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The Population Bomb Part 2

Pre 1970s India presented a grave picture. With a population of over half a billion and an economy that was largely reliant on foreign aid, it was apparent that a master stroke was needed to turn the tide.

It is understood that the wheat being grown in India during the 60s was nowhere near enough to sustain its population. One of the most common methods of any agronomist in such circumstances is to try and increase the wheat yield in plants through selective breading. The problem is that when this is relied on too much, the increased wheat yield makes the plants top heavy, which causes the stem to bend and break. When this occurs, it becomes very difficult to harvest the wheat by mechanical means, so despite there being an increase in yield, the problem is not solved.

Agronomist, Humanitarian and Nobel Laureate, Norman Ernest Borlaug addressed this issue through years of study and experimentation on crop in Mexico. After much effort, he developed a semi-dwarf variety wheat plant that was disease resistant and had a very high yield. He circumvented the problem of taller wheat grass collapsing under extra weight by breeding varieties that had smaller, thicker stems, making them strong enough to withstand the weight of extra grain.

Through constant import of the new dwarf wheat and grown under the intense supervision of Borlaug himself, India’s yields increased from 12.3 million tons in 1965 to 20.1 million tons in 1970. By 1974, the country was able to declare itself self-sufficient and continued to grow rapidly. Upon reaching the new millenium, the country was harvesting a staggering 76.4 million tons of wheat.

Borlaug was awarded the the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th 1970 and is often credited as the man who saved a billion people from starvation. When we consider the individuals that make up such a number, it is difficult not to fantasize about the potential waiting to emerge; in those numbers might be an individual who who makes a breakthrough in breast cancer research, a future diplomat instrumental in stymying the tide of war or another agronomist who develops the next strain of dwarf wheat.

It is interesting to see how interconnected our efforts are. From beginning his research in Wilmington, Delaware, Borlaug’s actions affected many countries, from Mexico to India and Pakistan, and then later on to Africa despite the fact that war was spreading across many of those regions. When an important message needs to be spread, we can be encouraged by the fact the if we choose, we can make country borders and language barriers no obstacle at all.

By | October 17th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Haier as a metaphor of China

In one of the latest issues of The Economist, Haier was described as a metaphor for China itself. The Haier group is a multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company headquartered in Qingdao, Shandong. Its products include air conditioners, mobile phones, computers, microwave ovens, washing machines, refrigerators and televisions. In 2010 the Haier brand had the world’s largest market share in white goods, with 6.1 per cent.

The Haier management cult was born in 1985 when Zhang Ruimin, appointed a year earlier to rescue an ailing state-owned refrigerator factory, dealt with its quality-control problems by joining his workers in taking sledgehammers to 76 defective fridges. In the official history of the company that became Haier, the episode is treated as hallowed proof of its commitment to quality and to its customers. In the West, we often refer to this as public relations. Mr Zhang’s hammer is now in China’s national museum in Beijing, while Haier has become a global firm.

There are fridges now on sale that use computerised displays to tell you when the milk is off; ones with a video-message facility so you can tell your housemates the milk is off; others with six doors for fastidious Japanese customers who abhor the idea of keeping their frozen fish with their ice-cream; and freezers that stay cold for 100 hours without electricity for those relying on the African power grid.

From its shabby, humble origins, Haier has grown to a group with 70,000 employees, an annual turnover of $21 billion, and a 6% share of its global market. In the first half of the year its listed subsidiary in Hong Kong reported increases of 68% in turnover and 77% in net profit over the same period in 2010. The company has been one of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of the huge injection of Chinese government money into the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

Much like Haier, China itself is transforming from a rather poor country into one of the world’s leading economies: China’s average annual GDP growth rate was at over 10% in the last decade. If you want to have a go at penetrating this market, ask SanTranslate, your translation service provider.

By | October 13th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

Amazon fires on the tablet market

On 28 September, Amazon.com’s boss, Jeff Bezos unveiled a tablet computer called the Kindle Fire, which will be available from mid-November in the US. Many expect the new tablet to compete well with established products like B&N’s Nook Color tablet and Apple’s iPad. The new Amazon tablet has a somewhat smaller screen than the iPad and only offers Wi-Fi connectivity, but will cost just $199. That is far less than the cheapest iPad, a Wi-Fi-only device which costs $499. B&N have responded to the Kindle Fire by cutting the price of its Nook Color to $224. Amazon also rolled out a new range of Kindle e-readers, the cheapest of which costs just $79.

“We are building premium products and offering them at non-premium prices,” said Mr Bezos. Amazon’s decision to undercut its rivals is partly a tactic designed to disrupt the tablet market, which is still dominated by the iPad. This successful e-tailer counts that its cheap tablet will be wildly popular and therefore boost sales of Amazon’s cloud-based content, just as the Kindle e-reader boosted sales of e-books. It’s like free parking outside Walmart — you want potential customers to see what’s in the window.

The Kindle Fire has a 7″ vibrant colour touchscreen that delivers 16 million colours in high resolution. You can use it to view movies or read magazines and children’s books. Over 100,000 movies and TV shows, including thousands of new releases are available to stream or download, purchase or rent.

This tablet gives you free storage for all your Amazon digital content in the Amazon Cloud. With the Kindle Fire you can use Amazon Silk, a revolutionary cloud-accelerated browser based on “split browser” architecture to leverage the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services cloud. When a tablet user goes to a website, an Amazon cloud computer will do all the grunt work in loading the page and then zaps only the information that is needed back to the tablet.

By | October 13th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments
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