Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Number of the day: 59

The government has shut down the internet 59 times in just six months in various parts of the country—from Kashmir to Uttar Pradesh to Bengal. And these shutdowns have been increasing in frequency. There were just six shutdowns in 2014 compared to 79 in 2017. The most telling fact: “No other nation cuts off access to the Internet from its citizens more than India.”

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Yet another airline flying into trouble

First, Vijay Mallya ran Kingfisher into the ground. Then Naresh Goyal crushed Jet Airways with debt. Now, IndiGo is being torn apart due to a battle between its founders.


Meet the founders: IndiGo was founded by Rakesh Gangwal and Rahul Bhatia in 2006. Bhatia owns 38% of the airline’s parent company, InterGlobe Aviation, while Gangwal has a 37% stake. Gangwal is a former United Airlines and US Airways executive, and drives the airline’s overall growth strategy—for example, the aggressive expansion of IndiGo’s fleet. Bhatia, OTOH, steers daily operations and is an expert in navigating India’s regulatory maze.


The dispute: Gangwal’s main claims are:

  • Bhatia has way too much power. The shareholder’s agreement—which expires later this year—allows Bhatia to nominate three non-independent board directors. He also has the right to appoint the chairman of the board, and nominate the MD, the CEO, and the president of the company. 

  • Bhatia has used that power for personal profit. Gangwal’s evidence: various related party transactions. ‘Related party transaction’ is a deal between two companies which have a preexisting relationship. So Gangwal is flagging stuff like IndiGo’s offices which are always rented from a company owned by Bhatia. And he claims such deals were executed without audit committee approval or seeking competitive bids from third parties. 

  • The Bhatia-controlled board blocked Gangwal’s attempt to convene an extraordinary general meeting to raise these issues—which he alleges is a violation of SEBI regulations and the company’s code of conduct.


So what’s happened now? Gangwal has written a letter to SEBI—the regulatory body that oversees publicly traded companies—seeking its intervention. He has also sent the letter to the PM and a number of concerned cabinet ministers. He wrote, “We believe that this whole set of events goes far beyond just poor governance and even a ‘paan ki dukaan’ would have handled these matters with more grace.” 


What does Bhatia say? He say the allegations about related party transactions are “false, frivolous, and misleading.” And he alleges that Gangwal’s “real agenda” is “to dilute and diminish” his controlling rights.


So what happens now? The two founders entered legal negotiations in May to resolve their differences. The aim was to protect IndiGo from fallout from their dispute. Now Gangwal has essentially declared war, and there is little hope of an amicable resolution. The rest is up to SEBI which has asked the company to respond to Gangwal’s claims.


The bottomline: This ugly battle is very badly timed for an airline that is perfectly positioned to cash in on the demise of Jet Airways. However, it is unlikely that passengers will be affected in the short run. 

Learn more: Economic Times has the details and a copy of Gangwal’s letter. Forbes did a profile of the two founder billionaires in happier days back in 2016. And Mint explained in April why IndiGo is poised to gain the most from the collapse of Jet Airways.

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gloomily watching the rain fall down on Old Trafford

Your World Cup update is here: Rains ruined the highly anticipated semi-final between India and New Zealand. The Kiwis had scored only 211/5 in 46.1 overs when it started to pour. Play is slated to resume today. The big question for Indian fans: Is this a good or bad thing? Is it easier for India to score around 220 in 46 overs today? Or would it have been better to have aimed for 148 in 20 overs in an ‘adjusted’ innings yesterday? Point to note: if the match gets washed out again, India will go into the finals because we rank higher on the points table. 

In related World Cup news: One of the great joys of the sport are the commentators—who are often as worthy of comment as the cricket itself. Indian Express rounds up the noteworthy commentator ‘moments’ during the World Cup. As this clip demonstrates, Sourav Ganguly did the best job of entertaining bored viewers waiting for the rain to end. And the best riff on British rain belongs to Shashi Tharoor who tweeted: “So rain drenches #OldTrafford! British rain is like the #Brexit process: it just goes on & on, & every time you think the sun might just break through, the mess starts all over again. How on earth did the English invent a game that requires eight hours of sunshine a day?”

