Indian crypto dream on edge

Also in this edition: Pay tax on NFTs, New Zealand locks down, Semiconductor shortage continues.

Good morning! Joe Biden’s having a difficult week, first Afghanistan and now Jeff Bezos. Let’s start. Amazon won a $10 billion NSA contract and Microsoft registered a complaint. Now, Bezos’ Blue Origin is suing the US government because NASA gave Elon Musk’s SpaceX a lunar lander contract. Meanwhile, the US government is investigating Musk’s Tesla for having a faulty self-driving system. We don’t even know how to unravel this.

On to the day’s big stories:

  1. Afghans are deleting their tweets.

  2. The world is thinking about a Covid booster shot.

  3. The Apple, Google app store duopoly may break.

The Market Signal

Stocks: A last-hour surge saw Indian benchmark indices scale fresh heights. IT was the best performer among sectoral indices, posting a 2.57% gain while Metal slid by 2.3%. The Nifty and Sensex were outliers among major Asian indices, the rest of which all closed in the red.

IPO boost: A gauge of newly listed stocks on the Indian market (over the past two years) has outperformed the Nifty 50 by more than 40% this year, the biggest gap since 2014.

New Bill, Possibly New App Stores

Watch out, iOS and Android play stores may soon get competition if a legislation passed in the US Senate becomes law. The Open App Markets Act could effectively end the duopoly of Apple and Google and allow users to download apps outside of their stores as well as install competing stores on their phones. Lawmakers are considering companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Why it matters: The two tech giants currently control user downloads and payment systems for in-app purchases. They also take a 15-30% cut of app developers’ total revenue. Apple critics such as Epic Games, Spotify, Tile, and Match Group have already complained against this practice in several testimonies. Here's more

The consequence: If the bill is passed, smaller developers and even biggies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix will be able to run their own payment systems on Apple and Google devices. The bill hits Apple harder as it has a tighter grip on app downloads and makes a hefty chunk of revenue from its store.


Third Shot? When’s The Second?

It feels like we’re watching a stream on Twitch. You watch others do elaborate moves to tackle their enemies, while we cheer them on our tiny screens. It would, but for Covid-19. The world is now discussing a booster shot, while India inches forward to 13% double shot vaccination across the country. So what are our favourite streamers doing?

The US: Anthony Fauci is readying to announce third shots of Pfizer and Moderna. It will help people suffering from chronic health issues. 

Europe: France, Germany, and the UK have authorised booster shots for older people in the beginning and for everyone else later. 

Is it needed? Depends on who you ask. It does seem to have merit, according to doctors in India. But WHO officials argue that booster shots in rich countries will deprive low-income countries of desperately needed vaccines.

Cabinet’s Turn To Toss The Coin

Cryptocurrency owners will soon know whether they are holding valuable assets or contraband that could land them in jail. The finance ministry is waiting for the union cabinet to sign off on legislation that will end the limbo one way or another.

Cancel it: A high-level committee has recommended a blanket crypto ban and wants trading and possession made a criminal offence. It has, however, backed blockchain technology that powers them for selective use. Market regulator Sebi has already asked depositories to start using blockchain tech. The RBI, which is planning its own central bank digital currency, is dead against the tokens fearing financial instability.

Lots of likes: After the Supreme Court scrapped an RBI order of 2018 banning cryptocurrencies, enthusiasts have gone about business as usual. Trading has picked up and you can now pay at some restaurants and even buy a rug with them. Unocoin has devised a way for users to pay for coffee, pizza, and clothes with Bitcoins, the most popular currency.

The Signal

It will be very difficult for a globally integrated India with aspirations of becoming a digital economy to stay away completely from private cash tokens. They are increasingly gaining currency with at least one country making it legal tender. Several Fortune 500 companies have also jumped on the bandwagon. Walmart said it would hire a crypto expert to expand its payment options. Although not strictly comparable, banning them completely could turn out to be as counterproductive and disruptive as the retrospective tax legislation was. Top funds such as Tiger Global and Sequoia have invested in Indian crypto startups. A ban would put those in jeopardy.


Hashtag Profit

Hashtag United, the semi-professional football club founded by YouTuber Spencer Owen in 2016, is set to make history. Not quite on the football pitch, but in the eSports arena. It could be the first club in the world to receive offers for the transfer of a professional FIFA gamer. Tom Leese, currently contracted to represent Hashtag at tournaments, is said to be valued between 60,000 and 120,000 euros.

There are now official eSports versions of the Premier League (ePremier League) and LaLiga (eLaLiga) tournaments, among many others. The biggest clubs in the world field official club video gamers. The 2020-21 eLaLiga had a total prize pool of 300,000 euros, with the winner receiving 100,000 euros. It is a lucrative and growing industry.

Besides, it’s a matter of prestige for clubs. Last season’s ePremier League winner represented the same club that won the actual football league, Manchester City. Leese’s move may egg others on.

Deleting Your Digital Self 101

Imagine having to erase your entire digital self. Tough, right? This is what Afghans are scrambling to do – kill their digital identity to keep themselves alive.

The Taliban have taken over Afghanistan once again after 20 years. Fearing that any evidence linking them to their old lives could get them killed, journalists, activists, and other citizens are trying to obliterate their history from the internet.

Helping hand: Wiping out a digital trail involves more than just deleting your social media accounts. Organisations like USAID and Human Rights First are rallying others to take down any posts that could compromise the safety of Afghans.

The dichotomy: Meanwhile, the Taliban uses social media liberally to communicate, recruit and organise. This is a problem for big tech companies who have to navigate the issue of blocking harmful content while upholding the safety of certain others. While Facebook is “proactively” removing the Taliban’s content because of its designation as a terrorist organisation, WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption feature might present a problem.


What Else Made The Signal? 

Plot twist: Poly Network, the decentralized finance firm hit by a $600 million crypto heist last week, has offered the hacker the position of chief security advisor at its firm and is offering a $500,000 bounty as well. 

Pile on: The tax department is heaping on levies on non-fungible tokens asking buyers to pay equalisation levy and GST. 

Quick action: New Zealand has gone into a three-day nationwide lockdown after the country detected its first coronavirus case in six months.

Getting bigger: Gaming platform Zupee raised $30 million from WestCap group and Tomales Bay Capital which raised the company’s valuation fivefold to $500 million. 

Approved: The Securities and Exchange Board of India has granted permission for Ruchi Soya’s INR 43 billion follow-on public offer.

No chips: The global semiconductor shortage is seeping into Indian markets where manufacturers are now looking to other industries to fulfill demand.


Governor YouTuber: Kevin Paffrath, a 29-year-old millionaire who has made a fortune on YouTube giving real estate commentary, could very well become the next governor of California if the polls go in his favour.

More pi: There are now 62.8 trillion digits in the mathematical constant pi. Swiss researchers took 108 days and nine hours to compute the new world record number.

Sudoku creator dies: Japan’s Maki Kaji, aka “Godfather of Sudoku”, died of bile duct cancer in Tokyo on August 10. He took the Number Place game in 1984 and converted it into one of the most-loved puzzles of the modern era.

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