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Friday, 19 October 2018

Weekly Reading: Some Interesting Stuff

Extraordinary comparison between the Amazon of today and Sears of a century ago to show how uncannily similar they were.

From the start, Sears’s genius was to market itself to consumers as an everything store, with an unrivaled range of products, often sold for minuscule profits. The company’s feel for consumer demand was so uncanny, and its operations so efficient, that it became, for many of its diehard customers, not just the best retail option, but the only one worth considering.

In the decade between 1895 and 1905, Sears’s revenue grew by a factor of 50, from about $750,000 to about $38 million, according to Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s 1977 book The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. (By comparison, in the last decade, Amazon’s revenue has grown by a factor of 10.)

Sears was not content to be a one-stop-shop for durable goods. Like Amazon today, the company used its position to enter adjacent businesses. To supplement its huge auto-parts business, Sears started selling car insurance under the Allstate brand. 


A good profile of how Oberoi Realty is bucking the trend in the crowded real estate market.


To be honest, I had never heard of Robert Vinall before this week. He is the owner and fund manager at RV Capital based out of Frankfurt Germany. His fund completed 10 years and he has written a wonderful letter. It encapsulates a lot of learnings that most of us go through. Definitely worth a read.

From a financial perspective, my sell decisions demonstrate that whilst it is correct to sell when a flaw in the investment case becomes apparent, it is often not when the valuation appears rich. In all but the broadest strokes, the future is unknown and unknowable. Where I know the company and its people well and, crucially, trust them, the surprises have normally been positive. What appeared at the time to be a high valuation, was not.

If you are starting today, my advice is to be fully invested, but only to hold the companies you would own if you knew the economy was on the brink of collapse. Incidentally, this is the correct way to invest all the time.


EU is planning to impose a tax on big Tech (google, facebook etc) based on digital presence rather than physical presence. If implemented, it will open up a new frontier of taxation and my guess is most if not all countries will then follow suit.

Read the full article here: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45813754


Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, passed away earlier this week. Here is an obituary written by Bill Gates.

Paul foresaw that computers would change the world. Even in high school, before any of us knew what a personal computer was, he was predicting that computer chips would get super-powerful and would eventually give rise to a whole new industry. That insight of his was the cornerstone of everything we did together.
In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area—he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.


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