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Spencer, this was a fascinating read – had no idea that e-book sales have hit a plateau. I love your last line – “Leveraging the data and logistics of a digitally native business model can make physical stores efficient and profitable in ways they haven’t been previously”.

While this is currently just a bookstore, you could make the argument that the idea holds even in other product categories (like clothes, for example, as you mentioned). I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon decided to open a “smartstore” for a range of product categories to test the idea further.

What might also be interesting is that if they realize that users like the experience of being in a physical setup, would VR serve the purpose? They then do not have to invest in physical infrastructure to create the customer experience they want. I’m imagining a world where you have a second world of High Streets and Malls – except all in virtual space.

This is fascinating – I love the fact that 67% of all transactions carried out in the bank originated from internet and mobile phones. This is impressive, especially given it is happening in a middle-income country.

Most major Indian banks are embarking on a similar digital journey – all promote their mobile apps and have taken most of their service offering online. I agree with your idea that banks must partner with tech firms to promote their usage of technology. Given a large part of the push in tech innovation is driven by startups and smaller firms, these big bureaucratic banks must find a way to partner with them and be nimble.

An additional point is that I think banks must prepare for the nature of financial services 10-20 years from now. Blockchain is now becoming more common and it is critical banks prepare for this new wave. ICICI Bank, one of India’s largest commercial banks, recently executed India’s first blockchain transaction [1]. I wonder if ITUB has similar plans?

[1] https://www.icicibank.com/aboutus/article.page?identifier=news-icici-bank-executes-indias-first-banking-transactions-on-blockchain-in-partnership-with-emirates-nbd-20161210162515562

Samuel, this is very cool. I strongly believe in the flashlight effect – the idea that transparency will in itself create change. This is especially simple today with the advent of the internet and ease of data sharing.

I think the idea has promise – the US Government in fact has a dashboard that tracks IT spending [1] and shares it publicly to increase accountability and raise awareness. More public sector organizations should use this – I wonder if mandating that all divisions must share their spending data will drive change? As we saw in the recent current events, the issue today is that different people are getting a different set of facts – we aren’t able to frame our debates. This will at least take us one step towards ensuring everyone sees and uses the same facts in discussions regarding Government spending – a huge point of contention in countries around the world!

[1] https://itdashboard.gov/

On November 20, 2016, VKS commented on The Minerva Project: The Next Era for Higher Education? :

Dicle, this was a fascinating read! I like that Minerva is battling two distinct conventional setups – one is using the MOOC model (versus the traditional college model) and the other is the new curriculum around skills (and not knowledge). Each is a battle that will define the role of education in our times and it shows how ambitious Minerva is that they are fighting both battles simultaneously!

On the first design choice — this reminded of a NYT article on MOOCs and why they aren’t disrupting college education yet [1]. The author’s thesis is that what students are paying colleges for are official degrees, “the kind that can get you a job” – exactly your point in the article. They need to create a brand powerful enough to attract employers

On the second — This reminded me of the graph on the drop in middle-skill jobs we saw in class. I think this model will work well to attempt to bridge this gap – the difference b/w machines and humans is that machines will outperform humans in any deterministic, repetitive task. By teaching humans problem-solving that is not intuitive to machines, Minerva is trying to retain humans’ competitive advantage. I hope it works!

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/upshot/true-reform-in-higher-education-when-online-degrees-are-seen-as-official.html

On November 20, 2016, VKS commented on Go-jek or go home :

Aparna, this was super interesting to see. What I liked most about Go Jek’s model is that it is a tech solution built on top of an existing social system (the ojeks). Disruption doesn’t happen in a vaccuum, and it is especially powerful when tech is layered on top of existing systems that have not known technology in the past. So when tech companies expand globally, their business models in each new country begin to look oddly similar but tailored to that country’s specific context.

In India, there is a similar phenomenon – Uber and Ola have now created a very popular variant of their apps for auto rickshaws (3-wheeler vehicles) [1]. Although there are millions of autos around the country, they could have easily sidestepped the system and maintained their existing platform. They chose not to and it’s changing the way a 70 year old market works.

[1] http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/with-ola-auto-there-is-a-shift-in-the-way-autodrivers-and-passenger-interact/article8988855.ece

On November 7, 2016, Vinay Sridhar commented on Under Water: The City of Miami Beach :

Great read, Spencer. Saw the topic briefly referred to in Leo DiCaprio’s new movie on climate change (where he interviewed the mayor). Some of the steps the city is taking would typically be politically tricky, but it is impressive to see the Mayor build in his ideas into the campaign. As Jason mentioned, I am curious to see how the city manages to create effective public-private partnerships in their efforts – the Govt. is in a position where they can leverage private sector capabilities by aligning interests correctly. The lessons Miami Beach will learn will be widely applicable globally – cities and countries globally (e.g., Mauritius, Maldives) are grappling with similar problems.

On November 7, 2016, Vinay Sridhar commented on The Education of a Reluctant Businessman :

Chris, this is a fascinating post – Patagonia is a great example of a company that has gone out of its way to save the environment. As you said in class, someone companies do it because they care. What I find most interesting is how they have used marketing to make their sustainability efforts align with their business objectives as well. Most companies typically think of the two objectives as conflicting – Patagonia seems to have found a way to merge them both (e.g., the full page ad). The aspect you spoke about (encouraging other businesses to join them) could be very impactful – each sector needs a company that is willing to be a leader in the movement.

On November 7, 2016, Vinay Sridhar commented on Wine – a Californian dream – or nightmare? :

Fascinating article, Estelle. I had no idea how the industry works – this was a fun read. I liked how the vineyard seems to be taking decisions that intuitively seem to compromise their ability to gain scale (not using machinery, handpicking) to increase sustainability. What I am curious about is the community approach – is there a concerted effort by the industry to work together to combat climate change? There are precedents in other industries (Auto, for example) – in an industry where the raw material (the land, itself) is shared, I would imagine there is heavy benefit to the industry collaborating in their efforts.

On November 7, 2016, Vinay Sridhar commented on Hunger in the time of climate change :

This is fascinating, Saksham. WFP is one of the only organizations that is positioned to to enable change across countries and organisations. I hope that they communicate the message from the model they are building on the link b/w climate change and food security – it is something governments are interested in, and there are few credible sources with this information. On the early warning systems, however, I am curious if they are working with other agencies to build this? It does not seem like their core competency.

On November 7, 2016, Vinay Sridhar commented on EPM, climate change and hidroelectric power :

EPM is fascinating – a power company in an emerging economy making efforts towards combating climate change is unusual and laudable. What I am curious about is if they have set and communicated targets towards their sustainability initiatives. For example, for #3 – it would be impressive if they have set public targets on % of power generated through sustainable sources. The burden for a company like EPM is that they can set the standard for the rest of the industry in Columbia!