There is gravy in meat

Also in today’s edition: PVR and chill, Facebook shrugged, Will Swiss Re be third time lucky?

Good morning! What’s a juicy perk that a company can offer new recruits? A Beemer, perhaps. Engineers joining Bharat Pe were offered BMW motorcycles as a starting bonus. But what if you’re not into bikes? Fintech startup Slice is offering a three-day workweek at 80% of market salary. Now that’s something anyone can plump for. Workaholic recruits can even pick up a second job. No sweat. After a few years that went sideways, the Indian IT engineer is back in the money.

Btw, we’ve got a new podcast going. It drops every weekday at 5-ish PM. Give us a try. Subscribe, turn on notifications, and give us a shoutout on social media.


The Market Signal

Stocks: A second-half surge saw Indian benchmark indices record their second straight close well in the green. While Realty and Pharma were major drags, IT was the surprise leader for gains among sectoral indices despite its US counterpart taking a beating yesterday.

Cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin touched $50,000 for the first time in a month after having crashed below that figure when it was rolled out as legal tender in El Salvador.


A World Without Facebook

Spoiler alert: It existed. Albeit temporarily, for six hours.

You likely know what happened; an unprecedented outage of Facebook and its family of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, caused by configuration changes on the “backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between data centres”. Sounds Greek? It means Facebook’s routers got scrambled.

And what did you do while Facebook was down? Likely doomscrolled on Twitter, hung out on Clubhouse (yes, that app), or hopped onto our namesake messaging app and Telegram to see if anyone was around. Or, place bets on when the outage will be resolved. Or like some of us, picked up a book. Facebook employees were scrambling to…get to work, make calls, and get things done.

But beyond the memes, the jokes, and the endless torrent of conspiracy theories (as meta as it sounds) about Facebook going dark, the episode served a stark reminder: never ever in human history has the world depended on one company and its apps to this extent for global communication.

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Battleground eSports: PVR Vs Netflix

Movies aren’t quite cutting it for multiplexes like PVR at the moment. So it’s trying something different. It will soon stream eSports tournaments in four cities — Gurugram, Indore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai — in partnership with Nazara-backed Nodwin Gaming.

The IPL of eSports: PVR imagines this foray to grow a fandom of the likes of the Indian Premier League, with theatres becoming “venues, akin to stadiums, for the games to be played”. It is starting off with a pilot featuring Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) and eyeing an expansion to bigger, PC-based titles.

Casting the net: eSports in cinemas has met with some success in Europe. With the Indian esports market expected to touch ₹11 billion by 2025, it makes sense for theatres that are losing business to streaming platforms to expand their offerings to try and attract new audiences. Not very different from what OTTs such as Netflix are trying.

What does the audience get? Entertainment, of course, and the chance to improve their own gaming skills by mirroring ace players.


Swiss Re Takes Another Chance

After taking two steps back, reinsurance giant Swiss Re is now making a direct entry into India. The reinsurer may acquire a 20-25% stake with a $100 million initial investment in Paytm’s insurance vertical ahead of its public issue.

A comeback: Zurich-headquartered Swiss Re is not new to the Indian market. It handles large reinsurance contracts in the country through its liaison branch office. A decade ago, Swiss Re had tried to set up a health insurance firm with Religare but that plan failed. It was later approached to buy a 26% stake in SBI General Insurance but that deal didn’t fructify either.

Favourable policy: The FDI limit increase to 74% in insurance could help if Swiss Re decides to hike its stake later. Swiss Re has been batting for a level-playing field in India for the past five years. In another development, US-based MetLife is hiking its stake in PNB MetLife to 47.3%.

The Signal

A bigger play for Swiss Re is good news for India because the world’s largest reinsurance company could bring specialised products into the market. With direct exposure, Indian insurers could also get attractive rates for contracts, which, in turn, would translate to cheaper premiums for policyholders. The Paytm deal gives Swiss Re another opportunity now that it gets more FDI room to invest in India where state-owned GIC Re had persuaded the government to retain its exclusivity. 

