The Alpha effect
Also in today’s edition: A reprieve for Sebi; Ivy League downfall; Ships in troubled waters; Cutting the streaming cord
Good morning! Disney’s earliest version of Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie, is out in the public domain and looks like it’s destined to meet the same fate as Winnie The Pooh. Washington Post reports that Director Steven LaMorte is thinking of using Mickey as a killer in his next horror film. Turns out he’s not the only one. A slew of Mickey Mouse horror games and movies are in the pipeline as well. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Dinesh Narayanan also contributed to today’s edition.
The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: Benchmark Indian equity indices fell on Wednesday but Adani Group shares rallied, adding ₹64,500 crore (~$7.7 billion) to their collective market cap. That helped group founder Gautam Adani overtake billionaire Mukesh Ambani as the richest Indian.
Shares fell in the US too, led by Apple. A tech selloff was expected after the stupendous rally of 2023. Bloomberg reported that the tech shares group comprising Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, Tesla and Nvidia known as the Magnificent Seven lost $383 billion over the past four trading days.
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee’s meeting last month showed consensus among members that the current interest rate level was enough to control inflation but may need to stay high for some time. Asian stocks across the board were awash in red in morning trade. The GIFT Nifty showed Indian equities starting in the green.
It’s Between Adani And Sebi Now
The Supreme Court today brought the curtains down on the penultimate act of an epic corporate drama involving US short-seller Hindenburg Research and Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s eponymous conglomerate.
All good with Sebi: A three-judge bench dismissed reports questioning market regulator Sebi’s ability to probe the Adani Group, and demands for changes to foreign investment and disclosure rules. It gave Sebi three more months to complete its probe into Hindenburg’s allegations. The first act opened a year ago when a Hindenburg report called Adani the greatest con in corporate history, knocking off $150 billion from the group’s market value, ripping up expansion plans, and impairing its ability to raise capital.
Friends in need: The US government helped too when it brushed aside Hindenburg’s allegations to give Adani $533 million to build a port in Sri Lanka. White knights such as GQG Partners made a fortune for their rescue act.
After months of tumult and controversies, Harvard University’s president, Claudine Gay, has officially resigned from the post. Her resignation marked the shortest tenure of a president in the university’s history.
MIA: Gay’s tenure was rocked by anti-semitic campus protests. Gay’s actions (or rather lack of) on the matter drew much ire from prominent members of the alumni like Bill Ackman. That only accentuated with Gay’s bizarre responses during the Congressional hearings on the matter.
Crimes of past: The ire soon turned to her academic credentials. In a scathing reveal, it was found that Gay’s publishings (dating back to her Ph.D. dissertation) are filled with plagiarised sections. Consequently, the mounting pressure made Gay’s presidency untenable.
Trouble ahead: Last year, Stanford’s President resigned on the ground of manufactured data. That the Ivy Leagues of the world are failing to uphold academic integrity and freedom does not bode well for academia.
Alpha And Omega
This year will bookend the most populous generation yet. That generation, born between 2010 and 2024, is Gen Alpha, and they currently number over two billion. Since this is the first cohort fully born in the 21st century, there are significant implications for consumption… and marketers.
What’s the big deal?: These kids literally got the baton in the year the iPad was launched and don’t know what life was like before the internet. Unlike their predecessors—specifically (older) Gen Zs, who were either in university or finished college when Covid-19 surfaced—Alphas’ schooling and formative interactions were/are mostly online. They’re more likely to have virtual playdates or be in virtual spaces (metaverse, if you’re alive, are you listening?), and also suffer worse test score results and absenteeism.
Because a majority of Alphas are the children of millennials, they’re most likely to experience single-parent households, be most ethnically diverse and climate-anxious, influence household purchases more than previous generations, and enter workforces in a world where AI is the norm, not the exception. Phew.
They’re also, from anecdotal accounts, more financially aware due to the present cost of living crisis—interesting when you consider this is the most commodified generation thanks to the creator economy and influencer marketing. No wonder they’re becoming social media averse.
Alphas, like Gen Z, will be socially conscious consumers. Unlike the latter though, they’re likely to draw the line at fast fashion and trends like dupes. This will be a generational face-off worth watching.
Hiccups From The Start
The new year has started with supply chain uncertainties because of both local and global disruptions in logistics.
