Tiger has the hots for India

Also in this edition: Microsoft draws the curtains, Infosys is hiring, Spotify's acquiring.

Good morning! Russian lawmakers are going to force American platforms to open local offices or face punitive action. Some of the punishments include being banned on search engines and ad restrictions. Russia says it wants to protect its internet sovereignty. Sounds familiar.

Anyway, on to the day’s stories.

  1. A bipartisan bill in the US will clamp down on FAANG.

  2. WazirX has another migraine.

  3. Netflix is willing to talk about its viewing numbers.

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Tiger Is Once Again Roaring In India

Over the weekend, news broke that Tiger Global had invested $18 million in social community enabler, Kutumb. Also described by some as India’s regional language Reddit. The entire round was worth $26 million and included the likes of Quiet Capital and Rocketship VC. According to Entrackr, the round valued Kutumb at ~$167-170 million.

More money: Tiger Global could also be leading a ~$250 million funding round in UPI-provider turned fintech-startup, BharatPe, at a valuation of $2.5 billion. BharatPe had raised a little over $200 million as recently as February.

Catnip: Tiger’s enthusiasm for India isn’t new. A few years ago, the VC firm had gone all-in with large investments in Flipkart and Ola. Things cooled after former Tiger Global boss Lee Fixel quit. But in the past six months, Tiger Global has done over 25 deals in India, and made more than a handful of ‘unicorns’. 

Tiger Global has just closed a $6.5 billion round, and it needs to invest. Most of its investments in the US have started maturing. But India, the world’s third largest startup hub, has just started on its journey. The pandemic has changed the habits of most Indians and Tiger Global wants to be part of companies using these changing habits to their advantage. Some of it is also tactical. India’s internet regulations are being overhauled, and the trend indicates regulators may be more amicable to local platforms. Perhaps the right time to pounce.


Cryptoking Leads The Cops To WazirX

WazirX is in legal trouble again. This time it’s with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). On Tuesday, NCB arrested Mumbai-based Makarand Pardeep Adivirkar, popularly known as ‘Cryptoking’.

It seems he used cryptocurrency purchased from WazirX to buy LSD (or Acid) on the dark web in November 2020. NCB now wants WazirX to provide details so they can trace how Adivirkar used the currency.

Wasn’t me: WazirX has said that it doesn’t allow the purchase of anything but cryptocurrency, and no one can buy anything else on its platform. Following these developments, it even stated that Adivirkar was not one of its clients.

This is the second time in two weeks that law enforcement has knocked on the doors of the exchange. Last week, the enforcement directorate accused the Binance-owned company of allowing scores of untraced transactions and keeping trade records anonymous.

Much needed: Last week, reports indicated that the government was closely reexamining its legislation around cryptocurrency. This will, hopefully, lead to regulations which clear the air over many aspects such as legal liabilities. Until then, WazirX will have to show some diamond hands.


The US Has A De-FAANG Plan

The inevitable is happening. The US government, over the last 12-18 months, has been looking to crack down on Big Technology’s power and influence. Remember all those Zuck, Sundar Pichai, and Jeff Bezos depositions? It seems they have resulted in something.

What’s happening in DC? A package of bipartisan antitrust bills was introduced by US lawmakers last Friday, with an intent to bring back competition in digital markets dominated by the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, and Apple. These legislations, paired with the confirmation of Lina Khan as FTC chair, represent the strongest indicator of the potentially tricky roads awaiting these companies.

No preference: One bill, the ‘Platform Anti-Monopoly Act’, aims to ban companies like Google and Amazon from promoting their own products or services over a competing business. It also clamps down the platforms’ ability to use private data from third-party businesses to improve their own products (hello, Amazon). This bill could also hurt Apple’s pre-installed apps.

Break them up: The other bill, the ‘Ending Platform Monopolies Act’, green lights the proverbial “break up” of Big Tech by making it unlawful for a dominant platform to leverage its control across multiple business lines “to self-preference and disadvantage competitors in ways that undermine free and fair competition.”

No shopping, please: And then, there’s the ‘Platform Competition and Opportunity Act’ that essentially restricts the ability of dominant platforms to make acquisitions that a) post a competitive threat to those platforms and b) expand the market power of these platforms.

The Signal

After decades, the wheels of regulation are slowly moving in the US. The bipartisan nature of these bills also indicates how both sides have come to view big tech over the years. Even high-profile lobbyists these companies deploy in Washington aren’t able to breakthrough.