For IPO-bound Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, who is yet to complete the planned acquisition of Raheja QBE General Insurance, this could be a breather. Earlier, Paytm was looking to offer loans to Sharma’s investment firms to fund this buyout. A $100 million capital infusion from Swiss Re may help pay for this deal.

While on Paytm, Aswath Damodaran, professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business has an interesting take on its IPO.

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India To Pay For Every Covid-19 Death

The next of kin of those who died of Covid-19 can get a government pay-out of ₹50,000. The Supreme Court has said that every state will have to pay the compensation recommended by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

That’s one-eighth of what the NDMA Act provides for: a compensation of ₹4 lakh for loss of every life in typhoons, floods and other natural disasters. Millions of Indians who live below the poverty line think that it’s only fair to treat COVID-19 related deaths at par with such calamities.

India’s official death toll is 4,49,260, which suggests a payout of about ₹2,250 crore. Experts, however, estimate that the actual number is over 5.8 times higher. The SC has extended the qualification to people who have tested positive within 30 days before their death and not just those recorded in the death certificate. Yet, there could be issues related to process and eligibility.


What’s The Secret Sauce?

Licious’ latest funding of $52 million from IIFL AMC has pushed its valuation past the billion-dollar mark and left it marinating in accolades. It’s the first Indian D2C (direct-to-consumer) unicorn. You can check the rising numbers here, but we’re more curious as to why.

Millennial see, millennial do: Social media challenges featuring easy recipes, from dalgona coffee to handmade pizza, probably gave many their culinary starts. Success made them ask: why stop there? Especially when Licious and other such  platforms offer a wide selection of meats that are literally ready-to-cook. Curry-cut? Check. Chicken-lollipop? Check. Fish-fry? Take your pick. You’ve seen the ads.

Old dogs, new tricks: With meat shops closed during the lockdown, many regular consumers of non-veg perhaps tried online delivery and got hooked. Those typically consuming non-veg only at restaurants possibly turned to online delivery to satiate cravings. Also, going out on a leg, maybe some folks who didn’t want to be ‘seen’ buying meat came onboard thanks to the increased anonymity of doorstep delivery.

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What Else Made The Signal?

Runway Listing: Clothes rental platform Rent the Runway has filed for a US IPO and revealed that there has been a bounce-back in subscribers after a Covid dip.

Racism not fine: Tesla paid Owen Diaz, a black elevator operator at one of its earliest factories, $130 million in compensation for a racist and hostile work environment.

Severed ties: No more 7-Eleven stores in India. Future Retail terminated its franchise agreement with the chain after 2+ years of planning as it could not pay franchisee fees and meet store-opening targets.

Crypto India: A New York-based blockchain data company has found that India’s cryptocurrency market grew 641% between July 2020 and June 2021.

Default again: After Evergrande, Fantasia Holdings, a Shenzhen-based developer has missed a $206 million repayment on bonds that matured Monday.

Probe guide: Whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before a US Senate Subcommittee and guided it on data it should ask for to pin down Facebook. Meanwhile, Europe parliamentarians too want the company investigated.

Upgraded: Rating agency Moody’s has raised India’s sovereign rating to stable from negative on cues that the financial sector is stronger and economy is improving faster than expected.


FWIW

Auto recycling: If it was not for Henry Ford and Model T, vintage cars would also have been electric. The world was running on electric cars before the internal combustion engine took over. Companies such as London Electric Cars and Electrogenic are now upcycling classic vintage cars into battery-powered vehicles by reusing parts from discarded Teslas.

Return to sender: Compound Labs, a DeFi platform, did a boo-boo. A glitch in the system accidentally distributed cryptocurrency worth about $90 million, resulting in its CEO pleading with users to return the gifts.

The OG space man: Blue Origin is no USS Enterprise but William Shatner, who played the original Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek series, will fly to space in one of its rockets on October 12. This will make the 90-year-old the oldest person to go to space. To be sure, this will be his first time in space.

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