Is Facebook a country or a platform?

Also in this edition: Unemployed gamers get scammed, Big screens face a big test, Long reads for the weekend.

Good morning! How would you resolve a labour crisis? Pay your workers more? In the Valley, you get robots. But getting robots means you need to hire a team, who will know how to troubleshoot, manage and fix robots. That costs money too, so you rent robots. Tiger Global has backed three startups that offer robot subscription services.

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The Market Signal

Stocks: Benchmark indices closed virtually flat after witnessing volatility on the day of the monthly F&O expiry. Among the sectoral indices, FMCG continued its good performance from recent days to register the biggest gain while Metal continued its slide to end up as the biggest loser of the day.

If No One’s Hiring, Just Start Gaming

Free to play doesn’t mean the same everywhere. At least in the Philippines, where the government wants users of crypto-gaming platforms like Axie Infinity to pay income tax on earnings. This comes as a shocker for mostly unemployed gamers who used their NFTs to pay for monthly expenses. Training their pet ‘Axies’ came handy amidst Covid-led job losses since tokens could be swapped for real money.

A scapegoat? Not really. Globally, regulators are figuring out ways to impose taxes on crypto trading. The Philippines wants to join the party and tax all gains. In particular, Axie has attracted attention for its payment scheme and the possibility of abuse.

Deceit haven: All isn’t hunky-dory in the crypto trading world anyway. Phony NFTs, stolen credit cards, and fake websites are being propped up by hackers to make a quick buck. Things are far worse for those seeking a match since crypto fraudsters are now scamming their way into dating apps too.


The Femtech Moment Is Finally Here

Something’s been brewing over the past one and a half years. The pandemic has helped create value in a new sector: femtech. The sector, across the world, is now valued at $22.5 billion. 

Closer home, Elda Health, a healthcare platform exclusively for women over 35, raised $1.5 million while Veera Health got $3 million in July. In India alone, ~40 femtech startups have mushroomed in the country between 2018 and 2021, per Tracxn.

Smell some moolah: Clearly, it’s not just a D2C rush. It is also large private equity money such as Sequoia Capital that seems to have fallen in love with a segment that is estimated to be valued at $65 billion by 2027.

How you doin’? With poor diagnosis, societal taboo, and lack of access to good quality healthcare, women are finally turning to the digital space for solutions. There are femtech products that cater to women’s health and well-being beyond just menstruation and childbirth.

Facebook's Nation-State Ambitions

Mark Zuckerberg perhaps knew it all along, famously likening his company Facebook to “more like a government than a traditional company”. Four years later, it has a Supreme Court, it calls the “Oversight Board” (Remember Trump?), and now it plans to set up an “Election Commission” this fall, prepping for the 2022 US midterm elections.

Passing the buck: Much like Facebook did with several contentious content moderation decisions, it wants to outsource decision-making to an independent set of experts. Particularly on issues like political advertising, election-related misinformation by candidates and political figures.

Avoid criticism: Much like everything Facebook does, this move is also designed to help the company insulate itself from criticism from political groups. While the right/conservatives (globally) feel Facebook censors its voices, left/liberals feel its algorithms and “free speech” policies have helped in fuelling hate speech. So what does Facebook do? Pass it on.

The Signal

That Facebook plays an important and outsized role in elections globally is undeniable. Now, an “election commission” is a tacit acknowledgement of its inability to handle these issues, while seeking external help. The irony here is that this move comes amidst tensions with researchers working on political advertising. 

But for now, Facebook is desperate to be seen as doing something, especially with high-profile election cycles in 2022 in the US and other large markets (Brazil, the Philippines, state elections in India). The move might earn the company some plaudits, but as with everything Facebook, it will come down to intent, particularly with regulators watching hawkishly. That is, until the next controversy.


Will Shang-Chi Change The Fortunes?

Next weekend’s release of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be the big test to check if Indians are ready to line the box office once again.

You see, over 60% of movie screens in Delhi resumed operations last week, bringing nationwide multiplex operations to nearly 85% of capacity. But the audience isn’t too excited about some of the films in theaters yet. 

Marvellous Black Widow: The signs look promising after the Scarlett Johannson-starrer registered the highest-grossing opening weekend since the outbreak of Covid-19, raking in $215 million. Of that, $158 million came from global box offices and the rest from paid access via Disney+.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek was among the loudest of many industry heavyweights who believed the pandemic could spell doom for theaters. Perhaps that no longer holds water after the results of this simultaneous release.

A sting in the tale: After registering exponential growth over the past year, OTTs are slowing down. Their looming content crunch could be made worse by the ScarJo lawsuit against Disney. It has already led to Warner Bros signing a deal with AMC to stream new movies exclusively in cinema halls for 45 days from release, starting 2022.

Is India happy enough to binge the latest movies from the couch or is it craving the big-screen experience? There’s also a *cough* third choice.


The Unicode drama: A complex set of characters, a rare script, and an endangered language — that's the challenge awaiting those wanting to digitise Tulu, a language spoken by 1.8 million people in coastal Karnataka. But it's not just that, two conflicting approaches are rooted in historical interpretations, further hindering script reform. This story details all of it.

Billion Dollar Fed: Roger Federer may well be, to quote, “the greatest player-mogul the tennis world may ever see.” This piece details how Federer’s off-court sponsorship income ballooned between 2005 and 2018, thanks to a Nike deal, and an intervention from Monica Seles. Come for Federer, stay for Andy Roddick.

A brutal death and some more: The war you see on tele is a whitewash compared to what Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui captured with his camera in Afghanistan. Yet, some evidence shows that the man was abandoned in his final hours because of some confusion. Here’s an account of what went down and a glimpse into the Pulitzer Prize winner’s last assignment. 

Second chances: How does one cope with life after serving prison time? Should ‘forgive and forget’ be a policy for nonviolent offences? An American support group for white-collar crime is helping former convicts here. Members swap tidbits about their crime and jail time. While Americans tend to attach too little shame to rich-people’s crimes, the accused seek another chance.  

Et Tu, Brute? Women entrepreneurs in the healthcare and hard-science space have a tough act to follow after Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ scandal. Women founders are finding it difficult to secure money for their companies, since too many investors are drawing unnecessary parallels between Holmes and them.

Joe Rogan’s lonely experience: JRE experience is getting the ‘skip’ treatment. A Verge investigation has found that Joe Rogan’s popularity waned since the time he went exclusive on Spotify. His reach is dipping, so million-view milestones are tougher to reach. Maybe it isn't boredom; listeners simply don’t want to pay.


What Else Made The Signal? 

Yaboo… Yahoo news is history. It’s gone. The new foreign direct investment rules have forced Verizon Media to shut shop in India.

It’s not me, it’s you: Meesho has blamed fraudulent sellers for sending out unconfirmed orders to customers. The cops have been roped in. 

Gimme money: Digit Insurance has raised funding of INR 1.21 billion ($16.3 million) from TVS Growth Fund.

Jio vaccine? What started out as a tongue-in-cheek comment on Twitter is turning out to be real. Reliance wants approval to conduct clinical trials of its new protein-based vaccine against Covid-19.

Brexit means Brexit: Britain is setting up its own version of GDPR now that it can’t rely on the one that the EU has set in place.

Gamer things: Netflix has rolled out its first in-app mobile games based on the Stranger Things franchise, but only for Android users in Poland.

Hit dislike: YouTube has purged the site of over 1 million videos that contain Covid-related misinformation. All of this since February 2020.

That’s it from us this week. Have a good weekend.

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