Local: A truckers’ strike over a proposed new law in India that imposes 10-year jail terms and stiff fines for drivers fleeing without reporting accidents they get into, has created shortages of fuel and essentials in many states. Although the strike has been called off after the Home Ministry promised to rectify the law, it will take a couple of days for the 2,000 petrol pumps that ran dry to be refilled and stores to restock empty racks of essential vegetables and groceries.
Global: Restricted ship movement through the Panama and Suez Canals, both critical shipping routes, is disrupting trade flows. Climate change-induced shortages and geopolitical tensions are adding to the pressure. Indications are that supply chain difficulties will continue to plague global trade throughout 2024.
🎧 What was Indian truckers’ beef with the new hit-and-run law? Also in today’s edition: the fall of Harvard president Claudine Gay. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Streaming Cutting Is Here
Cord cutting is so yesterday. The narrative that viewers are ditching cable TV for streaming-everything may not hold long enough if this story in The Wall Street Journal is anything to go by. People in the US are either ditching streaming subscriptions or downgrading existing plans.
Details: Customer acquisition is trickier in saturated markets, more so when focus is on profitability and hiking prices when the cost of living is ballooning. Services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Disney+ have cheaper ad-supported tiers and bundled deals to retain viewers, and that seems to be working… for now. A quarter of premium streaming subscribers in the US have cancelled at least three major services over the last two years.
In other news: Universal Pictures has overtaken Disney as the highest-grossing film studio in 2023; it’s the first time since 2015 that the House Of Mouse lost this pole position.
Fleet-footed: India’s youngest airline, Akasa Air, is on the verge of placing an order for 150 Boeing 737 MAX narrowbody aircraft as it rushes to catch the travel boom, Reuters reports.
Dig on: ONGC won the right to explore seven oil and gas blocks auctioned by the government in its latest round of bids. A Reliance-BP combine, Oil India and Sun Petrochemicals won one block each.
Coming through: Vietnamese electric carmaker VinFast is location-scouting to set up a battery plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi. The company is already planning a 50,000 EV plant in India at a cost of up to $200 million.
Buying time: Metals and mining tycoon Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources won creditor approval to push repayment of over $3 billion of bonds maturing in 2024 and 2025.
Bomb attack: Twin blasts killed more than 100 and injured several more people gathered near the grave of Iranian elite force commander Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated in a US drone attack in 2020.
Born in the wild: A cheetah named Aasha, which was relocated from Namibia to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno National Park in September 2022, has given birth to three cubs. Six of the 20 cheetahs brought to India have died.
Space lift: Elon Musk-led SpaceX’s heavy-lifter Falcon-9 rocket will transport India’s 4,700 kg GSAT-20 satellite for broadband communications to space.
THE DAILY DIGIT
Cancer deaths in India in 2019. The number was the second-highest in Asia, according to a Lancet study. (The Economic Times)
What’s in a name?: Dino nerds, this one’s for you. Y’all have heard of T. Rex but what about Nanotyrannus? It’s a species that looks eerily similar to T. Rex but is smaller. However, some don’t think that such a species existed. They point out that specimens of so-called Nanotyrannus are nothing but specimens of juvenile T. Rexes, which were known for massive growth spurts. Adding fuel to fire is the David Aaron Gallery in London, which is selling a similar specimen for $20 million. The gallery has chosen to call it a juvenile T. Rex, which didn’t sit well with Nanotyrannus fans. They argue that the gallery is benefiting from T. Rex’s brand value. What a world!
Going Dutch: If you’ve ever looked for a word to describe the cosy, warm fuzziness that you feel in the company of your loved ones, look no further. We’ve gezellig. The Dutch word is an intrinsic part of their culture and is a reminder to be more present with friends and ourselves. That means hanging out with friends more and/or getting your favourite food or drink. The word is not just restricted to personal spaces, though. It also describes the lifestyle of prioritising downtime and not taking work too seriously. Now that’s a philosophy we can all get behind.
Google FTW: Google’s AI bet hasn’t exactly panned out well. But that seems to be changing… somewhat. In a paper published in Nature, a team of researchers from Google DeepMind claimed to have solved one of maths’ longstanding puzzles using Google’s Large Language Model (LLM). Funnily enough, even Google’s researchers are not exactly sure how the LLM solved the problem. What they do know is that the machine spat out millions of suggestions, which they reworked through a few dozen repetitions and that somehow worked. Eh, we suppose miracles exist in tech as well.