Azeez Gupta

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On December 1, 2017, Azeez Gupta commented on Uniqlo: Uniquely Capable of Beating Zara? :

I enjoyed reading this article about a company and product I only first heard about 3 months ago, but has seemed ubiquitous since. I agree with the comments above that Uniqlo has so far been well saved from the fast fashion trend and it may make sense for them to continue with that strategy. However, I do feel, as suggested by Kiara that there is a huge opportunity in e-commerce, which is helped by the lack of product variety. For a recurring Uniqlo customer, there is very little value to be gained from actually visiting the store, as styles and designs don’t change much, compared to H&M and Zara where customers may actually wish to try out different styles and fashions to see how these look on them. So a lot of stores and associated costs can be done away with, if sales are shifted to their e-commerce platform, which would give Uniqlo a strong competitive advantage over brick and mortar dependent retailers.

Thanks Michael for a fascinating post and yet another example of how human tasks are being increasingly done by digital technology. Prophet seems to be an excellent product – however, I believe there are limitations to the forecasting ability of big data based regressions. Firstly, you need a large amount of historical and representative data to be able to draw good correlations and subsequent forecasts, and this may only exist in a few situations. Secondly, a model, that relies on correlation but does not understand causality, may not be able to account for fundamental changes that could mean the future forecast is very different from what the past would have predicted.

It’s interesting that Google’s CausalImpact seems to have taken a different approach, and maybe a combination of both may be the answer. But for good or bad, there still seems to be some time to go before excel monkeys with the ability to understand causality can be entirely done away with.

On December 1, 2017, Azeez Gupta commented on No more Champagne? :

Very interesting blog post about the threat to a very loved brand. However, I agree with Darren that the situation may not be as gloomy as we think – I may come across as a philistine while saying this, but my feeling is that Champagne is distinguished more by its ‘brand’ as compared to its actual difference or superiority to other sparkling wine products. Therefore, Taittinger’s attempt to increase its domain to other sparkling wines could actually backfire – if they themselves bring attention to slight changes in their core champagne product (which, as Daniel pointed out in class a few days ago may barely be recognized by the vast majority of people) or start associating themselves with other wines, then they risk diluting their brand themselves. This could become a self-fulfilling prophecy – so I think it’d be a better idea to sit tight and as Peter suggests, try to focus on climate resistant grapes and similar methods.

On November 30, 2017, Azeez Gupta commented on Delhi, my grandmother cannot breathe! :

This is an issue close to my heart – Delhi’s quality of air is so poor now that it would be a primary reason for me choosing to live in other cities, despite it being my hometown (sort of). I agree with all the points mentioned in the article, and would want to additionally bring up the angle of governance and regulation. Even now, bipartisan politics, similar to what is seen in the US, has prevented the Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi from even meeting with the CMs of the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana (which are the primary areas where burning of plant debris leads to pollution overflow into Delhi). To make things worse, Delhi is governed by the Aam Aadmi Party, a political upstart, which threatens the federal government’s Bharatiya Janta Party, also headquartered in Delhi. The blame game between the two parties and an inability to work together has led to zero political will to do anything about a massive public health crisis. Business and innovation will find long-term sustainable solutions, but political solutions are needed to solve the immediate catastrophe.

On November 30, 2017, Azeez Gupta commented on Outsourcery: Will Infosys lose its magic? :

An excellent post – effectively brings out the massive challenge faced by India’s outsourcing industry and one of it’s iconic firms. I agree with Peter’s diagnosis that the way out for Infosys has to be building up modern technology expertise, rather than relying on cheap human capital. I’m not as bearish as Ninad on the intrinsic prospects of doing so – there are segments (which are not being focused on currently by the Microsofts’) in which Infosys can use India’s strong engineering talent to build good products.

However, the bigger challenge is something Alona mentioned – the difficulty in changing the direction of a huge company. The ex-CEO mentioned in the post, Vishal Sikka, who had been trying to take the company in this new direction resigned earlier this year – in reality, he had no choice but to go, due to major criticism and resistance by shareholders, including Infosys’s respected founders. There are different views on whether he was right or wrong, but there is no question that it will take something incredible to fundamentally change Infosys’s operating model and customer promise.

On a lighter note, there is an upside for HBS students from India – the protectionism by the current administration may mean that the new visa criteria would narrow the eligibility pool, instead of following the current process of a lottery from a huge pool of applicants across different salary ranges. So more HBS’ers could actually stay on in the US if they wish to, without having to put their fate in a lottery with 40% acceptance rate!

On November 30, 2017, Azeez Gupta commented on Shooting Oneself in the Foot(ball) :

Thanks, Yohannes, for a very interesting article on a topic that’s worrying to me as a big EPL and Manchester United fan (part of the classic Asian audience which generates all that money for the EPL). I think you’re absolutely right that Brexit restrictions, if imposed by the UK government, will be a significant issue for prospects of attracting the best players to the EPL. The effect will be compounded by Grant’s point – as the pound weakens, UK clubs will have to play significantly more in both transfer fees and wages to be able to offer the same compensation to players as they would obtain in Spain or Germany. In today’s scenario, when UK teams are doing poorly in the European interleague play and given the attraction of South American and African players to historically aspiration and sunny Spain, it seems difficult that the best players would want to come to the UK. But I’m not convinced that multi-club ownership is the answer – the factors I’ve mentioned would persist even then, and the assumed player ‘loyalty’ due to MCO is likely an unattainable dream in the professional sports world.

However, the question remains of whether obtaining the best players is the reason for the EPL’s success. Only 5 of the world’s 24 best players, shortlisted by FIFA (football’s world governing body) for the 2017 best footballer awards, currently play in England (and none in the top 5), compared to a staggering 11 in Spain – Germany, Italy and France follow close behind with 3 each [1]. The EPL’s team have fared miserably in inter-league play, showing up its claims of being the best league by footballing quality. I believe it’s more likely that the popularity of the EPL is due to other factors like more sophisticated marketing, first mover advantage in the emerging footballing markets of Asia and Africa and an aggressive, ‘blood and thunder’ all-action style of play. Perhaps the biggest hope of the EPL is the fact that they can continue surviving without the very best players, if they continue to do the other things well.