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Critical. Not negative.

The subscribers who derive the maximum value from The Ken are the ones who read closely how we cover companies. At the core, the idea is simple - it’s to tell stories not just about what’s happening inside, but about how it matters, and what comes next. And to do this boldly, analytically, and critically. You can’t get that from breathless newspaper ‘exclusives’ or access-based reporting from outlets who count as advertisers the very companies they write about.

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But what happens when major companies at the forefront of creating shifts in the industry refuse to get involved? Some prefer to ignore the company altogether, or focus on the side of the company that shares information with them. Not for us.

How did we cover Amazon? From all sides

Take Amazon, for example - a company which did some very interesting moves in 2018. Across the board - from AWS, Alexa, Payments, E-commerce and Retail. We wrote about all of these extensively, with little participation from the company itself, because these stories deserved to be told, and to be read by our subscribers.

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Why did Amazon take a stake in Shopper’s Stop?

Amazon is a household name. Shoppers Stop, not so much.

One year ago, the e-commerce behemoth invested Rs 180 crore in the chain retailer, helping it back on its feet. Getting 5% stake. Except, to everyone’s mild surprise, this deal has turned out to be a two-way street.

Amazon has done a tremendous job of scaling up in India in just five years, running neck-and-neck with Flipkart (now owned by Walmart). But there is one area where it struggles and lags woefully—fashion apparel. With Shoppers Stop under its wing, beyond help with online fashion sale, it now gets to install experience centres inside physical stores.

Our story examines what this means and how this will pan out.

Inside Amazon’s conquest of food and grocery

Two years after trying to get its food and grocery retail business right through various endeavours such as Amazon Now, Amazon Pantry and Amazon Prime Now, Amazon has agreed to buy Aditya Birla Group’s More chain of stores. In a deal reportedly worth Rs 4,200 crore, private equity firm Samara Capital will own a majority of the shares and Amazon the rest.

Is it a really big deal though? No, but it’s unusual. And a piece of a larger, more imposing puzzle.

Amazon has done a tremendous job of scaling up in India in just five years, running neck-and-neck with Flipkart (now owned by Walmart). But there is one area where it struggles and lags woefully—fashion apparel. With Shoppers Stop under its wing, beyond help with online fashion sale, it now gets to install experience centres inside physical stores.

What’s the puzzle? That what our story talks about.

Why did Amazon choose to do Amazon Pay?

Amazon launched pay in India in April 2017. A payment option that lets users store their card information, it also doubles up as a wallet. One year in, Amazon is doubling down on it. Just like other wallet players, it has been offering heavy cash backs. Amazon invested Rs 195 crore ($29.31 million) in Pay this March and Rs 457 crore ($68.69 million) last year.

That’s a lot of money. More when you realise that this is Amazon’s second attempt. Long back, when e-commerce wasn’t such a big deal, in October 2014, Amazon brought to India the payment option called Pay with Amazon. It bombed. Early last year, it was quietly taken out. Pay, however, is inching forward slowly but surely.

Read why.

It gets more interesting. Especially when we had to cover other competencies of Amazon. Like Alexa. Our story went into the share of complexities that developers face while building Alexa skills, and how they are limited by them. You can read it here.

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In some cases, the problem isn’t access, but about telling the right story. Several readers wrote in to us late last year, and asked us to write about public companies with the same analytical, incisive and deep rigour that we applied to private companies. So we did.

How we covered public companies

The broad principles of how we did this remained the same. Deep analysis, financial x-rays, asking the hard questions, and talking to multiple sources - most of them on the ground. This is how we were able to publish analytical, critical stories about companies that deserved a closer look, but hadn’t got one until now.

These stories represent the first of many we intend to do going forward. Across sectors. Industries. And even markets. You should read them.

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Finally, we didn’t stop there. No story about a company is complete without a story about its ecosystem. Suppliers. Employees. People. Industries. Our trained our critical eye into multiple aspects that surround a company. Our subscribers responded. They wrote in with praise, suggestions, feedback, critiques of their own. All of which made for some fantastic storytelling at The Ken.

Beyond just a company

Five stories about five aspects about a company. One about a company’s expansion plans in another country. Another about how delivery personnel are forcing food-tech companies to think differently. One about what the world’s largest furniture player entering India means for a host of other companies. One about employees at service companies. And one about what an exit of a SaaS company means for the rest.

The ecosystem matters. That’s what makes it whole. The Ken’s subscribers deserve nothing less.

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