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Jeff Bezos expanded Amazon’s climate change pledge. His workers want more

Unlike some of its rival technology giants, Inc. has never claimed a loftier purpose than selling its shoppers what they want, quickly and cheaply. Its mission statement: to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

As political storms have overtaken Facebook and Alphabet’s Google in the last few years, Amazon’s pursuit of commerce over utopian visions has mostly served it well, insulating it from charges of bias or hypocrisy and helping it remain one of Americans’ most trusted brands. But over the last year, a growing contingent of employees has been calling for the company to embrace the mantle of higher corporate responsibility and help combat the perils of climate change.

On Friday, hundreds of Amazon employees walked out of the firm’s Seattle headquarters, as did contingents from Amazon offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, Dublin and other cities, as part of a global “climate strike” also including employees of other companies, students and youth groups. The effort was timed ahead of a United Nations Climate Action Summit to be held Monday in New York.

The group leading the Amazon walkout — Amazon Employees for Climate Justice — has spent this year urging Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and the rest of senior management to take more urgent steps, and the workers’ efforts are a key reason Amazon’s overall environmental footprint increasingly is coming under scrutiny.

Their protests appeared to pay off Thursday when Bezos announced that Amazon would significantly step up its effort to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to power its massive operations.

Under a new Climate Pledge, Amazon is committed to the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than called for under the United Nations Paris Agreement, Bezos said.

As part of that initiative, he said, Amazon will be using 100% renewable energy companywide by 2030, a goal the employees’ group has been seeking.

Amazon will order 100,000 electric-powered delivery trucks from the automaker Rivian as part of the effort, Bezos said. Amazon earlier had made a $440-million investment in Rivian.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue — we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” Bezos said in a statement, adding that Amazon is pushing for other companies to join the pledge.

The employees’ group responded on Twitter, saying that Amazon’s pledge was “a huge win” for the group and that “we’re thrilled at what the workers have achieved in under a year.”

“But we know it’s not enough,” the group said Thursday. “The Paris agreement, by itself, won’t get us to a livable world. Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we’ll be in the streets.”

On Friday, Maren Costa, an Amazon user experience designer, joined the walkout at company headquarters in Seattle and brought her three children. “Their generation is the one that is most impacted by the damage that our generation is doing,” she said. Costa, 50, said she has worked at Amazon for 15 years, helping to design the shopping website and launch Amazon Go stores.

“I was walking on air yesterday, I was so happy” about Bezos’ announcement, she said. “I’m so proud of Amazon for taking that big step forward. But it’s not enough.” She is among the employees who want the company to end its contracts with oil and gas companies.

The heightened focus on Amazon comes as Americans are increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, according to a survey early this year by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Amazon’s slowness in switching to renewable energy has been one focus of its climate critics. They’ve also assailed the company, with sales of nearly $233 billion last year, for selling its computer services to the oil and natural gas industry, for shifting more toward plastic mailers for deliveries that are not easy to recycle, and for donating to the campaigns of congressional representatives who have voted against climate legislation.

“They need to do more and be more urgent,” said Danilo Quilaton, an Amazon product designer in San Francisco and one of the employee group’s organizers.

“Amazon employees are deeply concerned about the climate crisis, and we see how it’s impacting our lives,” Quilaton said. “They’re not moving fast enough.”

U.S. workers, especially in the technology industry, increasingly have been pushing for corporate activism on social and environmental matters.

At Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, employees have protested the firm’s development of a search engine for China, its work on artificial intelligence for missile drones and its handling of sexual misconduct claims. In February, a group of Microsoft Corp. employees calling itself Microsoft Workers 4 Good called for the company to stop developing technology for military use. In May, more than 200 workers walked out of the Los Angeles headquarters of Riot Games Inc., maker of the “League of Legends” video game, over its handling of sexual discrimination lawsuits. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter employees, among others, joined the Amazon workers in the climate protest Friday, and another of the Amazon group’s organizers, Emily Cunningham, tweeted Thursday that it would be the “first ever cross-tech walkout.”

At Amazon, the employee group in April wrote an open letter to Bezos and Amazon’s other directors calling for the company’s board to take more urgent steps to fight climate change. The letter, posted on the website Medium, has more than 8,100 signatures.

That’s only about 1% of Amazon’s workforce of 653,300 full- and part-time employees, but some analysts expected their activism would get the attention of Bezos — who is the world’s richest person, with a net worth of $113 billion, according to Forbes.

