The Economist: Business

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CES upstages the Detroit Motor Show as cars go electronic

THE ANNUAL Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas used to be a jamboree for gadgets you can put in your pocket or hang on your wall. This hasn’t been true for a few years. As vehicles morph from a lump of mechanical engineering to a digital platform for mobility services, and motor shows wane in importance, carmakers have sought new venues to...

Branding lessons from Rizla

IT IS HARD to imagine a simpler product than a cigarette paper: small, rectangular, with no moving parts. So cheap it is often given away. And replaceable; desperate smokers have been known to tear out Bible pages as substitutes. It has none of cigarettes’ glamour (though, these days, some of their stigma). No wonder Rizla, which produces 45bn rolling-papers...

American trustbusters force Visa to back off Plaid

IN EARLY 2019 an executive at Visa, a giant payments firm, sketched a picture of an island volcano. He scribbled the current capabilities of Plaid, a Silicon Valley fintech firm founded in 2012, in “the tip showing above the water”. The startup, which has developed a platform connecting consumer accounts at more than 11,000 banks to financial apps,...

Kuaishou takes on TikTok and its Chinese sibling

“WE AIM TO be the most customer-obsessed company in the world,” declares the opening line in the 700-page prospectus from Kuaishou, a Chinese video app. The firm, launched a decade ago by a former software engineer at Google and another at Hewlett-Packard, boasts more than 250m daily active users, up from an average of just 67m in 2017. Kuaishou is...

Why prospects for post-Trump social media aren’t all bad

ON JANUARY 7TH , a day after a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, leaving five people dead and America shaken, Donald Trump had the sixth-most-popular account on Twitter, with nearly 90m followers. A day later he had none. The outgoing president was permanently booted off his social-media platform of choice for inciting violence....

How Inditex is refashioning its business model

IT HAD BEEN closed, on and off, for much of the past year. Now signs on the blacked-out windows of the Zara shop on the Champs-Elysées, the Spanish brand’s early outpost in the French capital, announce it will not re-open even after covid-19 passes. Disappointed fashionistas are redirected to the label’s website for all their value-for-money sartorial...

After years of dithering companies are embracing automation

MARY BARRA, boss of GM, took to the virtual stage on January 12th to launch BrightDrop. The carmaker’s new logistics division will peddle such unsexy things as delivery vans and autonomous electric pallets for use in warehouses (see article). Hardly stuff to set pulses racing. Suppress your yawn, for Ms Barra’s announcement is the latest sign of a...

Beijing’s approach to business grows increasingly muscular

WHEN AMERICA slammed sanctions on Huawei, barring its firms from supplying the Chinese telecoms-gear titan on national-security grounds, China’s state media predicted this would spur innovation in the local technology industry. In time, it may well do. For now, much of the innovating is taking place within the Chinese state, as it toys with a new system...

What happens when firms have to stump up for good causes

KITEX GARMENTS is one of the largest private companies in Kerala, a communist-led state in southern India. Its embrace of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is enthusiastic. In the fiscal year ending in March 2020 it allocated 5.3% of its average profit over the past three years to public roads, schools, housing and safe drinking water. That makes...

The Fiat Chrysler-PSA mega-merger may give rise to a carmaking star

FIAT CHRYSLER AUTOMOBILES (FCA), an Italian-American carmaker, and PSA Group, the French owner of Citroën and Peugeot, do not like to dwell on their shared past. When PSA acquired Chrysler Europe in 1978 for a nominal $1 it picked up some struggling British and French marques and a heap of debt. That tie-up crashed a few years later with the demise...

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