U.S. industry tackles Indian COVID crisis

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Good morning.

India has become the second nation after the U.S. to log 20 million cases of COVID. But while U.S. numbers are moving down thanks to aggressive vaccinations, India’s cases are rising exponentially…and the rate of vaccination has fallen by half.

In response, a group of U.S. businesses—many of which have substantial operations in India—are mobilizing to help fight the disease there. In an announcement out this morning, a new Global Task Force on Pandemic Response is promising:

—1,000 Medtronic ventilators to be delivered to India, starting today;
—25,000 oxygen concentrators scheduled to be delivered by the end of May;
—A network of human resource leaders promising to provide practical guidance to support employees there.

The group was organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is working closely with the U.S. and Indian governments, and is overseen by a CEO steering committee that includes: Accenture’s Julie Sweet, Apple’s Tim Cook, IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Medtronic’s Geoff Martha, Dow’s Jim Fitterling, Walmart International’s Judith McKenna, Mastercard’s Michael Miebach, DHL Express’s Mike Parra, UPS’s Carol Tomé, PepsiCo’s Ramon Laguarta, Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky and American Red Cross’s Gail McGovern, plus Amazon CEO-to-be Andy Jassy, FedEx COO Raj Subramaniam, VMware COO Sanjay Poonen and Microsoft President Brad Smith.

India’s leading business groups are also urging the federal government to immediately introduce a strong lockdown. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far resisted that move, leaving lockdowns to state authorities.

Separately, a Russell Reynolds survey of 1300 executives finds the battle for talent is becoming a growing business concern—overtaking health fears. 59% of leaders cited the availability of key talent as one of the top factors that may impact their business in the next 12-18 months. The survey also found that 61% of C-suite executives and 73% of next-generation leaders say they would be willing to change their employer for the right opportunity—up 5 and 8 percentage points from pre-pandemic.

More news below.

Alan Murray



Chinese vaccines

The Chinese COVID vaccines CoronaVac (which the European Medicines Agency is now evaluating) and Sinopharm could be approved by the World Health Organization as early as this week, allowing their participation in the global COVAX drive. But although assessments released this week indicate the vaccines are effective, there appears to be little data demonstrating their safety for older people. South China Morning Post

MTN fintech

Africa's largest telecoms group, MTN, is reportedly getting closer to a spinoff of its financial technology business. The South African giant will also sell off a portfolio of its towers back home, as part of its drive to slim down. Bloomberg

Not milk

Nestlé is getting into the I-can't-believe-it's-not-milk game, with a pea-based alternative called Wunda that will compete with offerings from Oatly (oat milk, obviously) and Danone's Alpro (oat, soya, almond, coconut, hazelnut, rice, cashew). Fortune

Apple vs Facebook

The antipathy between Apple and Facebook goes back to the days of Steve Jobs, an email exchange released as an exhibit in the Apple-Epic trial showed. In the emails, former Apple software chief Scott Forstall told jobs and former marketing chief Phil Schiller that he had argued with Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook's inclusion of embedded apps in its then-under-development iPad app. CNBC


Amazon tax

Amazon's Luxembourg unit, which handles sales across Europe, took in more than $52 billion in sales revenue last year but paid no corporation tax—in fact, the unit supposedly made a loss of $1.4 billion, and was given $67 million in tax credits. All fuel for Europe and the world's ongoing battle to make Big Tech taxation fairer. Guardian

BlackRock ESG

BlackRock's is being accused of inconsistency over its supposed environmental and social goals. The fund manager has not been openly applying pressure to investee Astra International, an Indonesian conglomerate which has a palm-oil subsidiary with a poor environmental and societal record, but it has been backing an investor rebellion at Procter & Gamble over P&G's sourcing of palm oil from the firm. Financial Times

Climate goals

The Biden administration's toughened goal of halving U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 provised "not a risk but an opportunity" for business, Walmart EVP Kathleen McLaughlin and World Resources Institute CEO Manish Bapna write for Fortune. "Renewable energy is now cost-competitive with fossil fuels in many markets," they note. Fortune

Transition lessons

Former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman, who led the Biden presidential transition, lays out key lessons from that experience in a piece for Fortune. "A short-term process to plan for running the U.S. government, a transition holds broader leadership and management lessons that can be applied to any organization," he writes. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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