Weekly reading – 4th March 2023

What I wrote last week

Understanding Booking Holdings


Paying Michelin Guide to Help Promote Your Tourism Can Be a Messy Business. An interesting look at the restaurant-reviewing business of Michelin and how countries commission a guide to boost their tourism.

Soroban Capital Partners Presentation to UNP Board of Directors. If you are interested in the railroad industry, this presentation offers some great data and information

Graham & Dodd Annual Breakfast 2022. I love reading on how Ted and Todd make investment decisions. “Businesses are run by people, and Buffett says he likes taking the cash flow and removing it from managers and investing it himself. There’s a known adage, when looking to buy a business: look to buy a business a dummy can run, because eventually a dummy will run it. Every time Combs meets with a company, there are two questions he always asks management: (1) How long do you spend talking to investors, and (2) what would you be doing if you were not publicly traded? The median response is 25% of the time is spent talking to investors. In response to the second question management usually lists a number of things that make a lot of sense, and Combs then proceeds to ask why they don’t do that, and they say because they feel handcuffed. When management is focused on the quarterly performance, and they don’t have the proper time horizon, they are not empowered to do the right thing. As a fiduciary you are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t have the right time horizon.

Why Goldman’s consumer ambitions failed, and what it means for CEO David Solomon. Chaotic and vision-less leadership at Goldman Sachs led to the current state of its consumer banking business.

($) Apple’s iPhones Winning Over Gen Z—and the World’s Premium Market. “From Europe to Asia, Apple’s market lead in the premium bracket is growing, and polls show that people in their teens and early 20s, known as Gen Z, increasingly see the iPhone as a must-have. Converts say they are drawn by its design, cameras and AirDrop features for sharing photos. Around 52% of people age 18 to 29 in South Korea were using an Apple smartphone as of 2022, up from 44% two years earlier, according to polls by Gallup Korea. Samsung’s share of this age group slipped to 44% from 45% in that time, the polls showed. For all older age groups, Samsung phones remain most prevalent.” I had some personal experience with how Samsung marketed its products in Vietnam. To me, this didn’t come as a surprise. Samsung can be innovative and technologically advanced. However, its products and ecosystem leave a lot to be desired. It’s not about being the first to introduce some features or being sassy while mocking its biggest rival. It’s about making things that are useful and valuable to consumers. I hope leaders at Samsung will read this piece and change their approach from bottom to top. No amount of marketing money can fix the fundamental shortcomings of its products.

Other stuff I find interesting

How a shipping error 100 years ago launched the $30 billion chicken industry. The accidental origins of the chicken on your plate, explained.

($) Indonesia Shows It’s Possible to Tame Rainforest Destruction. Now, forest destruction in Indonesia is at its lowest pace in two decades. The rate of forest loss fell by more than half in Indonesia from 2015 through 2021, while it worsened in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, homes to two other vast rainforests. It is a turnaround with lessons for policy makers, businesses and environmentalists around the world who are concerned about the effects of rainforest loss. Indonesia’s success owes to a three-pronged and overlapping approach. Strict directives prohibiting wholesale forest clearance flowed from the top rungs of government starting about five years ago. Multinational consumer-product companies pledged to avoid palm oil that involved forest destruction, blacklisted forest-slashing plantations and tracked their activities with satellites. And environmental nonprofits exposed murky supply chains that long made it hard to know whether palm oil came from a company that was knocking down forests.

The small European nation of Switzerland beat sky-high inflation. Here’s how. It’s interesting to learn how Switzerland has been handling inflation, compared to other European countries. It’d be difficult, though, for others to replicate what they did. A lot of their success seems to predicate on unique characteristics that only Switzerland has.

Denver’s 2022 Ebike Incentive Program Results and Recommendations. “On a per-mile basis, ebikes cost 40% less to operate than EVs and nearly 75% less than ICEVs. 71% of respondents reported using their gas vehicles less often after purchasing their ebike.

More CCTV, more crime: India’s most-surveilled cities are the least safe. It’s unfathomable to read about high levels of crimes against women in India. This report is the strongest evidence that the preventative method of installing surveillance cameras just doesn’t work. Lawmakers need to think of a better solution to crimes against women that increased by 15% nationally and 40% in the capital, compared to the previous year


Keto diet generates almost 3kg of carbon for every 1,000 calories consumed

46% of Gen Z are concerned about mental health the most

50% of millennials wish their grocery stores had a restaurant or a bar

Weekly reading – 4th September 2021

What I wrote last week

Important investing lessons that I learned


Google Pay team reportedly in major upheaval after botched app revamp. 92% of mobile wallet transactions in the U.S in 2020 were on Apple Pay. If I were an Executive at Google, I’d question why a firm with limitless resources, world-class engineering and ownership of Android couldn’t get Google Pay to be an equal competitor to Apple Pay. One can argue that Apple should have some credit with popularizing Apple Pay. If the driving force were the Cupertino-based company’s dominance and monopoly, why wouldn’t Google replicate that success with its own digital wallet?