“It puts a lot of pressure on him to respond to this in a thoughtful way,” said Nell Minow, vice chairwoman of ValueEdge Advisors, which promotes strong corporate governance.


Alibaba, Huya, Lead 5 Top China Stocks Near Buy Points

Your top stocks to watch this week are several U.S.-listed China plays: Alibaba (BABA), Huya (HUYA), ZTO Express (ZTO), (JD) and New Oriental Education & Technology (EDU).

Huya stock and ZTO Express stock are in buy zones right now. New Oriental Education stock and stock are close to buy points. Alibaba stock is still working toward a breakout, but is clearing a resistance level.

Keep in mind that Chinese economic growth is slowing, in part due to the ongoing China trade war. Renewed China trade war escalation could hit these Chinese-listed companies especially hard.

Alibaba Stock

Shares of the e-commerce giant are 6.8% below a 195.82 buy point from a cup-type base. Alibaba stock is clearing resistance near 180.

Alibaba stock has a Composite Rating of 96 and an EPS Rating of 99, indicating the strongest-possible profit acceleration. However, the relative strength line of Alibaba stock dipped in May and has struggled to rebound since. The relative strength line, the blue line in the charts below, tracks a stock’s ability to outperform the S&P 500.

Last month, shares jumped after Alibaba earnings beat fiscal first-quarter expectations. Along with online shopping, Alibaba has put its investments elsewhere — in delivery. Alibaba also recently joined forces with Starbucks (SBUX) to offer voice ordering and delivery service to customers in China. Stock, Alibaba’s e-commerce archrival in China, is setting up in a consolidation with a 32.48 entry. Shares are 4.7% below that pivot. stock has been trading tightly in recent days, finding support at its 50-day line.

Shares have a Composite Rating of 91. stock’s EPS Rating is 99. However, the relative strength line has flatlined most of this year, after drifting lower last year.

Huya Stock

Huya, a streaming platform for gaming, remains in buy range as it holds above a 26.48 buy point from a double-bottom base. The stock has a 95 Composite Rating, but its EPS Rating is weaker at 72, and the stock’s relative strength line has been choppy.

Huya stock has trended higher since the company reported second-quarter earnings last month. Earnings per share and revenue beat expectations.

Average monthly active users jumped 57.3%, “driven by enhanced partnership with several leading game studios and increased integration in the esports value chain,” CEO Rongjie Dong said in a statement. Its focus on mobile gaming also helped.

Huya is an IBD Leaderboard stock.

New Oriental Education Stock

New Oriental Education stock, a recent IBD Stock of the Day, is 3.9% below a 115.98 buy point from an ascending base. The Composite Rating of the educational-services provider is a best-possible 99. Its EPS Rating is also a strong 90. A look at its relative strength line shows it has outperformed the market for much of this year.

New Oriental Education stock got a lift in July after the company reported earnings. Revenue jumped 20%, boosted by its K-12 after-school tutoring business, which it said was a key propellant of growth. The company has also added learning centers in China’s cities.

ZTO Express Stock

ZTO Express is within buy range of a long cup-with-handle base with a 21.46 buy point. As with New Oriental Education stock, shares of the delivery company, sometimes called the FedEx (FDX) of China, carry a 99 Composite Rating and a 90 EPS Rating. Its relative strength has also bounded higher this year.

Similar to other stocks to watch this week, ZTO got a bump after its positive Q2 earnings, reported last month. The company’s delivery network covers much of China’s cities and counties. E-commerce has been a big growth driver. Alibaba is one of ZTO’s backers.


Ma’s Departure and the Trade War Will Not Stop Alibaba Stock

Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) began a new era this month. Founder Jack Ma stepped down as chairman, a role that now belongs to current CEO Daniel Zhang. Although leadership transitions always bring some degree of uncertainty, it so far does not look like a factor that will hurt Alibaba stock.

However, several external issues have held down BABA stock. Unfortunately for traders, these factors will probably continue to hamper Alibaba Group for the foreseeable future. Still, as long as Mr. Zhang preserves one thing, investors can earn substantial returns in Alibaba stock.

Jack Ma’s Departure Changes Little
Jack Ma’s has taken a gradual approach in stepping away from the company he founded. He vacated the CEO position in 2013 but remained chairman of the board until this month. Mr. Ma will retain a seat on the company’s board. Still, the company now belongs to Daniel Zhang, a man who has held the CEO position since 2015.

