The ground shifts beneath Xi’s feet
Also in today’s edition: Brands back off Twitter; Black Friday sales come to Indian shores; The war on fake online reviews is on; Adani’s latest controversy
Good morning! Fathima Noora and Adhila Nasarin are one of many same-sex Indian couples participating in commitment photoshoots. The BBC reports that Noora and Nasarin, still ostracised by their families, got symbolically married in Ernakulam as they await legal sanction for their union. The Supreme Court has given the Centre four weeks to state its views on same-sex marriage, which remains illegal in India. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud was part of the 2018 bench that decriminalised consensual gay sex and is a favourite in the queer community for a reason. We hope the many petitions across Indian courts on same-sex marriage witness a progressive outcome.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: Indian equities ended the last week in green territory. Although benchmark indices have been setting new lifetime highs, the market movements have a certain lack of confidence. A Bloomberg report suggests that the momentum could swing away from India and Southeast Asia to China, Taiwan and Korea in the coming year. The rout of the past year has made valuations of Chinese companies attractive and the recent thaw in the country’s relationship with the US is also a positive factor.
Ealy Asia: The SGX Nifty declined -0.43% at 7.30 am IST. The Hang Seng Index (-3.34%) and Nikkei 225 (-0.66%) also contracted.
Advertisers To Musk: Thanks But…
In his tumultuous (and ongoing) first month as Twitter’s chief twit, Elon Musk may have succeeded in bringing “free speech” back on the table, but that isn't placating advertisers. NPR reported that nearly half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers have stopped advertising on the platform. A Financial Times report added that Musk personally called the CEOs of these brands to “berate them.”
Miscellania: Twitter will start colour-coding verified accounts soon to differentiate companies, governments, and individuals. Musk may also build a smartphone should Apple and Google boot Twitter off their app stores. Reminds us of 2009, when Twitter wanted to launch a device called Twitter Peek (it didn't!).
On Saturday, our co-founder Venkat Ananth wrote for The Times of India on why Twitter is decaying, if not dying.
Adani’s Kerala Project In Troubled Waters
Protests led by the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, whose flock comprise the fisherfolk of Vizhinjam and nearby areas in Kerala, could delay the Adani Group’s port project.
What: Protestors, who have intensified their agitation, say that the project will cause irreparable damage to the environment, marine life, and fisherfolk livelihoods. The Vizhinjam coast is vulnerable to erosion, and it’s feared that the port’s breakwater would send marauding waves to fishing villages on either side.
The Vizhinjam port was expected to be a foil for another port that Adani is developing on Sri Lanka’s west coast. The two ports on either side of the Palk Strait were expected to bring lucrative transhipment business to the group. Adani was hoping to persuade three shipping lines to adopt them as home ports. The company still says it will complete the project in 2023.
Xi Faces The People’s Wrath
Unquestioning loyalty for the autocrat who just won a third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) isn’t perennial after all. Protests are erupting in China, from Xinjiang and Shanghai to capital Beijing, after a chain of events catalysed pushback against Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy.
Rage against the machine: Early last week, an anonymous user’s 10 questions to the National Health Commission went viral on Chinese social media before being censored. Days later, an apartment complex fire that claimed 10 lives in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, reignited the anti-Xi sentiment; locals believe the disaster could’ve been averted if not for the brute-force lockdown. There was also the recent revolt by Foxconn workers, who’ve endured pitiful conditions.
Not since the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising has China witnessed such defiance. The protests are also groundbreaking in their cross-ethnic response: even in Xinjiang—ground-zero of the regime’s excesses against Uyghur Muslims—it’s the Han majority that’s marching alongside minorities, demanding change.
This comes at a crucial juncture in Xi’s leadership. Nikkei’s Katsuji Nakazawa notes a significant change that’s escaped the international press: the CCP and state media no longer call Xi “the people’s leader”. The party itself stopped short of recording “ultimate loyalty” to the man in its revised charter during last month’s congress.
Why? Xi’s domestic troubles could’ve still been overlooked if he’d rebuilt diplomatic bridges in a world that’s increasingly isolating China. Nakazawa underlines that China’s international heft isn’t what it was before Covid-19.
🎧 Protests are erupting across China over Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy. What's going on? The Signal Daily is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
RIP Fake Reviews?
