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India General Elections and Facebook, WhatsApp in India, Waymo Launches Revenue Generating Self-Driving Taxi Service et al.

Professor of Financial Economics and Part-time Value Investor, Transfin.
Dec 7, 2018 2:03 PM 3 min read

Good evening reader,


It is difficult not to talk about Elections in India, especially on a polling day.


As citizens in two states (Rajasthan and Telangana) cast their votes, Facebook demonstrated its taste for curious (or not so curious) timing, releasing a blog post a day prior on "Increasing Ad Transparency Ahead of India’s General Elections."


Ok, what are the bullet points?


1: Anyone who wants to run a political ad in India has to be in a way registered i.e. confirm their identity, location via document submission.


2: A "disclaimer" is to be placed on all political ads showing information about who has placed the ad


3: An online public access and searchable Ad Library showing records of all political ads, identity of advertisers, and information on budget, views, and demographics of who saw the ad. 


4: Eligible news publishers and their ads won't need to get authorized, their ads won't be included in the Ad Library.

Thoughts?: Only further disclosure on operational modalities of #1, 2, and 3 would reveal how heartfelt these changes actually are. But #4, in our view, is already disingenuous, considering Facebook itself admitted how they've seen instances of "foreign actors [having pretended] to be news organizations.


Details! Details! Where are they!? 


Moving on to Today's Top 6 Business Stories through our End Of Day Wrap Up:


HCL to buy select IBM software assets for $1.8bn in a bid to take on rivals TCS and Infosys.


The What: As part of the deal, IBM will divest seven of its products, including its secure-device management product BigFix, marketing automation software Unica and workstream collaboration product Connections.


Zoom Out: HCL said the acquisition will boost its presence in areas such as retail, financial services and transportation. Some analysts however feel that since HCL already has a partnership with IBM, the benefits from the acquisition do not justify the price.


Govt unveils agriculture export policy to double agriculture exports to $60bn by 2022.


The What: Under the policy, every state will have a designated department for promotion of agricultural exports, apart from cluster-based development for specific commodities.


What else: The policy aims to boost exports of commodities such as tea, coffee and rice. It also seeks to remove all restrictions on export of organic or processed products.


WhatsApp executives meet govt officials to discuss issue of traceability.


The What: On issue of traceability, Minister for Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad clarified that the govt has not requested for a decryption of message, rather has insisted on location and identification of the sender in cases where the messages have led to provocation of violence and other serious crimes.


The Big Picture: The messaging platform has earlier refused demands of traceability citing its end-to-end encryption model. The meeting is one of the first signs of the company indicating willingness to discuss the govt's key demands. The development comes after WhatsApp appointed a grievance officer for India and a India head.


Zoom Out: The news comes as WhatsApp seeks government’s approval to launch its payment business in the country.


Flipkart and Myntra undergo major management shuffle. 

The What: In a first major rejig after Walmart buyout. Amar Nagaram, head of consumer shopping experience at Flipkart, has been moved to fashion portal Myntra in a newly created role of chief technology and product officer (CTPO), while Myntra's chief technology officer (CTO) Jeyandran Venugopal has moved to Flipkart to head its engineering division. Other important appointments followed.




Waymo launches revenue generating self-driving taxi service in US.

The What: Alphabet's Waymo has begun charging passengers to use its driverless vehicles in a roughly 100-mile zone in four Phoenix suburbs, where it has been testing the technology since 2016.

Zoom Out: Monetising its driverless technology puts Waymo ahead of its rivals, primarily General Motors Co's Cruise Automation and Uber Technologies, which are yet to launch their own paid self-driving services.


Technology rivalry between US and China intensifies with the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Washington allies pressurised to blacklist the co.  

The What: US officials say that they are intensifying efforts to curb Huawei because wireless carriers worldwide are about to upgrade to 5G that will connect many more items—factory parts, self-driving cars and everyday objects like wearable health monitors—to the internet. This will give Beijing the potential to interfere with an ever-growing universe of connected devices and pose a potential threat to national security.

Perspective: The developments coincide with Australia banning Huawei from its 5G networks, and New Zealand blocking one of its major wireless carriers from using Huawei.


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