Musk boards Twitter
Also in today’s edition: No one percenters in crypto; Inflation bites RBI; Disney+ Hotstar plugs into Chinese AI; No woke chatter at Amazon
Good morning! Apple’s connection to sport dates back to 1984, when it released its famous Super Bowl ad. Now The Times of India reports that it will pitch for media rights for the Indian Premier League, one of the most-watched sporting events on the planet. A win could bolster Apple’s streaming services. It won't have it easy. The field has players such as TV18-Viacom, Disney, Sony, Zee and Amazon. Howzzat!
Elon Musk has become Twitter’s largest stakeholder. He is already considering alterations. For the deep dive, our host Farheen Khan elaborates on China's ambition to dominate the AI world. Disney+Hotstar has a role to play here. Tune in to The Signal Daily!
The Market Signal*
Stocks: A day after the HDFC twins announced their mega-merger, shares fell on profit booking. Tata Motors climbed after its biggest subsidiary Jaguar-Land Rover reported better sales in March. Covid-19’s long shadow on Europe and Asia is also deterring investor sentiments. Brent crude oil climbed to $108.32 after the US and Europe planned new sanctions on Russia.
Industry Dreads 1% Tax
The euphoria of the government indirectly legitimising the crypto industry by imposing a tax has evaporated. It’s replaced by a sort of compliance anxiety. The worry is not so much about the 30% tax on investors’ profits but the 1% TDS that crypto exchanges have to deduct on transactions.
Go to court: The fear is that investors would flee to exchanges that do not insist on KYC information. The industry is quietly laying the ground for a legal challenge drawing encouragement from its earlier experience of getting the courts to overturn an RBI ban on crypto trading.
Tracker: The TDS is hardly a measure to boost tax revenues. It is a surveillance tool similar to the securities transaction tax of 0.1% on share trades. It is meant for the government to keep track of movement of money, something the industry doesn’t seem to be happy about.
RBI Violated Mandate, Centre Looked Away
The RBI breached its inflation target in 2020 and the government let it avoid accountability, blaming the Covid-19 pandemic.
Let it be: As per the RBI Act, the central bank must write to the Centre if it misses the inflation target—its primary mandate—for three quarters in a row and draw up a retargeting plan. With the economy in the doldrums, the government feared that acknowledging the RBI’s failure would force interest rates higher, jeopardising recovery prospects. To be fair, those were extraordinary times.
Price rise: Meanwhile, inflation is putting pressure on household budgets. With rising input costs, companies are also downsizing their packs, if not raising prices.
Disney+ Hotstar Sees Red For Data Processing
An Entrackr report reveals that Disney+ Hotstar is on a recruitment spree in China. The streaming platform is hiring for 45 roles ranging from advertising to software engineering; a majority require AI and machine learning (ML) expertise.
Details: Disney+ Hotstar has a 50-strong team in Beijing, almost all of whom are fresh AI talent from the country’s top universities. Interestingly, it’s offering perks such as discounted or free access to Disney resorts and theme parks.
Why this matters: While Disney+ Hotstar operates in China through Beijing-based subsidiary NGC China Ltd, it rarely touts its presence in the country. That it relies on Chinese talent to crunch data generated by Indian viewers comes at a time when India banned 321 Chinese apps over “sensitive user data being transmitted to servers located in a hostile country”.
Disney’s history of appeasing China—from networking with Communist Party officials to crediting government entities in human rights-minefield Xinjiang—hasn’t gone down well with activist investors. The US is also wary of China’s dominance in AI and ML.
This will change if and when India implements data localisation norms.
Will Musk ‘Free’ Twitter?
Barely 10 days after Elon Musk set Twitter aflutter with a poll asking whether the microsite allowed free speech, and received an emphatic ‘no’, the Dogefather is set to join Twitter’s board of directors.
What's happening? Unbeknownst to those taking the poll, Musk had already acquired a 9.2% stake in the company founded by his friend Jack Dorsey. Consider it a soft launch (or a stunt, if you will) buried in the tweet.
No surprises: Musk has floated the idea of an edit button on Twitter. In what could be a hint at the influence he might exert, while conducting the poll on March 25, Musk had said, “the consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
Musk got into trouble with the SEC in 2018 over a Tweet.
No ‘Freedom’ In Amazon App For Staff
Online retailer Amazon is planning a social media app for employees where they can give shoutouts to colleagues’ stellar work. What the app will not let them do, however, is talk about poor working conditions or unionisation.
Mum’s the word: The app, which the company says is not approved yet and may not even launch, will screen for keywords such as ‘fairness’, ‘diversity’, ‘freedom’, ‘grievance’, ‘pay raise’, and ‘compensation’. Amazon, whose aversion to unions is well-known, will also ban phrases such as “this is concerning”.
Fat pay: Amazon workers won a battle to form their first union in the US just three days ago. It was revealed on the same day that chief executive Andy Jassy took home $212.7 million in 2021, or 6,474 times that of the average Amazon employee.
In the bank: Alia Bhatt-backed Phool.co bagged $8 million in its latest funding round. AGritech platform CultYvate raised ₹4.5 crore ($597,292) in pre-series A funding. VerSe Innovation, which owns news aggregator Dailyhunt and short video app Josh, raised $805 million at a $5 billion valuation.
New rules: The US Securities and Exchange Commission may ask crypto platforms to separate functions such as custodial operations as it mulls regulations.
Open race: Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is inching closer to winning French presidential elections, potentially radically altering European politics.
Consolidation: Gupshup bought conversational platform Active.Ai, and is looking to raise $100 million to $200 million in a pre-IPO round.
Largesse: IndiGo co-founder Rakesh Gangwal has donated $100 million to his alma mater IIT Kanpur for medical engineering research.
Big buy: Chipmaker AMD will acquire cloud startup Pensando for $1.9 billion.
Quick exit: Sri Lanka’s Ali Sabry quit a day after he was appointed finance minister.
Ever stuck: A container ship named Ever Forward has been stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for 22 days. Efforts to free the ship so far have been unsuccessful. The cargo will now be unloaded before giving the ship another shot. Ever Forward is the sister vessel of Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal last year.
Reefer bridges the Thai gap: Thailand is paving the way for cannatourism. After decriminalising recreational marijuana earlier this year, it’s exploring a ‘cannabis sandbox’, allowing people to grow cannabis in their homes, and issuing commercial licences.
La dolce vita: Ever wanted to visit Italy? Now’s your chance. In a bid to attract remote workers, the Italian government is issuing renewable visas on condition of certain criteria. It’s even given its rustic villages a makeover, with high-speed internet et al.
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