InvestorPlace – Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading Tips

7 CBD Stocks to Buy That Are Still Worth Your Investment Dollars
Many worry about the change in leadership. However, Alibaba made the transition a years-long process that has involved little in the way of surprise. Thus far, it looks like it will resemble that of Tim Cook taking over at Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) as opposed to the transition that preceded Jeff Immelt’s disastrous tenure at GE (NYSE:GE). Since Zhang has become a known quantity, I do not see Alibaba making radical changes. Likewise, I do not see any significant revisions in the case for or against Alibaba stock.

To be sure, one thing has remained the same about Alibaba Group regardless of leadership. The best thing about Alibaba stock is its connection to China. Likewise, the worst thing about BABA stock is its connection to China.

Profit Growth Boosts BABA
Like it or hate it, Alibaba stock is a growth machine. Analysts forecast earnings increases of 23.3% this year and 26% the next. They also predict revenue will grow by 31.9% and 29% in the same respective periods.

Management can take much of the credit for these increases. Acquisitions such as the recent purchase of the NetEase (NASDAQ:NTES) e-commerce platform Koala merely enhance these increases long term. Also, with the continuing growth of China’s middle class, BABA stock to maintain or increase its growth. More importantly, these increases come amid the current challenges facing Alibaba. Thus, the stock should deliver significant returns to investors even if external conditions do not improve.

Do Not Expect a High Multiple
However, investors also need to remember that Alibaba stock is a Chinese equity. Hence, it has seen its potential held back from the U.S.-China trade war. It also suffers from more internal political disputes. In all likelihood, the protests in Hong Kong led to Alibaba delaying its listing on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. Moreover, the company cannot directly sell stock in Alibaba to Americans. For this reason, BABA stock is an ownership stake in a Cayman Islands-based holding company entitled to the company’s earnings.

Do these factors hold Alibaba Group down? Absolutely. Many traders prefer to minimize politics. Also, while I do not expect Alibaba to renege on agreements that created the holding company supporting BABA stock, one cannot escape the fact that Alibaba stock is not an ownership stake in Alibaba.

Hence, these factors have likely stopped Alibaba stock from achieving the triple-digit price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios seen with other growth tech stocks. Instead, the stock trades at a more modest forward P/E ratio of around 20.8. Given the doubts some investors hold about China, I do not expect this multiple to improve significantly. Fortunately for Alibaba stock bulls, it does not have to get better.

The Bottom Line on Alibaba stock
The negatives will not stop the growth of Alibaba stock. While the trade war and conflict with China make for great headlines, traders have long since priced these doubts into BABA.

Would an end to the trade war help? Since the beginning of the trade dispute hurt Alibaba stock, it stands to reason that BABA may recover some of that lost value. However, the status of Alibaba Group as a Chinese company, as well as the nature of Alibaba stock itself, will probably prevent it from achieving a significantly higher valuation.


‘Fast Money’ Traders Share Their Thoughts On Shake Shack, Shopify And More

On CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report,” Sarat Sethi said that he owns Blackstone Group Inc (NYSE: BX) for a while. He likes it and he thinks it’s a great stock to have in your portfolio.

If your timeframe is longer than the next 12 months, you want to be in Shopify Inc (NYSE: SHOP), said Joe Terranova.

See Also: Pete Najarian Sees Unusual Options Activity In Microsoft And ASHR

Margaret Reid owns UnitedHealth Group Inc (NYSE: UNH). She explained that there is increased policy uncertainty at the moment so investors have to have patience with the stock.

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc (NYSE: CLF) traded lower in August because the iron ore price has collapsed, said Jim Lebenthal. He is not concerned about the iron ore price and he has a lot of faith in what the CEO is doing.

Josh Brown bought Shake Shack Inc (NYSE: SHAK) at $40 and $20 and he is not looking to buy more. He is staying long the stock.

See more from Benzinga

CVS, Shake Shack And More ‘Fast Money Halftime Report’ Picks From September 12
Blackstone, Boeing And More ‘Fast Money’ Picks For September 10
‘Fast Money Halftime Report’ Traders Advise Viewers On Motorola Solutions, Transocean And More


Why Shopify Spent $450 Million on a Company No One’s Heard Of

E-commerce technology powerhouse Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) recently announced it’s purchasing robotics and warehouse automation outfit 6 River Systems, adding the start-up’s capabilities to its own order fulfillment segment and jump-starting its logistics prowess. Shopify said it will pay $450 million for the company, which is projected to add just $30 million in revenue next year and $25 million in operating expenses this year. What gives?

