Discover more from The Signal
Also in today’s edition: BluSmart Grabs an opportunity; Dirty tricks for climate finance; China lays familiar trap for Nepal; White collar automation is here
Good morning! Marc Andreessen just dropped a long-winded “techno-optimist manifesto” and it’s every bit as bizarre as it sounds. The prominent venture capitalist criticised what he sees as "lies" propagated by "Communists" and "Luddites." He claimed that technology doesn't harm jobs, the environment, or children. Additionally, Andreessen also dismissed concepts like Sustainable Development Goals, stakeholder capitalism, and tech ethics as elements of a demoralisation campaign. You can read the full text on his Substack if you’ve nothing better to do this morning, but we suggest you proceed with caution.
Dinesh Narayanan and Adarsh Singh also contributed to today’s edition.
The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: China’s economy beat forecasters’ expectations, clocking 4.9% GDP growth in July-September. Manufacturing activity is picking up and consumer spending is also reviving, Bloomberg reports.
Asian markets opened in the red after the conflict in West Asia intensified and a US effort to prevent the war from spreading got a setback. But China’s economic performance could offer a prop later in the day. Oil and gold prices inched up too.
Defence contractors are laughing all the way to the bank. Lockheed Martin shares rose after the company, which sells rocket systems and anti-tank missiles, reported a jump in revenue and profits.
Indian shares are likely to open weak, early GIFT Nifty movement indicates. Wheat prices are at an eight-month high as festival demand rises while supply remains tight.
Can BluSmart Grab Some 💰?
If this happens, it could shake up the Uber-Ola ride-hailing duopoly in India. But that’s still a big ‘if’.
The Economic Times reports that Southeast Asian super app Grab has discussed investing in Indian electric-cab startup BluSmart. Grab CEO Anthony Tan took a tour of BluSmart’s EV-charging hub in Bengaluru last week. BluSmart confirmed the tour but denied the investment talk.
You can, however, see how a partnership would make sense.
Singapore-headquartered Grab took a serious hit during the slowdown, cutting 1,000 jobs or 11% of its workforce in June. Entering India directly will be expensive. Instead, if it can help BluSmart, which has been struggling to raise capital, scale its asset-heavy Meru model, together they could make some inroads into Uber and Ola’s market share. Grab already has an R&D centre in Bengaluru and is an early adopter of EVs.
All you have to do is get the maths right. Wall Street mavens are searching for ways to finance polluting coal, whose prices have tripled. But industries using the fuel are struggling to source funds.
Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz), which is working with financial institutions and nonprofits, has proposed expected emission reductions, a metric that will help calculate how much financiers are contributing to decarbonisation. For example, financiers will get credit for future emissions saved on helping an operator shift from a coal-fired power plant to a green one even though they will be funding coal use during the transition.
Position set: Meanwhile, at the COP28 climate conference beginning in Dubai on November 30, the European Union will push for a deal to phase out fossil fuels. A deal has been elusive even though pressed for at previous summits.
The Buck Doesn’t Stop Here
Five years after the Supreme Court (SC) decriminalised homosexuality, India’s queer community hoped for another landmark judgement: the right to marry and establish a family. That judgement never came.
On Tuesday, a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud unanimously ruled that marriage is not a fundamental right, and declined to recognise same-sex marriage under existing laws.
No consolation prizes either: Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul batted for civil unions and queer couples’ right to adopt children, but were outnumbered by Justices Ravindra Bhat, PS Narasimha, and Hima Kohli.
The live-streamed verdict was the judicial embodiment of the “how it started vs. how it’s going” meme. In his opening judgement, Chandrachud waxed eloquent on queerness, marriage, and parenthood, but observed that the judiciary can only interpret laws, not make them.
In other words, it’s passed the buck to the Centre.
Interestingly, the SC reiterated a distinction between gender and sexuality and decreed that trans people in straight relationships can marry under existing laws. Enforcement, however, is a different issue.
Overall, it’s a victory for the Indian government, which had opposed the petition on the grounds that the matter of same-sex marriages should be legislated by Parliament, not the judiciary. In this vein, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government would set up a committee. This committee will “decide the rights and entitlements” of queer Indians. Meaning equal insurance, gratuity, employment, and other benefits extended to straight, married couples.
For what it’s worth, there’s no timeframe for this.
