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Learning by Proxy

H1B – Language – E-Commerce | Learning by Proxy

Every Saturday, I publish this series called ‘Learning by Proxy’. It is a capsule of some of the stuff that I found interesting over the week along with some context to it. I hope you enjoy it.

Follow Up

Actions speak louder than words

The Indian government as well as the Chinese government as talking down the dispute. But…

The fresh build-up includes the new Apache attack helicopter which are “tank killers” with their Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and rockets, and Chinook heavy-lift choppers, capable of transporting howitzers and troops to forward high-altitude areas, being deployed in Ladakh. 

Source: Times of India

Politics

Penny less

The Indian government has been having as difficult a time as the people. The draconian lockdown destroyed livelihoods but at the same time, it also destroyed tax income. With a slowing global economy and cratering oil prices, the government increased taxes on petrol and diesel to ensure that not all was lost. In late April, out of Rs. 70, Rs 50 was going to the government as taxes. The oil prices have since rebounded, but taxes have not been reduced. This can result is the inflation of food products. For the first time in India, Diesel is more expensive than Petrol!

The 18th daily increase in rates since oil companies on June 7 restarted revising prices in line with costs after ending an 82-day hiatus in rate revision, has taken diesel prices to fresh highs. In 18 days, diesel price has gone up by Rs. 10.49 per litre. Petrol price had risen in the past 17 days by Rs. 8.5 a litre.

Source: Indian Express

Canadian Bliss

After having the Supreme Court throw the Executive Order, to force dreamers out, into the garbage bin, Donald Trump can celebrate a victory. He issued an order banning the issues of 4 classes of visas to the US including the often used H1B for bringing high calibre talent to work for US companies. While this makes it hard for many immigrants especially those working offshore assignments; it will probably accelerate investments in Canadian headquarters for many tech companies. Canada is hell-bent on wooing talent. One nation’s loss is another’s gain. 

The US administration on Tuesday said it was extending the 60-day ban on immigration and non-immigrant worker visas till the end of 2020. Popular work visas including the much-coveted H-1B and H-2B, and certain categories of H-4, J, and L visas shall also remain suspended until December 31, the White House said in a press note.

Source: Indian Express

Economics

Money Money Money

Stock markets have evolved a great deal over the last century and while there is a retail (individual) participation, it represents a small proportion of the trading. As of 2016, 5.5% represented the retail participation in forex markets. While the number may be higher in stock markets, it would not be exponentially so. As of June, 50% of the trades in Indonesia were retail traders. Robinhood in the US and Zerodha in India have also seen exponential growth. This also explains why markets are behaving like they are high on coke, seemingly divorced from economic reality. Markets are essentially replacing casinos! It does not end well.

When a market maker buys retail orders from a broker—called payment for order flow—it most likely handles those trades internally. As trades flow in from brokerage apps, corporate clients, and institutional traders, those orders are offset against each other. The market maker fills the orders at the best price that would have been available on an exchange and then, if all goes well, pockets the spread. It sends some of the profit to the broker.

Robinhood, for example, was paid about $45 million in March, more than twice what it got in January, for selling customer orders to professional trading companies like Citadel Securities, a sister firm to the hedge fund Citadel, and Virtu.

Source: Quartz

Space

There is huge potential for space business, it should be opened up for private investment and made easier. Having said that when something is highly regulated, almost to a fault and is loosened incredibly, you wonder if there are vested interests. Reliance has been infused with monies equivalent to India’s (actual) stimulus package. They are in the business of the Internet. Now, all assets of ISRO, satellites et al have been made available for private exploitation ostensibly to level the playing field. 

Space is expensive and it is never going to be a level playing field.

We will allow private players to benefit from Isro’s assets and give them a level-playing field to boost India’s space sector further,” she had said. Javadekar, while likening the reform to reforms brought in the power sector during the time of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

Source: Times of India


Business

Language Barrier

In 2012, a thesis about India being the next China was written by some VC in America. On the back of this assumption, Billions were poured into the country. The American VCs did not know India but neither did Indian founders. 13% of India speaks English. Can you think of ONE successful consumer startup IPO in India over the past 10 years?

It took Flipkart 13 years to realise this. I suppose it is also driven by the fact that the only people that shop on Flipkart live in Tier-II cities and lower. I don’t know anyone in my circle you shops on Flipkart.

In a bid to expand its reach in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, e-commerce giant Flipkart, on Wednesday (June 24), announced that it has launched three new local languages onto its platform, which includes Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, besides Hindi and English.

Source: Inc42

E-Commerce Tentpole

One of the main tentpoles for the Facebook investment into Reliance was to leverage WhatsApp to dominate a whole bunch of industries. The lowest hanging fruit being e-commerce. This was further proved when Jio launched Jio Mart just days after the Facebook investment was closed – during the lockdown. If you are targeting grocery, warehousing and turn around time are key. What if you own all the major retail assets in the country? 

Reliance is making a bid to buy a majority stake in Future Group. This when Amazon has itself invested in the company. I don’t even know how this deal is even possible?!!

Note that Reliance is already India’s largest offline retailer, ending FY2020 with 28.7 million square feet of area operated. This includes the space of Jio stores. RIL’s large offline presence will get a meaningful boost with a deal with Future Group. At the end of December quarter, Future Retail had a retail area of 16.1 million square feet, whereas the measure for Future Lifestyle stood at 7.5 million square feet.

Source: LiveMint

Let the games begin – at CCI.


Technology / Science

Absorbing spit

The only people who spent a lot of time researching face masks before the pandemic were bank robbers. That has taken an about-turn since the pandemic started. Now interesting concepts are emerging. Different ways in which the face mask can be made more efficient. Concepts include:

Israeli startup Sonovia created tech—derived from research done at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University aimed at reducing disease spread in hospitals—that uses ultrasonic waves to mechanically insert nanoparticles of zinc oxide into textiles, including masks. The particles give off ions that the company says interact with the protein envelope surrounding the virus, deactivating it.

Source: Wired

Click the link, there are several other ideas in there. 

Intelligence but Artificial

If any of you have ever been subjected to a reCaptcha you would know how stupid AI can be. Countries, cops and military have been using facial recognition for a few years now. They have also been pushing the envelope of what the technology can do and the accuracy with which it can identify someone. But is it yet at a level where it can identify to convict/evidence? Image Recognition was used to convict in the USA only to later realise it made a mistake!

In January, Detroit police arrested and charged 42-year-old Robert Williams with stealing $4,000 in watches from a retail store 15 months earlier. Taken away in handcuffs in front of his two children, Williams was sent to an interrogation room where police presented him with their evidence: Facial-recognition software matched his driver’s license photo with surveillance footage from the night of the crime.

[…]

Williams spent the next 30 hours in custody before he was released on bail. With seemingly no other evidence of Williams’ involvement, police eventually dropped the charges. On Wednesday, Williams joined with the ACLU of Michigan to file a complaint against the Detroit Police Department, demanding they stop using the software in investigations.

Source: Wired

Misc

There was a huge furore about the Tabhligi Jamat and their congregation in March. The number of cases was a 4 digit numbers back then. Now, when we are adding 5 digit numbers every day. This!

Are we communal or are we communal?

Signing off…