A new challenger takes charge
Also in today’s edition: Hardik Pandya’s homecoming; Indian medicine for pharma manufacturers; Gaming setback for ByteDance; Disney’s unfulfilled Wish
Good morning! Desi-chinese is finally getting its due. BBC reports that demand for Indo-Chinese fusion cuisine is going through the roof in restaurants across the US. Dishes like gobi manchurian, chilli chicken, and hakka noodles are flying off restaurant shelves. Understandably, the burgeoning Indian diaspora in the States is one reason behind this phenomenon. But locals are loving these dishes too, as they pair well with white wine and suit the American palate. Next step? Ranveer Singh’s Ching’s Secret commercial on a billboard in Times Square.
🎧 Indo-Chinese flavours are going global. Also in today’s edition: why lab-grown diamonds are all the rage. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Dinesh Narayanan, Soumya Gupta, and Adarsh Singh also contributed to today’s edition.
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The Market Signal
Stocks & Economy: Asian stock indices trended down, following cues from the US markets, which ended lower after a strong rally throughout this month.
Bets on the Federal Reserve cutting rates in 2024 are getting bolder. Crucial data releases later this week will give a better indication of the Fed’s direction.
Markets will also be watching proceedings at climate change talks at the meeting of the COP28 in Dubai which begins today. They could have a bearing on oil prices in the medium term. Opec leaders are meeting on Thursday to talk about a production scale-back. Even though an agreement is elusive, the meeting will influence short-term prices.
Indian equities are likely to open in positive territory, morning trades in the GIFT Nifty show. Foreign investors have started buying shares actively after being net sellers in the past few weeks.
BUSINESS OF SPORTS
It’s All About The Money
If the Indian Premier League’s (IPL’s) 15-year history has taught us anything, it’s to always expect the unexpected. This one takes the cake, though.
Gujarat Titans, IPL champions in 2022 and runners-up in 2023, have traded their captain, Hardik Pandya, to Mumbai Indians. The Reliance Industries-backed franchise will pay an undisclosed transfer fee, with no cap, and the amount will be split equally between the player and the Titans. The Titans’ purse for next month’s player auction will also increase by ₹15 crore ($1.8 million). It’s the type of deal only a private equity-owned franchise could have struck.
Meanwhile: Despite free mobile streaming, telcos aren’t likely to see a significant revenue spike from the cricket World Cup.
There’s A Shot In The Arm Waiting
We know why Apple started making gadgets in India—to reduce dependence on China.
Now what?: Western governments are egging on Big Pharma to follow Apple’s lead. Some biotech companies are looking at outsourcing the making of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to Indian companies. Private firm Aragen, for instance, has seven out of the world’s top 10 drugmakers as its clients, Reuters reports.
Not a smooth shift: Just like high-tech electronics, Chinese firms are well-versed with making biological drugs, which have tougher regulatory hurdles. Rookie firms will take many years to develop the expertise.
Oversight concerns: A decade ago, Ranbaxy, then India’s top pharma company, was caught manipulating data to get the US food and drug regulator’s approval for its generics. Recently, Indian cough syrup produced in India allegedly caused the deaths of hundreds of children in multiple countries. If India can get it right, the opportunity is only getting bigger.
Sodium’s Podium Finish
Will sodium-ion dethrone lithium-ion as the dominant form of energy storage in batteries? Probably not, though a new breakthrough in sodium-based technology could shake things up for clean energy and electric vehicles (EVs).
Details: Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt AB recently announced a “best in class” sodium-ion product with an energy density of over 160 watt-hours per kilo. It’s a significant development because such a battery could be a viable substitute for lithium-ion and power lower-end, shorter-range EVs. Because sodium-ion cells are cheaper, they are promising candidates for power grid storage too.
The promise of sodium-ion has spurred battery majors—as also India’s Reliance Industries—to invest billions of dollars in lithium-alternative plants. Even Chinese company CATL, the world’s largest EV battery maker, is mass producing and installing the new technology in vehicles that will be rolled out this year.
Though critical for battery-everything, lithium is notoriously price volatile not least because of the frenzied race to mine the metal, spurring the likes of Tesla and Toyota to upend assembly lines and create new battery technologies. But Toyota’s solid state battery breakthrough, for one, will be expensive to scale.
As we’d summed up last month, the success of the global green energy transition hinges on affordability for both companies and consumers. EV makers are already revising demand projections and scaling back investments. Sodium-ion powered EVs and power grids could change the tide in their favour—especially so for Chinese battery majors, which already have an edge in this context.
