The semiconductor shortages of 2021 have impacted many of us. Buying a new car has been frustrating with wait times as high as six months. For some models of laptops and smartphones, the waiting period stretched till three months. Prices of electronics devices, meanwhile, shot up—companies cut product lines to focus on either high selling or the higher priced products. The big question: when will the chip shortages ease? Our best guess is the second half of 2022. That’s still some distance away.
Scroll down for our top picks of the day. On RBL Bank, the Union budget, crypto products, and the controversy engulfing Shark Tank India. As we say goodbye to 2021, we look back at some of our most riveting in-depth stories. From the D2C revolution to the turnaround at Wipro, from climate change slowing India’s windmills to the stock trading revolution sweeping India, we captured the trends shaping the nation. You don’t want to miss our top 15.
*As of 9.40 PM 29 December; MCX, CoinDCX
The main stuff
Handling of ₹300 crore loan put RBL Bank under scrutiny
A ₹300-crore loan that was written off within seven months of being sanctioned has emerged as the key reason for the banking regulator’s sudden intervention in private lender RBL Bank, two people directly aware of the development said. RBL Bank made the loan to a company as part of a consortium of lenders in 2018, and RBI has been seeking details about the bank’s loan portfolio from its risk department for the past few months. Shayan Ghosh has the details. Read more.
Centre may revamp customs duties to boost local production
The Union budget may introduce a raft of changes to customs duties as the government leans on tariff rationalization to promote local manufacturing. Promoting local value addition and improving cost-competitiveness are expected to get special attention in the 2022-23 budget. The Centre held public consultations on the culling of obsolete duty exemptions and has received representations from the industry about high input costs in several sectors, reports Gireesh Chandra Prasad. Read more.
Why Indian mutual funds can’t invest in crypto products
Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman Ajay Tyagi has said Indian mutual funds cannot invest in crypto-related products. What is the concern? While investing, trading and holding crypto assets are allowed in India as of now, the laws are still not clear as to how they are regulated and taxed. There is a possibility that the government may ban trading in crypto altogether or come up with stringent thresholds for investors to delve into this new asset, explains Abhinav Kaul. Read more.
Domestic revival stays in the slow lane in November
India’s economic revival appears to have stayed in the slow lane in November. Global supply disruptions made their presence felt, as nine of the 16 high-frequency indicators considered in Mint’s monthly macro tracker were red, or below their five-year average trend. Infections caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus is now weighing on growth prospects and the recovery trajectory looks iffy yet again as the year ends, writes Manjul Paul. Read more.
Swimming with sharks or storm in a teacup?
SonyTV’s new primetime show Shark Tank India, the local version of the popular international television show, has divided Indian startups into two camps: those who think it’s all about humiliating hopeful entrepreneurs and those who see it as mere entertainment. Watching the show, it becomes obvious that some contenders were chosen for pure entertainment value—the way an Indian Idol, for instance, would choose to air the audition segment of a hopeless singer whose five minutes of fame come from making people laugh with bad singing and delusions of grandeur. But some think the show displays arrogance, writes Shrabonti Bagchi Read more.
Deciphering 2021 with 15 riveting long reads (premium)
Mint’s Long Story is where we embrace the challenge of delving deep into a story and telling it well every day of the week. This space allowed us, over the course of a year, to report on and explore a wide range of stories that captured the zeitgeist. From the D2C revolution to the turnaround at Wipro, from climate change slowing India’s windmills to the stock trading revolution sweeping India, we captured the trends shaping the nation. Here are 15 stories that highlight the breadth and depth of our reporting, from among the 240 long stories we published in 2021. Read more.
Global business news
National security police in Hong Kong arrested seven people linked to the popular pro-democracy news site Stand News, prompting it to shut down and dealing a further blow to freedom of speech in a city once celebrated for its rambunctious journalism. The city’s National Security Department said Wednesday that the arrests were for conspiracy to publish seditious content, an offense under the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance.
Political dynasties are increasingly dominating governments in Southeast Asia—in Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia—posing an obstacle to good governance in one of the world’s most economically vibrant regions. The prevalence of dynasties reflects the great power that individual families wield in a region that is also marked by high levels of income inequality and state repression.
After decades of mass migration from former Eastern Bloc countries to more lucrative opportunities in the West, the flow of people in Europe is showing signs of reversing. In Estonia, returnees to the country have outpaced emigrants since 2017. Net migration to Poland has been in the black since 2016. And the trend has accelerated during the pandemic. Nowhere has the turnaround been more dramatic than in Bulgaria.
A high-stakes legal battle is taking shape over lucrative patent rights for covid-19 vaccines, with drug companies pitted against each other and government and academic scientists over who invented what. The US government and Moderna Inc., whose collaboration led to one of the most widely used shots, have fought over who discovered a key component and owns its rights. Meantime, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, makers of another leading vaccine, are in a patent battle with a smaller company.
Every year the World Economic Forum asks business, political and thought leaders to rank the biggest risks in the coming year. At the start of 2020, infectious disease didn’t make the list. Covid-19 became the most disruptive pandemic in a century. At the start of this year, inflation didn’t make the list either. It’s now the most vexing problem in the US economy. This isn’t to mock the World Economic Forum, merely to note how flawed our perceptions of risk are.
News in numbers
The estimated gross non-performing assets of banks in India by September 2022 in the baseline scenario, up from 6.9% in September 2021, according to the Reserve Bank of India.
156 million seconds
Television ad volumes in November 2021, up 3% compared to November 2020, and up 31% from November 2019, according to television monitoring agency BARC.
The percentage of cooking oil samples that failed to clear quality metrics of a total of 4,461 samples tested by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, indicating possible adulteration of cooking oils in the market.
The average number of daily covid-19 cases in the US over the past week, beating the previous record of 250,141 cases on 8 January 2021.
The percentage of Indians who said they preferred buying furniture, car, home, and wedding apparel rather than renting them, according to a survey by Godrej Housing Finance.
After vaccinating 50% of adults with both doses early this month, the health ministry had set an ambitious target of 100% first dose coverage by 31 December. That seems unlikely, since 11% of the adult population is yet to receive their first dose of covid-19 vaccine as on 29 December. Only five states or union territories have so far hit the 100%-milestone. Jharkhand and Punjab are at the bottom, with one-fourth of their adult population yet to be jabbed.
Meme of the year
Pawri Ho Rahi Hai
It has been a memorable year of memes as we searched for succour amid social distancing and work-from-home. Some of the best ones included Lord Shardul Thakur, a now-happy Pak fan, the Suez Canal Ship, Rahul Dravid’s new avatar, Kim Kardashian’s dress and more. However, the best meme of the year, without a shred of doubt, was one that came pretty early during 2021–the Pawri girl. Dananeer Mobeen became a global superstar; her words became so ubiquitous that even political parties in India used them during their election campaigns. Relive the epic meme here. Hopefully, we’ll have many more rib-tickling memes in 2022.
Contributed by Nirmalya Dutta
What the fact
Colonel James Skinner, copy of a portrait, 1836. (National Army Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Mango pickles or chutney could well have been one of India’s most famous, indeed, ‘luxury’ export, starting from the 17th century. Their brand names: Colonel Skinner; Major Grey’s; Hot Bengal Club. Colonel James Skinner, an Anglo-Indian, is supposed to have invented his own version of the chutney in the 18th century using mango, ginger, garlic, and red chillis. Major Grey, too, was a British army officer who lived in India in the 19th century—he may have influenced the pickle that contains mangos, raisins, vinegar, onion and tamarind extract.