Days after India decided to crack down on deceptive online ratings and reviews, details have emerged about the norms that’ll be put into place by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Reviewers will be verified via email, call or text, and platforms must have “anti-fraud mechanisms” to protect this personal data. Reviews cannot be edited, and sponsored reviews have to be declared as such. Food aggregators must make “the process of food item level review” transparent. And negative reviews cannot be suppressed (*cough Nykaa cough*).
Amazon, where fake reviews run rife, may have its work cut out.
Downtime: Speaking of Amazon, its India bet isn’t going as planned. Last week, we wrote about the tech giant shuttering Amazon Food and Amazon Academy. Amazon Distribution, its B2B e-commerce platform, also shut one of its India warehouses. The company is also paring back investments in India and witnessing middle management departures.
Thank God It’s (Black) Friday
Thanksgiving isn’t part of mainstream Indian culture yet, but that hasn’t deterred brands from hopping onto the bandwagon.
Sale, sale, sale: E-commerce websites are cashing in on FOMO a month after Diwali brought some cheer for retailers. Amazon, Nykaa, Myntra, and retail chains such as Lifestyle International and Shoppers Stop, among others, went all out on Black Friday deals.
But why?: The weeks between Diwali and Christmas are a lean period. Black Friday sales help brands get rid of some unsold inventory.
Win-win: Brands opened up their deals early in the US for similar reasons. But it’s Black Friday sales that brought in the moolah.
Online spending topped a record $9.12 billion, up 2.3% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Electronics, toys, and exercise equipment drove sales. Cyber Monday is expected to bring in more revenue, defying fears about contractions in consumer spending.
In the bag: Walmart-owned payments company PhonePe is set to acquire Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) firm ZestMoney in a deal valued at $200 million-300 million.
🛑: The US Federal Communications Commission has banned the sale and import of telecom equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE over national security concerns. The UK government has followed suit.
Going great: Tesla is recalling about 80,000 cars in China across models S, X, and 3 over software and seat-belt issues.
Red signal: Paytm parent One97 failed to get a payments aggregator licence from the Reserve Bank of India. The central bank asked Paytm to reapply for the same after getting the necessary FDI-related approvals.
Always be settling: Amazon is likely to settle its antitrust cases with the European Union, over use of rival’s sales data by the end of the year. It will enter into a binding agreement with the European Commission, with several commitments.
Runner-up: A report by market intelligence platform Niko Partners revealed that India now has the world’s second-largest gamer base—396.4 million.
Breached: A hacker claims to have posted the records of nearly 500 million WhatsApp users up for sale.
THE DAILY DIGIT
The attendance at Qatar’s Lusail stadium for the Fifa World Cup match between Argentina and Mexico—the largest since the 1994 World Cup. Back then, over 91,000 people had attended the Brazil-Italy final in Pasadena, California. (Associated Press)
Eternal flame: It was toilet paper for the Americans; now, it’s candles for the Germans. A stockpiling frenzy is sweeping over Deutschland as pre-Christmas Adventszeit—and the possibility of a blacked-out winter due to power cuts—nears. Candle makers are making a killing, more so as Germany’s consumer protection body urges citizens to avoid LED “lighting orgies”. Home retail chain Bauhaus has witnessed a 25% year-on-year increase in candle sales. Just don’t set anything on fire y’all.
This GOAT has no shed: If you thought crypto’s excesses were embarrassing, have a dekko at this story about a bunch of entrepreneurs who not only started a currency called Elon GOAT, but made a six-ton sculpture of Twitter’s enfant terrible—only to be ignored by the man itself. Elon GOAT’s creators and fans are planning to either camp out near Tesla’s HQ or strap themselves to the sculpture until Elon Musk tweets about the cryptocurrency (and therefore legitimises the token). Just don’t, Elon.
Dear beer: This isn’t a love letter to ale, although it could be. A Smart Taproom project is underway in the Czech Republic, one of the largest beer-consuming countries in the world. The project is an ‘Internet of Drinks’ pilot that’ll install sensors on pub systems such as cooling and tapping machines, relay that to the cloud, and analyse energy consumption. The goal is to help pubs become energy-efficient as Europe reels from rising energy costs. We’ll drink to that.
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