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AI will write saas-bahu serials now
Also in today’s edition: Indian food becomes more unsafe; Foxconn’s EV strategy; Egypt isn’t ready for this exodus; Apple’s muted quarter
Good morning! Funnyman Edgar Bergen used to say, “hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” Clearly, Narayana Murthy would not agree with Bergen. The Infosys co-founder made news—not in the best way—when he urged youngsters to work 70 hours a week. Now, we’re not going to delve into the specifics of the issue. But it’s somewhat ironic that Infosys itself is taking a lenient approach to work by asking some employees to come to office just 10 days a month. Make of that what you will.
Adarsh Singh and Dinesh Narayanan also contributed to today’s edition.
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The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: Stock markets the world over cheered stable interest rates and even a distant possibility of rate cuts sometime in 2024. The Bank of Japan, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, the three central banks governing the world’s top sources of capital, held rates this week.
The world’s most valuable company, Apple’s shares fell 3% after it reported a drop in sales in China where it is facing a government backlash.
Indian investors are hoping the central banks’ stance will channel more funds into emerging markets. Foreign portfolio investors have been sellers in India and the hope is the trend would reverse.
Asian markets saw ebullient activity in early trade. But the GIFT Nifty was indicating a flat or weak opening for Indian equities.
Watch What You Eat
This year's State Food Safety Index reveals a concerning trend: almost all large states have seen a decline in scores since the index's inception in 2019. Published by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), it evaluates states and union territories on multiple parameters.
The most significant decline, over five years, is observed in the 'Food Testing Infrastructure' category, with the average score for large states dropping from 13/20 in 2019 to 7/17 in 2023.
Why?: Food testing infrastructure is primarily the responsibility of state governments, with limited private participation. But states face challenges in recruiting lab analysts and establishing necessary facilities. The central government only provides accreditation and monetary assistance. This aid, too, is disorganised, with three separate ministries running three distinct schemes to build testing capacity.
However: The FSSAI has heightened scrutiny of adulterated food across the country.
The world’s third-largest private employer has come a long way from making TV knobs. But even $222 billion in revenue and a stranglehold on making consumer electronics doesn’t make Foxconn immune to a maturing market.
Enter CEO Young Liu’s strategy to diversify to emerging technologies—most of all, electric vehicles (EVs).
Foxconn’s EV platform Mobility in Harmony (MIH) is looking to make in India and Thailand. The company also acquired a defunct auto factory in Ohio, US. It’s manufacturing an autonomous vehicle for Monarch Tractor and is in advanced discussions with five potential customers.
Foxconn wants to build 500,000 vehicles a year in Ohio and is working on wireless components that could make EVs lighter. But can it challenge Tesla in scale and innovation?
There’s no room for writer’s block on an Indian TV show. Not when you must churn out hundreds of episodes. But can creative types be trusted not to give into their creative whims? Studios may have figured out a permanent solution: get AI to do it.
Zee TV has been using its proprietary AI called ScriptGPT to generate story ideas and character arcs for its popular TV soaps, while Eros is working with IIT-Bombay students on an AI-generated movie script.
Swiss-army AI: Zee’s ScriptGPT, trained exclusively on the studio’s own IP, can even calculate the impact of a script on viewership and suggest appropriate changes, a tall task for individual writers. Studios are also using AI tools to subtitle, dub, and edit content at scale.
Studios are generating so much content so fast, they will inevitably use AI tools to manage the process efficiently. But this will take away potential jobs from writers and dubbing studios that are currently enjoying a windfall from India’s content boom, especially on OTT platforms.
These won’t just be low-paying jobs. Writers of top soap operas with big brand sponsors are paid handsomely even though their work isn’t exactly creatively challenging. If tools like ScriptGPT can offer creative direction to a show, these expensive senior writers could lose their jobs in the absence of a safety net. Even amidst the organisational chaos under chief Bob Iger, Disney’s animation studio workers just unionised. Indian writers don’t have any union protection from studios and their AI.
🎧 What will become of Indian TV and film writers in an era of AI-generated scripts? Also in today’s edition: YouTube vs. ad blockers, and how SEO ruined the internet. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Egypt reportedly received offers of financial inducements, to be delivered through the World Bank and the IMF, from Israel and the US to open its doors to fleeing Gazans.
