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Indians make a beeline for Ozempic

Also in today’s edition: Sony wants Disney India; Govt vs. WhatsApp, again; Saudi Arabia fights for MMA supremacy; War spillover on US campuses

Good morning! Cricket is officially a part of the 2028 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee on Monday confirmed that its members had voted in favour of including cricket (men’s and women’s T20s), baseball/softball, flag football, lacrosse, and squash in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. This is a significant victory for the International Cricket Council, which had been advocating for the sport’s inclusion at LA28 for the past two years. Cricket will be returning to the Games after a gap of 128 years. Now, we just need to get kabaddi included, and then there’ll be no stopping India…

Dinesh Narayanan, Jaideep Vaidya, and Adarsh Singh also contributed to today’s edition.

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The Market Signal

Stocks & Economy: US President Joe Biden’s decision to personally visit Israel and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call with leaders of Iran, Egypt, Syria, the Palestine Authority, and separately with Benjamin Netanyahu appear to have calmed jittery investors.

Gold and Bitcoin prices retreated and Asian stocks were buoyant in early trade. Global optimism should rub off on Indian equities too, which were lacklustre on Monday. Morning trades in GIFT Nifty were indicating a positive but cautious opening.

The rupee had also dropped to its one-year low but could reverse its direction on Tuesday after oil prices eased. India’s wholesale prices declined by 0.26% in September from 0.52% in August.

HDFC Bank, which presented earnings for the first time after merging with mortgage lending parent HDFC Ltd, reported a 50% rise in net profit in the July-September quarter.

ENTERTAINMENT

Another One?!

Question: How many potential buyers does Disney India have? Answer: Yes.

Looks like Disney is now in talks with Sony Corp to sell its India business. It’s Sony’s plan B in case its much-delayed merger with Zee falls through. Disney has previously spoken to Reliance Industries, the Adani Group, Sun TV, and private equity firm Blackstone, per reports.

Movie mania: If you miss bunking classes or office to go watch movies, PVR-Inox has a deal. For a ₹699/month (~$8.4) subscription, customers can watch up to 10 movies a month (with caveats). This month’s releases bumped up collections as cinemas sold tickets for ₹99 (~$1.2) on National Cinema Day.

Mic testing: Meanwhile, European linear TV broadcasters want to turn our mobiles into old-timey TV antennas. They’re using 5G technology to beam live broadcasts such as news using just spectrum and no other conventional setup. These are still early experiments, though.

🎧 Entertainment majors are fighting to outdo one another in the merch war. Also in today's episode: move over K-dramas, Thai queer dramas are the latest craze in India. Listen to The Signal Daily on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

TECH POLICY

Sinking With A Trace

End-to-end encryption in India may become a thing of the past if our nosey overlords public servants get their way.

Huh?: The Indian Express reports that the Centre may invoke the controversial Section 4(2) of the IT Rules 2021 to push WhatsApp into sharing details about the “first originators” of messages. Reason being the proliferation of AI-generated misinformation, aka deepfakes, in the run-up to election season.

Under the IT Rules, online platforms are required to divulge identities of first originators under provisions such as threats to national security and maintaining public order. But Meta-owned WhatsApp had moved the Delhi High Court in 2021 against traceability, arguing it’d undermine privacy and encourage mass surveillance. That case is sub judice.

As we wrote in yesterday’s edition about cities turning Big Brother, the State is also exempt from the Digital Personal Data Protection Act 2023.

PHARMACEUTICALS

The Fat Is In The Fire

Photo credit: viarami/Pixabay

The “miracle drug” that’s turned Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk (NN) into Europe’s most valuable listed company is available in India… if you have the means. ThePrint claims wealthy Indians are spending ₹10,000-80,000 ($120-960) per month to access Rybelsus, Ozempic, or WeGovy.

If you haven’t heard of Ozempic, it’s a weekly injectable prescribed to Type-2 diabetes patients. Rybelsus, also used to treat diabetes, is a daily oral medication. WeGovy, a higher-dose weekly injectable, is prescribed for weight loss. All three have semaglutide, patented by NN, as their active ingredient.

The thumping success of semaglutide has everything to do with clinical trial outcomes and efficacy, a rarity in the otherwise dubious weight-loss market. Even Wall Street is worried about the appetite suppressant’s effect on the junk food biz.

The Signal

The flipside to sky-high demand, including in Hollywood, is a supply crunch for people who need semaglutide the most. Because of a WeGovy shortage (ongoing since 2022!), people are shelling out $$$ to use Ozempic and Rybelsus off-label. Compounding pharmacies making unregulated, unsafe versions are a dime a dozen, pushing the US FDA and NN to issue repeated warnings.

What does this have to do with India? Because it’s only approved Rybelsus and not the injectables, the medication is being used off-label and already has an availability problem. Ozempic shots are reportedly being sold on platforms like IndiaMart.

