Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, on May 12, said, “Today it is the need of the hour that India should play a big role in the global supply chains”. With global supply chains disrupted by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic…
The Financial Times
Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi, Anjli Raval and Nic Fildes in London, Richard Waters in San Francisco
– May 28, 3:18 AM
Google is exploring an investment in Vodafone's struggling India business, in a move that could pit the US internet group in a battle against Facebook for the world's fastest-growing mobile market, according to people familiar with the matter. One…
arvindmahajanGoogle is exploring an investment in Vodafone’s struggling India business, in a move that could pit the US internet group in a battle against Facebook for the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, according to people familiar with the matter.
One of the people said Google was considering buying stake of about 5 per cent in Vodafone Idea, a partnership between the UK telecoms company and India's Aditya Birla Group that has been under severe financial strain. Another said the process was at a very early stage.
Any push by the Silicon Valley-based company into India would come against a backdrop of intense interest in the country’s booming mobile sector. Reliance Industries’ Jio — owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — has in recent weeks secured more than $10bn in investment from Facebook and private equity groups including KKR, General Atlantic, Vista Equity Partners and Silver Lake.
Google parent Alphabet has also held talks about acquiring a stake in Jio but has lagged behind its rival in securing a deal. Pursuing Vodafone Idea instead would potentially pit Google against Facebook and an increasingly dominant Jio but the company could also make multiple investments in India.
Google’s effort to follow Facebook in securing a foothold in India highlights the appeal of the country, where telecom operators enjoy hundreds of millions of subscribers each.
Jio was able to attract this money first; now everyone else wants to play catch-up
Even as India’s two-month coronavirus lockdown upends economic activity, many of these users are consuming more mobile data than ever before as well as turning to services such as digital payments and online shopping in increasing numbers.
But US companies have faced competition from Chinese investors. Rising anti-Beijing sentiment in India linked to coronavirus prompted New Delhi last month to tighten restrictions on Chinese foreign direct investment.
“There aren't that many options for big foreign tech companies to invest in India,” said Anshuman Mishra, who advises Asian corporations on strategy. “Jio was able to attract this money first; now everyone else wants to play catch-up.”
Google has long harboured ambitions for India. It has pushed its Android mobile operating system in the country, though an effort to launch a version tailored for emerging markets had mixed success. But its mobile payments service has grown rapidly since its 2017 launch in the country, becoming one of the most popular in a crowded field.
For Vodafone Idea — the product of a 2018 merger between Vodafone and Birla's Idea — an investment by Google could boost the likelihood of its survival. Its future has been uncertain since India’s Supreme Court ruled in October that it owed billions of dollars in retrospective fees, prompting Birla to state it might “shut shop” altogether.
Vodafone has described the financial position of the joint venture as “critical” but refused to inject more equity, having booked billions of pounds of losses related to its Indian foray. Last year it wrote off the entire value of its Vodafone Idea stake.
Vodafone Idea’s issues stem partly from a price war that followed the 2016 launch of Jio, which saw the company offer cheap contracts in an attempt to gain market share. Vodafone Idea, Jio and Bharti Airtel are India’s only remaining private operators, following a wave of consolidation.
However, the prospects for India’s mobile sector have improved after the three companies raised prices late last year, which analysts say should help shore up revenues. On Tuesday, Bharti Airtel's parent raised $1.1bn in a share sale after the company’s stock price hit an all-time high.
Google, Vodafone and Birla declined to comment on any potential investment. Vodafone Idea did not respond to a request for comment.
India's economy is likely to contract by 5% this fiscal due to COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Crisil. With the lockdown 4.0 expected to be replaced by lockdown 5.0, the economy may get even worse. 8 states in India contribute to 50% of…
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The Covid-19 pandemic represents a tragedy for its victims and their families, and economic hardship for the rest of us. As I write these lines in Los Angeles, 10 weeks after the state of California imposed a lockdown, some shops are reopening and…
arvindmahajanThe Covid-19 pandemic represents a tragedy for its victims and their families, and economic hardship for the rest of us. As I write these lines in Los Angeles, 10 weeks after the state of California imposed a lockdown, some shops are reopening and a semblance of normal life is beginning to return.
But the costs have been great: in my case, the past month has brought the deaths of five friends, two of them among my longest relationships. Against that background, it seems vile to say anything “positive” about Covid-19. Paradoxically, though, the pandemic might also bring hope and permanent benefits for the whole world — depending on how we react.
Microbes have often shaped human history. Thousands of years before the Black Death, a previous spread of plague may have contributed to the intrusion of Asian steppe peoples carrying Indo-European languages into Europe. Later, far more Native Americans — including the Aztec emperor Cuitláhuac and the Inca emperor Huayna Capac — died in bed from European germs than on the battlefield from European swords and guns.
Those epidemics of the past had far-reaching harmful consequences: military defeats, population crashes, abandonments of land under cultivation and slumps in trade. They also resulted in conquests and replacements of populations, when previously unexposed peoples contracted diseases from invaders with a long history of exposure.
At the time of writing, official counts are approaching 350,000 deaths globally from Covid-19; the true figure is likely to be higher. Steep death tolls are still to come in populous countries such as Brazil and Mexico, aided by policies of denial on the part of those countries’ presidents.
Yet Covid-19 doesn’t represent an existential threat to the survival of our species. Yes, the pandemic will be a serious blow to the world’s economy, but that will recover; it’s only a matter of time. Unlike many of the epidemics of the past, the virus isn’t threatening to cause military defeats, population replacements or crashes, or abandonments of land under cultivation.
