Spotify in a spot
Also in today’s edition: Google relies on Airtel; Whose war is it anyway? Minister in a dilemma; Pegasus returns to haunt government
Good morning! Digital coins rely on the immutability of information etched on blockchains. But the Trump Coin (a physical coin with Trump’s head embossed on a silver disc) operates entirely on the easy mutability of information, from the borders of truth to the realms of fakery, reports the New York Times. A mysterious website and a web of dodgy marketers sell the coins. A buyer found that there was no silver or gold in it. Just paint.
ICYMI, we discuss Apple's development of a tap-to-pay feature that will transform iPhones into mobile point of sale (mPOS) terminals. Also, listen in to find out if you are eligible for a third jab!
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Benchmark indices ended the week in the red after a roller-coaster week. US markets ended sharply higher even as investors fled from meme stocks to blue chips. In the US, Big Tech as well as some of the old economy giants’ earnings are lined up in the coming week.
Three To Tango
The big news over the weekend was Google’s $1 billion investment in Bharti Airtel, which included $700 million for a 1.28% stake. It is the second telecom company that Google is investing in India after Reliance Jio. Both partnerships are expected to boost its cloud-computing business and help take on Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure.
Airtel already has an impressive client base that Google can tap into while Reliance is building one. Reliance’s acquisition of JustDial gives it access to over 30 million enterprises. They will be open to Google as well.
The deal would also help expand Android’s expansion and help set 5G technology standards. Airtel already uses some of Google’s tech for 5G. It would, however, be interesting to see how the competition watchdog, which is already probing Google, views the deal.
The Damage Done
Spotify snubbing Neil Young for Joe Rogan certainly wasn’t on our 2022 bingo card. The platform is now facing the music. Hashtags on Twitter are calling for a boycott. Its employees had a busy weekend putting out fires.
Reality check: Spotify supporting Joe Rogan shouldn’t come as a surprise. Its CEO Daniel Ek outlined his intentions in November 2021 to go beyond music streaming: enter podcasts.
Rogan’s views have often gained ire. Two weeks ago, 270 US experts wrote to Spotify expressing concern about Covid-19 misinformation. Unfortunately, the platform’s weak content policy makes it difficult to rap Rogan. Spotify finally responded: podcasts that discuss Covid-19 will come with a content advisory warning. Not much.
It’s business: So far, bad press has cost Spotify more than $2 billion in market value. Apple Music got cheeky. Young stood to lose 60% of his income from Spotify, at a time when live music concerts are on pause. Amazon Music has stepped in.
Who is the biggest loser here?
Tightrope Ready For FM To Walk
If finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman is sweating in Delhi’s winter, it would not be a surprise. Sitharaman has one of the toughest jobs to do on Tuesday—present a federal budget for 2022-23 that will help economic recovery but also shore up deteriorating public finances.
Deficit: The pandemic has badly affected revenues. The government has survived on borrowings and interest costs are through the roof. Although it is expected to meet the fiscal deficit target of 6.8% that is largely because it has been tight-fisted.
Like most other countries, India started various schemes to support citizens and employers to tide over the pandemic.
The three waves of Covid-19 have disrupted most industries and pushed scores of enterprises in sectors such as tourism and restaurants into bankruptcy. Reports suggest that job and livelihood losses are widespread and indebtedness is rising. A survey showed that the majority of households have seen incomes erode. The poorest are the worst hit.
The country is buffeted by global headwinds too. Oil prices are at record highs. Borrowing costs are set to increase with the US Federal Reserve ready to raise interest rates in a few weeks. The Reserve Bank of India may also have to follow the Fed.
That means fiscal policy will have to remain easy to help growth. With little headroom to manoeuvre, it remains to be seen whether the minister will be willing to take that risk.
Pegasus: Opposition Flogs Centre’s High Horse
The Pandora’s box named Pegasus is in the news months after an international media consortium first blew its lid wide open. According to a report in The New York Times, the spyware created by cybersecurity firm NSO was used to cement quid pro deals in the UN between Israel and several countries, including India.
Spy chasers: India’s opposition parties may formulate a joint strategy to counter the Modi government. Following reports in 2021 that the Centre used Pegasus to spy on swathes of people, including members of its own ruling party, the government had denied all allegations in a sworn affidavit to the Supreme Court. The latest story throws questionable light on those denials.
Civil denial: But India’s former envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin rubbished The New York Times report, claiming that India’s UN vote against a Palestinian NGO had no quid pro quo undertones. Akbaruddin, however, did not broach the Pegasus question.
Eagle Sees A Bear Knock
Russia massing troops on the Ukrainian border has the international community, especially the US, in knots. That Russia was stocking up on blood supplies near the border was a sure sign, from Washington’s point of view, that an attack was imminent.
Calm, please: Fear and panic levels are higher at the Pentagon and the White House than in Kyiv. Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky told the US and its backers to stop their sabre rattling. “We do not see a bigger escalation” than last spring when Russia’s military build-up started. “We don’t need this panic,” Zelensky said.
Wary of the dragon: Although German naval chief Kay-Achim Schönbach lost his job for suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin perhaps deserved respect, he also said that sanctions on Russia would strengthen the Russia-China bond which was not good for the world. India certainly would agree.
Big win: Rafael Nadal defeated Russia's Daniil Medvedev to claim his 21st Grand Slam title. Novak Djokovic, who usually watches Nadal from the other end of court, had to watch him on TV.
Raking in: Warren Buffet has the dip in tech stocks to thank. With a net worth of $111 billion, the veteran value investor is now a billion richer than Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Smart sales: Despite the pandemic and global chip shortage, the total number of smartphones shipped last year grew for the first time since 2017.
Bridge ID: Yet another ID to rule them all. The IT Ministry has proposed a digital ID that links Aadhaar, PAN, passport and driving license.
Aborted: SBI withdrew the circular that deemed pregnant women unfit for recruitment or promotions following outrage.
Ibiza in metaverse: TikTok owner ByteDance launched its first metaverse-like social media app, Paiduidao (Party Island).
Adventure awaits: Belgium has redesigned its international passport featuring Tintin, Smurfs and other comic heroes.
A Ghibli wonderland: The theme park based on the much-beloved films of Hayao Miyazaki’s legendary Studio Ghibli will open its doors from November 1, 2022 in Japan. With an estimated budget of $295 million, the project will feature five parks from the studio’s films. Expect walking paths and smaller rides as Miyazaki’s ultimatum included that no trees be hacked for its construction.
Shower to save water: There's a guilt-free option to shower. Every time you turn the knob, hot water from the drain is instantly purified and then pumped back into the showerhead. Saving the earth is expensive. High-tech showers, costing $4,000 and $6,000 will help you save about 90% energy consumption.
In tuna with nature: How about some lab-grown tuna on your sub? Thai Union Group, the world's largest canned tuna seller, has started developing faux meat and seafood. The company has spent $9 million to set up a centre with over 100 researchers. It may just crack the code, given that it launched plant-based meat and seafood in March 2021.
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