What Shopify is getting
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. Tech valuations are high at the moment, and as nutty as Shopify’s one-year forward price-to-sales valuation of roughly 15x on 6 River Systems might sound, it’s par for the course at the moment in the world of data, automation, and analytics services. Shopify itself is valued at 29 times trailing one-year sales — although a top line expansion of nearly 50% last quarter partially justifies the stratospheric multiple for this high-growth stock.

Shopify’s move isn’t unprecedented. (NASDAQ:AMZN) bought Kiva Systems — a company similar to 6 River Systems — back in 2012 for $775 million. In fact, as contributor Danny Vena points out, two 6 River Systems founders were executives at Kiva. That’s interesting.

Shopify CEO Toby Lutke explained: “Shopify is taking on fulfillment the same way we’ve approached other commerce challenges, by bringing together the best technology to help everyone compete. With 6 River Systems, we will bring technology and operational efficiencies to companies of all sizes around the world.”

But while Amazon eventually turned Kiva into Amazon Robotics to grow its own share of the burgeoning e-commerce industry, Shopify is likely taking a different approach. At least at the moment, Shopify’s mission is to empower other businesses with e-commerce technology — from the small mom-and-pop store and aspiring entrepreneur to the large and established business looking to make the migration to direct-to-consumer selling via the internet. Through Shopify Plus, large businesses using Shopify to start up and improve upon their digital selling capabilities have been fueling results in a big way. Thus, while Amazon went shopping to further develop e-commerce as the current leader of that industry, Shopify is disrupting it by making the technology available to everyone.

This isn’t the only recent Shopify deal
Earlier in the year, Shopify also acquired a small business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce company called Handshake for an undisclosed sum. Then, during its developer conference, it announced it was investing in a national network of fulfillment centers to help its customers keep up with Amazon and its other impossibly large peers with greater scale. While this was happening, the multitrillion-dollar U.S. B2B industry got yet another entrant in the form of Alibaba. Shopify is stitching together its tech with new logistics prowess to take on a big industry, led by some powerful players.

However, all of Shopify’s new parts pair together nicely, not as a marketplace but as a competitive alternative to Amazon’s various business services. Amazon has learned a lot at the expense of older retailers and leveraged it into highly profitable operating segments and technology; its AWS cloud computing platform is a case in point. Online retail may be by far Amazon’s largest department — at $31.1 billion in the second quarter of 2019 alone, a 14% year-over-year increase — but its operating profit margin is in the single digits. By contrast, AWS generated a 25% operating margin on revenue of $8.38 billion in the second quarter.

So why 6 River Systems? It’s all about luring in retailers and business suppliers to the larger Shopify ecosystem, without said businesses having to worry about an in-house retailing operation run by Shopify. It could be a real pull for companies in need of an upgrade to their online presence, as well as those in the Amazon sandbox competing with the company’s formidable selling enterprise. It’s too soon to tell whether the investment will pay off. However, in a big industry that’s only getting bigger, Shopify’s past execution suggests investors should be paying attention.


Two Minutes with a Founder: Hussein Mohieldin of Robusta & E-Commerce Summit

Two Minutes with a Founder is a series of quick interviews with founders from the Middle East & North Africa.

Hussein Mohieldin is the founder and CEO of Robusta, one of the leading technology and product agencies in Egypt (with an office in Germany as well) that has worked with local, regional and international businesses to help them implement different digital transformation programs. Robusta’s head office in Cairo is home to over 100 engineering and design consultants and its office in Germany engages with their clients in Europe with a special focus on Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Hussein had founded Robusta in 2013 after working with Quick Wins, a Dubai-based management consulting firm, for three years. He holds an M.Sc of Computer Engineering from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland and a B.Sc of Computer Science and Engineering from German University in Cairo.

Last year, after working with tens of retail and ecommerce businesses, Hussein and his team at Robusta launched E-Commerce Summit, an annual event that wants serve as a platform for building future of ecommerce in Egypt. E-Commerce Summit’s 2019 edition is taking place on Tuesday, September 17. We have covered some details about what E-Commece Summit offers as an event in a piece that you can read here.

