thanks for sharing Alison. I would like to respectful disagree with the fact that Uber will have to sit out of the autonomous vehicle race with regards to the ongoing Waymo litigation. Uber, with it’s acquisition of Otto, is leading the industry in autonomous trucking and fleet management – which may end up being the largest piece of the autonomous vehicle pie. While the Uber acquisition of Otto resulted in unwarranted and unjustified litigation as a result of Mr. Lewandowski – the future lies in both the vehicle technology but also in the management and customer base.
Uber recently ordere 100 cars from Volvo. The bigger concern is whether they can manage the pivot to an asset heavy model as an owner of these vehicles versus being the middle man as part of the platform
I actually think the way Chipotle handles its current delivery offering is smart, even though there are inefficiencies that could be ironed out. We rarely find QSR restaurants on UberEATS and Seamless/Grubhub, which I see as the more traditional delivery services, and this may just be me but I think this creates an allure for millennial consumers. The fact that Chipotle isn’t on UberEATS or on Seamless means that I am more inclined to go to a brick and mortar Chipotle. I think if Chipotle were to begin offering their menu on multiple delivery platforms, this would dilute the allure of visiting a Chipotle store, and would decrease the traditional long lines that are associated with the Chipotle brand.
Where I think they could improve their participation in the online / app delivery landscape is by becoming more integrated with Postmates. Currently, when ordering Chipotle on Postmates, users are forced to pay a high delivery fee in addition to other fees and a tip. Also, the ordering platform is not as user-friendly as it could be. I think by taking orders from the app directly and preparing them at the restaurant in a separate line located in the kitchen is a much more efficient method of increasing transactions and supporting Postmates. That way the delivery person can come and pick up the order immediately instead of standing in line, which decreases wait time for consumers too. I think by actually accepting Postmates as a partner and making them an exclusive partner, one that manages Chipotle’s online ordering, Chipotle can participate in the “stay at home and order” growth while maintaining a value proposition for the brick and mortar stores.
The question Hans raised in his comment was the exact response I had while reading this essay: What is their alternative? Given the arid conditions in Saudi, one would assume that by outsourcing their supply of agricultural products they are making do with the hand they have been dealt, and are actually making do in a very smart and well diversified way. Jessica pointed out the fact that should the US impose sanctions or some financial penalty on exports, Almarai has other continents on which it has farmland. In addition to wanting to own the farmland so that they have complete control over its output, I think the Saudi’s also want to own the farmland as a secondary alternative to not having as much arable land locally. Said differently, I think Almarai, and Saudi Arabia in general, is buying and storing in another country what it does not have in its own.
The fact that Qatar was one of Almarai’s biggest markets and that Almarai’s products are now considered taboo there serves to highlight the role geopolitics can play on the profits and business dealings of a company. I do agree with Hans that Saudi may be losing some of its power on the world stage, and it will be interesting to see how tensions with surrounding GCC countries and with countries that serve as global supply for Almarai (and Saudi in general) play out. In the meantime, I think while Saudi continues to hold some leverage, they should continue to invest and diversify their global supply so that even if they are reliant on globalization, at least they aren’t reliant on only a few bets.
I think this essay highlights the fact that DSG is at a key time in its lifecycle as a company and needs to decide what it wants to do: option A) continue with current product offerings and business model by promoting itself as a one-stop sports shop, or option B) pivot away from the fight with DTC apparel brands. The unfortunate reality of the situation seems to be that no matter which option DSG decides to choose, online retail has really hurt DSG’s value proposition, increasing transparency and allowing manufacturers unfettered access to consumers that they would otherwise have to pay handsomely for. The 700 communities that DSG is present in was the very value proposition they offered the likes of Nike and Adidas – the manufacturers gained access. As the essay mentioned, digitization has allowed manufacturers to establish their own access points with consumers, and I see this as an irreversible trend.
If DSG decides to go with option A, I think they would have to market the fact that they are a one-stop sporting goods shop, and make this their differentiating factor from the DTC apparel brands. Whether consumers see value in this is questionable, but department stores still exist so that does give me some hope. I think option B is the better choice though, and I think the essay alludes to some strategies DSG may beginning to test in an attempt to diversify away from being a provider of Nike and Adidas goods. One of DSG’s big advantages is its massive footprint – it can leverage this to provide a more niche product offering, or even leverage it in a more innovative way, to provider retail customers some form of experience when shopping there (e.g. Nike has basketball courts where people can try on shoes before buying them in some stores).
I think another thing Ant Financial needs to consider as it expands globally is the amount of consumer data and capital they will have access to. While I agree that having a one-stop shop for all your personal finance needs is highly efficient and convenient for the consumer, I do think there is a reason this type of monopoly doesn’t exist in the U.S. Any one firm with access to all facets of a consumers payment cycle would have immense control over the consumer themselves, and would essentially be operating as a monopoly. Not only would this type of monopoly benefit from the synergies across its interrelated business units, but it would also get access to massive amounts of consumer data. From what a consumer is spending on to how much the consumer has in his investment portfolio, Ant Financial knows all. One can see the issues that can arise with allowing a private sector entity access to such large amounts of precious data, especially one headquartered in China. Winning over consumer trust in foreign markets, already a difficult and daunting task, will not be Ant Financials only problem: I can imagine interference from governments and anti-trust regulators too. To draw from Alexandre’s comment above, one way to protect against the image of Ant Financial trying to establish itself as a monopoly is to adopt a partnership approach and continue fostering partnerships with incumbents as it expands. In addition to consumer data, we should also remember that as Ant Financial expands it will continue to have access to consumer capital too, at least if it plans to continue operating its existing business lines. I believe this will add another layer of complication and scrutiny from regulators seeking to encourage competition. As someone who has experienced the ease of Alipay and its huge network of compatible offerings, I do hope we one day have a global, ubiquitous platform. At the same time, the capitalist in me questions whether allowing one company such dominance should be allowed.
I think disruption in the cross-border payments business for banks is long overdue – the fact that there are such high fees levied on customers when they are transferring money or conducting business in another country is baffling, and seems to be an unnecessary cost of executing transactions in a safe and reliable manner. As mentioned in this essay, non-banking services like Paypal and Transferwise are already attempting to capture transactions in this highly lucrative space, and that is why I believe banking institutions need to get ahead of the curve and integrate blockchain technology in order to keep on delivering their customer promise and not cede market share. Though I agree that the SWIFT system is generally accepted by most people today and will be difficult to move away from at first, it is only a matter of time before consumers realize there is a more efficient, transparent and cost-effective way.
The other applications of blockchain technology in the traditional banking model that were alluded to in this essay are also fascinating. Though most banks have rejected Bitcoin and other existing cryptocurrencies, banking executives seem rather positive on the applications of blockchain technology to their current business. In fact, UBS likened blockchain technology and its disruptive abilities to the internet and how it has transformed our lives. Unfortunately, it may take years to figure out where blockchain technology is most applicable and where it can create the most value, whether that ends up being making clearing houses obsolete or simplifying trade finance. Though there are many hurdles to overcome and behaviors to change throughout the value chain, one cannot help but hope for a future in which financial institutions are forced to integrate technologies that make their product offerings more efficient, cost-effective, transparent, safe and convenient, both for customers and providers.
 Ryan Vlastelica, “Here’s why UBS is bullish on blockchain, but not bitcoin,” Financial Times, October 26, 2017, [https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-ubs-is-bullish-on-blockchain-but-not-bitcoin-2017-10-24], accessed November 2017