Lenskart wants to be Luxottica
Also in today’s edition: More turbulence for Boeing; Covid-19 rears its head again; Tech rallies against Texas; Beer makers are full of hops
Good morning! The world’s biggest K-pop sensations are now virtual pets. BTS is partnering with Bandai Namco—creator of the iconic Tamagotchi handheld toys from the ‘90s—to launch the TinyTAN Tamagotchi. Available in purple, red, and a limited edition black, the TinyTAN toys will reveal any one of BTS’ seven bandmates. These avatars can eat custard tarts, eat samgyeopsal, and even dance to Dynamite. ARMY will want this in their pockets asap.
A quick programming note: We are taking a short publishing on account of public holidays. The Signal will not be hitting your inboxes at 8 am on Friday. The same applies to The Signal Daily podcast. Our Saturday offering, The Intersection, will also return next weekend. Happy long weekend! We’ll see you on Monday!
On to the edition…
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices had a fall for the third day in a row because of weak global cues and profit booking. The release of key inflation data also deterred investors. Prices for Brent crude rose to $105.23 per barrel after Russia continued its war on Ukraine.
New Worries For Boeing
Boeing 737 Max is once again facing the heat. The DGCA has banned 90 pilots of SpiceJet from operating the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft till they undergo re-training.
Why? The ‘stick shaker’, a part of the aircraft that vibrates in the cockpit, warning that the plane is resisting lift, was disabled during simulation training. These 90 out of 650 pilots were untrained on what to do during such an event.
Ongoing woes: The war in Ukraine is proving to be another punch in the gut for Boeing, which had to remove orders for 141 jets from the official backlog—most of which were planes destined to be flown in Russia. This comes at a time when the crash of the recent 737-800 aircraft is still under investigation in China.
Covid-19 Is Still In The Air
It’s not over till it’s over. Covid-19 cases are up in Gujarat and NCR, with the first case of the XE variant reported in Vadodara. The Centre also alerted five states: Delhi, Mizoram, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Haryana because of an uptick in cases. India's fourth wave could start as soon as June and peter out by September. In related news, things are going south in China.
Chaos central: As Shanghai deals with more than 25,000 cases, it has warned violators of serious consequences. Lockdowns in China threaten to worsen the supply chain chaos. It could even trump the disruption over the last two years. The solar power industry is affected as well. As many as 30 Taiwanese companies have suspended production in China because of the lockdowns. The Indian Consulate in Shanghai has temporarily halted its in-person services.
Elsewhere: Indoor mask mandates are back in Philadelphia, United States.
Lenskart Takes A Page From the Luxottica Book
Omnichannel eyewear brand Lenskart is closing a $200-250 million funding round at a valuation of $4.5-$5 billion. The development comes after reports in 2021 that claimed SoftBank-backed Lenskart is adopting the Thrasio model for an entity named Lenskart Labs.
Roll-up fever, again: According to The Economic Times report, however, Lenskart’s D2C roll-up commerce arm is named ‘Neso Brands’. Neso will reportedly acquire eyewear brands across Europe, Southeast Asia and West Asia. Lenskart already has two in-house labels, John Jacobs and Vincent Chase.
The Peyush Bansal-led unicorn joins FirstCry, The Good Glamm Group, Curefoods, Mensa Brands, and GlobalBees in India’s roll-up commerce bandwagon. This model of aggregating or acquiring private labels was popularised by US-based Thrasio. Incidentally, the OG is gearing up for an Indian entry.
Lenskart’s IPO plans are on the backburner after the bang-turned-whimper trajectories of India’s tech IPOs. For now, Bansal seems to be looking for—in Warren Buffet’s words—"economic castles protected by unbreachable moats”.
Never mind that it’s almost always compared to American eyewear retailer Warby Parker; Lenskart’s current plans seem inspired by the Luxottica Group. The Italian conglomerate has a finger in every eyewear vertical, from luxury sunglasses to prescription lenses. Lenskart currently retails a few Luxottica brands; it’d be a coup if it came anywhere close to creating an Oakley 2.0.
