Handyman delivery boy
Also in today’s edition: India’s wealthy crimp charity; PVR-INOX charts a roadmap; Budget Tesla in the works; Xi comes for bankers
Good morning! The value of things crafted by nature hides in the invisible combination of perfect climate conditions. Darjeeling’s first flush, the tender new tea leaves, is one such commodity. Business Standard, however, reports that for the second straight year, Darjeeling’s first flush is likely to be scorched by unseasonal heat. The hills have been dry for the past four months and half of the delicate leaves could be wiped out if it doesn’t rain in the next couple of weeks. That portends a sharp fall in revenues. Often flown straight from the tea gardens to connoisseurs’ kettles, a fifth of Darjeeling’s first flush brings home 40% of annual revenues. It’s not called the Champagne of Teas for nothing.
Today’s edition also features pieces by Srijonee Bhattacharjee, and Julie Koshy Sam.
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The Market Signal*
Stocks: Indian stocks may rise on cues from US and European peers.
US shares advanced while yields on bonds came off the day’s high as comments from a US Federal Reserve official eased fears of aggressive tightening by the central bank.
Earlier in the day, yield on the two-year US paper rose to a fresh 15-year high as data implying strength in the labour market fuelled inflation expectations.
US-based investor GQG Partners investing ₹15,446 crore ($1.87 billion) across four Adani companies may perk up investor faith in the group’s shares. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has set up a six-member panel to probe allegations of fraud against the group.
Supportive to broader market sentiment, it is hoped the development will also prop up the Bank Nifty. Better valuations could ease foreign investors' selling. They’ve already pulled out ₹37,948 crore ($4.61 billion) from India in 2023.
Knock knock! Who’s there?
It’s your groceries… and an electrician?
Blinkit is launching at-home handyman services, in direct competition with Urban Company, where Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal was an independent director.
But, why? One word - AOV. Average order values in quick-commerce tend to be low because customers order last minute needs rather than groceries for the month. Blinkit’s AOV rose last year but then fell marginally to Rs 553 in the December 2022 quarter. Zomato’s shares are down over 9%, year to date.
Competition: Urban Company leads this market but there are niche players in Portea, Reliance Digital’s ResQ and Flipkart’s Jeeves. But grocery deliverers doubling up as handymen? That’s a long—and we would reckon expensive—shot. And then there are the problems endemic to this business. UC has already faced bad reviews, workers going off-platform to earn more, and widespread worker strikes.
Disclosure: Deepinder Goyal is an individual investor in Frontpage Media Technologies, which publishes The Signal. The full list of our investors is here.
Richer But Not Giving
India’s super rich are tightening their fists.
Deets: Wealthy donors, excluding Azim Premji, gave away 5% less than the previous years even though the number of billionaires is rising and donors’ wealth swelled by 9%. The overall contribution dropped from ₹4,041 crore ($489 million) to ₹3,843 crore ($465 million). Contribution by the Azim Premji Foundation dropped by ₹9,000 crore (~$1 billion) because it raised money in a Wipro share buyback.
In bad company: India’s richest are penny pinchers across all wealth brackets, as they gave away much less than individuals in China, the UK, and the US. But America’s top 50 donors refused to part with their wealth in 2022. The UK’s wealthy too gave charity the side eye.
Meanwhile, Singapore is becoming a major centre for Indian tycoons to set up family offices to park their wealth in.
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Coming Soon: A Cinema Near You
Cinema operators PVR and Inox, which are merging, plan to spend ₹800 crore-₹850 crore (~$100 million) to add up to 200 new movie screens a year for the next two years and expand into small towns.
Big bang: PVR-Inox will have over 1,600 screens and about a third of box office collections, making it India’s largest cinema operator. This merger is likely to help PVR-Inox take its premium and luxury theatres to smaller cities; chairman Ajay Bijli said in a presentation this month that the company wants more screens in south India (whose films are doing roaring business).
Too big: The merger has its detractors. Last year, consumer rights nonprofit CUTS complained to the Competition Commission of India (and later the NCLAT) about the combined market dominance.
This merger is a pandemic baby—born of the need to survive when lockdowns and mandatory 50% theatre occupancy pummelled cinemas. Bollywood had a string of massive flops. Pathan has infused some life into single screens and multiplexes, but they’re still struggling. Ticket sales, admits, and occupancy rates in the first nine months of FY23 were below pre-pandemic levels for both PVR and Inox. The chains lost about 30% ad revenue but popcorn, colas, and premium ticket sales helped make up for it. Together, they can corner market share and lure small-town movie goers who don’t have access to multiplexes. But it could hurt single screens and make it that much harder to get into the cinema business.
