Modified with props

Also in today’s edition: Too hot to work; Data leak in cop app

Good morning! What’ll follow the sports utility vehicle (SUV)? The Wall Street Journal reports that auto designers are tired of the ubiquitous lines of the SUV. A nip here and a tuck there but the basic design remains the same, boxy and heavy, irrespective of brand and make. So bored designers are putting wheels on ‘toasters’ with fancy features and no steering. As is the norm now, the Chinese are leading the charge. There are sceptics who believe the SUV design will stay for much longer. In fact, they say, there will be more of the same with tweaks in keeping with environment trends and creature comfort.

🎧 Narendra Modi was sworn in as India’s Prime Minister for a record third term. Also in today’s episode: Cricket is dreaming the American dream. Tune in to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Market Signal*

Stocks & Economy: As 2024 reaches the halfway mark, US investors continue to play the what’s-on-Jay’s-mind game. The Federal Reserve is likely to do on Wednesday what it has done (or not done) in the past six policy-setting meetings: hold rates where they are. 

Gita Gopinath, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has,  meanwhile, warned against the US’ ballooning fiscal deficit. Gopinath said advanced economies should invest in fiscal consolidation and bring deficits to pre-pandemic levels.  

Meanwhile, the cheap-and-stable rupee is luring investors into the Indian market. A Bank of America analysis says the Reserve Bank of India holding interest rates steady has lowered the exchange rate risk for the currency.

Asian markets opened mixed. The GIFT Nifty hints at a positive opening for Indian shares.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Infernal Workplaces

The heat waves sweeping across northern India are taking their toll on industrial workers but employers are reportedly not doing enough to ease their working lives. 

The Amazon India Workers’ Association (AIWA) says it is flooded with complaints from warehouse employees about heat-induced health issues. AIWA recently highlighted harsh working conditions by sharing images of workers resting in locker rooms on X (formerly Twitter), criticising the lack of break room facilities, and demanding immediate measures to shield them from the oppressive heat. AIWA, established three years ago, wants better rest facilities and separate spaces for female workers.

Delivery riders, meanwhile, are asking employers to equip them with sunglasses and gloves. Some have quit working in the day and prefer working night shifts while others have quit working altogether. Today’s story in The Core is about the impact of heat waves on e-commerce companies. 

PODCAST
Friday Sees 1,600 Point Jump As Markets Settle Down To New Order

Tune in every Monday to Friday as financial journalist and host Govindraj Ethiraj gives you the most important take on the latest in business and economy.

Also today: An excerpt featuring DK Joshi, chief economist at CRISIL, from a recent weekend edition panel discussion on India’s economic agenda.

CYBER SECURITY

Telangana Police App Is Leaking Data

Unknown hackers broke through the Telangana police’s flimsy cyber defences and may now have access to citizens’ photos, videos and other information collected by the police over the past decade, activist Srinivas Kodali has claimed. The hackers are said to have breached the state police’s mobile applications TSCOP and HawkEye.

Telangana is arguably the most intensely surveilled state with the police and administration using CCTV cameras and facial recognition software extensively. Citizens are subject to 360 degree profiling and all crimes and accidents are geotagged.  

Kodali also says that a Telangana police app collected and sent data of guests who stayed in the state’s hotels to US crypto company Zebichain. The police denied that it collected hotel guest data although it said it had arrested one person in connection with the data breach.

POLITICS

The Surprise Is Predictability

Narendra Modi took oath to begin his third term, giving him a shot at becoming the second longest-serving Prime Minister after Jawaharlal Nehru who led India for nearly 17 unbroken years from 1947. Currently, Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi, who was Prime Minister for over 11 years, albeit in two stints, holds that distinction.

Modi will head a 71-member council of ministers, including 30 cabinet ministers, many of whom were part of the previous government. Notable among the new inductees are nominees of coalition partners, the Telugu Desam Party, the Janata Dal (United), and Lok Janshakti Party, among others. 

The swearing-in ceremony was witnessed by the topmost leaders of India’s neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Nepal PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, and Bhutan PM ​​Tshering Tobgay. 

The Signal

One of the clearest indications of how the Narendra Modi government 3.0 would be was revealed when X-owning billionaire Elon Musk congratulated Modi in a post on the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The talented Indian youth, our demography, predictable policies and stable democratic polity will continue to provide the business environment for all our partners”, @narendramodi wrote in an appreciative reply. In our view, the operative word here is “predictable”. Surprise has been the hallmark of the previous decade, from demonetisation, surgical strike, and defanging Article 370 to consecrating the half-built Ram Temple. For a coalition, predictability is crucial for stability. Modi is switching lanes fast, it would seem.

FYI

Open doors: About 60% of Saudi oil giant Aramco’s $11.2 billion share sale will likely go to foreign investors, a departure from the $29.4 billion 2019 IPO which local investors dominated. 

Terrorist attack: Ten people were killed and over 30 injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire at a bus, which plunged into a deep gorge in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district.

Surprise polls: French President Emmanuel Macron has called for national elections after his Centrist Party was seen trailing Marine Le Pen’s ultra nationalist outfit in the European Union Parliament elections.

Top of the heap: India beat Pakistan by 6 runs in a down-to-the-wire cricket match at the T20 World Cup being played in the US to lead Group A.

THE DAILY DIGIT

672,105

India’s passenger vehicle exports in FY24. It was higher by 1.4% compared to the previous fiscal year. (Business Standard)

FWIW

Back on the bike: At the turn of the century, a typical photograph of any Beijing street would feature scores of cyclists. Student protests in 1989, which culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre, often included cycle swarms raiding government offices. China’s economic miracle, gradually, replaced cycles with motorised transport. Cars became ubiquitous as personal incomes rose. But the bicycle has now made a comeback, in a slick, woke avatar. App-based bike-sharing is becoming popular as a means of personal transport that is healthy and environment friendly.

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