Amazon unearths new billions
Also in today’s edition: Jio charts its entry in the metaverse; Fancy a study session on Twitch? Udan fails to take off; No happy ending for GameStop
Good morning! Lata Mangeshkar, whose career spanned eight decades, 36 Indian languages, and 16 Indian prime ministers is no more. The legendary singer also lent her voice to Nepali and Sinhala songs and united the subcontinent in its fandom. Which is why as India mourns, so does Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. As this 351-song playlist shows, India’s nightingale had a song for every mood and moment.
On today's episode, we talk about Twitch, a live streaming platform where most women are conducting "study with me" sessions. In other news, Udan, the government’s scheme to make air travel cheap and affordable in India seems to have failed. Tune in to The Signal Daily to find out more.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices ended the last day of the week marginally lower after a volatile week in which the Union Budget was the biggest event. US markets too swung with the earnings of big technology companies. Meta took a beating after its poor show in the fourth quarter. This week has some major earnings lined up, including those of Pfizer, Toyota, Disney, Coca Cola and Uber. The RBI’s rate-setting committee begins its three-day meeting on Tuesday.
It’s All Happening In Web3
Move over data, metaverse is the new oil for Reliance. The conglomerate’s Jio Platforms division invested $15 million for a 25% stake in TWO, a startup offering immersive online experiences. The announcement coincides with Vodafone India’s (Vi’s) gaming-focused partnership with UK-based Mobile Streams Plc.
Boundary lines: Speaking of the metaverse, the Sundance Film Festival dipped its toe into the pond, though not everybody is sold on it. And Meta is finally introducing a personal boundary feature for virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds. The development comes in the wake of mounting concerns over harassment in the metaverse.
Bored Apes now have a name: The founders of Bored Ape Yacht Club just got doxxed. NFTs are making their way to New York City clubs in a bid for exclusive “community-building”. And sex workers are increasingly using crypto to reclaim financial independence after being discriminated against by conventional vendors.
Cram Sessions Have Moved Online
Students are now tuning in to Twitch to study. Livestreaming study sessions are increasing in popularity and enabling content creators to make some cash. Take @StudyTme, for instance. It has a page study schedule, merchandise, and a subscription service.
Get on-line: Gongbang, a “study broadcast” in Korean, was first streamed in South Korea. It’s caught on. Chronic procrastinators need motivation.
These marathon videos (even running up to 15 hours) became a mainstay among Gen-Zs during the pandemic as remote learning became the norm. YouTube too has its share of Study With Me videos, bringing together a study bubble while collectively soothing anxieties.
Take note: With limited access to public space in the last two years, Amazon-acquired Twitch has a growing fan base. The pressure to get in front of the camera can be immense on creators. For now, the focus remains on scoring better grades.
Udan Hits An Air Pocket
A government-supported regional air travel scheme is sputtering mid-air as companies struggle to keep their business afloat amid falling demand and operational issues.
Of the chosen 94 regional routes, only 22 are alive after completing three years of subsidised flying.
Inclusive flying: Launched in 2017, Udan or Ude desh ka har nagrik (Let every citizen fly) is a short-hop plan that is also meant to break the exclusivity of flying. The fares are capped at ₹2,500 per hour.
Flights started on 403 of 948 routes awarded so far, connecting 65 regional airports. Airlines cut flight frequency by 60% after demand plummeted.
Air travel in India is still a luxury, subsidy or not. Incomes have to rise for it to become affordable and for that, the economy has to grow. When Captain GR Gopinath launched Air Deccan in 2003, India was on the verge of an economic boom that lasted nearly five years. The pioneer of low-cost flying also spawned several rivals. The only one thriving from the early crop is Indigo. The prolonged economic slump after that shut down many of them. The rest are in perpetually stop-start mode.
The Udan scheme started when the economy had barely recovered from the twin blows of demonetisation and a poorly executed GST. For the business to be sustainable, more people have to fly more frequently between Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The pandemic shut down travel, wiping out jobs and incomes. Regional air connectivity may yet be salvaged if the government extends sops and airlines manage to catch the tailwind of economic recovery.
Institutional Investors Are Back In Form
Institutional investors seem to be enthusiastic about buying the dip in Wall Street as the stock market fell after Meta’s disappointing results.
Tell me more? A turbulent week in markets ended with a surge in Treasury yields to their highest level in more than two years after surprisingly strong US jobs data stoked expectations of a more hawkish Federal Reserve.
Investors are also bracing for more volatility across assets with concerns over Federal Reserve tightening institutional portfolios.
Still no money: Reddit became the rowdy centre of the retail investing universe last January, fuelling a meme stock phenomenon. Remember GameStop? As it turns out, the investors who got lucky are yet to see the money in hand.
Amazon Comes For The Duopoly
Nearly a decade after Amazon launched its ad exchange, the e-commerce giant announced that it earned $31 billion ($9.7 billion in Q4) from advertising in 2021. This was significant, particularly because Amazon finally put an official number to its advertising revenue in a marked departure from previous earnings, when it fell under “other.”
Triopoly incoming? It also makes Amazon the world’s third largest advertiser behind Alphabet and Meta, even if it only represented a mere 7% of its revenue. For perspective, Amazon’s revenue from advertising in 2021 outdid that of YouTube ($28.8 billion), Microsoft ($10+ billion), Snap ($4.12 billion), and Pinterest ($2.58 billion) in the same period.
How does it work? Predominantly search. Amazon best leverages its trove of buying user habits data, something advertisers crave for. Its own ad products include sponsored ads or brands on product searches (similar to Google), display and video ads, though the latter is not necessarily on Amazon.
Halt: Ford Motors may have to suspend production across eight factories due to global chip shortage. Volkswagen predicts a global shortage to run into this year. Luxury carmaker Audi is mulling over producing EVs in India.
On the way: India's official digital rupee might make a debut early next year. The digital rupee blockchain can also track transactions unlike digital wallets today.
Bigger loss: Paytm operator One 97 Communications’ consolidated loss widened to ₹778.5 crore in the third quarter, despite a 34% growth in revenue.
Targeted: A cyberattack, purportedly by China, on Wall Street Journal publisher News Corp, accessed emails and files belonging to journalists.
In the race: Amazon and Nike are reportedly in the running to snag high-end bike maker Peloton as demand slows.
Flight to nowhere: A company in Las Vegas wants to add members to the mile high club. For $995, couples can get busy for 45 minutes while the pilot plugs in a noise-cancelling headset to give passengers privacy. Those who want to go easy can swap this plan for a three-course meal at $1,595.
#OOTD: Taiwanese octogenarians became a viral rage during the pandemic. The laundry owners model abandoned clothes to kill boredom. And they’ve got what it takes. So far, they've graced the Taiwanese edition of Marie Claire and Vogue. But it is their Instagram account that showcases their popularity: 661k followers and counting.
More Dogs to Walk: Wag, a dog-walking startup that once received $300 million from a single investor only to stumble in executing its strategy, is set to go public through a merger with SPAC, at a valuation of $350 million.
And..one last thing before we go.
This evening, at 7 pm, The Signal will be partnering with Founding Fuel to host a Twitter Spaces session titled “Economy and Electorate: Road to 2024.”
The session, moderated by our editor Dinesh Narayanan, will offer a long view on what the next two years might signal for the Indian economy and politics—and how the electorate will be groomed for 2024. This is your opportunity to step away from the nitty-gritties of the Union Budget and the ensuing wall-to-wall election coverage.
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