A Tesla For The Masses
Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, is planning to introduce a cut-price electric car to break down the affordability barrier to the company’s market expansion.
It showed off a new manufacturing protocol called “Unboxed Process” for next gen vehicles which will eliminate rare earths and use paint only on essential parts.
Expansion: Tesla is also building a new factory in Mexico to take advantage of US green subsidies that President Joe Biden is offering to electric carmakers in neighbouring countries. Rival automaker BMW is investing in an $800 million EV factory in Mexico.
Smoky vision: The maverick billionaire, who often embarks on whimsical ventures with middling success, revealed a plan to run the world on sustainable energy without destroying habitats while human beings continue to live it up. The sketchy plan, which involves building massive electricity storage capacity, will cost $10 trillion.
🎧 Elon Musk's third ‘Master Plan’ for Tesla was more of a miss than a hit. Also in today's edition: Urban Company may find a rival in Blinkit. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Xi Has A New Target, Bankers
In a move signalling his determination to bring control of the economy under the Communist Party, President Xi Jinping will revive a committee to coordinate economic and financial policy, Bloomberg reports.
Crackdown: The party is frowning upon bankers’ “hedonistic lifestyles” and pretensions of being the “financial elite”. The new committee is likely to be filled with Xi’s handpicked comrades to enforce his common prosperity agenda.
Investment banker Bao Fan, who went missing in February, has been reportedly picked up by anti-corruption officials.
Rebound: China’s purchasing managers’ index, meanwhile, showed industrial activity is picking up. That could fuel global commodity inflation. When its factories run at full throttle, China’s demand for commodities such as copper, oil and aluminium is voracious. That will play on the minds of central bankers of other countries who are desperately trying to cool inflation.
Under the hammer: Food delivery platform Swiggy has shed its cloud kitchen business, Swiggy Access, to Kitchens@ in a share swap deal to cut costs.
In the race: Reliance Industries and Tata Power are in the running to collect ₹19,500 crore ($2.4 billion) in solar incentives designed to boost domestic manufacturing. Adani Group, one of the country's largest solar panel makers, is out of the picture.
Signed: Apple supplier Foxconn Technology will establish an electronics manufacturing facility in Telangana as part of its efforts to move away from China.
Debarred: Sebi has imposed a ban on actor Arshad Warsi and 31 others from the market for misleading investors with YouTube videos into buying certain shares.
Saffron sweep: The Bharatiya Janata Party has consolidated its position in the North East winning Tripura and Nagaland. In Meghalaya, the party will form the government with the ruling National People's Party.
In conversation: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi. The G20 meeting itself ended without a joint communique as there was no agreement on Ukraine.
Tap in: Debt-ridden Vodafone Idea has reached out to global private equity investors such as Singapore-based Temasek Holdings and US-based KKR to raise funds through equity and debt.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The number of working people that China has lost due to Covid-19 and retirement. (Bloomberg)
Sign of the times: You'd think that the cursive is dead and signatures would meet the same fate. Enter a growing number of professional signature teachers who teach clients how to sign aesthetically (or shoddily, depending on the brief) on the dotted line. High-profile clients are the first ones queueing up to find new ways to sign autographs. Of course, social media has turned it into a legit occupation. If only somebody told them that the journey of crafting your own signature is a huge part of middle school days.
Throwback: McDonald's relied on celebs to bump up its figures; Chick-fil-A is testing its first-ever plant-based sandwich; KFC is counting on a retro offering to lure US customers. The fast food chain is bringing back the Double Down, a bunless, fried chicken sandwich held together by sauce, cheese, and bacon. It originally debuted as a prank on April Fool’s Day in 2010, but was reintroduced in 2014. The controversial sandwich had its own legion of fans. Last week, KFC revamped its menu to get rid of chicken wings, Nashville Hot sauce among other items to cut down on serving time. Well, marketing 101: nostalgia sells.
Conform: Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been vocal about giving workers a raise to help them with higher living costs. Even as companies such as Nintendo, Uniqlo, Toyota and Honda dole out the biggest pay rise in decades, the PM wants corporations to do more. So far, Kishida has extended subsidies for electricity bills.; earmarked $7.3 billion for those interested in upskilling, and named and shamed stingy companies. We hope the others are taking notes.
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