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Asia is burning
Also in today’s edition: Tudum, diluted; Indians take to the skies; Google holds some, folds some; Fox pays a lie premium
Good morning! Don’t you just hate it when your luggage gets lost in transit? Well, perhaps you can now take solace from the fact that it can happen to literally anyone. Even international cricketers. The Indian Express reports that 16 bats, along with pads, shoes, thigh-pads, and gloves belonging to the team’s players went missing from their kit bags after landing at Delhi airport on Sunday. Some of those bats cost around ₹100,000 ($1,200)! And guess what: the players only realised their stuff was missing after they reached their hotel rooms because the franchise hires a logistics company to transport the kit bags. And here’s the kicker: one of the Delhi Capitals’ principal sponsors is DP World, a logistics company. #JustDelhiThings?
Today’s edition also features pieces by Soumya Gupta, Dinesh Narayanan, Julie Koshy Sam, Srijonee Bhattacharjee, and Jaideep Vaidya.
The Market Signal*
Stocks & economy: Despite subdued global shares, Indian equities may climb a tad higher. The last three sessions ended in the red.
Earlier today, Chinese banks did not tinker with prime loan rates, the key lending rate in the country, improving sentiment for Asian equities. Rates are kept at a record low so as to shore up economic growth after it was impacted sharply by the pandemic.
Globally, funds moved towards safer assets such as US treasuries from riskier equities on worries that rates could remain higher for longer. Inflation numbers in the UK and Eurozone eased slightly, but underlying inflation remained stubborn.
Given the global sentiment, the initial rise in Indian shares may not sustain. However, a sharp fall in Nifty seems unlikely, according to analysts. Especially since traders are seen tiptoeing before Reliance Industries and ICICI Bank release results on Friday and Saturday.
Coming Soon: Access Denied
Netflix had an action-packed earnings call yesterday. It added 1.75 million more subscribers last quarter, which was below Wall Street’s expectations. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the company was “pleased” with its password-sharing crackdown pilot and will roll it out in other markets (but with a delay).
Open and close: In a bit of an embarrassment, Netflix had to scrap the livestream of dating show Love Is Blind due to technical glitches. Also, it’s renewing Rana Naidu, the Indian remake of Ray Donovan, for a second season. Sarandos mentioned the show as a hit in the earnings call. It’s also shutting down its original line of business: mail-order DVDs.
Gone: Disney is cutting 15% of its entertainment division staff next week across verticals worldwide. This is part of the 9,000 job slashes CEO Bob Iger had announced earlier this year in a massive cost-cutting spree.
The Great Indian Takeoff
Indians are flying high. The country’s aviation regulator said airlines carried 13 million passengers in March. That’s 21% more than what they carried in March 2022 and 11% higher than March 2019.
The rush also means airlines have become more frequent flyers on regional routes. Ruling the skies on routes such as Vijayawada, Nagpur, and Pune are those low-slung aeroplanes with big fans on their wings. We are talking turboprops. Airlines flew 182,478 times on regional routes in 2022, 4% more than the 175,409 times they flew in 2019.
Meanwhile, international airlines are keen to get Indian flyers (unruly they might be, but business is business) onboard but are hobbled by the government, which is tightfisted about bilateral flying rights. They are lobbying hard but call it airline nationalism if you will; the government wants Indians to fly Indian birds.
Threat Level: Critical
White hot temperatures before May aren’t just claiming lives in Mumbai, but may result in casualties across the world’s largest continent. As the mercury crosses 40°C in India and Bangladesh, it’s breached 45°C in Tak, Thailand—a record for the country. Temperatures in China also exceeded 35°C. Axios notes that climatologist Maximiliano Herrera has labelled this the “worst heat wave in Asian history”.
Food for thought: Fish prices in India have risen by ~20% as cultivation ponds dry up. Conversely, chicken prices have crashed as poultry farmers panic-sell chicks over concerns that blistering heat will kill the birds. In Maharashtra, too, onion prices plummeted after distressed farmers offloaded produce affected by freak rains and hailstones; Maharashtra accounts for 40% of India’s onion output.
More frequent and intense heatwaves in the future—as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—will spell doom for affordable sustenance as sowing and harvesting go awry.
The International Monetary Fund predicts that India will contribute ~13% to global growth until 2028. But this may not manifest unless India reworks its ineffective, underfunded heat action plans (HAPs). Three-fourths of our vast labour force is still engaged in heat-exposed jobs; per Lancet, heat exposure triggered a potential loss of 167.2 billion labour hours; the income lost is equivalent to around 5.4% of India’s GDP.
