Intelsense Capital Blog: Weekend Reading

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Last week
researchers showed it is possible to squeeze a powerful AI vision algorithm
onto a simple, low-power computer chip that can run for months on a battery.
The trick could help bring more advanced AI capabilities, like image and voice
recognition, to home appliances and wearable devices, along with medical
gadgets and industrial sensors.

The researchers
essentially devised a way to pare down deep learning algorithms, large neural
network programs that loosely mimic the way neurons connect and fire in the
brain. Over the past decade, deep learning has propelled huge advances in AI,
and it is the bedrock of the current AI boom.

Deep learning
algorithms typically run on specialized computer chips that divide the parallel
computations needed to train and run the network more effectively.


The Cold War version 2

Regarding the trade
talks themselves, what really riles both the Trumpsters and the Democrats
(moderates and progressives alike) is the very way China does business:
stealing intellectual property, acquiring sensitive technology through business
buyouts, fusing public and private sectors so that their companies have an
unfair advantage (at least by the mores of a global capitalistic trading
system), currency manipulation, and so on. Trade talks, however successful,
will never be able to change those fundamentals. China can adjust its business
model only at the margins.

What we really have
to fear is not a rising China but a declining one. A China whose economy is
slowing, on the heels of the creation of a sizable middle class with a whole
new category of needs and demands, is a China that may experience more social
and political tensions in the following decade.


Tech retailing gets into
luxury retail

high-end brands have been cautious about selling online. While they were
growing rapidly, digital transactions were a relatively low 12% of global
luxury sales in 2019. They are expected to hit 23% in 2020 and up to one-third
by the middle of the decade, according to Bain & Co. projections.

Boundaries between
store and website sales also blurred in new ways this year. With boutiques
closed, shop assistants resorted to contacting customers through messaging apps
or arranged digital consultations to drive business. Gucci’s parent company,
Kering, expects these so-called “distance sales” to stick. In the future, store
workers may log on during quiet times and interact with online shoppers to
improve the low sales conversion rates that afflict many luxury-brand websites.

Big brands that have
already poured cash into their e-commerce businesses are in the best position
to control what happens next. The ideal setup for a luxury brand is to sell
mostly on its own website, where margins are highest. Roughly 75% of LVMH’s e-commerce
sales flow through this channel, for example. The company only works with
outside platforms that give it full control over the presentation and pricing
of its products.

Tech companies have
spotted the opportunity. Amazon launched a new luxury store in September.
Social-media platforms, too, have ambitions to turn themselves into e-commerce
sites. Instagram, where many luxury shoppers already go for inspiration about
what to buy, recently introduced a checkout button in the U.S. that allows them
to purchase goods without leaving the app. Terms are very attractive: Instagram
will take a 5% cut of transactions, compared with the 30% average charged by
online luxury retailer Farfetch.


The key to a successful
business is its people

businesses have strong management teams which value and empower their people,
they promote innovation and risk taking, encourage ownership, and adopt
appropriate incentives through the full rank and file of the organisation. It’s
little wonder the world’s top CEO’s and the investment industry’s sharpest
minds focus on people and culture.

Even a business with
product differentiation, valuable intellectual property or patents must evolve;
competitors innovate, patents expire and technological advantages become
redundant. The necessary process of constant evolution is ultimately driven by

Finding the
historical financial numbers to fill a spreadsheet isn’t hard. Discovering the
qualitative aspects of the business which will determine the future numbers is
a little more challenging. In large part, these numbers will be determined by
the people.


What comes after the smartphone?

We’ve spent the last
few decades getting to the point that we can now give everyone on earth a
cheap, reliable, easy-to-use pocket computer with access to a global
information network. But so far, though over 4bn people have one of these
things, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what we can do with them.
There’s an old saying that the first fifty years of the car industry were about
creating car companies and working out what cars should look like, and the
second fifty years were about what happened once everyone had a car – they were
about McDonalds and Walmart, suburbs and the remaking of the world around the
car, for good and of course bad. The innovation in cars became everything
around the car. One could suggest the same today about smartphones – now the
innovation comes from everything else that happens around them.

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Abhishek Basumallick

Abhishek Basumallick

Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory for long term wealth creation.
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