How big are Jassy’s boots at Amazon?

Also in today's edition: Twitter loses immunity, Germany opens up travel, Yahoo!

Good morning! It’s time to get out and meet people. You know it is time. So does Bumble. It is going to start a restaurant where you can meet your date in a safe environment. There will be a bar, a private dining room, and a patio. Full-stack dating experience.

Anyway, moving on to the day’s stories:

  1. Rural debt is dangerously real.

  2. Volkswagen will dump Bugatti because it wants to go green.

  3. Paytm’s IPO will break a record. You know which?

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‘Tis The Season For IPOs 

More IPO updates coming your way. Paytm, it seems, will likely file its draft prospectus with Sebi as early as next week. The payments unicorn will try to sell shares worth $2.4 billion, including new stock and owners’ equity, for a valuation possibly exceeding $24 billion. It may even raise more, depending on demand, reportsMoneyControl.

Fun fact: If this goes through, the Paytm share sale will surpass Coal India’s INR 150 billion 2010 IPO to set a new record. 

Zomato time: Not to be left behind, the offering from another unicorn in Gurugram will open for subscription on July 19 at a price band of INR 70-72, which will value Zomato at over $7 billion. The valuation will exceed that of Amazon-backed UK food courier Deliveroo. 

Pine Labs: The payment and merchant commerce unicorn announced it had raised $600 million from private equity biggies Fidelity Management and BlackRock, among others. Pine Labs is looking to make an initial offer, too, though not in India.

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More Jabs To Choose From 

As Covid-19’s Delta variant sweeps the globe, India is amping up its vaccination programme. Moderna will become the fourth vaccine option available from this week. Pfizer, however, is taking its own sweet time.

No needles: That would be Gujarat-based Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D vaccine. The unique shot uses a type of DNA found in bacteria to trigger the body’s immune response and will be administered with a fluid jet, not injections. Zydus approached the Drug Controller General of India on July 1 seeking quick approval.

Nik’ of time: The Sputnik V jab, only available at private hospitals, will soon be offered for free at government vaccine centres.

Pfizer be wiser: The drug regulator has been urging Pfizer to bring its vaccine to India. Apparently, the company wants cover for legal liabilities. Meanwhile, a Reutersreport from Israel cited a decrease in the vaccine’s effectiveness, although it reduces the severity of infection.

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Will Jassy Jazz Up Amazon? 

As the US celebrated its 245th Independence Day on the weekend, Jeff Bezos was celebrating one of his own: freedom from running Amazon day-to-day. With Andy Jassy stepping into the shoes of one of the world’s most successful businessmen, there are many challenges that await him.

Too big to control: Amazon’s size, scale and practices have attracted antitrust scrutiny at home, in Europe and even in India. It is being investigated for using third-party sellers’ proprietary data to make competing products of its own. 

Competition: The behemoth has fierce competition from the likes of Walmart at home and local players elsewhere, such as Flipkart in India. It also competes with standalone direct-to-consumer brands and platforms such as Shopify.

The employee problem: During Bezos’ time, the company gathered notoriety for a cutthroat corporate work culture and alleged shabby treatment of warehouse employees. Amazon has also drawn flak for actively trying to scuttle efforts by workers to unionise. 

The Signal

Jassy belongs to a crop of professional managers — Sundar Pichai of Google, Tim Cook of Apple, and Satya Nadella of Microsoft — who took over successful companies from their founders and made them bigger. Amazon has tremendous legroom to grow, and Jassy, who successfully launched and grew Amazon Web Services, is well-positioned to run the Seattle-based multinational. His challenges originate from within the company, its home country as well as foreign shores. It is battling an adversarial government and taking on corporate rivals in court in India. Jassy is known to be as competitive and workaholic as Bezos, but more friendly with colleagues.

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Rising Distress Could Stall Recovery 

Personal indebtedness is rising. A Reuters survey showed that two-thirds of rural households in India took on debt since the pandemic struck in March last year.

Rural pain: A nationwide lockdown last year followed by shutdowns in major states after a second wave of Covid-19 this year smothered the green shoots of growth in the last two-quarters of FY21, causing widespread income losses and displacement from cities. Rural borrowing rose three times since the pandemic began, half of which was taken out in the past six months.

Rising debt: An SBI Research study found overall household debt in FY21 at 37.3%, up from 32.5% in the previous year. While indebtedness has been rising, household savings have been declining. It stood at a healthy 21% of GDP in the first quarter of FY21 but halved in the next quarter and slipped further to 8.2% in the third.

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Pivoting To A Sustainable Future 

A number of announcements indicate that corporations the world over are looking at a more sustainable way to grow. Yesterday, we caught you up on the trend of green financing. Now, two automobile giants have declared actions that highlight their green goals.

Vrooming right: German automobile company Volkswagen is selling its Bugatti vertical to switch focus to electric vehicle production. Bugatti will function as a joint venture between a Croatian electric car startup, Rimac Automobili, and VW’s sports car unit.

Meanwhile, Porsche has intimated ~1,300 of its component suppliers to switch to greener methods of manufacturing.

Green deal: Back home, India Glycols, a green tech chemicals company, has formed a joint venture with Swiss specialty chemicals maker Clariant International to produce renewable ethylene oxide derivatives widely used in automotive antifreeze, paints, plastics, films, cosmetics and even ballpoint pens.

Prayers answered: Religious institutions, too, are making the switch. The famous Tirumala Tirupati temple will get help from the Bureau of Energy Efficiency to become an energy-efficient pilgrimage centre.

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What Else Made The Signal?

The bird is not immune: Twitter has lost its safe harbour protection against user-generated content in India because it failed to comply with new local laws, the government told a court.

Toe the line: A new charter from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will soon outline norms for self-regulating bodies of online curated content (OTT platforms) and digital news websites.

Bank shopping: Japan's second-largest lender, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, is expanding its retail footprint in Asia by acquiring a 74.9% stake in Fullerton India for $2 billion.

Breaking records: The world’s oldest wealth fund, Kuwait Investment Authority, has broken records to accumulate total assets worth $700 billion. It is now one among the top three wealth funds by assets.

Time to travel: Germany is opening up to Indian, UK and other travellers, lifting the ban on countries where the Delta variant is dominant. 

Yahoo!: SoftBank has purchased the Yahoo! trademark for the Japanese market for $1.6 billion from owner Verizon Media. Yahoo Japan is the most popular site for news in that country.


Fun Signals

Into the wild: For the first time ever, a herd of 13 elephants, all but one born in captivity in a Kent zoo, are about to be released into the wild. They will be flown about 7,000 kilometers to Kenya. If the operation is successful, more captive elephants may be ‘re-wilded’ in the future.

Sweet diplomacy: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gifted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee 2,600 kg of homegrown mangoes. Interesting way to tackle vaccine export issues, don’t you think?

Jet flood: The mountains of Idaho are a sight to behold this year: private jets are parked alongside grazing animals at Friedman Memorial Airport. This is courtesy of Idaho’s Sun Valley Conference, a “summer camp” for billionaires from the tech industry. Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook and Brian Chesky are attending.

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