There are other dangers, present right now, that do constitute existential threats capable of wiping out our species, or permanently damaging our economy and standard of living. But they are less convincing at motivating us than is Covid-19, because (with one exception) they don’t kill us visibly and quickly.
Strange as it may seem, the successful resolution of the pandemic crisis may motivate us to deal with those bigger issues that we have until now balked at confronting. If the pandemic does at last prepare us to deal with those existential threats, there may be a silver lining to the virus’s black cloud. Among the virus’s consequences, it could prove to be the biggest, the most lasting — and our great cause for hope.
What, really, are our existential threats? There are four that I consider to be the most serious.
They start with the threat that could kill the most people in the shortest time: the detonation of large numbers of nuclear weapons, whether launched as a pre-emptive strike (for example, between India and Pakistan), as the unintended consequence of escalating responses (say, between North Korea and the US), as the response to misread early-warning signals (as nearly happened repeatedly during the cold war) or as an intentional action by terrorists.
The nuclear threat may or may not materialise, but the other three threats already have — and are getting worse. They have the potential to cripple permanently our standard of living, though they would leave many of us still alive. Those threats are: climate change; unsustainable use of essential resources (especially forests, seafood, topsoil and fresh water); and the consequences of the enormous differences in standard of living between the world’s peoples, destabilising our globalised existence.
This is the context in which the virus could actually bring us a benefit. As a motivator, Covid-19 is different from, and more potent than, those existential problems. Covid’s symptoms are palpable; they are indubitably due to the virus; Covid’s consequence of death poses no problems of definition or measurement; and that consequence follows swiftly. None of this is true of climate change, though it will do far more lasting damage to us.
But whether that motivational benefit of Covid-19 actually does emerge will depend on how the world responds to this truly global crisis. We can draw guidance from how nations respond to national crises. In my recent book Upheaval, I established a dozen outcome predictors that have made it more or less likely that a nation would respond successfully to a national crisis: among them were acknowledgment rather than denial of a crisis’s reality; acceptance of responsibility to take action; and honest self-appraisal.
For example, the outstanding success of 19th-century Japan in modernising began with the crisis provoked by the uninvited visit of Commodore Perry’s warships in 1853. Japan acknowledged its weakness; it took action by adopting a crash programme of selective changes; and it honestly appraised its military strength at every step of a cautious military expansion.
If the world joins to solve the crisis against heavy odds, our current pandemic might thus represent the beginning of a bright era of worldwide co-operation
Among other national outcome predictors, I judge as crucial the presence or absence of a shared national identity, which can help a nation’s people to recognise their shared self-interest and to unite in overcoming a crisis. National identities variously depend on different things for different nations, such as a shared language and culture, pride in a shared historical legacy and shared environment, or a shared common enemy.
That last factor has proved particularly potent in times of crisis. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor galvanised Americans literally overnight. It instantly created a shared determination to accept sacrifice, for however long it would take. For Finns, the galvanising experience was the Winter War of 1939-40, when they preserved their independence (albeit at the cost of enormous losses) by fighting to a standstill the invading armies of the Soviet Union, whose population was 40 times Finland’s. For Indonesians, fragmented among hundreds of islands, 726 languages and four major religions, unity coalesced around their shared independence struggle against the Dutch, and then around one shared national language.
For all three countries — the US, Finland and Indonesia — purposeful action followed an external threat. But global problems have never generated a comparable sense of urgency. Until the unprecedented danger posed by Covid-19, there has never been a struggle that united all peoples of the world against a widely acknowledged common enemy.
– May 28, 4:25 AM
Barrons: General Electric stock was racing higher Tuesday, but not because of anything the company did or announced. Recent Covid-19 vaccine news is serving as a catalyst, and every stock these days feels like a vaccine stock. Indeed, every stock…
arvindmahajanNordhaus estimated that only 2.2% of the value of innovation was captured by innovators. For vaccine manufacturers it’s probably closer to .2%.' A lesson from the stock market in externalities and innovation.
With Covid-19 restrictions easing and people returning to restaurants, bars, and shopping malls, a new strategy is emerging to protect us: creating an antiviral infrastructure. While we can't completely de-germ our indoor…
John Carreyrou talks to Nautilus about the lessons of a $1 billion fraud. Composer Philip Glass talks time with painter Fredericka Foster. BY Philip Glass & Fredericka Foster BY Heather Berlin Introducing the Nautilus Time Project. BY Beth Jacobs &…
– May 28, 11:57 AM
DARPA's Underminer project seeks a robot that can autonomously dig large tunnels. The tunnels would be used to resupply U.S. forces in the field. General Electric was recently awarded $2.5 million to develop a robotic tunneler that borrows both…
arvindmahajanThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s cutting-edge research and development branch, is funding one of the oddest robotic concepts yet: a robot that mimics an earthworm to dig underground tunnels. It’s all part of an effort to demonstrate robotic tunneling technologies that will provide a secure way of resupplying U.S. Army troops in battle zones.
New Delhi: Since the announcement of the lockdown on March 24, 2020, India has tested over 3.3 million samples for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Its daily testing has increased by a factor of 65, from about 1,800 tests on March 24…
The New York Times
Shalini Venugopal Bhagat
– May 27, 12:00 AM
NEW DELHI — He has cooked for the Obamas, hosted TV shows with Gordon Ramsay, written 25 culinary books and created sumptuous meals that cost nearly $40,000 each. But in the past two months, Vikas Khanna, a Michelin-starred chef, has turned…