THE ECONOMIC TIMES
The Economic Times is an English-language, Indian daily newspaper published by the Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.. First published in 1961, it is the world's second-most widely read English-language business newspaper, after the Wall Street Journal.
Economy

A Door-To-Door Global Tour Of Delivery In COVID-19 Times

As the novel coronavirus races its way around the world, we are also witnessing a rush of changes in the delivery industry. No longer just an option, delivery has all but become a necessity during the pandemic, and the sector as a whole has proven itself extremely adaptive. From creative innovations to corporations venturing into new milieus, here is a global tour of how delivery is changing:

Organic growth: While countless businesses great and small are suffering in the pandemic period, others seem naturally suited for these turbulent times:

  • Naturalia, the organic branch of the French food retailer Monoprix, saw its turnover increase by 40% during France"s two-and-a-half-month lockdown phase, the daily Les Échos reports. Naturalia's success is part of a larger trend, according to Daniel Ducrocq, an executive with the data and measurement firm Nielsen. "Drive-up and home delivery have reached historically high levels," he says. There's been a particular increase in the use of such services by older clients, Ducrocq noted. "The challenge for the coming months will be for distributors to keep this newly acquired clientele."

  • In the UK, Amazon Fresh is expanding its offer by proposing free delivery for Amazon Prime members. The company, having experienced booming food sales during the lockdown, wants to cover more areas in the country, according to the Guardian.

  • There's evidence that this fresh approach to procuring fresh food is catching on in Senegal as well. In Dakar, a company called Club Kossam has added fruit and vegetables to its offer (it already delivered dairy products) and doubled its monthly sales as a result. The firm now delivers to nearly 1,300 homes in the Senegalese capital every week, Siècle Digital reports.

  • The big question, though — and not just in Senegal — is whether the shift in favor of online shopping will last beyond the pandemic. Rapidos, another Senegalese home delivery company that has seen earnings increase of late, isn't convinced. But they're not complaining either. The company's managers, as reported by FranceInfo, attribute the success of online commerce to the coronavirus crisis but also to purchases linked to the month of Ramadan.

Unexpected opportunities: The pandemic didn't just add to the number of people seeking home deliveries, it also increased the number of businesses willing to send their products out, particularly among restaurants.

  • In the UK, some high-end restaurants were loathe to offer takeaway — until the lockdown period, that is. Desperate times, in other words, call for desperate measures. And for takeaway services like Just Eat, that's meant extra revenue. The company's earnings were up 33% in April and May compared to the same period last year, the business publication Investment Trust Insider reports.

Delivery workers on the road in Lima, Peru. — Photo: El Comercio/GDA/ZUMA Wire

Pushing the envelope: In these unprecedented times, some companies are taking things to a whole new level. Whether for the sake of speed or safety, innovation has been the name of the game.

  • Leave it to Japan to really ramp things up on the tech end. With the need for social distancing and contactless delivery options, some Japanese firms are experimenting with delivery robots.

  • Japan Today reports that one autonomous delivery robot called DeliRo will be rolling out onto the streets of Tokyo to deliver Japanese soba noodle dishes directly to nearby customers. "We want to explore what kinds of autonomous delivery services are possible and what the DeliRo can offer at a time when new lifestyles are called for amid the coronavirus outbreak," says a spokesperson for the robot firm ZMP Inc.

  • The Japanese Government is fully on board with increasing autonomous delivery service in hopes that it will alleviate what has been an acute shortage in labor since the start of the pandemic. It may be easier said than done, however, as there are still some legal and logistical issues to iron out with regards to the slow-moving, self-driving machines.

  • Speed is also of the essence in Bengaluru, India, where the Walmart-owned retailer Flipkart has launched a hyperlocal, 90-minute delivery service called Flipkart Quick, Economic Times reports. "With this launch, the company is making its first foray into fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and milk products," the publication explains. "And to do so, Flipkart is working in partnership with Ninjacart, a company specialized in business-to-business fresh produce provisions."

  • The partnership is a prime example of how the coronavirus pandemic has led to faster convergence between online and offline commerce, with traditional businesses now increasingly collaborating with online channels as a long-term strategy to generate demand.

Geopolitics

Coronavirus ~ Global Brief: Alone With God, Face Mask Holdup, Born With It

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The rapid and insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet teaches us in a whole new way how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world.

