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BigBasket gets the gig right (almost)
Also in today’s edition: Will Jio price Airtel out?; Iran tests Saudi Arabia; X’s value has a great fall; The race to snap up footy’s underdogs
Good morning! “Playing with fire” is a phrase that has lost its meaning in politics. What else could explain the fact that our politicians are seemingly lapping up AI voice cloning and deepfake services. Rest Of World reports that politicians such as Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot are using these services to offer personalised messages to karyakartas and voters alike. There’s also the use case of real-time voice translation for wider appeal. We can’t wait to see how this will unfold in the run-up to (and during) elections—all while India claims to adopt a cautious approach to AI. 👀
Jaideep Vaidya and Roshni Nair also contributed to today’s edition.
🎧 AI Modi is a hit on Indian Instagram. Also in today’s edition: Twitter’s de-valuation. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: Asian share markets except Hong Kong were buoyant in early trade, following in the footsteps of their US and European counterparts, which rose ahead of central bank rate decisions.
Japanese authorities have said that they were on standby to intervene in the currency market should the yen fall further. It fell to a 15-year low against the Euro after the Bank of Japan signalled it was not changing interest rates.
US consumer confidence fell in October but data showed that wages rose in the second quarter. The impact of higher wages could reflect in spending in the next quarter. The Fed is expected to hold rates but could raise them in December.
Indian shares will likely stay subdued as a hawkish Fed is not a good sign for them. They had closed lower on Tuesday and morning GIFT Nifty trends indicate a weak opening today as well.
Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
The Fairwork India rankings on working conditions of digital platforms are out. This year, BigBasket climbed to the top by beating last year’s winner, Urban Company (UC). UC lost points on the Fair Management metric, which isn’t surprising given its record of worker relations. Ola continues to be the laggard in the rankings; it failed to register a single point for the second time running.
Interestingly, the survey shows divergent viewpoints on worker collectives between customers and platforms. An overwhelming majority of consumers agreed on workers’ right to form collective groups and negotiate with platforms. In contrast, all platforms were disinclined to recognise workers’ collectives.
Politics is catching up: Rajasthan's 2023 Gig Workers Act mandates a Welfare Fund for gig workers and empowers them with collective bargaining on charges and rates. Karnataka has rolled out an insurance scheme for gig workers.
Reliance Does An Encore
Despite adding 11.2 million subscribers in the September quarter, India’s largest telco Reliance Jio’s average revenue per user grew by only 0.7% quarter-on-quarter to ₹181.7 ($2.18). Analysts put this down to its aggressive pricing for both 5G and the low-paying JioBharat 4G phone subscriber base.
However, Jio still has no plans to raise 5G tariffs, which are currently at the same level as 4G, reported Business Standard. It doesn’t want subscribers to face price barriers in terms of data consumption. The idea is that more data usage would lead to more revenue.
This is right out of the Jio playbook. Its 2016 launch with dirt-cheap 4G plans led to the near-demise of rival Vodafone Idea. Then, it disrupted sports streaming by offering the Indian Premier League for free on JioCinema, which led to rival Disney considering selling its India business to Reliance. Is Airtel next in line?
The Flames Of War Are Spreading
As Israeli war machines encircle Gaza City, the conflict is pulling more nations into its vortex, threatening global energy security and increasing economic uncertainty.
Iran-backed Houthi militia from Yemen, Hezbollah from Lebanon, and other groups from Syria have become active. Saudi Arabia is on high alert after four of its soldiers died fighting Houthi rebels, who also fired a missile at Israel, overflying the oil producer.
In the US, House Republicans have put President Joe Biden in a spot, rejecting his $105 billion security package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan for a separate $14.3 billion for Israel carved out of inflation-fighting funds. And Muslims in America said they’ll not vote for Biden if there was no ceasefire in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to get Europe to pressure Egypt into hosting Palestinian refugees fell through. That means Gazans have nowhere to flee to.
Oil producers such as Saudi Arabia being drawn into the war could affect crude supplies. With Russian and Iranian oil out of reach because of western sanctions, global fuel supply will come under pressure. World Bank chief economist Indermit Gill has warned that oil prices could top $150 per barrel if the situation really worsens compared to earlier expectations that they would fall to an average $81 a barrel by next year. Even if it crosses $100/barrel, it will raise the cost of living all over the world.