Not Child’s Play
ByteDance joined the gaming bandwagon during the pandemic, as demand for mobile gaming skyrocketed in China, the world’s largest market. It splurged on acquiring studios and exclusive distribution rights to titles. This paved the way for hits such as Crystal Of Atlan and Marvel Snap. However, it wasn’t enough. The post-Covid demand slump in China, coupled with intense competition from rivals Tencent and NetEase, has made the business unviable for ByteDance.
Back to roots: Now, the company wants to prioritise its core business of short-video platforms and e-commerce. ByteDance is betting on live-streaming to get buyers to spend big on its platforms. But regulatory pressure in key markets like China, Indonesia, and the US may play spoilsport.
Disney Delivers (Another) Dud
It’s not looking good for the House of Mouse. After The Marvels delivered Marvel its worst-ever opening weekend, Disney’s latest, Wish, is also off to a poor start.
Disney traditionally dominates US theatres during Thanksgiving with feel-good family films or a Marvel flick. But this is further proof it needs to reassess its movies; already this year, it has lost money on Pixar’s Elemental and Marvel’s Ant-Man 3.
Show me something else: Instead of the traditional crowd-pleaser, American audiences have been picking ‘alternative’ releases in theatres this year, including Broadway titles, a Philip Glass concert film, and even a slasher version of Winnie The Pooh. Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert film set box office records, while Beyonce’s Renaissance concert film just had a successful premiere in the US.
Brisk biz: Back home, Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Animal has reportedly already sold tickets worth ₹6 crore (~$720,000) in advance bookings.
Plan B: After all drilling efforts failed, rescuers at the Uttarkashi tunnel are using ‘rat miners’ to drill through a narrow pipe and pull out the 41 workers trapped inside since November 12.
Bill for top-up: India’s subsidy bill will rise by ₹50,000 crore (~$6 billion) in FY24 as the government spends more on fertiliser, food, and cooking gas support to poor citizens. It had accounted for ₹4.03 lakh crore in the Budget.
Listmania: The Wall Street Journal reports that Chinese fast fashion major Shein has confidentially filed for an IPO in the US and may seek a valuation higher than $66 billion. Reddit and Kim Kardashian’s innerwear label Skims are also considering IPOs for 2024, according to Bloomberg.
G for growth: Parle Products, makers of the iconic Parle G biscuit, reported meagre growth in sales for FY23 due to rising input costs.
Setback: A US judge has denied Meta’s bid to take the US Federal Trade Commission to court over revisions to the company’s 2020 privacy settlement.
Tray-ded away: Bengaluru airport is trying out new X-ray machines that will allow passengers to cross security checkpoints without needing to have their gadgets examined in trays.
Shake it off: In an email, Raymond Ltd. chairman Gautam Singhania assured employees and shareholders that his ongoing divorce won’t affect the company. His wife Nawaz Modi has accused him of domestic violence.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The cost of Elon Musk’s anti-Semitic tweet, or the amount X is estimated to lose in advertising revenue this year because of it. (The New York Times)
Up in smoke: In 2022, New Zealand passed a groundbreaking law to phase out cigarette smoking in the country. The law included provisions such as reducing the legal amount of nicotine in tobacco products, allowing cigarette sales only through special tobacco stores, and slashing the number of stores legally allowed to sell cigarettes from 6,000 to just 600 nationwide. Sadly though, the country’s new coalition government is repealing all these laws by 2024. Why? It desperately needs funds to support its proposed tax cuts. Sigh… nothing good lasts forever.
Match-maker: In not-so-good news for Tinder and other dating apps, they have a new competitor, and its name is… Duolingo! Actually, it’s not just Duolingo but apps like Yelp, Letterboxd, and Strava playing cupid. Since their users share similar interests, that makes hitting it off with someone a little bit easier and more natural. While these apps don’t explicitly promote dating as a feature (yet), they’re probably helped by dating apps’ exorbitant subscription prices as well. The internet is a wild place y’all!
Living their best life: Baboons in Cape Town are loving their life. Thanks to easy and ample access to food from the city’s bins, they’re getting more time to socialise with potential mates and the rest of their group. Not everyone is happy, though. Wildlife specialists are concerned about their health and point to increasing incidents of human-animal conflicts. The local government plans to construct fences around the city’s perimeter so as to discourage baboons from entering the city. If you ask us, they should've probably saved money and hired monkey catchers from Delhi.