PLACE OF WORSHIP, HOTBED OF CONTAGION

The fear rippling through local communities around the world is finding little solace in places of worship. Regular prayer services — not to mention weddings and other special ceremonies — have largely been called off as the virus spreads into new countries and among different faiths. In South Korea, where there are recent, positive signs of containing an initial major outbreak, authorities have been working to keep churches shut and congregants home. Still, 74 new cases have just been reported in a church cluster outbreak near Seoul. Meanwhile, in another hard-hit country, Iran, hard-line Shiia faithfuls pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that had just closed over fears of the new coronavirus.

For those looking to gather together to pray, an increasing number of churches, mosques and synagogues are offering online services. For Catholics, with Easter celebrations approaching, people are preparing to do what they can. In the central Italian town of San Giustino, a local priest did not let the shutting down of all churches keep him from celebrating mass. As reported by the Umbria-based news site Tutto Oggi, Don Fillippo held mass from high in the town's bell tower, broadcasting the service on Facebook Live. Online, up high and praying that the Lord can hear.​

LATEST

• European Union prepares for full border closures as France, Spain, Israel and several U.S. localities impose local shutdowns to limit COVID-19 spread.​

• Even as global markets rebound, the Philippines become the first country to close its stock exchange indefinitely. Meanwhile economies around the world brace for recession.​

• China and U.S. continue war of words over origins of the outbreak, with President Trump calling it "the Chinese virus."​

• Tom Hanks and wife released from the hospital in Australia after contracting the virus. Other new cases include British actor Idris Elba.​

NUMBER DU JOUR

NEWBORN STAT: The UK identified its first baby born with COVID-19, Saturday in a north London hospital, reports The Guardian. The child's mother arrived at the hospital several days before giving birth with a suspected pneumonia. With her results for coronavirus coming through after the birth, the mother also tested positive.​​

FACE MASK SHORTAGE I - SOUTH KOREAN THEFT: Surgical masks were a thing in South Korea long before it became one of the countries hardest hit by coronavirus. Face masks were already prevalent during pollution peaks and at the first signs of a cold or seasonal flu. Even K-pop music idols endorse mask brands, while kids' models feature cute anime characters. So it's not surprising that when the country got hit by COVID-19, stocks immediately ran out. A quota was put in place to monitor purchases, limiting residents to only two masks a week and only upon presentation of their ID card. But with these new restrictions came a new crime. According to The Korean Times, police have registered an increasing number of identity theft cases, reported by residents who were unable to buy their masks because their resident identification number had been stolen and used elsewhere as a sesame for face protection.​

METRO SÃO PAULO São Paulo, Brazil — March 17, 2020

FACE MASK SHORTAGE II - CZECH DIY: A shortage of face masks in the Czech Republic —even for medical staff, social workers and food vendors – has prompted a crafty response: the mobilization of thousands of people to sew simple cotton masks at their homes, reports leading Czech news site Novinky. Since its launch on Sunday, more than 21,000 people joined the Facebook group "Česko šije roušky" ("Czech sews face masks') to exchange tips on homemade face protection. Amateur tailors now use the platform to sell or donate their products to those in need. With much of the country on lockdown since Saturday, the Government added sewing supply stores to the short list of commerces that can stay open, as only those wearing a face mask are now allowed to take public transport.​

FACE MASK SHORTAGE III - UKRAINIAN HOLD UP: Even with just a handful of reported cases so far in Ukraine, criminals are preparing for the spread: five people were arrested this week, suspected of trying to rob 100,000 surgical masks at gunpoint in Kiev.

BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS: Americans are preparing to fight the virus by stocking up on food, toilet paper, and ... guns. The Los Angeles Times reports an enormous uptick in ammunition sales around the U.S. as a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, with an increase in first-time buyers. Reports show that many of the initial customers were Asian-Americans who feared the disease would cause a racist backlash. Gun control organizations are nervous that the combination of people — especially children — quarantined with firearms increases the likelihood of accidents. According to one gunslinger interviewed by the L.A. Times, "There's no sports games on (T.V.)… so I guess people want to shoot."​

PUTIN PLAYING POLITICS? With only 11 known cases in Russia, a columnist at independent daily Novaya Gazeta argued that President Vladimir Putin's ban on gatherings of over 5,000 people is just a ploy to limit anti-government protests. Emergencies can be a gift in disguise for authoritarian regimes, he writes, and the virus has come at an opportune time for the Russian president, who is currently seeking to make constitutional changes that would allow him to remain in power for 16 more years — a controversial move that could provoke unrest. How will citizens content this major power grab if they're afraid to leave their house?