Labour gets off the fence:
Well, sort of. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn finally stepped up to the plate and called for a second referendum, saying, “In those circumstances, I want to make it clear that Labour would campaign for Remain against either no deal or a Tory deal that does not protect the economy and jobs." But, but, but… if the Tories called for a snap election, Corbyn “did not say if Labour would pursue a new deal or a further referendum if the party won a general election.” Huh? (BBC)

Why that 5-star review is a sham: We’ve all heard of third-party companies who manufacture reviews. But in India, some companies are outright bribing buyers to give them those five stars. (Huffington Post)

Why Netflix is a bad bet: It’s not just the flood of competition in the streaming space, be it Disney, Apple or AT&T-owned Warner Media. Or the fact that studios and TV channels are yanking their content off Netflix—all Disney-owned movies or series like ‘Office’, for example. The bigger problem is this: in strictly financial terms, the company is a bad long-term bet. It’s taken $10.3 billion in loans to create original content—while making only $1.2 billion in profits last year. Also: its market cap of $165 billion. And there’s no one making original content—not even Disney—which has that kind of valuation. (Forbes)

Pooch or partner? Dog owners would rather kiss a dog than their human partner. Yup, in a survey (in the US, thankfully), 52% said they gave their dogs more kisses than their significant others. Another fifty-two percent would rather share a bed with a dog when given the choice between their pet and their bae. Hmm, can you love your dog too much? Maybe. (Fox News)

Dutee Chand is a cover girl: of this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan. And she looks fierce.

Meghan Markle went to Wimbledon: to watch her bestie Serena Williams play. Her 'private' jeans-clad visit was not a hit with the press or other attendees in the royal box. (Daily Mail

Sacred Games Season 2 trailer:
is here.

A master class on ‘how to get adopted’: The instructor: this abandoned pooch who knew just what to do when a journo came to do a story on his shelter. 

A master class on how to diss a president: The instructor: The Times UK. Truly an ‘only in a newspaper’ moment.

A master class on how to relocate lions: The instructor: A game hunter deeply invested in anti-poaching and conservation efforts. He has moved 24 lions from South Africa to Mozambique. This unique story and the photos are worth your time. (National Geographic)

A very heated British debate: The Brits are fiercely debating a very divisive issue. No, not Brexit, but this weighty question: “When pouring tea into a teacup, what should be poured first? The tea? Or the milk?” Happily, our chai is poured fully premixed and kadak... so we can get worked up about far more important things like: Is there such a thing as vegetable biryani? (New York Times)

What is your ‘Star Wars’ fate? Click here and find out. Be warned: our father turned out to be Obi Wan Kenobi’s ghost. 

This video of a young man: sending a message to Muslims in India is not going where you think it is. 

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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On a first date, boring is best

First dates can feel like way too much work. Besides the muddled expectations and performance anxiety, both of you have to deal with the pressure of picking the perfect ‘venue’. Will it be of-the-moment cocktails at that cool new bar or lunch at a little-known restaurant that demonstrates your foodie credentials? This essay argues that a boring coffee is best, not just because it’s uncomplicated, but also because it forces both of you to be more honest and engaged.

Read: The Best First Date Is a Boring Coffee Date | The Cut

Sex, Love etc 2

Marriage has a hidden price tag

Underneath all that rhetoric about finding ‘the one’, ‘sharing’ your life etc. is one unmistakable message: stay single and you’ll stay lonely. That claim is entirely false—and not just because single people have fulfilling social lives. 

It’s also untrue because very often married folks pay an invisible price for coupledom: social isolation.

Read: What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse | The Atlantic

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