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From Seed to Shelf: Bhumi’s sustainable journey to tripling sales in just twelve months

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From Seed to Shelf: Bhumi’s sustainable journey to tripling sales in just twelve months

The English translation of the Sanskrit word “Bhumi” is “Mother Earth.” In an industry rife with child labour and disastrous health effects from grower to consumer, Bhumi products take pride in being ethically made using organically grown cotton with no harmful pesticides, toxic dyes, child labour, and net zero carbon emissions.

“Seed to Shelf” refers to Bhumi’s ability to track the entire ethical and ecologically sound supply chain, from farmers sowing the organic cotton crop to the dyes used to colour the cotton fabric to the finished goods shelf. 

But Bhumi, like many eCommerce brands, struggled to maintain inventory levels that kept up with its rapid growth and allowed them to meet its true sales potential. 

This is the story of Bhumi, which began five years ago for Vinita and Dushyant Baravkar, and how Bhumi was able to triple its sales revenue in just one year.

The inspiration

When Dushyant and Vinita Baravkar moved from New York to Australia in 2010, they were passionate about living sustainably and being ethical consumers.

“The inspiration for Bhumi comes from my time in New York. I used to live very close to the Wholefoods flagship store, and I used to wonder why people would go there and purchase products at twice the price,” Dushyant Baravkar says.

“That led to my curiosity about the products sold, how they were made and if they were sustainable. I met Vinita there while she was working with the United Nations on the ground with WHO, and she was experiencing first-hand the negative impacts of textiles and conventional cotton.”

Vinita has been fortunate to travel to many exciting destinations and experience the beauty of nature and world cultures. With a background in Health and a Masters’ in International Public Health, Vinita saw first-hand the disastrous health and environmental impacts of traditional cotton growing with farmer suicides, child labour, pesticide poisoning, congenital disabilities, harmful dyes and toxic waterways.

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Initial days

In 2017, Dushyant and Vinita founded Bhumi to pursue their passion. With Bhumi, they have created a range of premium products made from organically grown and ethically produced cotton.

Dushyant says, “the inspiration if I had to summarise everything in one word would be – curiosity. I’m your stereotypical corporate financial services person. I spent much time in the United States, primarily in management consulting, before moving to Australia, where I have been with ANZ on the institutional side and then Australia Post, among other roles. 

One thing led to another; Dushyant and Vinita came to Australia, and Dushyant decided to leave ANZ because of his curiosity to start a socially conscious business. 

After they launched, they started visiting small markets and stores where they found a huge demand from local customers. Neither Dushyant nor Vinita had experience in eCommerce, but after a few years of success selling their products through physical stores, they eventually opened their first online store with Shopify.

Getting suitable product material has proved a big challenge for Bhumi as it requires much capital. They considered bringing on investors to provide this capital but were worried it might impact their ability to deliver social impact.

Dushyant came from a career in finance, so he was well aware of the challenges he would face when trying to scale Bhumi. 

“This is a very capital-intensive business,” said Dushyant. Bhumi’s suppliers required a 30 per cent upfront payment for all stock, and at the pace, they were growing, they always needed to purchase more inventory than they had the cash for; “we often missed out on potential sales as we didn’t have the stock to sell to customers who were ready to buy” says Dushyant.

Managing cash for both inventory and marketing is a tricky balance to strike: “the two biggest issues for cash flow are related to inventory and spending on marketing. You have to have both of these hummings in parallel”, says Dushyant.

Dushyant and Vinita explored the option of bringing on investors. Still, they were worried that giving up control of their company would hold them back from delivering on their social impact mission. 

“We wanted to grow organically, not taking on investors who would dilute the value of our brand and challenge our ethos”, says Dushyant. However, their need for capital did not go away “if we don’t get the funding we need, at the right time, it would be a big issue,” tells Dushyant.

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The Bhumi team approached Wayflyer to discuss how they could find a solution to this problem. What appealed to them about Wayflyer’s offering was the ability to get the funds they needed to grow without giving up any control or ownership. Bhumi decided to take capital from Wayflyer to fund their inventory purchases and have gone on to take multiple rounds of funding for each order they make.

“We tripled our sales last year; we simply could not have done this without access to the right capital”, says Dushyant. This growth has also significantly boosted the social impact they deliver. Every Bhumi sale has a positive environmental and social impact, helping to fix many of the current problems in the textile industry. More sales for Bhumi means more social impact for people and the planet.

The vision

Dushyant has long had a passion for socially conscious enterprises and textiles. Dushyant’s vision for all businesses today is to have a purpose beyond profits. He firmly believes that companies should be financially sustainable and at the same time provide economic, social and environmental benefits to local and global communities.

Vinita and Dushyant knew it was time for positive change. Vinita’s background in Health and years in the field meeting with amazing NGOs, combined with Dushyant’s finance and technology background, has seen Bhumi grow into a global platform.

