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India Inc loves an inside job

Also in today’s edition: All flourish, no substance for NDA projects; Biden should step down, but will he?

Good morning! Why are futurists obsessed with wanting every robotic and AI product out there to either rival human likenesses and traits or surpass them? We ask this because of a new development involving biomimetic robots. There are several such robots capable of autonomous motion, but a team of Tokyo University researchers has gone a step further and used engineered human skin tissue to literally make robots lifelike. The findings, published in Cell Reports Physical Science, reveal that the team’s lab-produced skin cultured from human cells can make it move independently, create a smile, and maybe even self-repair. According to NPR, they argue that the innovation can also be used for (human) plastic and cosmetic surgery. File this under things no one asked for.

LEADERSHIP

The Answer Lies Within

There was a time (until about six years ago) when Indian companies looked outside to fill executive roles. The belief was that fresh pairs of eyes would help them steer uncharted territory in ways internal talent may not.

That playbook, as we saw in the case of Wipro, has been junked.

Tata Group, Mahindra Group, L&T, Vedanta, and Aditya Birla are increasingly filling C-suite positions with in-house talent. Why? The cynical view (ours) is that it’s cheaper to hire in-house than spend at least 40% more on external candidate scouting. These companies’ executives say this approach helps them build a long-term talent pipeline and “derisk” in times of rapid growth. Internal candidates are also better versed with company culture and goings-on over time.

This is good news for millennial and Gen Z employees, who’re more likely to switch jobs if there’s no career progression or decent appraisals.

GOVERNANCE

Honeymoon’s Over

The NDA government’s flagship schemes and economic projects since 2014 were executed with much pomp and few legislative roadblocks thanks to a weak Opposition. But now that Narendra Modi’s third term as PM came with no outright majority for the BJP, his development thrust is already being panned. Some criticism is from the BJP’s very own ranks.

The party’s women’s wing has demanded an investigation into Apple supplier Foxconn’s alleged discrimination against married women in its Sriperumbudur plant. The Modi regime is effectively holding Tamil Nadu to account, but even a probe request may not have been if not for vociferous Opposition criticism — which now also extends to the Agnipath scheme and the NEET leak.

Questions are also being raised over the quality of infrastructure projects after the collapse of airport canopies in Delhi and Gujarat, bridge crashes in Bihar, and roof leaks at the recently inaugurated Ayodhya Ram Mandir complex.

US ELECTIONS

Biden (Inadvertently) Makes A Case For Ageism

If he’s elected again this year, incumbent US President Joe Biden will be 86 at the end of his second term. That reality sucker punched millions of viewers who tuned in to the now-infamous presidential debate between Biden and challenger Donald Trump on Thursday.

Biden’s halting, meandering performance hasn’t just cemented worries about his cognitive health, but jeopardised the Democratic Party’s chances of rendering former President Donald Trump a no-go. Democratic voters have indicated that they’d be less likely to vote for Biden after Thursday’s debacle. Even Democratic lawmakers are pushing for him to step aside and pave the way for someone more coherent. But Biden, currently on a spree to placate donors, isn’t relenting.

The Signal

That convicted felon Donald Trump still has more generous donors and an edge over Biden (as of May) speaks volumes.

Democrats can still replace Biden as their presidential candidate, but the process is long-drawn and mostly contingent on Biden voluntarily stepping down. In the unlikely event this happens, VP Kamala Harris could be the top replacement.

But Harris herself isn’t popular with swing and moderate voters, a belief advocated by Biden’s inner circle or “oligarchy” of family advisors who pressed him to run for a second term.

Either way, the world will be in for serious ramifications given the right-wing resurgence in Europe, war in West Asia and Russia-Ukraine, and the US’ favourite bogeyman, China. This year was the Democrats’ for the taking, and they seem to have messed it up.

FYI

BIG close: The Economic Times reports that Coca-Cola has formally shuttered its Bottling Investments Group, which controls global bottling operations including India bottler Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages.

Rocking the vote: French voters have turned up in record numbers in the first round of the country’s snap elections that could usher in a far-right government. Nearly 60% cast their ballot, the highest in 40 years.

Pay up… or don’t?: Zomato has received a Rs 9.5 crore tax demand from the Karnataka commercial taxes authority. The company has stated that it will appeal the demand.

Dirty Davos: Leaders of the World Economic Forum, including founder Klaus Schwab, have been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination against Black people and women in a damning investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

Money bags change hands: Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett has confirmed that he’ll bequeath his wealth to a new foundation led by his three children and not include the Gates Foundation, a longtime donation beneficiary, in his will.

THE DAILY DIGIT

53 million

The peak concurrent viewership on Disney+ Hotstar during the T20 World Cup final between India and South Africa on Saturday. Despite a nail-biting finish and India lifting the trophy after 17 years, the viewership fell short of the 59 million recorded during last year’s 50-over World Cup final between India and Australia. (Business Standard)

FWIW

All-weather friends: It seems that Washington DC has found an unlikely friend in Hollywood, at least when it comes to climate change advocacy. At the recently concluded Hollywood Climate Summit, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called for directors and showrunners to “accurately portray” climate change. The summit not only teamed her up for a panel discussion with Wonder Woman director Jennifer Granholm, but also had filmmakers vouch for their upcoming movies (Twisters is one) being more scientifically accurate rather than alarmist, which has been the disaster movie template for decades. That apart, the Summit also served plant-based snacks and pushed for the movie business itself reducing emissions. In case you’re wondering about who generates a bulk of said emissions, it’s streaming platforms.

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