Discover more from The Signal
Hollywood basks in TikTok’s stardust
Also in today’s edition: Banks want Future Retail fixed; Food crisis looms; FedEx founder steps down after 50 years; Nuke race begins again
Good morning and a warm welcome to our new readers! South Korea’s Busan has a new smart city in tow. Not only built by roads, but also data and devices. About 54 households, chosen through a lottery system, are living rent-free in exchange for data collected about them and their everyday habits such as sleeping, and sewage. All via an app. And this far, residents aren't complaining about privacy. Sounds futuristic!
In today's episode of The Signal Daily, host Farheen Khan gives you a lowdown on Shopee taking a sudden one-way ticket out of India six months after its launch. She also decodes the changes in the global food system and their immediate impact on the way we eat. This is worth your time. Tune in!
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices ended higher for the second straight day. Adani Ports, Bharti Airtel, and JSW Steel among others were the top gainers. Hero MotoCorp shares slid by 7% after the income tax sleuths allegedly found evidence of ₹1,000 crore in bogus expenses.
Lenders Move To Secure Future
The tug of war for Future Retail (FRL), one of India’s oldest and largest organised retail chains, just got more complicated. It's no longer about Reliance and Amazon, the key players in this saga thus far.
Stop strip: Future’s lenders led by Bank of India have now dragged the company to the insolvency court to recover their dues. They have moved the NCLT and Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa-owned CSB has moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal. The lenders appear to be alarmed after Reliance took control of 900 FRL stores for rent default. They see it as assets slipping out of their hands. FRL owes them ₹3,595 crore.
US online retailer Amazon continues to chase FRL in domestic and international courts.
Another default: Future Enterprises has defaulted on a payment of ₹19.16 crore to Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank and Union Bank of India. It is their second default this month.
Rare Changes At The Wheel
Frederick Smith will step down as the CEO of FedEx, after running the company he founded for more than half a century. Smith will hand over the reins to Raj Subramaniam, an Indian-born executive who joined the company in 1991 and is currently the company’s president and the COO.
Long haul: Under Smith, FedEx grew from a small operation of 400 staff to a global titan with some 600,000 employees. From an initial fleet of 14 aircraft in 1973, he now leaves the group with the world's biggest air cargo fleet, plus a logistics network.
Lasting innings: Mangu Singh, the Managing Director of DMRC is set to retire on March 31, 2022, after serving in the position for more than a decade. Singh has been a part of the DMRC almost since its inception in 1995. The company is one of the rare government-owned organisations whose chief executives have so far have had long innings.
TikTok’s No More Just A Digital Dance Floor
The Oscars, famous for its air of exclusivity, rolled out the red carpet for creator platforms at its latest edition. Instagram and TikTok stars arrived at the Dolby Theatre for Hollywood's big night.
Some creators wielded the camera to create behind-the-scenes moments for their followers. Anyhoo, TikTok went centerstage. Even TV has never gotten similar treatment from the high and mighty of cinema.
The Twitter-voted fan-favourite prize went to Zack Snyder for Army of the Dead. His reward? A lifetime of bragging rights. It may seem like NBD but just three years ago the Academy backtracked after announcing the popularity award following pushback from members.
The pandemic has chastened the elites of global entertainment. Those who looked down upon popularity ate crow when the Oscars’ ratings hit a record low last year. It is true that movies still create stars. But the studios’ exclusive power to create them has shifted. Ask Montero Hill, better known as Lil Nas X. He had no doubt who made him a superstar: TikTok. Even Disney and Lin-Manuel Miranda doffed their hats to the wildly popular Chinese app. So Hollywood better pay obeisance. And pay it did.
Algorithmic power is upending notions of popularity at the French Riviera too. Two weeks ago, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival joined forces with TikTok to engage with the new generation of cinephiles.
Who knows, the Oscars might soon have a category for TikTok. And it might feature GIFs.
It’s Official: We Are In The Midst Of A Food Crisis
First, there was the surge in energy needs as we hobbled back from a pandemic. Then there were sanctions against Russia, which precipitated a return to coal. Increased thermal energy prices affected fertiliser costs. Resultant cutbacks in fertiliser use affected crop yields and trade, which were already haywire because of adverse events; we’d written about how droughts, export curbs, and the Russia-Ukraine war triggered a vegetable oil crisis.
Dominoes: The upending of the global food system is forcing a change in eating habits. Bloomberg reports that food vendors are cooking steamed snacks in lieu of fried fare. Pizza toppings and sandwich fillings are getting measlier as meat prices hit the roof. Yemen, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia—already dealing with malnutrition and poverty—are bracing for social unrest.
Reminder: Shrinkflation has already come for your favourite packaged foods.
The World Is Going Nuclear
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set off a nuclear chain reaction.
Great weapon: North Korea, emboldened in the belief that Russia and China would veto any new UN sanctions, is preparing for a nuclear weapon test, nearly five years after it exploded a hydrogen bomb at Punggye-ri.
South Korean and Japanese media reports suggest that the Punggye-ri test site has come alive again. The test could be as early as next month.
Doomsday train: China is experimenting with a new launch platform for its nuclear missiles: high-speed trains. Building a sturdy train is not the problem. The tricky part is building strong enough rails and underlying structures that can withstand the thrust created when an intercontinental ballistic missile takes off.
Underwater: The UK is replacing its fleet of nuclear submarines and helping ally Australia to design and build N-subs.
It's raining 💰: Edtech firm Classplus has raised $70 million in a round led by Alpha Wave Global and Tiger Global. Healthtech startup Qure.ai closed a $40 million round. Social commerce platform CityMall also raised $75 million, while cloud-based browser testing platform LambdaTest closed a $45 million funding round.
Unveiled: Sony launched its long-awaited Xbox competitor, upgrading its Playstation Plus product with a three-tiered system: Essential, Extra, and Premium.
No labs: Western institutions are shutting their doors to Russian scientists. For instance, they can’t play with atom blasters at CERN anymore.
Heist: Hackers have stolen $600 million from Ronin Network, a bridge that supports the popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity.
Signed: Lionel Messi will promote crypto fan token firm Socios in a US$20 million deal.
Such a long journey: Cathay Pacific New York-Hong Kong flight will turn out to be the world's longest passenger flight, thanks to the closure of Russian airspace. The planned reroute flight will now take about 17 hours. Cathay Pacific takes the crown from Singapore Airlines' New York JFK-Singapore service, which is the world's longest by distance.
Relic lost: The Club 8-Bit, a privately owned collection of more than 500 pieces of retro computer and technology history, has been destroyed by a Russian bomb in Mariupol, Ukraine. Dating from as far back as the 1950s, it included old-school Apple hardware. Dmitry Cherepanov, the owner of the museum also lost his house.
Me texting me: Many users on Verizon’s network have reported receiving text messages that appear to be sent from their own phone numbers. They come with a note about an offer of a free gift if they click an attached link which is directed to Russian websites, sparking fear the scam is part of a propaganda campaign on the war in Ukraine.
Want to advertise with us? We’d love to hear from you.
Write to us here for feedback on The Signal.