Making a difference with its efforts

According to the company, since Bhumi chose to use certified organic cotton over conventional (non-organic) cotton, 1,361,464k of driving emissions have been avoided, and 7,1910,375 days of drinking water have been saved, and 645,500m2 of land have been farmed without pesticides.

After the United States of America, Australia has the second-highest global textile consumption rate per person. Each Australian uses 27 kilogrammes of new clothing annually, and 23 kilogrammes of that clothing are discarded in landfills, making up 93 per cent of the textile waste produced, according to the Department of Climate change, Energy, the Environment and water.

Fast fashion, which refers to clothing retailers selling inexpensive, primarily synthetic garments inspired by the newest trends and intended to be worn for a brief period of time before being discarded and replaced by new garments once trends change, is a significant factor in this situation.

Second-hand clothing stores contribute to lowering landfill waste from textiles. There are 10,000 charity collection bins, 33,000 volunteers, and 5,000 jobs supported by Australia’s 3,000 charity and social enterprise retailers. However, more must be done to lessen fast fashion’s adverse effects and landfill waste from clothing.

More about Bhumi here; more on Wayflyer here.

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.

“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.

Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”

“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”

The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.

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The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

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Tesla autopilot recalls: 2 million vehicles need to have their defective systems fixed

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S., more than 2 million, to update software and fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when using Autopilot.

Documents posted Wednesday by U.S. safety regulators say the update will increase warnings and alerts to drivers and even limit the areas where basic versions of Autopilot can operate.

The recall comes after a two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into a series of crashes that happened while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were deadly.

The agency says its investigation found Autopilot’s method of making sure that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and can lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The added controls and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility,” the documents said.

But safety experts said that, while the recall is a good step, it still makes the driver responsible and doesn’t fix the underlying problem that Tesla’s automated systems have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

The recall covers models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year. The update was to be sent to certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it later.

Shares of Tesla slid more than 3% in earlier trading Wednesday but recovered amid a broad stock market rally to end the day up 1%.

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The attempt to address the flaws in Autopilot seemed like a case of too little, too late to Dillon Angulo, who was seriously injured in 2019 crash involving a Tesla that was using the technology along a rural stretch of Florida highway where the software isn’t supposed to be deployed.

“This technology is not safe, we have to get it off the road,” said Angulo, who is suing Tesla as he recovers from injuries that included brain trauma and broken bones. “The government has to do something about it. We can’t be experimenting like this.”

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on City Streets.

The software update will limit where Autosteer can be used. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” the recall documents said.

Depending on a Tesla’s hardware, the added controls include “increasing prominence” of visual alerts, simplifying how Autosteer is turned on and off, and additional checks on whether Autosteer is being used outside of controlled access roads and when approaching traffic control devices. A driver could be suspended from using Autosteer if they repeatedly fail “to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility,” the documents say.

According to recall documents, agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about the fixing the monitoring system. Tesla did not concur with NHTSA’s analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Auto safety advocates for years have been calling for stronger regulation of the driver monitoring system, which mainly detects whether a driver’s hands are on the steering wheel. They have called for cameras to make sure a driver is paying attention, which are used by other automakers with similar systems.

Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University who studies autonomous vehicle safety, called the software update a compromise that doesn’t address a lack of night vision cameras to watch drivers’ eyes, as well as Teslas failing to spot and stop for obstacles.

“The compromise is disappointing because it does not fix the problem that the older cars do not have adequate hardware for driver monitoring,” Koopman said.

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Koopman and Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, contend that crashing into emergency vehicles is a safety defect that isn’t addressed. “It’s not digging at the root of what the investigation is looking at,” Brooks said. “It’s not answering the question of why are Teslas on Autopilot not detecting and responding to emergency activity?”

Koopman said NHTSA apparently decided that the software change was the most it could get from the company, “and the benefits of doing this now outweigh the costs of spending another year wrangling with Tesla.”

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation remains open “as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

Autopilot can steer, accelerate and brake automatically in its lane, but is a driver-assist system and cannot drive itself, despite its name. Independent tests have found that the monitoring system is easy to fool, so much that drivers have been caught while driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said Autopilot’s controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated Full Self Driving system are meant to help drivers who have to be ready to intervene at all times. Full Self Driving is being tested by Tesla owners on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is stronger when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA has dispatched investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were running on an automated system. At least 17 people have been killed.

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The investigations are part of a larger probe by the NHTSA into multiple instances of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into emergency vehicles. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety problems with Teslas, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla shouldn’t be calling the system Autopilot because it can’t drive itself.

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AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story.

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Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers

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Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.

It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.

The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.

There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:

1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.

2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.

3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.

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4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.

5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.

6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.

 

We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.

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