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Clean, green business machine: Meet myharvest farms, by Archana Stalin



She started myHarvest Farms, a company that delivers fresh, organic produce to more than 800 customers in Chennai, about six years after shutting her first business.

Many would have buried their entrepreneurial dreams after failing in their first venture at the young age of 22, but not Archana, who treated the experience as a practical MBA, learned her lessons, and bided her time to launch her second enterprise.

But she stood up again, starting small with terrace gardening; she and her husband later leased two-acre farmland in 2018 at Sembedu village in Tiruvallur district, about 40 km from Chennai.

They named it Vembu Farms, which would evolve into a community of organic farmers and consumers.

The company’s turnover in the first year (2018-19) was Rs. 8 lakh. It jumped to Rs. 44 lakh in the second year and shot up to Rs. 1 crore during the last year.

In the beginning, she and her husband invested about Rs. 10 lakh in the bootstrapped venture, dipping into their savings and borrowing from friends and family members.  But all that went down the drain when they shut shop within two years. For the next few years, Archana worked at different places, before teaming up with her husband in 2018 again to take a second shot at entrepreneurship.

In 2016 she quit her job to pursue her interest in organic farming. She met organic farmers and experts in terrace gardening to enhance her knowledge in the field.

Archana and Stalin set up myHarvest in November 2016. Initially, they helped people grow their greens and vegetables in urban spaces like balconies or terraces.

myHarvest also worked with schools to provide hands-on learning in gardening by creating school gardens. They also sold gift boxes that had a pot, soil and seeds.

When their customer base reached 200, Archana organised a get-together at Vembu Farm where both the farmers and consumers met with their families and got to know each other. Around 89 families participated.

Most of their customers also visit the various myHarvest Farms with families on Sundays.

They spend the whole day going around the farms, watching how the farmers make their fertilizers, showing the children how farming is done, taking bath under the pump set, and even enjoying a bullock cart ride.

Her aim is to connect people to nature and teach them the basics of farming so that they can be more grateful to the farmers and don’t waste food. There’s a lesson or two for all of us to take away from her remarkable story.

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Investor’s greed a problem, says Sankaran Naren




Gordon Gekko might have felt that greed, for lack of a better word, is good, but that isn’t always the case. The human urge to clamour for more has caught many an investor on the wrong foot and Sankaran Naren, Executive Director and CIO at ICICI Prudential, opines that investor greed is increasing day-by-day, which is a problem.

Naren Indian equity portfolios at ICICI Prudential, and has worked with various financial services companies, including Refco Sify Securities India and HDFC Securities. Delving further into the issue at hand, he says, “We are not seeing a problem in the macro or business cycle. But investor greed is a bigger problem. They think that there is only one asset class called equity and there is nothing called risk and that is the bigger problem rather than anything else in the macro or business cycle from an India point of view. In the world, all the way from 2012, people have not seen market corrections in the US. There people are used to investing in stocks and not worrying at all about market corrections except in 2018 December and 2020 March,” said Sankaran.

At this point, he believes that it is very important for investors to practice asset allocation and that they should make choices based on earnings connected to 2021 or 2022, investing in names which have steady operating cash flows, dividend yield, etc.

“The key learning from 2007 is that investors who invested in IPOs based on 2014 earnings were in for a disappointment. There is a fair amount of froth in many parts of the markets, particularly in new-age areas. Unlike Asia which has seen periodic market corrections, since 2012, US equities have barely witnessed a meaningful correction,” said the fund manager.

“Today the number of loss-making new age companies trading at stretched valuations is very high in the US compared with dividend-paying, cash flow-generating old economy-oriented companies,” he concluded, as he offered an investment roadmap for stocks and mutual funds to a rapt audience. 

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Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners




Food delivery giant Swiggy has announced a two-day paid monthly period leave policy for female delivery partners, marking an industry first. Swiggy has over 1000 women on its delivery team, and has stated that since bringing on female delivery partners, it has been working to increase inclusivity and diversity across the platform. The company believes that providing a welcoming environment for women will inspire them to explore delivering with them.  

Other initiatives to deepen inclusivity include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, and implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, Vice President of Operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah.  

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has approximately 200,000 delivery partners, with about 1,000 of them being female. Swiggy hired its first female delivery partner in Pune in 2016. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to promote inclusivity and diversity across the platform, with a goal of increasing the number of female delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” Shah added.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai.  

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year. These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 percent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

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Gates Foundation boosts access to Covid-19 drug for lower-income countries




The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $120 million as part of its Covid-19 response effort to help lower-income countries gain access to the investigational antiviral medication Molnupiravir, which some say might be a gamechanger.

The Gates Foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said: “To put an end to the pandemic, we must ensure that everyone has access to life-saving health services, regardless of where they live on the planet. Low-income countries, on the other hand, have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccinations. That’s not good enough.”  

Concerned about lower-income countries’ struggles to access Covid-19 vaccinations and the risk of being left behind once again when it comes to medicines, the Gates Foundation is urging other donors to commit money to hasten the implementation of Merck’s experimental drug Molnupiravir, if it is approved.  

Merck expects trial tablets fto reach low-income countries by early next year. Regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments are in charge of deciding whether or not to approve the drug for usage. The Gates organization said it aims to significantly reduce the time it takes for new drugs to arrive in low-income regions after they become available in wealthier markets. That gap can be at least 12 months, it said.

The organization has already granted money to assist generics firms in developing low-cost production procedures that lower raw material costs and boost product yields. Some wealthy and middle-income countries, such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, have either obtained or are in the process of obtaining the therapy.

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