Counterfeit versions aside, semaglutide must be taken for life for long-term weight loss. We can’t stress this enough: unrealistic body standards aren’t worth the risks.

BUSINESS OF SPORTS

Saudi Arabia’s Growing Octagon

The Professional Fighters League (PFL), an American mixed martial arts (MMA) league, is looking to acquire its competitor Bellator, per Financial Times. If the acquisition goes through, there’ll be only one winner: Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund had invested $100 million in PFL in August, with the aim of challenging the Goliath of MMA, the $12 billion Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which has a big presence in the neighbouring UAE. PFL intends to set up a new league for the West Asia and North Africa region next year, along with five other international leagues.

The PFL investment is right out of Saudi Arabia’s sports investment playbook, which has seen it pump billions into sports such as football and golf in the last two years. The kingdom considers sports an important part of its plan to diversify its economy beyond oil, but critics have labelled it ‘sportswashing’.

PS: Two recent controversies involving former cricketers Virender Sehwag and Venkatesh Prasad showed just how tricky the business of social media management for athletes is. In the age of social media, celebrities can’t get away with anything that’s not “on brand”. In the latest edition of our sports business newsletter The Playbook, Jaideep Vaidya writes about the best practices when it comes to managing social media of athletes, including dealing with controversies. You can check out the piece here.

The PlaybookA weekly newsletter that deconstructs the business of sports and gaming.
GEOPOLITICS

Careful With Lamentations

Students enrolled in American universities are under pressure to stand with Israel or risk being blacklisted in the job market.

Top law firm Winston & Strawn withdrew its job offer to a New York University law student and Student Bar Association (SBA) president Ryna Workman, who blamed Israel for the Hamas attacks. Workman was also voted out as SBA president.

Not even by mistake: Billionaire donors are urging Ivy League universities to publicly decry students who oppose Israel. Pershing Capital chief Bill Ackman wants them doxxed lest he or others inadvertently offer them jobs.

Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis working in startups in Israel as well as the US have abandoned the mouse and keyboards for guns and grenades. Some are reservists, while the others are volunteers signing up to wage war in Gaza.

FYI

Not a fan: International Shareholder Services has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal to appoint Anant Ambani to the board of Reliance Industries; it’s the second proxy advisory firm to do so this month.

Living it up: The well-heeled are not slowing down. Property developer Hiranandani Group sold 50 luxury apartments for ₹1,100 crore (~$132 million) in Mumbai’s Powai suburb within one week of launch.

Makes life easier: To ease Indian exporters’ fears on reporting norms, the European Union may allow India to collect its controversial Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, better known as the carbon border tax, on exports such as iron, steel, and cement.

Tamping down: To counter the offshore betting craze, India plans to tighten UPI transfer rules and investigate proxy bank accounts.

Pink slips: Indie music platform Bandcamp is laying off 50% of its workforce; LinkedIn will lay off 668 employees in its second round of job cuts this year.

No thanks: China has broken up with the iPhone. Sales of the newly launched iPhone 15 are down 4.5% compared to last year’s model, as Huawei outsells Apple overall.

Eye in the sky: India will install early-warning systems to monitor at-risk glacial lakes following devastating floods in Sikkim after the Lhonak Lake burst.

THE DAILY DIGIT

$126 million

The global box office collection of pop star Taylor Swift’s concert film The Eras Tour in its opening weekend. (The Wall Street Journal)

FWIW

Fool’s errand: Engaging with anti-vaxxers is a challenging task, and veterinarians are now experiencing this firsthand. Recent research highlights a concerning rise in distrust among US pet owners regarding vaccines for their cats and dogs. This trend aligns with the emergence of Covid-19, indicating a potential connection. Researchers are raising the alarm over the potential resurgence of previously contained infectious diseases like rabies. Some anti-vaxxer pet owners, unfazed by the risks, are turning to "holistic veterinarians" who advocate natural methods and alternative therapies like massage and acupuncture for pets. Go figure!

Queer love: Thai queer dramas are the new ‘it’ thing in town. They’ve found a ready audience in Indian women. The handsome actors and the accessibility of the content seems to be the driving factors. Consequently, a dedicated and well-organised fan base has emerged in India. They’re even sending food trucks to the shooting locations, putting up billboard advertisements, and hosting streaming events. For some fans, it's a guilty pleasure; for others, it’s relatable given their queer self-discovery. All in all, this is giving major wholesome vibes.

Thanks, but no thanks: Banning influencers in a social media-obsessed world might seem counterintuitive. But it's a growing trend. Towns, restaurants and hotels are increasingly restricting influencers or banning them altogether. Why? Because the lot is doing more harm than good. Local businesses can't always handle the influx of increased tourists, and many influencers demand freebies in exchange for a mention. Cumulatively, these put a toll on businesses that many owners are not willing to handle. If you ask us, it’s best to just promote stuff in a newsletter.

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