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On November 20, 2016, sc635 commented on Connected Beauty: The Dawn of a new era :

What a thought-provoking article about the various ways in which L’Oreal has chosen to and can innovate their products using technology. The one I am particularly drawn to is Make-up Genius, and it’s use of augmented reality. Augmented reality is a technology that only a few companies have meaningfully implemented well, and it is fascinating to learn how L’Oreal has used it in Make-up Genius as an option to test their make-up both in-store (scanning the product bar code) and remotely online. In store, although you are able to test the make-up using the available ‘tester’ products, this does not come without a whole host of pain points: the requirement to try it on top of whatever make-up you wore that day, the need to wipe it off if it is not what you expected, the use of a product that has been used by a multitude of strangers…to list a few! The virtual reality app enables users to subvert all of these. It also helps augment the online experience – reducing the barriers to purchase an item without physically trying the product. With these arguments in mind, the product is genius. On the flip side, however, I worry that L’Oreal’s app may result in unattainable expectations by the consumer for their products. From the video above it seems the app represents how the make-up could look if it were immaculately applied. It also is unlikely to be a true-to-life representation of what the colour of the make-up would look on various skin tones. Should the product not live up to the expectations that the app sets in the eyes of the consumer, L’Oreal may actually cause widespread disappointment, and find that the virtual reality app could hurt versus help sales. It would be interesting to see how many of the first-time users purchase the products, and then continue to be repeat users and purchasers going forward.

From reading your article, I would love to try Operator! At risk of sounding like the ‘typical’ millennial, I really would like to try their ‘gifting’ feature.

While I agree with Erica’s points above about the benefits of focusing on the Chinese market, I also do see a lot of risk in this decision specifically in the face of an increasingly globalised world. It seems that the major value proposition of the service is giving the Chinese market more knowledgeable access to US products; my worry is that these barriers to purchase will lower with time, so Operator needs to think carefully about its value add to customers to continue to purchase using their platform when these barriers are eroded. For example, you specifically mention that Chinese online shoppers can’t read English reviews – but as English literacy/online translation services (e.g., Google translate) improve, this barrier will be insignificant. Another challenge they would face is US brands entering the Chinese market, which would remove the requirement of customers to purchase these online from the US via Operator. In the face of these challenges posed by globalisation Operator should consider how to make their customer base more ‘sticky’ to their services.

On November 20, 2016, sc635 commented on Groupon: A Good Deal for Anyone? :

What an interesting read! What strikes me about Groupon’s business model is that as an intermediary – connecting customer demand to supply across various categories, it really was serving two different customers. It had a customer promise to both the end-user of the product/service (the person buying) as well as the provider of the product/service – much like uber! Unfortunately it seems that Groupon focused too heavily on the customer promise to the end-users vs. the merchants which led to the struggle to sustain their business model. There doesn’t seem to have been a strong enough merchant value proposition for merchants to continue to use the platform, which increased their costs of merchant acquisition, and to NR’s point above this resulted in lower quality merchants being featured on their site. This results in lowering end-user demand, which continues to drive down the merchant value proposition – a death spiral! I’m curious to see what their next move will be to reverse this trend.

As someone who has a strong passion for the biomedical sciences, it is always exciting to learn about new devices that can help to diagnose/treat patients more efficiently and effectively, so thank you for sharing this innovation with us!

My question for MoMe would be one regarding the vast amounts of data that they are collecting (wirelessly!) about the patients that are using their devices. Does this data ‘belong’ to the patient, the doctor or MoMe? Is this something that patients would be concerned about given that it is personal medical data? As you suggest, this data collection by MoMe could serve a good and higher purpose if geared towards becoming better at diagnosing patients. But there is also always the fear that MoMe could exploit this data in some way – e.g., selling this to insurance companies. Are customers comfortable with this aspect of data collection and ownership given that it pertains to personal medical information? Even if we assume that MoMe follow data protection rights stringently, can we trust that there will be no breach/hack to their systems that may release identifiable medical data to the public? Although cloud-based data serves many benefits, it also opens ourselves up to greater risk as consumers to a a breach of privacy.

As an international living abroad from my ‘home’ country, I definitely understand and have benefited from the value proposition that TransferWise provides!

Alongside the points that others have made above (to Siddarth’s point, matching demand with supply; to Lizzie’s point how to approach partnerships with the ‘big’ banks), I also think they face a couple of further challenges in their business model:

1. How do they protect themselves against the risk of facilitating ‘bad’ transfers across borders such as money laundering? As a user of TransferWise myself, the only safeguard I see is them asking ‘what is this transfer for?’ which to me seems to be a relatively low barrier for someone transferring money with ulterior motives. Do they have the capabilities/plan in place to acquire these to protect themselves from a scenario that could result in irreversible bad PR for the company?

2. As a start-up looking to grow to scale rapidly, how can TransferWise continue to convince new customers that it is a reliable and secure method of transferring money? Although it appears to have captured the attention of the price-sensitive millennial generation, how can it tap into the deeper pockets of the older generations who are becoming increasingly tech savvy, but still suspicious on non-traditional businesses. Will a partnership with a formal banking institution help with this?