COVIDICTIONARY

A DIGITAL DISEASE: Customers are (rightly) forgoing in-person banking to reduce the possibility of contamination. Some banks, like South Africa"s Nedbank, are using the opportunity to speed up their digital transformation. The Africa Report announced that the bank, who already planned to keep 75% of its sales online, now plans to accelerate the standardization of all digital platforms to help social distancing. It is an impressive objective for a company that suffers from an unreliable supply of electricity, but a bold decision to make progress out of a seemingly regressive situation.​

PHARMA BREAKTHROUGH? The combination of two anti-HIV drugs was proven to be useful in the treatment of three elderly patients suffering from COVID-19 in India, providing insight on possible life-saving measures against the novel disease. According to an article published in the Economic Times, the Additional Chief Secretary of Medical and Health, Rohit Kumar Singh, announced three out of the four patients in the state of Rajasthan have now been declared "coronavirus-free." The doctors decided to try this combination of drugs because "the structure of coronavirus is similar to that of HIV to some extent." The first two patients who tested positive for the virus were an Italian couple, one of whom has been discharged from the hospital and moved into quarantine. The other, along with an 85-year old man from Jaipur, have recovered from the disease but still remain in the ICU.

Geopolitics
Stuart Richardson

India And China, The Planet Is In Your Hands

And the rest of ours too...

-Analysis-

When Donald Trump pulled the United States out the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last month, he declared that the historic international accord "hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world's top polluting countries." He was talking about China and India.

True, both countries are expected to increase emissions as their economies continue to grow in the coming years. But they have also stated that their long-term economic strategy is to reduce their respective national carbon footprints. And even more than decisions from the White House, the success of India and China in making a shift to environmentally-friendly policies is crucial to surviving the effects of climate change. The two countries currently comprise some 37% of the total world population, and will top 3 billion people over the next decade, writes the Mumbai-based Economic Times in a report on new United Nations population forecasts.

But even with the greenest of intentions, there are major questions about exactly how to confront climate change. Just a few days after Trump made his announcement, the world's largest floating solar farm opened in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The 40-megawatt power plant, comprised of 160,000 panels, sits atop a flooded coal mine. It is the largest energy project of its kind in the world and the Chinese authorities were sure to release mind-blowing video images of the complex.

China has a penchant for thinking big. In 2012, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River generated a world-record 98.8 terawatt-hours. Today, deep inside the Chinese heartland, the national government is constructing the world's largest wind farm. When completed in 2020, the Gansu Wind Farm will produce 20,000 MW, nearly 2.5 times the Bruce Nuclear Station, the world's largest nuclear generation facility.

India has said that it too will pursue ambitious green energy projects in the coming decades. Le Monde reported this week on the latest grand declaration from the government of Narendra Modi that India would become the first major country in the world to shift completely to electric vehicles. But with an economy that is only one-fifth the size of China's and a far more decentralized government, India will find it harder to finance projects at the national level. Indeed, observers have taken New Delhi's green energy plans, including the development of a dozen "smart cities," with a grain of salt.

The South Asian country's push toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation has instead relied on numerous smaller, often local or private, initiatives. Energy Service Companies (ESCO), which make profit from what they save their customers on energy, have become increasingly popular in the country. One government ESCO has helped to drive down the cost of LED lighting as part of a nationwide initiative to replace 770 million house lights and streetlamps with this new technology. The project is expected to cut India's CO2 emissions by 80 million tons.

The smaller-scale "Indian model," with its focus on state government and private initiative, might be America's future as well. Already dozens of cities, states, and companies have committed themselves to the Paris Accord in spite of the Trump's June announcement. Ultimately, scientists and policymakers tell us that saving the planet from global warming isn't an either/or question. National and local governments, India and China, you, me and everyone we know: we will all need to change the way we make laws, conduct business and live our lives.