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TikTok changes its tune
Also in today’s edition: The great crypto meltdown; Exotic fruits bloom at home; No alternative for plastic straws; Musk is Musking
Good morning! Last week, the Centre allowed tech companies to buy their own 5G spectrum and set up captive private networks. Telcos’ efforts to block the move—who’d want to lose high value clients, after all?—were in vain. This face-off is far from over. Business Standard reports that Meta, Google, Cisco, Qualcomm, etc. now want high-bandwidth 6-GHz delicensed for AR, VR, 8K streaming, and the metaverse. Telcos aren’t amused. Your move, government.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: There's no relief for investors as domestic benchmark indices ended lower for the sixth straight session, recording their worst week in two years. According to the latest data, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) withdrew ₹7,819 crore on Friday.
Early Asia: The SGX Nifty fell 0.47% at 7.30 am India time. The Hang Seng Index and Nikkei 225 followed suit.
2022 Pops The Crypto Bubble
HODLers (investors who Hold On for Dear Life) can cry “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) all they want, but crypto is in for a reckoning— much like the dotcom bubble burst of 2000.
Routs, layoffs, and legislative hurdles aside, Bitcoin is currently trading at around $19,000, losing over half its value this year; Ethereum is down 68%. Stablecoin Tether is below its $1 peg, due for an inevitable fall. Crypto lender Babel has followed Celsius in suspending transactions. To conclude, over two-thirds of all crypto that ever existed has been erased.
Lesson: Web3 was hyped by the very funds and VCs who enabled Web2’s hypergrowth hellscape. Crypto won’t become extinct in the long-term, but investors who dump high-risk, speculative assets in a bear environment have ensured the weeding out of unsustainable business models.
Indian Orchards Reap Exotic Fruit
There’s a reason you’re seeing more dragonfruit, kiwi, zucchini, and celery in grocery delivery apps. Indian farmers are increasingly cultivating such produce, so much so that exotic fruit and vegetable imports have fallen 10%-60% since 2018. Imports of figs, leeks, and mangosteen have declined by up to 100%.
Local attraction: Farmers cultivate exotic produce for their high margins. Fuelling the boom are institutional orders: FMCG and hospitality clients get 60%-100% of such produce from Indian growers. Nature’s Basket—one of India’s oldest gourmet food chains—is also sourcing some exotic greens and berries locally.
Growing pains: But exotic produce is vulnerable to price volatility and climate extremes. Non-native horticulture is resource-intensive, requiring large land holdings, abundant water, storage facilities, and simulating non-native conditions to grow foreign crops.
TikTok Is On The Radar
Looks like Former US Prez Donald Trump was onto something. According to BuzzFeed News, China did have access to US TikTok user data.
Long story short: According to 14 statements from nine different TikTok employees, its Chinese parent company Bytedance repeatedly accessed data between September 2021 and January 2022. The leaked audio from TikTok in-house meetings reveals that a Beijing-based engineer, known as a “Master Admin,” “has access to everything.”
All this, after TikTok repeatedly maintaining that it doesn't share user data with the Chinese government. The timing is sus. Just before BuzzFeed dropped the story, TikTok announced in a blog post that it’s changed the default location of US user data to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
In other news, its parent ByteDance laid off 100 employees from its game development studio.
In September 2021, the shortform video platform surpassed 1 billion monthly active users. The US remains one of its biggest markets.
Tiktok has long been in the dock for its national security concerns. While Trump actively threatened a TikTok ban, Joe Biden vowed to go after social media platforms for their "national experiments." Questions still remain about who has access to data after its Oracle migration.
In June 2020, India banned TikTok citing national security concerns. ByteDance was reportedly looking to re-enter India after its India ban in June 2020. The latest security loophole could impede its India re-entry plan. Other governments will have their eyes on this.
For now, TikTok remains the bad guy.
🎧 TikTok made Donald Trump seem reasonable. Here's why.
Beverage Companies Clutch At Straws
The ₹6,000-crore Indian tetra pack industry is taking hard knocks. Parle Agro, fabled for Frooti, Appy and SMOODH, is fearing a shutdown of its plants due to a paper straw scarcity.
Embargo effects: The government will clamp down on plastic straws effective July 1, forcing beverage companies to switch to paper. But domestic manufacturing capacities are dry. Importing paper straws equals higher costs (potentially leading to a ₹10 increase in price points). Worse, China and other southeast Asian countries cannot offer immediate supplies.
Now what?: The Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons (AARC) has requested the government to allow more transition time. Amul requested the Environment Ministry to postpone the plastic straw ban too. But no luck. The industry remains unsure of the status of existing stocks too.
🎧 The single-use plastic straw ban is giving soft-drink firms the heebie-jeebies. Find out why.
Musk Lays His Case Somewhat
Elon Musk addressed 8,000 Twitter employees last week. He took questions, referenced aliens, and by the time he turned off his video post-Q&A, he had an NSFW avatar (two hands shaped like 69!).
Product pitch: Musk’s address elicited mixed responses from Twitter employees.
He wants Twitter to be like WeChat and TikTok, an app he recently tried for the first time. Musk also addressed content moderation, layoffs, and free speech, adding that Twitter users should have the freedom to say “outrageous things” as long as they aren't illegal. Speaking of which...
Apple of discord: In a first, workers at an Apple store in Maryland, US, have voted to form a union. The outcome is a setback to Apple’s recent anti-union push.
Swiss roll: Indian funds parked in Swiss bank accounts reached $3.95 billion in 2021, the highest in 14 years and a 50% increase over 2020.
Seen and unseen: WhatsApp’s new privacy settings will allow users to exclude specific contacts from viewing their profile photos and ‘Last seen’ status.
Smaller perks: Starting July 1, social media influencers and doctors will have to pay 10% TDS on freebies received for promotional purposes.
Buy bye: Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com witnessed the slowest growth yet for 618, the country’s second-largest shopping festival. Closer home, Indian customers are bracing for end-of-season sales with shorter durations and lower discounts.
Dirty finish: Longtime WWE chief Vince McMahon is stepping down due to a misconduct scandal. Daughter Stephanie McMahon will take over as interim CEO and chairperson.
Plastic Pac-man: Move away, Captain Planet. There's a new superhero in town. Meet the plastic-munching superworms that could potentially solve global waste. According to scientists in Australia, these worms can survive on a diet of polystyrene, a synthetic that's widely used to make plastic. A superpower indeed.
Into the wild: In some not-so-good news, little blue penguins have washed up on New Zealand’s shores. Scientists learnt that the penguins were starved to death. Climate change and the La Nina effect. Rising sea temperatures are making it difficult for them to feed on small fish, which may have retreated to colder waters. They swim further away, leading to starvation.
Stop the trolls: FIFA has found a way to drown the noise. It has launched a moderation service to monitor hate speech on social media during the World Cup. This will stop players from viewing offensive messages. According to a FIFA-published report, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were abused for losing out in the Euro 2020 final.
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