The Democrats, especially since the 2016 presidential elections, believe that these companies have become too big, too powerful, at the cost of smaller competitors. Republicans, meanwhile, believe that these companies censor free speech.

These sweeping legislations also come at a precarious time for these companies — one where they’re facing similar scrutiny in other geographies, particularly in India, Nigeria, Russia, Australia, and the European Union.


Nielsen Knows What You Watched Last Summer

Four years ago, TV ratings research firm Nielsen ticked off Netflix by releasing third-party ratings for the streaming giant. Now the 98-year-old firm has a new metric, ‘The Gauge’, which paints Netflix in a much better light as the leading streaming platform alongside YouTube. No wonder then that this new gauge has received the blessings of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Why does it matter? Typically, streaming platforms don’t like to share data on who’s watching what and for how long. Renewals of TV shows and social media reactions have become a substitute for measuring popularity. But that’s finally changing.

Ratings are of particular interest to advertisers, who currently aren’t on Netflix, but are significant to the overall streaming industry.

Methodology: Nielsen observed the internet traffic passing through a router using a piece of hardware installed in 14,000 houses. The rating is based on usage of the platforms only on TVs.

But Nielsen isn’t the only one working on this. Startups such as Parrot Analytics are trying to provide more accurate ratings by measuring how much attention users are paying.

But how big is streaming? Pretty big but not bigger than traditional TV (yet). In May, American viewers used their television sets to watch network and cable TV 64% of the time. Streaming content took up 26% of the time — a rapid rise from 14% in 2019 and 20% in 2020. Nielsen expects it to rise further to 33% by the end of this year.

Among streamers, Netflix and YouTube were the frontrunners with 6% of the overall TV viewership each. Disney+ might, however, not be happy with the 1% reported to its name.


The Third Wave Is Coming

England’s top medical office has warned that it may be five years before a vaccine can “hold the line” against Covid-19. Despite its successful vaccination program, the country has seen a surge in cases owing to the deadly delta variant, first seen in India. The country is preparing for another surge in the coming months and has started negotiations with vaccine makers to secure jabs effective against variants.

England’s rise in cases is a red flag for India where the vaccine rollout has been slow. AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, on Saturday, warned against breaking pandemic protocols (masks and social distancing), saying the third wave of Covid-19 could hit India in the next six to eight weeks if they aren’t followed. That’s not all. Things could get worse than the second wave.

There are warning signs across the globe. Cases have been spiking in countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and China, which has returned to its strict lockdown protocols. Cases in Russia have tripled within the last week, and the authorities suspect new variants.


What Else Made The Signal?

The curtain falls: Soon, there will be no more Windows. The brand name will come to an end and a new OS name will be launched this week. Microsoft plans to support Windows 10 until 2025, though.

Going strong: Infosys Chairman, Nandan Nilekani, said at its AGM that the company had hired over 19,000 graduates in FY21.

Flying empty: Air traffic in India fell 63% month-on-month in May due to the second wave of Covid-19 in India.

Pod-spotting: Spotify announced that it has acquired Podz, a company that helps podcast discovery.

Nothing yet: Carl Pei, the OnePlus co-founder who started the mysterious Nothing, has announced a delay in the launch of its first product, the Ear 1 truly wireless earbuds.

Fun Signals

Japan to Jabalpur: That’s how far this Miyazaki mango has ‘accidentally’ travelled. A sapling of the world’s most expensive mango — sold ~$50 a piece, only found in special auctions in Japan — was sold to the Central Indian farmer in Chennai for INR 2,500. He named the sapling Damini after his mother. Only when Damini bore beautiful red coloured fruits and he was approached by businessmen from across the country, did he realise he had struck gold and how.

No summer of George? Seinfeld fans, there’s some news for you. For the first time in a zillion years, our favourite quartet — Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer — will be completely off-air. No possibility of reruns, no comfort binging, nothing. But, and this is a big ‘but’ (hah!), that’s only till September when the show moves to the place where all corners are comfort corners — Netflix.

Fake it till you make it: Blade, the New York-based "Uber for helicopters" had a trick up its sleeve. The company’s CEO Rob Wiesenthal admitted that it has been using a fake spokesperson for years. Simon McLaren is actually the CEO’s alter-ego, stepping in when a spokesperson was required instead of the CEO. Reminds us of a failed casino owner and former President of the US.

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