On November 7, 2016, sc635 commented on How to feed 10 billion :

Part of the issue of feeding the ever expanding population is our over-consumption of foods which have very low energy efficiency. According to an article published in Scientific American, “Meat is four times as demanding as grains are. If consumers would gravitate toward less intensive foods, energy use would drop.” ( Beyond increasing crop yield with fertiliser products such as HYP, I wonder whether we could tackle the potential of a ‘Malthusian catastrophe’ by being more environmentally conscious in our eating habits. Historically the ethical focus of vegetarianism has been on the unethical nature of harming living creatures – should we also be considering the ethical nature of meat from an environmental standpoint?

More controversially, could we look more seriously at alternative meat products with higher energy efficiency, such as insects? In an independent research project I conducted in high school in 2008, I discovered that the protein content of edible insects in Thailand were comparable to more conventional meats, and were unsurprisingly significantly easier and more environmentally friendly to cultivate. These benefits are widely known (, but the entomophagy movement has yet to gain enough momentum to sway the general public towards eating insects!

I remember being very inspired by Unilever’s commitment to innovating to both improve sustainability as well as continue to meet their customer promise to deliver household products that we know and love. Lindsey touched upon one of my favourite examples – tailoring their laundry product in India to both better cater to hand-washing as well as to save water. Another example I learned of during my R&D summer internship is the development of concentrated liquid laundry detergent. Making the liquid detergent more concentrated (2x at the time) benefited the consumer (taking up less storage space in the home, a container for the same number of washes was less heavy) as well as the environment (significant reduction in packaging, raw materials, and therefore carbon footprint of the product). In this case it is in fact consumer behaviour that serves as the biggest barrier in realising the full environmental benefit of the product. Many consumers struggle to believe that such a small quantity of detergent would have the same cleaning power as a larger volume used historically. Consumer product companies, like Unilever, have attempted to combat this perception by intentionally increasing viscosity of the product (to signal increased concentration), ensuring that the dosing is clearly marked on their packaging, or providing pre-packaged dosing (e.g., laundry tablets). It is interesting to see the indirect role CPG companies can play in influencing consumer behaviour towards more sustainable products!

On November 7, 2016, sc635 commented on Dean Foods: Udderly Sustainable? :

As you touch upon in your article, the government is involved in pricing milk and dairy products; this is primarily driven by the importance of milk in our diet, and thus to ensure that this is priced low enough to promote consumption. Given the impact that dairy farming has on the environment, how far should governments take their duty to regulate the industry from an environmental standpoint?

When considering this, it is interesting to read the measures that the Californian government attempted to take ( The California Air Resources Board (ARB) targeted the belching/farting of dairy cows, but were met with strong opposition by the dairy industry who claimed that these gut microbial interventions may put the health of their cows in danger. Is this truly the case or is there simply too much inertia in this very traditional industry? And is the US government being creative enough in tackling the problem of methane emissions with dairy farmers? The Argentinian government for example has designed methane backpacks for its cows to convert their emissions into green fuel ( – could this be a reasonable consideration?

I agree with Amelia with the fact that, as temperatures drop, it is terrifying to consider the prospect of a power outtage in Boston!

Your article is incredibly insightful as I have only ever considered the impact of climate change on energy suppliers from a limited resource standpoint – i.e. as we deplete our sources of fossil fuels, our traditional sources of energy will become more expensive, placing margin pressure on utility companies who are faced with increasing cost of raw materials and customers resisting the increase in their energy bills. I had never considered the cost of variability of extreme weather events!

The perspective you take from an energy provider makes me also consider, building on Paul’s thoughts, whether we are doing enough as consumers to limit our energy usage. In the UK, generating an energy performance certificate is a requirement when a property is build/sold/rented ( This mandates that prospective homeowners or tenants keep energy usage top of mind, particularly as a home’s energy efficiency can impact price. A quick search suggests that the MA government does have some household energy efficiency initiatives in place (, but that these are not mandated. Given the extreme impact of weather on homes and energy usage here in Boston, I wonder whether this is enough? Would a similar mandatory efficiency certification motivate home owners in MA to consider making their homes more energy efficient? Should this be the responsibility of the government to enforce?

On November 7, 2016, sc635 commented on AccorHotels: Is growth possible with climate change? :

Thanks Orianne, this post was very thought-provoking! It is interesting to consider to what extent Accor should take it upon themselves to restrict energy consumption by guests vs. putting this onus on the guests themselves – should Accor leave the decision to provide fresh towels/sheets up to the guest or should they have a policy of insisting that towels are reused for a multi-night stay? Should it be an opt in clause or an opt out? The practice of organ donation has shown that in countries with an opt out policy, a greater proportion of the population are registered versus an opt in policy – a staggering 90% vs. 15% ( So perhaps Accor should consider leaving less of this up to the guest?

The balance of responsibility is a difficult one to strike because it can have a real impact on the customer experience and what the guest sees as ‘value’ in their hotel experience – this is clear from Josue’s comment. Will reusing towels as a default option cheapen the experience in the guest’s mind to the extent that they would prefer to stay elsewhere? In a world where there is increasing competition versus cheaper options such as AirBnB, Accor needs to ensure that guests see enough incremental benefit to warrant the relatively higher price tag.