But in this interview piece, we talk to Hussein to learn how’d a tech agency (aka software house) ended up in the business of events around ecommerce and that is precisely the first question we start with. Here’s our chat.

How’d a software house ended up in the business of events around ecommerce?

When we first started thinking about this few years ago we started off by thinking about it as a developers conference focused on technology, platforms and solutions and over time as we worked with more clients and partners we realized technology was not the bottleneck for ecommerce and that all market players big or small encounter similar challenges across different fronts from content to technology, to logistics and customer experience to developing internal capacity and setting a strategy to manage all this together.

Accordingly, we work extensively with our content partners to design a holistic experience that is as much as possible inclusive to the different players coming from 15+ different industries and different levels of expertise when it comes to management of ecommerce. And this evolved into an annual event that brings together 80+ speakers and 3,000+ attendees in trendsetting content and insightful exchange of experiences.

What do you think makes Ecommerce Summit special? Why someone should pay money to attend it?

E-Commece Summit is an event that is designed by people from the business for people in the business. It stands on two key pillars: content & commercials. We’re very much focused on bringing the world to Egypt by attracting key speakers of high relevance and fresh content that’s well-matched with our audience profiles of C-Levels, Directors and decision-makers alongside parallel modules that facilitates the exchange of business and increases potential of collaboration across the different market players like the E-Commerce Summit Marketplace and the master classes. Both of which are two new additions to this year’s edition that we’re very much excited about.

What will be different about this edition? What are going to be some of the biggest highlights of E-Commerce Summit 2019?

The masterclasses provide an in-depth workshop delivered by industry experts who have been in the ecommerce business day in and day out to a smaller group of attendees with the objective of education and triggering action. In parallel, the E-Commerce Summit Marketplace is an exhibition that brings together the providers of services and products to the ecommerce merchants in one stop shop for the merchants to compare the best and most compatible offerings and get their ecommerce quickly off the ground.

What do you think are the three biggest challenges faced by ecommerce businesses in Egypt?

In my opinion, the biggest three challenges that ecommerce businesses are facing in Egypt are logistics, customer experience and readiness of the merchants to expand their own capacity to serve the online market, which is quite different in expectations and demands to the traditional brick & mortar business.

What role do you think government needs to play to help grow ecommerce in Egypt? Are they doing enough?

Lots of progress has been taking place on the policy and taxation sides in Egypt. We’ve been invited to different round tables and hearing sessions by our policy partners on data privacy, e-transactions and taxation laws and the government more than ever has been trying to be as inclusive as possible to the different stakeholders and we see actual amendments being made to the laws in light of the feedback delivered by the stakeholders. We look forward to similar efforts and advancements on the connectivity and education aspects that could really help grow the market bigger and drive it forwards.

Which particular niche/sector in ecommerce do you think will grow the fastest in the next few years in Egypt?

Household and consumer electronics is obviously topping the market like most of the other markets. We see still quite a big room for fashion and grocery businesses before they reach their full potential and in a country like Egypt. We see the biggest potential, however, in the B2B sector.

If you could invest in one regional ecommerce startup in the Middle East & North Africa today, who would that be?

My favorites are ones serving the mobility & logistics like Halan, Bosta, Swyft and FwRun and in payments I’d say Accept. Brimore comes across as quite an interesting startup as well reaching out to a yet untapped market. On B2B side MaxAB is winning grounds quickly.

What do you think ecommerce in Egypt (and MENA) would look like in the next ten years?

In Egypt and MENA we have the luxury of predicting the future by looking at more advanced markets and see the trends and patterns cascading into the region. This gap closes rapidly though as adoption of digital and connectivity becomes higher and as millenials and Gen Z take over who’d almost always buy into convenience made possible through ecommerce.


Lower discounts, economic slump take toll: Click-wait for ecommerce as consumers put off buys

BENGALURU | MUMBAI: Consumer spending on online shopping sites is estimated to be down by about a fifth in the first half of the year to June as etailers have cut discounts and the growth slump has hit buying sentiment across sectors, according to a report by market research firm Kantar. To be sure, the company expects a “bounce back” in the second half, which is marked by the festive season when ecommerce players typically register a significant spike in sales.

While the average ticket size has fallen 27% in the first six months compared with the same period last year, average spending is down 21%, according to the report that’s exclusive to ET.