How one woman helped build the #AppleToo movement at tech’s most secretive company. I never want to read about anybody being mistreated at their workplace. This #AppleToo movement is no exception. I am very disheartened to read about a group of folks being mistreated and disrespected, especially at a company that I long admire for other reasons.

PayPal is exploring a stock-trading platform for U.S. customers. It came as no surprise to me that PayPal is planning to launch a stock-trading feature. The ambition to be the Super App for consumers’ financial needs has been in full swing for a while. The company is putting the pieces of the puzzle together and this is one of them.

Affirm Holdings’ Moat: Why World’s Largest Retailers Want Affirm. I don’t necessarily agree with everything said in this piece, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some good points.

Why Marta Ortega Pérez Is the Secret to Zara’s Success. This is one of the more interesting points in the article: Every morning after dropping off her son at school, Ortega Pérez gathers with the company’s CFO, Miguel Díaz, and other top staff around an industrial table out on the open floor to review global rankings for such bestselling pieces as a minimalist black spaghetti-strap summer dress, or a rococo printed pajama-style blouse with matching shorts. Orders heading to stores are constantly adjusted, an anomaly in an industry that typically plans merchandise drops well in advance. (Zara’s operations are supported by an in-house technology product team that uses  Netflix as a measuring stick for both consumer-facing and back-of-house innovations, including a mock fulfillment center floor set up to study the movements of a box-moving robot.)

To appease Japan Fair Trade Commission, Apple agreed to relax its anti-steering rules for Reader apps globally. What it means is that the likes of Spotify and Netflix should be able to sell digital goods to consumers without paying commission to Apple by adding a link to an outside webpage. Historically, Apple was vehemently against this, but the regulatory pressure has been piling up around the world so I guess this is Apple’s pre-emptive action to hopefully get some relief. I have seen some developers skeptical of how this change in policy will actually pan out. I mean, they have reasons to, but given the resources and clout at Apple’s disposal, this is a great step for developers. For consumers, this remains to be seen. One of the selling points of the App Store is that consumers feel safe whenever they make a purchase. Since Reader apps can now direct consumers to outside the App Store, it will depend on who will make the determination as to which app can qualify for the new policy. There remains a possibility that some developers with a harmful agenda can camouflage their app as a Reader App and commit fraud.

Apple Plans Blood-Pressure Measure, Wrist Thermometer in Apple Watch. Apple’s positioning of the Apple Watch is very smart. It’s not trying to compete with normal watches whose main function is to tell time or luxury watches whose main value is the bragging rights. By focusing on the watch wearers’ health, Apple sticks to its core value of providing hardware that is personal to consumers and its strengths, mainly the combination of hardware & software as well as its ecosystem.

How Disney and Scarlett Johansson Reached the Point of No Return. The legal debacle with Scarlett Johansson is unfortunate and worrying as it foreshadows what could be in store for Disney in the future if they didn’t learn from this lesson. According to the article, it could have been avoided, yet here we are. Plus, the pandemic, the interconnectedness of Marvel storylines, the pressure on the bottom line and the priority status imposed on Disney+ make release distribution a delicate matter. While Black Widow brought in $60 million in extra revenue and profit from the Premier Access, Kevin Feige, the Marvel boss, wasn’t happy about it. Putting “Black Widow” on Disney+ conflicted with Mr. Feige’s tiered approach—creating TV shows that complement movies on the big screen. He resisted plans for the movie’s simultaneous release, in part because he didn’t like the idea of having one of Marvel’s few female-driven movies demoted to the at-home streaming service, said people familiar with his thinking.

Other stuff I found interesting

Indonesia, More Majestic Than Ever by Boat. I have never been to Indonesia, but I’d love to. And of course, by boat, if possible.

These charts show which states will get the most money from Biden’s infrastructure bill. Regardless of the criticisms of this bill, I am pleased to see more investments in the embarrassing and decaying infrastructure in this country.

Can ‘smart thinking’ books really give you the edge? Makes you really think about it

Stats that may interest you

Vietnam saw $16 billion in remittance in 2020

52% of young adults in America lived with parents in 2020. The figure jumped to 71% for people aged 18 – 24

Cash accounted for 78% of transactions at Point of Sale in the EU in 2020

YouTube Music hit 50 million subscribers, up from 30 million reported in October 2020