Google Has a Race Issue

Also in today's edition: Big Tech quits Hong Kong, CoWin goes global, Furlenco raises

Good morning! Jeff Bezos is gone. Not to space, not yet anyway. He stepped down as CEO of Amazon yesterday and handed over the day-to-day running to Andy Jassy. It’ll be curious to see how Jassy manages the $386 billion behemoth.

Anyway, on to the day’s stories.

  1. Finally, debt options for going green.

  2. Yet another Covid-19 side effect: bone tissue death. 

  3. Meesho and Flipkart want the social commerce pie.

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Mounting The Social Commerce Horse 

Speculation in the market, according to Entrackr, indicates that Meesho is trying to raise $100 million at a valuation of $4 billion from a bevy of investors including SoftBank and Prosus. This will be Meesho’s second fund-raising in 2021. It last raised $300 million in a round led by SoftBank.

A little context: This fund-raise will make Meesho, which is backed by Facebook and powered by WhatsApp, India’s third-largest e-commerce company after Flipkart and Amazon. It’s not just about valuation. Snapdeal can attest to it. Social commerce is the direction in which shopping and discovery are moving. Myntra earlier and Flipkart now have started to dabble in social commerce. Amazon, in the US, tried and shut down Spark. Instagram, meanwhile, will now include in-app shopping. Closer to home, DealShare and CityMall are using social commerce to win over tier 2 and 3 customers, who have found buying online intimidating. For tier 2 and 3 users, their introduction to the internet has been WhatsApp and YouTube. This, for them, is the logical next step.

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Yet Another Covid Fallout 

A few weeks ago, black fungus terrorised Covid-19 patients. Now, it’s bone tissue death.

Sting in the tail: Medically termed avascular necrosis (AVN), death of bone tissue is being attributed to steroid use, which was also said to make patients vulnerable to black fungus or mucormycosis, an affliction that often results in loss of eyesight or even life. Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital reported at least three people with post-Covid-19 AVN.

Thigh pain: The patients, all aged below 40, were diagnosed with AVN two months after they recovered from Covid infection. The condition was detected after they complained of thigh pain and it is now being seen as a symptom of the prolonged aftereffects of the disease known as long Covid and its treatment.

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Finance Is Rapidly Going Green 

Climate change conversations have pivoted from activist tables to investment circles. From the UK and China to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, investments are pouring into “green” finance. In a tough year ridden with pandemic challenges, the global green bond issuance market touched a record high of $269.5 billion in 2020, according to a Climate Bonds Initiative report.

Pledging allegiance: Countries and corporations alike are pledging to meet climate goals. The US has rejoined the Paris Agreement. Last month, Japan's central bank launched its first green investment fund to tackle environmental concerns even as the country works towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Chinese life insurers have upped their green investment.

Domestic push: In India, big corporations such as Reliance and Adani are working on cleaner initiatives. Reliance has set aside INR 750 billion for green investment and has vowed to become a net carbon zero company by 2035. Adani Green is looking to become the world's largest renewable energy company by 2025.

The Signal

Climate concerns are a pressing issue not just for the environment but also for finance. Green finance can be the ticket to combat climate change. For companies, issuing green bonds can lower the cost of borrowing. Investors are even willing to accept lower returns for a sustainable future. On the flip side, polluters could see their financing dry up. Last year, Climate Action 100+, a grouping of over 500 global investors who manage $47 trillion in assets, put 161 polluting companies on notice, asking them to adopt sustainable practices. The Climate Bonds Initiative report forecasts the green bond space will touch $2.36 trillion by 2023.

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Too White And Asian 

Google's run of bad press continued with the publishing of its latest diversity report. The search giant appears to be having difficulty retaining minority employees, especially women of colour. The report was released by Google itself in an effort to increase transparency and show both improvements as well as shortcomings.

Goodbye Google: The company uses a scale called the attrition index, with the benchmark set at 100. The attrition figure for black women rose to 146 in 2021 from 110 in 2020. The number rose to 148 for Native American women.

Lopsided: Google made some progress in its representation and diversity goals, specifically in black employees hired to its leadership team. It continues to have a 68-32 gender skew and is disproportionately white and Asian — a status that the company is attempting to correct.

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Big OPEC Duel To Hit Oil Prices 

The likelihood of international oil prices stabilising is in jeopardy, at least temporarily, as differences between two key producers spilled out in public on Sunday.

Quota quarrel: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) differ on increasing production and fixing quotas. While Saudi Arabia and other OPEC+ countries, including Russia, want an agreement to last until the end of 2022, the UAE differs, saying it is all for raising production but not locking limits until the end of the next year.

Price point: Members of the cartel have been negotiating hard over the past several weeks to assign quotas but the UAE’s position threatens to unravel the grouping. Competitive increases in production would flood the oil market and crash prices, just as it happened last year when Russia and Saudi Arabia were duking it out. Global crude prices have shot past $75 a barrel, the highest since 2018, and will keep rising if the impasse continues. But they could plummet if it becomes a free for all. India certainly wouldn’t mind that.

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What Else Made The Signal? 

Gasping for breath: More than 60 people died in a Jakarta hospital that almost ran out of oxygen supply as Indonesia combatted one of Asia’s worst outbreaks of Covid-19 driven by the severely infectious Delta variant.

Big Tech wags finger: Google, Facebook and Twitter have threatened to quit Hong Kong over the government’s proposed amendments to data-protection laws to combat doxing or targeting by making personal information public.

Adding glitz: Bengaluru-based online furniture rental startup Furlenco has got $140 million in funding from Zinnia Global Fund, CE-Ventures and Lightbox Ventures.

Global trot: India’s CoWIN platform is set to go global with 50 countries, including Canada, Mexico and Panama, showing interest in adopting the digital portal that enables vaccine registration.

IP on demand: Amazon has launched an intellectual property (IP) accelerator programme in India. This will allow millions of small and medium-sized sellers to get reliable IP support from experts.

Buying influence: China Daily has been paying millions of dollars to US newspapers and magazines, including Time, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post and The New York Times to publish supplements with a pro-China spin.


Fun Signals

Gliding flag: Lighting fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July is too clichéd for Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook CEO went surfing on an electric board with an American flag instead, sliding through water to a background score of John Denver's “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.

Cops to cannabis: Flint, a city in the US’s Michigan, has sold a former Police Training Academy to a company that will convert the property into an indoor marijuana facility. What a fun do-over!

Ticket for dish: You think people would know that sticking a WiFi antenna dish to your car could land you in trouble. A Californian driver wasgiven a ticket for fixing a Starlink dish to his Toyota Prius hood. The driver didn’t want to run out of network for a business they operated out of the car. Genius.

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