Apple wants to play ball

Also in today's edition: Pinterest-ing news, Twitter complies, and Vodafone in talks

Good morning! British billionaire Richard Branson beat Jeff Bezos to space. The owner of Virgin Atlantic hovered around in space for a bit and then came back down to earth. Why, you ask? Because he can.

Also, it didn't come home. We just had to say. IYKYK.

Anyway, on to the day’s stories:

  1. TikTok is everywhere. 

  2. Apple TV+'s moment of reckoning is here.

  3. Yet another IPO?

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The IPOs, They Keep Coming 

Hot on the heels of Zomato making its $1.2 billion IPO recipe public, payments startup Mobikwik is rumoured to be close to filing paperwork for a $300 million one of its own. Meanwhile, two top Paytm executives — Amit Nayyar, head of financial services, and Rohit Thakur, chief HR officer — have left the company ahead of its planned $2.3 billion IPO.

Money, money, everywhere: 2021 is expected to become a record year for fundraising via IPOs for Indian companies, with 40+ issues to raise close to $11 billion. This scramble to get on the public bourses signifies a golden period for Indian startup companies, whose private fundraising is at record levels.

Over the weekend, Ola raised $500 million from Temasek, Warburg Pincus and its own co-founder and CEO, Bhavish Aggarwal. Used-car retailing platform Spinny raised over $100 million in its Series D round led by Tiger Global. Meanwhile, SoftBank’s warming up to the idea of investing $200 million in PharmEasy. Phew!

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The Unending Didi Debacle 

There’s no respite for Chinese technology companies. Even as China’s regulator cracked the whip on the recently IPO-ed ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing last week, it ordered 25 other apps from the company’s stable to be taken off various mobile app stores.

Wait, but why? China’s recent big tech crackdown has been largely centered around one key area: that companies like Didi illicitly collect personal data of users. China wants to maintain tighter control over cross-border data flow, especially for foreign-listed companies.

What now? China has moved quickly to plug the loophole that allowed companies like Didi to list overseas. Any company with over a million users will now be subjectto a “cybersecurity review” prior to listing.

No IPOs, no mergers: Elsewhere, companies that were prepping to ride the Didi wave have put the brakes on. This also comes amid regulators rejecting a proposal by Tencent to merge China’s top two video-game streaming sites Huya and DouYu.

In case you are wondering, this isn’t ending anytime soon.

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Everyone Wants To Be TikTok 

More than 50 years after its formation, Creedence Clearwater Revival finally has a Billboard-topping hit. The rock band’s 1971 release, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” has sat atop Billboard’s Rock Digital Song Sales Chart for two consecutive weeks. All thanks to TikTok. Yes, TikTok. The short-video platform is no longer following musical trends, it’s making them.

That is the leap TikTok has made in the last 24 months or so, leaving its mark on Western popular culture, while playing a lead role in shifting the power within the creator economy. But what's driving all of this?

Giving users what they want: Beyond its famous AI-based algorithm (which TikTok is now selling btw), it is now catering to exactly what its audience wants, altering their behaviour, one feature at a time. Take jobs for example. It is now testing a feature allowing users to “directly apply with video resumes” to companies. In Turkey (and Dubai), it is testing “Shoutouts” which allows people to request and pay for custom videos from their favourite creators, a la Cameo.

Consumerism: It’s changing the way people discover and shop. At least in the US, where lifestyle products are flying off the shelf in no time thanks to reviews and trends from popular creators exploding on TikTok (bless the algorithm!).

Now it’s testing in-app shopping in markets like Indonesia and Europe, where it has tied up with a popular streetwear brand.

All that the light touches: appears to be TikTok’s kingdom. US Android users spend an average of 24.5 hours a month on TikTok, compared to 22 on YouTube. Among UK Android users, that gap increased at 26 hours and 16 hours respectively.

