The debate around using technology in our school systems is certainly an interesting one – especially in places where we’re trying to achieve such massive scale and strong results. The key for me here is viewing technology as another tool, but not a silver bullet. An OECD study in 2015 showed that national school systems that invested heavily in technology haven’t done better than school systems that have been slower to adapt. Technology definitely has a place in the classroom and we want students to be technologically literate to live in a modern world, but I worry that we view tech as a quick fix to education systems. Digital books is a great idea, but I worry about us thinking we can replace teacher interaction or student-student interaction with technology. These tools enable us to work better, but are they true replacements? There’s something to be said about the fact that even here at HBS, we’ve all opted in to a model that doesn’t allow for laptops or cell phones in the classroom. Granted, this is a unique experience, but there must still also be room for the traditional model?
 Coughlan, Sean. “Computers ‘do not improve’ pupil results, says OECD.” BBC News. September 15, 2015. Accessed November 25, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-34174796.
This is a really difficult subject to tackle and honestly, I can’t think of a good case study of a country who has rolled back subsidies under similar conditions. The Egyptian government has not been able to offer true viable economic growth or opportunity to their citizens. In such a world, ripping away subsidies is the number one way to rile up politcal tensions (i.e. Sadat-era bread riots). The truth is though, the Egyptian government has no real incentive to change their policies because current policies keep them in power. They have been able to keep Egyptians dependent on subsidies and therefore dependent on the government. By controlling the food supply, they control the country and therefore, don’t have a reason to change. Food insecurity is almost a tool to maintain control. The key for the government is maintaining the right level of insecurity: make people dependent on you just enough to get by, but don’t make them too insecure or they might try to topple you. That said, the government is busy always putting out fires. Any small fluctuations become an ordeal.
Egyptian leaders need to decide if they are in this for the long game. If Al-Sisi is interested in maintaining power in the long term, he has to think about policy change. Otherwise, he’s always threading a very fine line between stability and political upheaval. I don’t see a world where Egypt becomes completely food independent. They will always need to import wheat, but they have to think about policies like you mentioned (diversifying sources, buying futures, etc.) that allow the price to remain as stable as possible, so they can start to think about longer term changes if the goal is to maintain political control.
Where the ME13 have excelled is as stopover and connecting airlines. They have differentiated themselves on the ability to shuttle any passenger through their hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar and connect distant parts of the world. I agree with the sentiment that it would benefit US carriers to work more closely with their counterparts in the Middle East. ME13 carriers carry a lot of weight in the Eastern Hemisphere. If American carriers can link their passengers more closely with ME13 airlines, they improve their customer experience by linking their customers to new flight paths and schedules not otherwise available.
In a way we’re living in an isolationist world, but in another way, it’s hard to turn back the tides of globalization. I’m taking a flight from Rio to Buenos Aires this January that is operated by Emirates Airline. Middle East carriers continue to expand their reach. This isolationist agenda feels like a blip and for US carriers, if they want to remain competitve in the long term, they should be getting closer to their ME13 counterparts and not fighting them. If Emirates is now fully competing in the Western Hemisphere, they’re not going anywhere. Whining to the government is not a long term strategy.
I don’t necessarily think that a company needs to communicate its sustainability initiatives to customers, particularly if it’s a brand like Zara. I’m not sure that people think of Zara and think sustainability – there are other brands that have made that connection much stronger from the outset (LL Bean, for example). I’m also not sure if sustainability is going to influence people’s buying patterns.
Zara is a fast fashion business. They want people to purchase and change out their clothes often, but a better way to think about this would be by having people replace their clothing rather than stockpile. I’m thinking of what Madewell does by giving a discount to buyers who bring in an old pair of jeans when buying a new one. This makes people think differently about buying new clothes. You’re not adding to your closet, but rather swapping something out. It’s still fast fashion, companies get the chance to recycle fabric and use it in new products and it builds loyal customers who feel like they’re getting a deal by swapping clothes. You get to keep your fast fashion consumer while building on sustainability efforts.
The meal kit delivery industry is a really tough space to compete in. There are so many players between Hello Fresh, Plated, Dinnerly. The issue here is that digitization efforts almost become tablestakes if the goal is to be the largest player. To be the largest player in the industry, you have to be the logistics master and digitization is what gets you there. In that respect, Amazon absolutely excels.
There are two big things that come to mind here for me. One, is whether or not Blue Apron wants to be THE player or sees themselves as potentially one of many players. Is this a space where people become loyal to one meal delivery kit or continue to rotate across several based on preferences? If it’s not a winner take all space then Blue Apron needs some level of product differentiation that makes people choose it time and time again. I don’t think digtization and logistics makes you the winner in that way necessarily. Delivering fresh food is just something you have to do. I agree that right now they’re distracted by rolling out too many changes at once, but they need some broader poitn of differentiation
As for Amazon, they’re definitely going to become a major player in this industry. That said, I wonder at what point people become frustrated or leery of Amazon. How much exposure is too much exposure? The time may not be soon, but I can imagine a future where people choose not to use Amazon simply because they’re sick of having their whole lives run by one company. Broadening their reach into every aspect of our lives, including meal delivery, only increases this risk
One of the main things that came to mind is why the US-based module manufacturers are so far behind their Chinese counterparts? If the answer is that these companies are mostly focused on other alternative energy innovations then that’s fine, but if there are actual tactical things Chinese companies are doing better then this could be an opportunity. Not to jump to the defense of an isolationist agenda, but if NEE is such a large player then co-development could be a viable option to push forward the US solar module industry. If we really believe that solar energy is the future then it might behoove us (if economically viable) to build the full value chain at home and allow Chinese manufacuterers to supply parts of developing Asia where I imagine solar is also becoming a vital energy source.