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On December 1, 2017, angieslist commented on Guinness and Brexit: What’s it all A-stout? :

This is so intriguing – case in point for Brexit’s far-reaching impact on trade and how high the stakes are for Ireland given the UK is their biggest export market – it is interesting to learn that just a simple addition of border controls could have such a huge impact on cost and supply chain efficiency. Seeing how this is so damaging even for a global and diversified company like Diageo, I could only imagine the number of small manufacturers and traders that would easily go out of business as a result of the “hard border”.

If I were Diageo’s management, I would prioritize mitigation measures that minimize the disruption to current operations given the huge uncertainty of how the border negotiations will play out, and not assume the worst-case scenario for now. For instance, I would work with logistics providers to find options to optimize like consolidating shipments or using larger trucks to reduce the frequency and costs of crossings. They could also initiate risk mitigation discussions with competitors and other consumer goods players in the same boat to further consolidate and jointly lobby for exemptions from customs rules. I also like your idea of passing the cost on to customers given the relatively low price sensitivity and Guinness’ strong brand value.

I wouldn’t consider moving the Belfast factory at this stage. In this sensitive period of time, any rumors and speculations of shutting down Belfast could be very damaging to employee morale and government relationship. Right now, the Northern Ireland border issue is one of the key roadblocks hindering the progress of Brexit negotiations and there is pressure on Theresa May to provide more clarity on the plan in the next few weeks. Diageo should stay close to policymakers to monitor latest developments, have a beer and hope for the best.

On December 1, 2017, angieslist commented on Would your favorite wine still be around in 2050? :

HJ, thanks for shedding light on this – the wine crisis definitely deserves as much spotlight as the food crisis if not more.

I think the wine industry can draw some lessons from the coffee industry on sustainable development, especially on industry collaboration and public-private partnership. Having seen some organic/ biodynamic wineries in Napa and Sonoma, my sense is that most sustainability efforts are piecemeal with limited serious investments in technological advancement, resulting in limited impact. While Jackson, with its scale and high-tech solutions, is doing more than the smaller players, they cannot make a meaningful impact if they are doing it alone.

Establishing a sustainability authority like Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance that sets standards in the winegrowing industry, certifies wineries, coordinates with both private and public sector stakeholders will be crucial to drive change in regulation and industry practices. Some other New World wine-producing countries like Australia and New Zealand have rolled out similar large-scale collaborative programs that California can learn from. Competitive business interests aside, sustainability is a topic that calls for industry-wide knowledge sharing and resources, and it is up to market leaders like Jackson to convene others players and get conversations started on co-investing in sustainable value chains and farming technologies that create a win-win for everyone in the long run.

Completely agree with you that digitizing content of books is just a first step and the entire learning process has to be digitized for this to scale and achieve broad impact. To your question on adoption and digital literacy, I think offline and hardware will be essential to supplement digitized medium in the initial stage to boost adoption and educate all parties including schools, teachers, parents and students. NCERT should set up digital learning centers equipped with desktop computers and tablets in a convenient location in each town to provide access to the online content and generate awareness, familiarity and excitement around e-learning. Feedback should be collected to improve both the process and content. Also, training and engagement for teachers here is just as important as students – NCERT should introduce incentives for teachers to adopt technology in classroom teaching and establish public-private partnerships with organizations (both private education companies like Education First and non-profits like Khan Academy) to learn from their international experiences in rolling out digital education models.

On November 30, 2017, angieslist commented on Siemens’ choice on Brexit Island :

I echo the above sentiments of taking a more reactive wait and see approach instead of acting on the worst case scenario for now, given the huge uncertainty on soft vs hard Brexit scenarios and that negotiations are likely to drag on even longer than the 2-year transition period planned.

Among the key factors you identified, impact on exchange rates is the most certain one so Siemens should prioritize addressing this by looking into alternative steel suppliers from outside the EU and start assessing the feasibility of expanding the Hull production facilities to produce other components and take advantage of lower costs. Since the future of tariffs and trade agreements is still a huge question mark, Siemens should hold off on de-linking supply chains and any drastic actions with major impact on operations until there is more clarity on negotiation outcomes. With its 50% market share in wind turbines in the UK, Siemens is also well-positioned to convene other industry players and lead lobbying efforts with the German and British governments on potential tariff exemptions and try to influence negotiations on trade agreements.

On November 30, 2017, angieslist commented on Free Apple Watch! and other ways Aetna is embracing digitization :

Big data and telemedicine innovations are definitely game-changers in the health insurance industry. In addition to risk prediction, data collection via wearables can also incentivize desirable behavior and provide input for dynamic pricing of insurance products based on the customer’s activity. Some health insurance players in Asia (e.g., Manulife) have innovated on pricing programs that offer discounts to the customer based on their exercise progress monitored by a fitness wearable device that comes free with the insurance product.

The industry is also seeing vertical integration and online-to-offline integration across the supply chain as evident from CVS’ recent acquisition discussions with Aetna and Amazon’s moves in recruiting health insurance experts to potentially enter the healthcare space. It will be critical for health insurance players to develop analytics capabilities and meaningful e-commerce and telemedicine partnerships to sustain a competitive advantage. Data privacy will be a major concern, especially in developed markets like the US, and the speed of regulatory development and security sophistication of players make a huge difference in whether this will take off.

On November 27, 2017, angieslist commented on A Green Merchant of Death? :

Philip Morris as a sustainability leader – who would’ve thought? This is an interesting paradox that made me reflect on “moral flexibility” (also per Thank You for Smoking) – I agree that as long as the billion-dollar tobacco industry exists, PMI’s “sustainable cigarettes” are creating value for the environment and customers by offering a “lesser evil”, and they deserve more credit than they are getting.
While this also meets business objectives of cost savings and mitigating environmental variability risks, I wouldn’t undermine the value and CSR motives of these initiatives given PMI has invested in truly market-leading approaches of analytically measuring climate impact and minimizing the value chain’s carbon footprint. They should share these innovations more broadly in the agricultural sector and become a vocal leader in the space, which also serves their brand image well.
On the customer front, smoking has long been seen as a behavior that’s both self-destructive and harmful to others – PMI’s innovation gives them a new point of differentiation to appeal to younger demographics that are more socially aware and responsible (“I care more about the earth than my own body” could be an interesting marketing message). PMI should communicate and market their sustainability efforts more actively to make it a competitive edge.