India’s labour ministry has already issued cross-sector heat advisories for workers and schools. Until we get our HAPs in order, though, our infrastructural and economic ambitions will remain a pipe dream.
Google’s Folding Everything In
Google’s AI-fication of everything might soon have a destination: a foldable Pixel smartphone. With the $1,700 (~₹140,000) “Pixel Fold”, the company will take on Samsung for the foldable smartphone honours at a time when its relationship with the South Korean giant seems to be bleeding its stock. The phone is expected to be announced at Google’s annual I/O conference next month and officially launched in June.
Hot chips: Microsoft will power its expansive AI push with its own chips, per The Information. The AI chips are typically used for training large language models and will help the software used by investee OpenAI’s ChatGPT, while bringing down costs per query.
Pink slips: Almost halfway into Mark Zuckerberg’s “year of efficiency”, Meta will further trim its workforce across Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Further cuts are expected in May. Also, Amazon has started laying off employees from its advertising unit.
Fox Is Paying For Its Lies
No Succession spoilers here. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp will cough up more than $787 million after thrashing out a historic nth-hour settlement over a defamation lawsuit brought against it by Dominion Voting Systems. The lawsuit involved lies and conspiracy theories peddled by the right-wing network’s anchors over the results of the 2020 presidential elections, which Joe Biden won.
Small mercies: The settlement is less than half of Dominion’s $1.6 billion claim, and Fox would not be required to issue a public apology to its viewers—the same people it misled. It, however, had to acknowledge “certain claims about Dominion being false”.
More reckonings: Another voting technology company, Smartmatic, had sued Fox for $2.7 billion with similar allegations. Unlike Dominion, the London-headquartered Smartmatic is in no mood to settle. Last week, a Fox Corp shareholder sued Rupert Murdoch and other board members for circa-2020 misinformation.
It’s official: India has overtaken China as the world’s most populous nation, according to the United Nations. India’s population is 1.4286 billion, compared with China’s 1.4257 billion.
More unbundling: The Board of Control for Cricket in India will reportedly sell the television and digital rights for its next bilateral series cycle separately, just like it did with the Indian Premier League.
Pink slips: Buy-now-pay-later platform Simpl is laying off 150-200 employees—over 25% of its workforce—across departments, reports Entrackr.
Move fast…: Meta has opened its Horizon Worlds VR app to teenagers aged 13 to 17 despite calls from politicians, organisations, and experts on health, privacy, and children’s rights not to do so. It is also cloning Linktree’s link-in-bio feature on Instagram.
Up and running: Food delivery company Zomato stated in a regulatory filing that most stores of its quick commerce unit Blinkit had resumed operations in New Delhi after disruptions due to protests over wages.
Another twist: The Wadia Group is not looking to exit the debt-saddled Go First airline and is open to partnerships, reported the Press Trust of India.
THE DAILY DIGIT
Or ₹43,335 crore. The valuation that Mankind Pharma, which makes Manforce Condoms and pregnancy test kit Prega News, has set for its IPO. This will be India’s biggest IPO (yet) this year. (Reuters)
A glitch in the matrix: ...has cost All Nippon Airways (ANA). The Japanese airline is going to remember this faux pas for a long time to come. Tickets for a 14,500 km journey between Jakarta (Indonesia) and New York (United States) typically cost ~$10,000. But these were up for grabs for as low as $350, and travellers didn’t waste much time snapping them up. The airline has the fastest-fingers-first flub down to a currency conversion error on its Vietnam website. ANA, on its part, hasn't revoked the bookings, although it said a final decision hadn’t been made. To be fair, the airline does deserve brownie points for this.
Take a break: When the going gets tough, US firms are moving from lip service to taking action. Or so it seems. Self-care days are catching on at the workplace. US-based personal-finance company NerdWallet is offering four self-care designated days each year, and Adobe is creating "quiet rooms" so that its workers have some alone time. This could be because of peak capitalism at play. According to studies, employees who suffer from anxiety or burnout are the first ones to bid adieu to the workplace. Another study by the MIT Sloan School of Management shows that replacing employees could prove to be twice as expensive. 🙃 But we are gonna look at the bright side here.
Holy meow: Remember when we told you New Zealand has a feral cat problem? The North Canterbury Hunting Competition thought it had a winning plan on its hands to deal with the crisis. It invited children under 14 on the job to hunt down wild cats by June 2023… all for $150 as the winning prize. Thankfully, it was met with backlash, and the competition was withdrawn. The country also holds the title of having the highest number of cat owners in the world. Just what could go wrong? 😤