“The overall economic slowdown is reflecting in consumer sentiment with respect to online shopping,” said Hemant Mehta, MD (insights division), Kantar. “Consumers seem to be cautious and taking their time before making purchases.”

Mobile Phones, Fashion See Steep Fall
The number of buyers dropped across several key categories with mobile phones clocking a 17% decline, while fashion saw a 16% drop, Kantar said.

As per estimates by IT industry body Nasscom, the Indian ecommerce market was worth $38.5 billion in 2018-19, compared with $33 billion in 2017-18. Amazon and Flipkart comprise the bulk of India’s online retail market.

ET reported last month that online marketplaces are expected to register 25-27% sales growth during the crucial festive season, slower than last year’s 35%, owing to sluggish consumer sentiment and a slowing economy.

“Once considered recession-proof, online shopping has experienced a dip in H1 2019, in terms of buyers and spends,” according to the report. These changes were influenced in part by a reduction in discounts — which nearly halved between 2018 and 2019, the report added. Kantar analysed the online purchase behaviour of 50,000 urban consumers to derive its findings.

Some of this was bound to happen, said Paula Mariwala, founder of Stanford Angels, which invests in startups.

“Banks and NBFCs (nonbanking finance companies) have been reluctant to give credit and you’re seeing that here as well,” she said. “A major portion of customers in India had found access to premium phones and fashion through EMIs (equated monthly installments), and now that layer has been peeled away.” NBFCs have been gripped by a liquidity squeeze for about a year now, following the IL&FS default.
Absence of discounts
Another reason is the absence of discounts.

“Earlier, there was a lot of competition in fashion, for instance. We have seen a consolidation there and ecommerce companies don’t need to discount anymore to get customers,” Mariwala said. She said these companies are focussing on unit economics, which is why deep discounts have been withdrawn.

“However, we are heading into the peak season as far as shopping is concerned, and are optimistic that the sector will bounce back in the second half,” said Kantar’s Mehta.

As ET had reported earlier, Flipkart and Amazon India are maintaining aggressive targets, and hope to clock combined gross merchandise value (GMV) — or sales — of about $5 billion in October.

Walmart-owned Flipkart said it hadn’t seen a downturn.

“At Flipkart, we’ve been seeing good growth. As a value player in ecommerce marketplace, we continue to bring lakhs of sellers across the country to over 150 million consumers pan India,” a company spokesperson said. “We continue to remain very excited with the growth that we are seeing, especially in the upcoming festive season.”

An Amazon spokesperson said the contribution of phones above Rs 15,000 had increased significa ..

An Amazon spokesperson said the contribution of phones above Rs 15,000 had increased significantly in the past two quarters. “Our customers continue to show a strong response to the great offers from our brand and seller partners, including those for premium smartphones,” the company said.

India introduced clarifications to its foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for online retail through Press Note 2 in December last year. The rules, which affected the working of large ecommerce marketplaces such as Amazon and Flipkart, barred online marketplaces and their group companies from owning vendors and prohibited them from controlling the inventory sold on their platforms.

FMCG, Groceries: Resilient but under pressure
Fastmoving consumer goods, the third-largest category in terms of buyers, weathered the impact better than most, the report indicated. The number of online shoppers in the segment saw a 17% increase over 2018 with spending increasing 91% during this period. Discounting in the space also more than halved over the past year in line with other categories.

“However, the fact remains that consumers consider FMCG purchases to be more essential to daily living than non-essentials like new electronics, fashion items or mobile phones,” the report said.

Customers may buy smaller sizes of products, but will buy essentials, said K Ganesh, cofounder, Growth Story, which has had invested in companies like grocery company BigBasket.

“Also, one must remember that online shopping constitutes a very small part of the overall market, so you will see growth because people will continue to shop and buy more,” he said. “The new economy is usually decoupled from the macro trends, especially in the FMCG and grocery sector.”

Ecommerce companies have generally been able to buck slowdown trends primarily due to their ability to guarantee better prices than offline retailers. According to a Forrester report, despite a steady slowing of Brazil’s GDP, which can be compared with India in size and user behaviour, ecommerce grew by about 18% in 2017-18, while the economy grew 2.4%.


Jeff Bezos abruptly cuts health benefits for nearly 2,000 part-time Whole Foods workers: ‘This is disgusting’

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Thursday cut benefits for part-time workers at his grocery chain Whole Foods, drawing criticism from the left for a move that could leave thousands of people without health insurance.

“Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world,” Boston-based activist Jonathan Cohn said on Twitter. “This is disgusting.”

Business Insider reporter Hayley Peterson broke the story.  The decision will affect 1,900 of the business’s 95,000 workers—the ones who work part-time, or around 20 hours a week.

“We are providing team members with resources to find alternative healthcare coverage options, or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions starting at 30 hours per week,” a Whole Foods spokesperson told Peterson. “All Whole Foods Market team members continue to receive employment benefits including a 20% in-store discount.”

One employee, who has been working for the company for 15 years but felt anonymity was necessary to avoid retribution for speaking out, said she was devastated by the news.

“I am in shock,” said the employee. “I’ve worked here 15 years. This is why I keep the job—because of my benefits.”

Producer Jennifer Solotaroff took to Twitter to tell her story of being a Whole Foods employee and to explain to her audience the importance of benefits for the company’s part-time staff.

“I worked at Whole Foods and it was the kind of job where people were able to work and go about their life,” said Solotaroff. “Employees were taken care of and you could feel it—the morale was great, it was a diverse environment, and employees felt supported. So much of that had to do with coverage.”

The news of Bezos’s decision didn’t come as a surprise to writer Elon Green.


Amazon-owned Whole Foods’ decision to drop health benefits for hundreds of part-time workers reveals how promises to workers like CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent pledge are worthless

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is committed to investing in employees — until he isn’t.

The sudden decision to cut the healthcare benefits for hundreds of part-time employees at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, reported by Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson, came just a few weeks after Bezos signed on to a statement that committed to invest in workers.

The Whole Foods decision is not just hypocritical of Bezos, but also proves why workers should never put too much trust in kind words from CEOs and instead push for lasting changes to uphold their interests and those of their coworkers.

Investing in employees, but only on your terms

As a bit of background, Bezos joined CEOs from 180 other major companies — from Apple to JP Morgan — in signing an August statement from the industry group Business Roundtable that redefined the goals of their companies and promised to “deliver value to all” stakeholders.

The statement reads, in part, that companies “commit” to: “Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits.”

Now there was no legal obligation tied to the statement, after all it’s just a mission statement from what is essentially a lobbying group, but the companies — and even companies whose CEOs did not sign the pledge — emphasized that this was a serious statement of intent.

So what then to make of Whole Foods’ decision to cut the medical benefits of part-time workers? The decision will, as one employee affected by the change told Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson, leave employees and families who rely on those benefits in the lurch.

Amazon argues that the changes will only affect 2% of the Whole Foods workforce (which also begs the question: if it’s such a small number, why not just leave the benefits in place?), but that the changes will still affect as many as 1,900 employees.

Amazon contends that some of these employees will move to full-time hours and the change will “create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model.” But some employees may not be able to add hours and will be forced to look for more expensive coverage or a new job with benefits. The bottom line is that employees who had health coverage in their current role no longer have those benefits.

The move was roundly criticized online, with commentators pointing out that not only is Amazon one of the most valuable companies in the world, but that Bezos himself is the wealthiest man on Earth.

Words are just that: words

The Whole Foods move shows that for all the good intentions or press releases about taking care of employees, companies are ultimately worried about their bottom line and what’s best for the corporation — even if that runs roughshod over employees’ needs.

There are ways for Bezos to address the apparent hypocrisy of the move. The Amazon CEO can show that he’s committed to the values listed in the Business Roundtable statement by restoring healthcare benefits to the part-time Whole Food employees and, if he really wanted to live by his pledge, go the other way and extend benefits to more workers.

But even if Bezos and Whole Foods were to reverse course, the situation also makes clear that workers cannot rely on high-minded promises from their executives or companies. Even if Bezos is committed to the ideals of the Business Roundtable statement, there may be other decision makers within Amazon who aren’t as concerned, to say nothing of the fact that Bezos might leave.

This means that for workers to make lasting change and ensure that companies do invest in and take care of employees, structural changes must be adopted. Workers can support politicians who advocate for policies that protect workers and ensure that companies are held accountable. Workers can also band together through a union to create a collectively bargained legal framework to make sure benefits can’t be suddenly taken away.

Regardless of the ultimate solution, the Whole Foods healthcare decision proves that while CEOs love to make extravagant statements about taking care of their workers, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually practice what they preach.