The Signal

TikTok has arguably become the super-app of universal ambitions. It has single handedly democratized influence and converted YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook from leaders to followers. All of them drool over the Chinese app’s success in moulding how users behave, whether getting them to dance to that latest trend or buy pricey shoes. It has hit the elusive sweet spot on the excitement scale of creators, marketers, and consumers alike. If its payments pilot is successful, it could perhaps also become a marketplace. Amazon should worry.

That is, of course, unless China’s hammer drops on parent company Bytedance.

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Pay Up For Clean Energy 

India’s Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta has said that the third-largest carbon emitter in the world cannot afford to put greenhouse gas emissions on its priority list unless it gets financial support from richer nations.

While global powers have committed $100-billion-a-year to help developing nations transition to green energy, Gupta believes that it will take a lot more than that.

Need the dirty: The transition to clean energy comes at a cost. Earlier this year, PM Narendra Modi deliberated going for net-zero emissions by 2050. But he was met with pushback from policymakers because fossil fuels power the country’s growth and pull people out of poverty.

Youngsters concerned: This is an example of the kind of decisions that are fueling climate anxiety among millennials and Gen Z. A Deloitte study found that youngsters are worried there will be less concern for the environment after the pandemic.

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No Time To Chill 

Streaming giants know a trick or two to reel us in and keep us hooked. Now they’re borrowing from each other’s playbooks to try and have the biggest catch.

Apple kicks off: Last month, Amazon went big on sports, and now it's Apple’s turn, according to a report ($) in The Information. The latter is now exploring a foray for Apple TV+ via the NFL, seemingly every streaming service’s preferred sport of choice. But why? Apple TV+ faces a litmus test as free trials are beginning to run out (after nearly 21 months for early adopters), and its content is dwarfed by those on other platforms.

The Prime juggernaut continues: The FTC opening a probe into its acquisition of MGM studios seems to have done little to deter Amazon’s streaming ambitions. It has now signed a deal with Comcast-owned Universal Pictures to stream its movies on Prime Video. The deal will bring movies such as Jurassic World: Dominion onto its platform. It allows these titles to first debut on Comcast’s own streaming platform, Peacock, before heading to Prime Video after four months, and back again later. A bit of a Baby’s Day Out for the movies.

Listen, don’t just watch: Netflix is doubling down on podcasts. While companion podcasts that offer behind the scenes content around Netflix’s shows and movies (The Crown and The Irishman for example) have already been around, this is part of the streaming giant widening its revenue streams, such as merchandise or gaming, as the pandemic-driven subscriber growth spurt stalls. Getting in on the rising trend of audio-driven content and social platforms could only help increase sales. Expect to see…we mean hear a lot more.

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What Else Made The Signal?

Funding time: Vodafone Idea is reportedly in conversation with investment firm Apollo Global Management to raise up to $3 billion over the next quarter.

Double whammy: A 90-year-old woman in Belgium died after contracting infections from two Covid-19 strains. Seems like we may have a new risk to worry about.

P-interested: Pinterest wants in on the booming creator economy. Over the last year, it has added features like “Story Pins” that allow users to create original content on the platform rather than just bookmarking external content.

What rules? The Advertising Standards Council of India has guidelines when it comes to influencers posting paid content and ads on digital platforms. Yet just about 20% are following them. Some say the guidelines aren’t clear while others claim brands don’t permit them to declare paid content.

Complaints made easy: Twitter India has now filled the empty spot for a grievance officer after getting ticked off by the Delhi High Court for stretching the process.


Fun Signals

Saving face: The co-founder of a British site named Faceparty is claiming that the trademark rights to the word “face” in Facebook came to be acquired contentiously. Andrew David Bamforth alleged to a US judge that he was “mentally incapacitated for 12 years”, including in 2008 when he signed over the rights.

Crowning glory: Argentinian football star Lionel Messi has won his first ever major international trophy, beating Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America 2021 final. This also secured the national team its first title in 28 years!

No sh*t: A university in South Korea is using the ultimate natural power resource — human waste. What’s more, each person using the eco-friendly toilet gets paid in Ggool, a virtual currency that can be used to buy coffee, instant cup noodles, books and more on campus.

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