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On December 1, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Good Tariffs Make Good Neighbors? :

This is a great post highlighting how ArcelorMittal needs to adapt to protectionist policies in the US. In my opinion, in this political environment, Arcelor should also pivot and expand its footprint in developing markets. It can be hard for multinational companies to move to emerging markets (that may have lower margins and higher volatility) when they have more profitable markets like in the US. However, policies like this help the company management make the case to their Board that Arcelor should invest more in emerging markets. In the long run, this may pay off, as new construction and real estate development (which demands lots of steel) is happening at a much faster rate in the developing world.

On December 1, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Walmart in the Face of Isolationism :

This is an interesting discussion, PolkaDots. In a way, isolationism may not all that bad for Walmart given that manufacturing costs in China are also increasing. Given that quality of life in China and other developing markets is improving, and that labor cost in those countries are also increasing, rising COGS may be a reality for Walmart even without isolationist policies. In a way, these policies may force Walmart to prepare ahead of other international competitors, and actually be a source of advantage in the future. Also, in many locales, Walmart is the only game in town when it comes to specific goods; so their core customer base may shrink with rising prices but not as much as we might initially think.

On November 25, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Climate Change and H&M: Is Sustainability the Answer? :

I want to build on Shalei’s point above regarding the recycling of these clothes. I often wonder how companies repurpose the clothing that consumers drop into bins to “recycle.” I imagine it is expensive/technologically more intensive to transform a used product into an item that was as valuable as the original product. I suspect that companies instead engage in “downcycling,” where they produce goods that are of less value than the original product (ie, take a used shirt and make cotton socks out of it instead of another shirt). Although this does decrease the need to source brand new material, it still creates substantial waste. I wonder how transparent companies should be in how they repurpose used goods into new products, and whether that will affect consumer perception of their offerings and their overall sales growth.

On November 25, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Walmart: It’s my party and I can cry if I want to :

I agree with the comments above, and also want to highlight how important it is to also build the same brand awareness online as you have in your brick-and-mortar store. Walmart’s acquisition of to fight Amazon in e-commerce has proved to be a useful as Walmart’s ecommerce sales have grown 63% and its stock over 10% in the last year. However, used to carry a broad array of Costco’s “Kirkland” brand that consumers are familiar with. Walmart is now attempting to phase out these Costco products in favor or its own “Member Mark” brand. Although this makes sense from a Walmart perspective, it is unclear how the consumers will react. Will you lose the customers who are used to buying Kirkland cashews but now can’t find it? Would they switch over to the Walmart brand?

This piece is very relevant given that cholera still continues to gain new ground in many parts of the world. Political conflicts and war-torn areas are places where vaccine supply chain performs the worst. In Yemen, for example, routes of exit and entry have been closed off due to the ongoing civil conflict. Due to the lack of water sanitation, almost half million people have contracted cholera and over 2000 kids have died to date. It is critical for multinational organizations to develop effective stockpiling capacity to address epidemics like this one in Yemen. A critical mass of children need to be vaccinated or re-vaccinated in order for the spread of cholera to be controlled. Funders like GAVI or the Global Alliance can address some of the financial shortfalls, but national governments should also be incentivized to devote more of their budgets to public health and vaccination programs.

The question of whether companies can pivot from repetitive jobs to creative ones is very interesting. We are seeing this change not just in India, but also in China; where more and more of their economy is diversifying from manufacturing to services. I believe companies like Infosys do have this capacity to pivot largely because they have a very skilled (and young) employee base. I am not sure that overhauling the education system is necessary as I am not sure that creativity can be “taught” in schools. Creativity comes about by posing big challenges to employees that conventional methods will not solve. In the case of Infosys, I would also argue that also external factors also a played a role in the layoffs – namely changes in US immigration policy. When less Indian engineers were able to enter the US to fulfill client contracts; the company naturally has to lay them off.

On November 19, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Fighting Malthus’s Prediction in the New Millennium :

The FAO, as a UN entity, represents all of its member states and cannot take political stances. However, it should ensure that its’ efforts dovetail that of individual governments. All too often, international entities end up sponsoring one-off projects or pilot studies (like the ones in Kenya/Tanzania) that are not followed through by local governments. Only if the individual governments buy into the value proposition will these efforts bear fruit. Another point I think is relevant is to preserve crop diversity. In our effort to produce more nutritious/more drought resistant/pest resistant crops, we should not myopically focus on a few species of rice or corn, but instead need to preserve the large existing genetic diversity that may be needed to preserve future crop viability.

On November 19, 2017, RoundRobin commented on Scan that drug! :

The opioid epidemic is a clear and present danger; costing both lives and increasing healthcare costs. That said, I am not convinced that tracking drugs alone will solve this issue. Although there is fair amount of drug smuggling that happens, legislation like DSCSA and TraceLink end up affecting (and complicating) legitimate drug prescriptions much more than addressing the misuse of these drugs. For example, it is already much harder for providers to prescribe cancer patients or those with chronic pain opioid medications; and these patients arguably really need the drug. This article also raises the issue that visibility of the supply chain needs to be contrasted with patient confidentiality. In an era of fragmented EMRs, tangible investments in data security will only be made if many large hospital system buy into these startups and their platform.