The casual bravado of Byju Raveendran
Also in today’s edition: Nintendo’s skin in the game; The creator economy is flailing; Vedanta to make iPhones; Warner Bros. Discovery wants you to pay up
Good morning! Qatar has a host of problems to deal with before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicks off this November. According to Front Office Sports, about 77,000 folks who attended the first-ever match at the stadium that will host the tournament final rued the lack of water, restroom unavailability, poor air conditioning, and long queues. The country is said to have spent at least $6.5 billion on the event. The money needs to speak now.
🎧 Qatar has a long list of woes to troubleshoot before it hosts the FIFA World Cup in two months. The Signal Daily is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Global markets had a fall after the latest US inflation data. PVR and Inox Leisure shares rose by 7% after the CCI rejected a complaint against the proposed merger between the two companies.
Early Asia: The SGX Nifty opened 0.23% higher than its previous close at 7.30 am India time. Nikkei 225 was up 0.13%. The Hang Seng Index rose 0.70%.
Byju Raveendran Doesn’t Care About $300 Million
It is difficult to argue with a man cornered by allegations of fraud, and failure. Byju Raveendran, poster boy of Indian edtech, came out all guns blazing in an interview with Moneycontrol.com.
VC firms Sumeru and Oxshott are not giving him the $300 million they promised. Their loss, declared Raveendran, founder of the country’s second most valuable startup, defiantly.
Size matters: …to Raveendran. Byju’s acquisitions Aakash and Great Learning grew 2X in just over a year, he says. The loss was also big. ₹4,500 crore ($566 million) in the year ended March 2021. That no investor has yet sold off their shares in Byju’s is, according to him, proof of their faith in the company’s prospects.
Bottomline: Byju’s is a profitable company that is bleeding money because it is acquiring fast-growing companies that need growth capital, which investors should supply. If they don’t, it is their loss. That is, in short, the gospel according to Byju Raveendran.
Nintendo Makes A Splat In Japan
The video-game maker’s new family-friendly online shooter game, Splatoon 3, is pwning it. The game, in which you play as squid characters called Inklings that shoot coloured ink instead of bullets, has become the fastest-selling Nintendo game of all time in Japan.
Nintendo sold 3.45 million copies of the game in the first three days since its launch on September 9—almost double the previous record of 1.88 million, set by Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Nintendo’s shares rose 5.5% in Tokyo on Tuesday, the biggest jump since December 2020.
Underdog parable: Splatoon 3’s success is a validation of Nintendo’s strategy to stay clear of the console wars—dominated by Sony and Microsoft—spend less on game design and marketing, and prioritise its own portfolio of titles. All of which you can play on a device that fits in your pocket.
Content’s Summer Of Discontent
Patreon, the membership platform where creators run fan-funded subscription services, is laying off 80 people and shuttering two offices in Europe. It’s the latest in a 20-strong roster of creator economy (and adjacent) companies that discharged staff since May this year. These include Cameo, TikTok, Snap, and even OnlyFans, which reported a $433 million windfall in pre-tax profits. Sidebar: OnlyFans’ last filings were for the year ended November 2021.
Sub-nay: Just nine months ago, everyone, including Instagram, wanted a piece of the fan subscriptions pie. Cut to today, Substack is changing its strategy to pare expenses, and Patreon, last valued at $4 billion, has laid off employees just a week after letting go of its security team. Another sector—namely streaming—has had to rethink subscription models in different ways.
Inflation and rising costs are the no-brainers here, but other factors are also to blame. In its coverage of Substack (cited above), The Information noted that Apple’s App Store privacy changes made targeted advertising difficult. This affected sponsored posts and affiliate marketing, in turn leading to leaner commissions and delayed payments for content creators. Brand partnerships also suffered due to supply chain bottlenecks; there wasn’t enough inventory to push both online and off.
That aside, social media platforms are bullish on in-app monetisation. As one types this, Instagram is testing yet another tipping feature. In short, fans no longer need to leave an ‘ecosystem’ to fund creators, something Patreon may have struggled with of late.
Vedanta, Tatas Vie To Make iPhones
A day after the opposition in Maharashtra lashed out at the Eknath Shinde government for letting Vedanta-Foxconn’s $20 billion semiconductor fab project slip away to Gujarat, Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal has said he will make iPhones in Maharashtra.
Tata rival: Agarwal said his company may also make electric vehicles, although he did not specify a location. Vedanta will be competing with the Tata Group to land iPhone-making rights as the latter is said to be negotiating a deal with Taiwanese firm Wistron, which already makes Apple devices in India.
The union government has thrown lavish incentives to boost high-tech manufacturing in India, and states are competing with one another to land projects.
Streaming Platforms Combine Their Powers
A day after HBO Max and HBO nabbed the most wins at this year’s Emmy Awards, its new parent Warner Bros is cashing in on it.
Upstream: Call it opportunistic or just good timing, Warner Bros believes its streaming services—HBO Max and Discovery Plus—are underpriced. According to the CFO, the merger is reason enough to hike prices. Netflix and Disney are also set to collect more bucks.
P.S: This is no spoiler alert—Emmy viewership fell to an all-time low.
Joining forces: Meanwhile, it may be lights out for Showtime, Paramount's standalone offering. The channel’s content will be migrated to Paramount+.
F-ad?: Even as Netflix launches its ad-supported tier in November, ad folks aren't impressed with its high prices given the dearth of ad tech tools and its proclivity for being sparse with viewer data. Crypto ads are a hard stop at Netflix tho.
Tripling down: SoftBank is weighing launching a third Vision fund as part of its turnaround plan, while also considering a fresh infusion into Vision Fund 2.
Search party: India’s Enforcement Directorate conducted raids on some premises of payments company Paytm and payments solution provider PayU.
Where’s my cashback?: Meta’s WhatsApp showed a decline in UPI-based transactions in India after a temporary spike in July, courtesy of a cashback offer.
Wanted: A court in Seoul issued an arrest warrant for Do Kwan, the co-founder of Terraform Labs and Luna — tokens that blew up and worsened the crypto collapse. Kwan is believed to be in Singapore.
Cost to (fund) company: Adam Neumann’s much vaunted post-WeWork comeback fetched $350 million from a16z. But that came at a price: handing over part of his real-estate holdings for the investment.
Chippin off: Google's bringing back its potato chips campaign to market its latest Pixel 7 smartphones in Japan. Except the chips aren't up for sale. Locals can enter a lottery to win one of 2,000 boxes. Some of the flavours? Snow Cheese, Obsidian Pepper, Hazel Onion, and Salty Lemon. We'd call this a collector's item.
Man vs bird: Sulphur-crested cockatoo are fighting with humans in Sydney for garbage bins. These birds have figured out how to rob bins and even giving fellow birds a masterclass in the game. Locals are trying their best to outsmart them, but these cockatoos are ahead of the game.
Lost in translation: Netflix is getting a bit of bad press. This time, subtitle artists for the Malayalam film Thallumaala publicly put out a post noting that the English subtitles for the film were "a watered down" version of their work. Netflix is yet to address this issue. This happened with Squid Games too. Subtitle soup indeed.
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