The phrase “canary in a coal mine” originates back a few 100 years when miners would take a canary down to the mine with them. When the canary got suffocated and could not breathe, the miners understood that the air is unbreathable and quickly came back to ground level.
Modern day usage of the term is more metaphorical which is used to describe a warning sign or an early indicator of distress. If these are ignored, it could lead to more trouble for a particular company or the economy as a whole.
A very recent example of this is the liquidity crisis currently underway for banks in the USA. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank could potentially mean distress for the banking sector of the world, as seen by the issues highlighted with Credit Suisse, so far. Is it a warning sign? Only time will tell.
Closer to home, with the funding winter upon us, we’re seeing the new-age startups and tech companies seeing a serious erosion of value in the last 12-18 months, raising serious concerns about the cash-burn customer acquisition model of the entire delivery sector. Zomato has seen its share price correct by approx. 70% from its lifetime high due to rising concerns from investors
Going back a little, even the issues being faced by Vodafone in the last decade, led to rising concerns about the viability of the entire telecom sector. Jio disrupting the market only added to their woes, which eventually lead to their merger with Idea.
To conclude, “canary in a coal mine” is a powerful metaphor for identifying early warning signs of potential danger or trouble in a variety of contexts. By paying attention to these warning signs, individuals and institutions can take steps to mitigate risk and avoid larger problems down the line.