$19 billion. That’s the valuation of X, formerly Twitter, a year after Elon Musk paid $44 billion to acquire the platform. Fortune reports that X’s self-valuation is based on a restricted stock unit plan offered to employees. Musk had valued Twitter at $20 billion in March this year.
It's a bad look for X, of course, but a deflated 409A valuation—an independent appraisal that estimates the fair market value of company stock—makes it less expensive to grant stock options to both existing employees and fresh recruits. That said, staffers are unlikely to get a windfall unless the company recoups lost value.
BUSINESS OF SPORT
Take It From The Bottom
North Sixth Group, a New York-based family office holding company, is approaching the multi-club ownership model in football popularised by City Football Group from a different angle: from the bottom.
The group is adding FC Locarno, which plays in the fifth tier of Swiss football, to its portfolio, which includes Campobasso FC (fourth tier in Italy), Ascoli FC (second tier in Italy), and American expansion team Brooklyn FC. Investing in lower-tier clubs is low-risk, high-reward if done right, as evidenced by what actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney did with Wrexham AFC in Wales.
In fact, Campobasso, which was promoted to the fourth-tier Serie D last year in its first season under North Six Group’s ownership, already has a merchandising deal with Adidas and is pushing for its own docuseries.
PS: For more insight and analysis into the business of sports, subscribe to our weekly newsletter The Playbook:
Not working: After asking creditors for a postponement on Tuesday, debt-ridden WeWork is preparing to file for bankruptcy next week, Reuters reports.
More on my plate: ET Now reports that Reliance Retail is in advanced talks with luxury goods giant LVMH to secure the India rights for beauty retailer Sephora.
I spy with my little eye: Apple has sent threat notifications to several Indian opposition leaders and journalists about “state-sponsored” attacks on their iPhones; the Centre, downplaying allegations, claims that Union Minister Piyush Goyal also received the alert.
Game changer: Saudi Arabia is set to host the men’s 2034 football World Cup after Australia abandoned its bid.
Bye-bye, anonymity: In a shift that advances Beijing’s internet oversight, Chinese social media platforms have directed influencers with over 500,000 followers to display their real names.
Duking it out: Air India chief Campbell Wilson and Akasa CEO Vinay Dube have been trading barbs in personal exchanges over the issue of pilot poaching, Reuters reports.
Sweater weather? Not yet: The IMD has forecast a warmer November for most of India due to intensifying El Nino conditions.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The number of Afghans Pakistan is expelling from its territory. Pakistan has set November 1 as the last day for undocumented migrants to leave the country. (Reuters)
Call me by your name: In 2018, Vladimir Putin announced project Sfera (‘Sphere’ in English) to the world. The satellite project was supposed to provide broadband internet service from middle-earth orbit to Russia, among other things. However, it was never really intended to be called Sfera. In an interview with the state news agency, Putin recounted how the project was originally named Ehfir (‘Ether’ in Russian). During the announcement, he mistakenly called it Sfera. When he returned to the Kremlin, the chief of Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency) decided to change it to Sfera instead. Being an autocrat obviously has its perks.
Lil extra: Why spend a small fortune on being supine when you can get extra legroom and better facilities for a fraction of the price? That seems to be the mantra for travellers who are increasingly opting for premium economy seats on flights. Situated between the cabin and business class, premium economy seats are considered the ‘upper middle class’ of airline seating. Seeing increased customer interest, US airlines are doubling down on this tier. Many are wooing customers with loyalty points and upgrade certificates. Sounds like a class-y affair.
Oh my Word: Microsoft Word turns 40 this year. The ubiquitous word processing software enjoys a 90% market share and is used by 90% of Fortune 500 companies. Naturally, with great power comes great influence. MS Word’s dominance has led to its templates becoming the norm in communications. Some say this dominance has propagated American English as the lingua franca of the world, at the cost of local dialects. Others are concerned that its features, such as auto-completion, are making writing increasingly homogenous. Whatever the case be, we think we can all agree that Clippy was the worst of Word’s follies.