It’s a slippery slope and a moral hazard. The IMF had earlier refused to release two tranches of a $3 billion package that Egypt negotiated because it doubts its ability to repay.
Refugees naturally tend to become settlers. The host willy-nilly becomes responsible for not only their lives—they are usually left with little more than that—but also their future, however reluctant they may be. It often builds resentment in local populations as they have to share their resources with newcomers.
That is precisely what a debt-ridden, inflation-afflicted Egypt, already home to nine million refugees from war-torn neighbours, wants to avoid. There’s another wrinkle. Egypt owes a large amount of its debt to Arab countries, not the West.
iWin Some, iLose Some
Last week, we offered our two cents on why Apple has belatedly entered the generative AI race. One of the reasons is its need to wean itself off China, a market where the iPhone 15 is losing out to the Huawei Mate 60 Pro. The company posted a fourth consecutive decline in quarterly revenue and warned of a muted holiday season due to a slowdown in iPad and wearable sales.
India, though, is a bright spot. Apple had its best-ever quarter in the country after shipping over 2.5 million iPhones between July and September. TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo estimates that Indian-made iPhones could account for 20-25% of global shipments by 2024.
In other news: Bloomberg reports that Apple may introduce blood pressure monitoring and sleep apnea detection in the 2024 Apple Watch. It’s also exploring health and fitness features for its mixed reality headset, Vision Pro.
Oh soot!: Gautam Adani’s flagship business Adani Enterprises reported a profit of ₹227.82 crore (~$27 million) for Q2 FY24, a ~51% year-on-year decrease triggered by weak performance in its coal trading arm.
Speaking of Adani: Adani Enterprises subsidiary AMG Media Networks has acquired the remaining 51% stake in Quintillion Business Media, publisher of BQ Prime.
Nailed: Manhattan jurors have found crypto exchange FTX’s founder Sam Bankman-Fried guilty of massive fraud and conspiracy.
That’s our pie: Indian telcos have taken up cudgels against multinationals such as Amazon and Microsoft for choosing WhatsApp and Telegram over short messaging service or SMS to reach customers.
Sheikhing the money tree: Bloomberg reports that the United Arab Emirates may announce India investments of up to $50 billion in early 2024.
Course correction: Uber and Lyft will pay $328 million to settle wage theft allegations in New York state; this is the largest such settlement in the history of the New York Attorney General’s office.
Back in black: Driven by robust sales of Jaguar Land Rover vehicles, Tata Motors posted a net profit of Rs 3,764 crore (~$450 million) in July-September compared to a Rs 945 crore (~$113 million) loss during the same period last year.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The ‘severe plus’ AQI in Anand Vihar, Delhi, on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s the season’s worst air pollution recorded so far. (India Today)
Fashion goals: Football isn’t synonymous with couture. And yet, its culture is becoming a fashion staple. The likes of Kardarshians and supermodels are donning football jerseys on ramps. Gauging demand, sportswear giants Puma and Adidas are stepping into the market as well. Puma’s collaboration with Rihana’s Fenty for a pair of sneakers, inspired by the cleats worn by Brazilian legend Pele, are an instant hit. Adidas has partnered with Prada to make ‘luxury’ cleats. Many football clubs are hiring creative directors now to turn their jerseys into fashion statements. Kewl!
Head count: A new study has upended our understanding of the starfish. Part of the echinoderm family, this invertebrate is known for its five-pointed symmetry. For long, zoologists struggled to determine whether the five extensions were arms or tails. Some considered sea stars headless. However, this study focused on genes associated with animal heads, torsos, and tails and revealed that sea stars are genetically predominantly all… head! Quite a head-scratcher, eh?
No way out: Frequent tremors? Check. Hydrogen sulphide in the air? Check. An evacuation plan? Er… for residents of Pozzuoli, Italy, this is what it’s like to live on top of a supervolcano. Home to around a million people, Pozzuoli and its surrounding regions are a hotbed of volcanic activity. The volcanic activity is so severe that the area around Pozzuoli’s port has risen about 11.5 feet since the late 1960s. Given the situation, the local government did design an evacuation route, but residents believe it’s inadequate to handle a full-scale evacuation.