🎧 Marriage equality and child adoption remain distant dreams for India’s queer couples. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Tucked Under Beijing’s Belt
Even as the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) kicked off in Beijing, a struggling, debt-ridden airport in Nepal’s Pokhara stands testimony to the problems that beset Chinese President Xi Jinping’s $1 trillion “project of the century”, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China considers the Pokhara airport as a part of BRI but Nepal does not acknowledge it, indicating a wariness toward the Chinese project. The airport is among the scores of projects built with Chinese expertise, loans, and materials that dot the 10-year-old BRI.
Among those attending the BRF are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
A rival trade route, the India-Middle East Economic Corridor (IMEEC), announced at the G20 summit in Delhi, has drawn flak from China and Turkey, a BRI ally. The IMEEC is already in jeopardy because of the Israel-Hamas war.
Job Platform Cuts Human Jobs
LinkedIn has laid off 668 employees in its second round of job cuts this year, and AI may have a lot to do with it. Axios notes that the cuts come on the heels of LinkedIn releasing several automated tools for recruiters and premium subscribers. This was underlined by the company statement about “adopting organizational structures”, “streamlining decision making”, and investing in “strategic priorities for our future”.
This was bound to happen, considering LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, which has so much skin in the AI game that it’s looking for ways for AIs to work with other AIs. Researchers in Nvidia and elsewhere are already working on AI agents that can run code and may be able to execute white-collar tasks geared towards company goals.
Tangent: There’s been a 54% increase in deepfake porn videos this year compared with 2022, no thanks to AI and machine learning advancements.
Space age: Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to set up an Indian space station by 2035 and send an Indian astronaut to the moon by 2040. Space startup Agnikul Cosmos has raised $27 million ahead of its first rocket launch.
Can’t do: Jordan has cancelled a summit with US President Joe Biden and Egyptian and Palestinian Authority leaders after an explosion in a Gaza hospital reportedly killed hundreds of people.
Dues to pay: Tax authorities have asked ~1,000 foreign companies operating Indian subsidiaries to pay 18% tax on salaries paid to expats working here between FY18 and FY22.
More eyes: In its bid to stop terror financing, the government wants details of all international transactions above ₹50,000 (~$600) recorded and scrutinised. A reporting entity will have to identify clients and purpose of the transactions.
Follow the money: Financial regulators Sebi and RBI are investigating a dozen alternative investment funds (VCs, PEs, and angels fall in this regulatory category) for bypassing regulations in investments involving $1.8 billion-$2.4 billion.
Off we go: The newest airline in Indian airspace, Akasa, has got permission to fly to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait.
Paying for what?: X, formerly Twitter, is testing a $1 annual subscription named ‘Not A Bot’, where users will be charged for basic features such as reposts, likes, and bookmarks. 👀
THE DAILY DIGIT
₹4.25 lakh crore
Or $51 billion. The estimated business that 3.5 million weddings (projected) will generate this November-December season, according to a survey by the Confederation of All India Traders. (Moneycontrol)
Excess baggage: Japan Airlines had to lay on an extra flight at short notice after concluding that two of its planes were at risk of exceeding their weight limits. The issue? Japan’s famed sumo wrestlers who were en route to compete in a sports festival. Their average weight of 120 kg exceeded the regular 70 kg average. To the airline’s credit, it also arranged for additional flights to take the wrestlers home after the tournament ended. Truly, nothing beats Japanese hospitality!
Balancing act: A survey by Accenture in the UK found that workers are increasingly turning to AI to reduce workload. As per the survey, almost half of British workers are using generative AI at least once a week. The workers are using the saved time to increase focus on life outside work. It’s not a bad thing for companies either. Productivity has surged, and a more content workforce translates into significant cost savings in terms of working days. Feels like a win-win for everyone.
Plan for action: Across the pond, people are taking things a little slower. New York City mayor Eric Adams announced a citywide AI “action plan”. According to said plan, the city administration will evaluate AI tools and its associated risks, boost AI skills among city employees, and support its responsible implementation to improve the quality of life of New Yorkers. Yeah, it’s quite a mouthful. The plan also mentioned an AI chatbot to help business owners in the Big Apple. Can’t wait to see how this turns out.
Did you enjoy today’s newsletter? We accept bouquets or brickbats, whatever you choose to send us, here. Join The Signal Forum on Telegram to know what The Signal community is reading and talking about through the day. Follow us on X and Instagram for fun stuff.