesla.

Great post Yuta. I wonder how ANA’s management has been so detached from the execution of its corporate strategy. I still cannot believe that ANA wants to promote customer satisfaction by not taking care of its FAs. I wonder how successful the airline is with employee retention and how they can make sure that the Omotenashi culture is maintained over time.

Do you know whether ANA is outcompeting other Japanese airlines at both tourist and business segments? Looking at the reasons you described, I understand that the Omotenashi lends itself better for long-haul flights with more time for the FAs to perform. That would explain how ANA has surpassed Japan Airlines in international operations. And that can well be a consequence of the great service FA can provide with more in-flight time and less pressure to serve customers.

On December 14, 2015, Alfonso commented on Is Telsa’s Battery Turbo-Charged? :

Great post!! Tesla is one of the most interesting companies out there, not only for its disruption at the automotive industry but also for its potential on other applications where its Li-ion batteries can create value for the end-customer.

I am very curious about the plans behind its Gigafactory in Reno, which will start operations in 2017. There are also rumors about more Tesla battery gigafactories in Germany or Japan in the next decade. It seems that Tesla plans to scale production as a way to lead cost reduction. With the recent launch of its Tesla Powerwall for home use, the company may well try to ensure volume of home battery orders and benefit directly its electric car division from a manufacturing cost standpoint. So I agree with Alice and wonder whether the company will play at the electric car or battery industry in the future. That said, I really like its cars!

On December 14, 2015, Alfonso commented on FC Barcelona: Mes Que Un Club :

Great post Francisco! As an objective soccer fan, I recognize that FC Barcelona has done a great job in the last 10-15 years in building the structure it has today and in promoting players from La Masia. They have been loyal to a style of play that proved to be both entertaining and effective. That indeed substantiated the great success of the Spanish National Team in the 2008-2012 period.

However, l believe that much of the competitive edge for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid comes from the lack of level playing field in the Spanish La Liga with the unbalanced distribution of TV rights. That makes them alternate at the top every year (with few exceptions such as Atletico de Madrid in 2014) and increase more and more the gap with small teams. It became normal to have Barça and Madrid making 95-100 points (out of 114) in the last 6 seasons. And that never happened before in Spain. Hopefully the new TV deal enacted for the season 2016/17 will make that gap shrink and increase the competition level a bit.

Secondly, I wanted to comment on the youth program operating model and raise another red flag. I see that as the main success driver for the club, with the emergence of Messi and Iniesta as the best examples here. I think this is the right approach and I have always been missing something similar for Real Madrid. That said, Barça incurred also in inapproriate acquisition of young international players that was not compliant with FIFA rules. And now you have the ban on transfers the club was imposed for this practice. FC Barcelona should implement effective control to avoid these situations.