YouTube's gamble pays off

Also in this edition: China's big experiment, Back To School, Digital devotion.

Good morning! Podcast host, conspiracy theorist, and Donald Trump fan, Joe Rogan dismissed vaccines for Covid-19. Joe Rogan contracted Covid-19. Joe Rogan decided to use Ivermectin, the horse deworming drug, as a cure. His influence may be fading but the virus doesn't care. Don’t be like Joe. Get the jab.

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The Market Signal

Stocks: After taking a breather on Wednesday, the market bulls were on the charge again yesterday to help Indian benchmarks rise nearly 1% each. The broader market also participated in the rally, with the BSE midcap and smallcap indices gaining over 0.5% each. Among sectoral indices, IT and Pharma were the biggest gainers while PSU Bank and Auto were the only two to close in the red.

China’s Prosperity Lab

How do you make the poor prosperous without destroying the real wealth of the rich? You target their market power, not money.

Power, not wealth: China is showcasing Zhejiang as the test location where government policies will reduce inequality and raise per capita wealth. Sidestepping the usual route of taxing the rich to spend on the poor (think Bernie Sanders), China is curbing the market power of private enterprises, raising state investment in lagging areas, and nudging the wealthy to contribute voluntarily. Academics at Zhejiang University, however, want wealth taxed. Chinese companies have quickly toed the line laid down by President Xi Jinping.

Rich laboratory: Xi’s “common prosperity” initiative is being piloted in Zhejiang, the third richest in the country. Businesses of four of the richest Chinese are based in the province where the private sector generates two-thirds of the provincial GDP. Several large corporations, including Alibaba, are headquartered in its capital Hangzhou. Zhejiang will invest more in rural areas and focus on the quality of growth and public services.


YouTube Joins The Music Streaming Elite

After previous attempts such as Google Play Music (RIP!), Google, it would appear, has finally found a way to crack subscriptions. The three-year-old YouTube Music, which crossed the 50 million paid users mark, is also the fastest-growing music streaming service in the world.

What’s going on? Music has been integral to YouTube. It is where people typically discover music; artists drop trailers, and songs go viral. But YouTube hasn’t had it easy with the industry. Why? Because it believed content should be free (hello, copyright issues!) while the industry wanted folks to pay for music. Enter YouTube Music in 2018, which sort of kept everyone happy, despite a meh start. FYI, YouTube shelled out big on artists in the last 12 months.

What’s working? With over two billion monthly users in tow, YouTube has an enviable user base, and therefore, the math is in its favour. Even if a fraction of this base pays for its music service, it becomes a subscription behemoth. Although locked in a fight with each other, both Spotify and Apple Music know they have a challenger on their tails.

Get Out Of Bed, The School Bus Is Here!

Here’s some relief: kids can finally attend school like we did — in person. After remaining shut for a year and a half, several states are reopening schools and colleges despite the looming shadow of a third wave.

Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Tripura have opened their school gates to students from September 1 as Covid-19 infections have reduced.

Cautious resumption: In Delhi, classes 9-12 and colleges have resumed with hybrid classes. Other rules such as 50% occupancy per class, staggered lunch breaks, and Covid-19 screening are mandatory. Tripura has opened schools for students of classes 6-12. Tamil Nadu now requires staff to be vaccinated and students from Kerala to produce RT-PCR negative certificates.

The Signal

For starters, schools reopening will help more than half of Indian students who struggle with Internet access. Economist Raghuram Rajan points out that Internet poverty could set them back by three years and force many to drop out.

Research shows that school closures could result in 3% lower income for affected students over their lifetime while countries could take a 1.5% hit to their annual GDP. Think missed opportunities for uniform manufacturers, stationery- and book-sellers, and other back-to-school producers. Parents juggling work and children at home also suffer a loss of productivity.

Despite all the caution, however, school reopening runs the risk of becoming a super spreader event, as it happened in Andhra Pradesh last year.


A Real Spirit Raiser

AppsForBharat is checking all the right boxes. Not just with its name, but also with those getting on its cap table.

But why: The company's primary objective seems to be digital spirituality, which fits into the larger regional language media app thesis. This essentially entails targeting five large content groups: ABCD — Astrology, Bollywood, Cricket, Devotion — and X (sex). AppsForBharat hits A and D, and not just theoretically. It has numbers backing it.

Its first product, SriMandir, has over 1.3 million downloads on the Google Play Store. It allows users to create personalised shrines, access a large library of spiritual content, and more — largely in Hindi. 

Larger play: This move reflects a growing institutional interest in startups tapping into non-metro India. India's religion and spirituality market is estimated at $40 billion. The trend isn’t limited to the category either, with Sequoia Capital recently leading a $6 million funding round in peer-to-peer livestock trading platform — Animall.


Devil’s No to Prada? Fashion editors are now the hot hires in Silicon Valley. They know the latest trends, understand the Gen Z pulse, and can sell expensive products. This piece details how large technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram are recruiting these style mavericks.  

Bad Blood Company: In case you haven't read John Carryrou's book, Bad Blood is a must-read. But if you are still gripped by the story of the Theranos fraud, and how Elizabeth Holmes' blood-testing startup unleashed a massive fraud, Carryrou has a podcast, capturing the courtroom drama that will be Holmes' trial. It's worth a listen.

Rescue video baits: Did you watch that ‘Kitten rescued from Cobra’ video on YouTube? Apparently, it's staged, according to a Wired piece. To rake millions of views, animals are often subject to violence and later ‘saved’ by these YouTubers. If reported, they return with new names. 

Zoom to image: If anything sums up this pandemic, and you’ve read this before, it’s the unending Zoom calls. Now, it is also causing body image concerns. There is a rising trend of professionals wanting to change their appearance after seeing themselves on video meetings. Plastic surgeons are terming it ‘Zoom dysmorphia’.

The Name’s Broccoli. Cubby Broccoli: You may know Ian Fleming for James Bond, but someone else owns his works. “Cubby” Broccoli bought the rights in 1961 and his family is reaping its benefits. This story on the Broccoli Family’s Bond film dealings is fascinating. 

Shang-Chi is back: Nearly 50 years back, an Asian-American character Shang-Chi made his debut in a Marvel series. He is now revived in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The larger story here is that this is the first effort by the American studio to undo decades of comic book stereotyping.


What Else Made The Signal? 

New “mu”tant: The World Health Organization is looking closely at a new coronavirus variant called “mu”. First found in Colombia, it has now spread to 39 countries.

What’s up WhatsApp? The European Union has fined WhatsApp $266 million for not disclosing how it uses personal data. Information sharing with its parent Facebook wasn’t revealed either.

Up, up, up: Tata Group’s valuation soared past $300 billion on the back of the share prices of 27 of its 28 companies rising.

Jackpot: Founders M.N. Srinivasu, Ajay Kaushal, and Karthik Ganapathy made half a billion dollars each from the sale of their startup BillDesk to Prosus.

Biscuit controversy: E-commerce startup Udaan has raised a red flag with the Competition Commission of India about cookie maker Parle manipulating the supply of its glucose biscuits.

Mission privacy: Twitter is going the Instagram route. It’s testing a privacy feature that will give users more control over their followers and likes.

That’s it from us this week. Have a good weekend.

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