🎧 For our deep dive, we look at how Lenskart is adopting the US-based Thrasio model in India. Check out The Signal Daily!
Texas Tech Steps Up to Heartbeat Act
Review platform Yelp is the latest tech company to cover out-of-state abortion access for its Texas workforce after dating giant Match Group, Bumble, and Apple. Uber and Lyft are covering legal fees for drivers accused of ‘aiding and abetting’ abortion.
Backdrop: Seven US states—taking advantage of rightward shifts in the American federal system—are mulling near-total abortion bans, all modelled on the ‘Texas Heartbeat Act’ of 2021. The legislations come in the runup to the Supreme Court hearing on overturning Roe v. Wade– the seminal law that established abortion rights in the US.
Why this matters: Silicon Valley is increasingly decamping to Texas. This includes Meta, Apple, Tesla, HP, and Oracle. But Big Tech, barring Netflix, is mum on restrictive abortion laws. While Apple has coverage for employees, its subcontractors likely don’t; it also reportedly booted out an employee who demanded that it speak up.
Aside: While Big Tech plays coy in Texas, it’s going all out to provide perks to employees elsewhere.
Beer Sales Are Back With A Vengeance
Come summer, beers will finally find their place in the sun. So much so that sales could cross 2019 demand.
Chugathon: B9 Beverages, which makes Bira, already clocked its highest-ever revenue in March 2022. The homegrown beer maker even had planned to open its fifth brewery before it files for IPO. Beer makers big and small have a reason to cheer. Restaurants and pubs opening up have a huge role to play. In related news, a pint of beer will get dearer in the UK as rising energy costs play catch up. Craft beer in America has gotten expensive. The war has a lot to do with it.
Sunny side up: The pandemic and consequent lockdowns dented the enthusiasm for tipple in Africa. That is, until alcohol producers looked to social media influencers to make drinking cool again. It worked.
🎧 We talk about how beer will retain its status as the summer beverage, two years after the pandemic. Hop in!
To the moon 🚀: Crypto payments company MoonPay raised $87 million at a $3.4 billion valuation. Its current round saw participation from celebrities such as Justin Beiber, Maria Sharapova, Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matthew McConaughey among others.
Not so cheap: Meta is testing several tools that will allow creators to monetize in Horizon Worlds aka the Metaverse. It will also charge creators platform and sales fees of up to 47.5% for sales of virtual goods and services in the Metaverse.
Free kick: Football’s governing body, Fifa, launched its global, free streaming service–Fifa Plus. It will stream over 40,000 live matches annually and includes original features and archival content.
The saga continues: Marc Bain Rasella, a Twitter shareholder, has sued Elon Musk for securities fraud over a delay in filing the disclosure about his purchase of 9.2% stake.
Juicing up: Pine Labs, the IPO-bound payments and financial services provider, has purchased a majority stake in mobile-based payments solution company Mosambee.
Worsening crisis: Sri Lanka has temporarily defaulted on its $51 billion external debt (foreign payments) to preserve dollars for food and fuel imports.
Flaccid trip: This is… awkward. Brazil’s military used public money to purchase 60 penile implants and over 35,000 Viagra pills. The military maintains that the pills are used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension or high blood pressure in the lungs. But the opposition isn’t buying it, and President Jair Bolsonaro needs to have answers. Quick.
Doggone search: In a first, Google is suing a person for operating a puppy-breeder website scam. The lawsuit claims that the cybercriminal lured innocents with “alluring photos of purebred puppies.” We’d be miffed too.
Mo’ koalas please: University of Newcastle researchers are betting on IVF to save the endangered koala from extinction. Scientists have proposed using frozen koala sperm to impregnate females and boost koala populations across Australia.
Want to advertise with us? We’d love to hear from you.
Write to us here for feedback on The Signal.