Bread, China, Podcasting, Zoho and Colombia: The Week’s Most Interesting

Till last week there was one difference between 1968 and 2020. Racial discrimination protests had not happened in 2020. Last week that too caught up with the world with the sad death of George Floyd. 1968 saw the “Hong Kong flu” which killed hundreds of thousands of people across the world. You know the pandemic situation in 2020. John Carlos in 1968 raised the black fist at the Olympics to show solidarity for all black people. In 2020 it is the kneeling which represents it. A divisive US presidential race in both years would mostly sum up the similarities. But in 1968 the markets after falling saw a huge gain. Infact the markets rallied by 24%. 2020 again shows almost the same signs. Fascinating to see history repeat itself. The one difference being that in today’s day especially in the two biggest exchanges in the world, a majority of the trading happens through algorithms and is automated. What I really want to see is that while Benjamin Graham said that the markets are driven by two factors, greed and fear, will the algorithms listen to him or are the far ends of fear still not learnt by the machines.

But I don’t talk about any of the above in this week’s articles. The articles for this week like my short monologue above are about the Past and the Future and their inflexion point in 2020. Starting off with the past, read about a 230 year old company that is thriving in today’s times. A little about China’s strategy for the last 30 years internationally and why it might not be great for it’s objectives of the next 10 years. The past and the future look very different for Audio. The greatest comeback in history, how spotify is recreating a new industry and how they’ve done it.  A story of a founder who envisions a future that I atleast couldn’t imagine and how he made it a reality while casually catching some snakes. We end with a story from a country whose past is tainted (or is famous)  just because of the actions of one person while ignoring all else and one whose future is starting to look slightly brighter.

1. Last week we talked about a 100 year old car rental company filing for bankruptcy. But this week we can talk about bread. A company more than 200 years old. With a steady stream of income being a mirage more than anything else, this flour company is giving money out to bakeries to help them out. It has seen a 600% increase in sales. Why I found this interesting is that in a lot of places it’s almost a commodity served by too many brands? Sometimes quality over ages (literally) is the biggest USP you can have. Read this because I am dead sure, you can’t think of another company founded as far back as 1790 and being successful in 2020. If you can, please send the name to me, I will read about it.

2. China and its state controlled banks have a habit of giving huge loans for almost any large scale project. But there’s a difference as compared to other major G7/8 economies. All other economies hardly ever take collateral for these loans. The goodwill and the unwritten “help me when I need you” is the deal usually. But China asks for collateral for 60% of these loans. Now imagine the world, where COVID has struck and economies from Africa to all the South American countries to Pakistan can’t pay back the loan. The mines and dams and factories become Chinese property. At the same time, China is in dire need of diplomacy. The Belt and Road Initiative, the most important Chinese project hangs by a thread. I hope to give some perspective on a country whose global ambitions are on shaky territory.

3. If you haven’t heard of Joe Rogan, please read up any recent news on him.  I think we are all late to podcasting. It remained in the shadows because the two companies who had platforms for podcasting (Apple and Google) had even better revenue sources and just didn’t make discovery or advertising smooth. Spotify has built, acquired and developed the netflix/google of podcasting. This article takes you from zero to quite an intermediate level on understanding the dynamics and beauty of podcasting and its universe. Dont miss it, because you might be underestimating the spread and scale. of podcasting.

4. Have you ever been to Tenkasi and Renigunta? You should. Many of you use software and services made there for sure. Here is your Swades story and the impact this “Mohan Bhargava” has made is much larger. Sometimes our familiarity with a product is our biggest blocker to know more about the company. After a bunch of profiles on international entrepreneurs, I present a different story, a story of success and one of foresight and audacity.

5. My story of the week. I love it when stories of innovation come from the places where you least expect them to. Colombia sadly was made famous for the casual watcher through Narcos and then for the humanitarian through the Venezuelan Crisis. A very similar story to what happened in Iran, about which I wrote 2 weeks back. Like every other country this is a story of aiming high and aiming for the stars. Medellin, the city was a hub for textiles before Pablo and today is one of the world’s most bustling startup hubs. Not unlike some of the cities you might live in.I hope, this article inspires you to look deeper into a continent and a country largely stereotyped by everyone.

Have fun reading !

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