How Alibaba is preparing for life after Jack Ma

Hong Kong (CNN Business) Jack Ma built Alibaba into the tech behemoth it is today with a culture and value system inspired by his love of Chinese martial arts.

The company’s six underlying values — dubbed “Six Vein Spirit Sword” after a popular Kung Fu technique — were “customer first,” “trust,” “integrity,” “teamwork,” “embrace change” and “passion.”
As Ma retires from the helm of the company, it is building on those values while setting out a new vision for the years to come. The new vision, announced when Ma officially stepped down on Tuesday, outlines Alibaba’s desire to be a force for good.
It wants to be “a good company that will last for 102 years,” the vision states.
“In the 21st century, no matter whoever you are or whatever your organization is, you should not pursue size and power. You should be good. Kindness is the strongest power,” Ma said Tuesday in his final speech as Alibaba’s executive chairman.

Preparing for the ‘digital era’

The company said its six new valuesare meant tostrengthen its culture for the digital age:
  • Customers first, employees second, shareholders third
  • Trust makes everything simple
  • Change is the only constant
  • Today’s best performance is tomorrow’s baseline
  • If not now, when? If not me, who?
  • Live seriously, work happily
Alibaba’s original mission “to make it easy to do business anywhere” has also been updated to include “in the digital era.”
“The current technological revolution will bring about the most profound changes in human history,” Ma said Tuesday.
New technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of Things all “want to solve three problems: sustainable development, inclusion, and altruism,” he added. “If technology can’t solve these problems, then it means nothing.”

China and the world

Ma said Alibaba (BABA) has two roles going forward: stimulating China’s domestic demand and participating in globalization.
“To stimulate the domestic demand, we need to rely on the market economy, not government regulations,” he said.
“If China’s domestic demand is not well, Alibaba is responsible.”
The company should also use its resources to connect global businesses and cement China’s role in the future of technology, according to Ma.
“The world is afraid of China, afraid of technology, afraid of powerful companies.We hope the technology is kind. We hope the technology brings hope, not despair,” he said. “We hope Alibaba can participate in the new globalization in the future and bring opportunities to the rest of the world.”

Kung Fu culture

Ma has repeatedly shown his love and appreciation of Chinese martial arts, and said the spirit has inspired him in founding and shaping Alibaba. Much of the company’s values stem fromKung Fu techniques created by his favorite martial arts author: Louis Cha, the late Chinese cultural icon.
In 1999, when Ma sat down with 17 co-founders of Alibaba in his apartment in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, they laid out nine core values and named them after “Nine Swords of Dugu,” a Kung Fu technique from one of Cha’s books.
In 2004, Alibaba narrowed down the values to six and gave them a new name: “Six Vein Spirit Sword.”
“If not for you, I wonder if there would have been Alibaba,” Ma wrote in a tribute to Cha last October when the author passed away. “Even if it did exist, it could not have been what it is today — tens of thousands of people being crazy together.”
A Kung Fu fan, Ma is a practitioner of Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art. He even starred in the Kung Fu movie “Gong Shou Dao” in 2017, in which he defeated eight celebrity martial artists with Tai Chi, including Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Wu Jing.
“Jack Ma has integrated Western and Chinese values well in his company,” said Ronald Wan, chief executive at Partners Capital International in Hong Kong. “But at its heart, Alibaba is still very Chinese.”

Jack Ma won’t fade away

Although he is moving away from Alibaba’s day-to-day operations, Ma is likely to continue having a big influence on the company and on China’s tech industry.
“Given Ma’s experience and massive stake in the company, as well as his status as the perhaps the only major Chinese executive capable of effectively representing China Inc. on a global stage, there is little chance that [he] will fade away,” said Brock Silvers, managing director for Kaiyuan Capital in Shanghai.
“Especially given today’s worsening trade environment, Ma will continue to play a significant role,” he added.
Alibaba has already entered its “post-Ma” era, according to Silvers.
“The company is likely to redirect to a more focused strategy, with greater emphasis on near term profitability as it seeks to redefine its core business over the medium term,” he said.
The new challenge for Alibaba in the post-Ma age might be to steer it through challenges to the global economic order.
“The US-China trade war and rising protectionism could disrupt the global trading system, which Alibaba and Chinese companies on its platform [have benefited from] in the past 20 years,” said Wan of Partners Capital.
“If Alibaba insists on its mission of participating in globalization … it needs to think how to improve the affinity of Chinese companies and help them get identified with global consumers,” he added.
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