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Business News/ Weekend / Best of the Week | How global events shape our careers
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Best of the Week | How global events shape our careers

Best of the Week, 24 February: the person behind the bylines

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Best of the Week

This week, I had the privilege of speaking with Vivek Kaul, economist, author and columnist for Mint. I spoke to Kaul for a new series we are starting called ‘Behind the Byline’. As the name suggests the series focuses on the people behind our stories. 

The series aims to shine a light on the individuals crafting our stories, revealing the human faces behind the news. 

Kaul has been writing on economics and money for close to 20 years now. I realised some moments in history leave a deeper impact on an entire generation than others do. Kaul told me he started writing for the DNA newspaper back in 2005, but it was only in 2008 that he actually found the true use of his writing skills. 

It was in September of 2008 when American banking behemoth Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a chain of events that would go on to bring the modern capitalist system down to its knees. It was the global financial crisis, which affected millions of lives and rendered thousands jobless globally. This was when Kaul’s clear and approachable writing helped people make sense of the crisis. 

Kaul isn't the only one whose career was affected by the crisis. I’ve had the chance to work with colleagues from across the globe during my stint at Reuters. Speaking to colleagues there I realised a lot of them decided to choose business journalism as a career because of the 2008 financial crisis. Just the sheer magnitude of the crisis drove them to find ways of making sense of what was going on, and they ended up working as business journalists. 

Our past shapes our present, but clearly, some historic events impact our lives more than others. 

On to Mint’s best journalism from this week:

A development finance institution or DFI is a government-owned entity, established to provide credit for low-capital projects. India’s oldest one is in bad shape right now. The Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI), has been running in losses for years. In FY22 and FY23, the DFI incurred losses of close to 2000 crore. Now, to rescue the financial institution, the government is planning to reverse-merge it with one of its subsidiaries. People aware of the government’s plan, told Mint’s Subhash Narayan, about a possible merger with the Stock Holding Corporation of India (SHCIL), another entity where IFCI holds a significant stake. 

India’s OTT and streaming scene is going through a rough patch. The industry, which is recouping from the failed  mega merger of Sony and Zee, has a vacuum of content. Amazon’s Prime video takes a long time to approve projects and has been on a cancellation spree. Its rival Netflix is bullish on acquiring big-budget movies. Both Hotstar and JioCinema have slowed down because of a possible upcoming merger. Enter regional streaming services. While regional language streaming services like Hoichoi, Planet Marathi and ShemarooMe will find it difficult to compete with the budgets of streaming heavyweights,  it is the right time for them to shine. According to experts who spoke to Mint’s entertainment correspondent Lata Jha, this is a good time for regional streaming services to fill the content vacuum.

Those waiting for the official biography of Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus Ratan Tata, will have to wait longer. Among India’s foremost industrialists and philanthropists, Tata’s authorised biography has been in the works for quite some time now, but according to people close to the matter, the book will take longer to hit the shelves. The book titled ‘Ratan Tata - A Life’ is authored by former bureaucrat Thomas Mathew, who shared the first manuscript with Tata in January 2022. But family members of Tata are still mulling over things that can be shared publicly. The book was initially up for publication in November 2022 after HarperCollins bought the rights from Mathew for a whopping 2 crore - an unusually higher sum for a non-fiction book. Mint’s Varun Sood reports on the developments around the much-awaited biography, which is past its latest release date of February 5 2024.

Delhi borders Haryana on the western side, which in turn, is sandwiched between Punjab and Delhi. So anyone coming to Delhi from Punjab must enter the national capital through its borders with Haryana, which currently are heavily fortified. The reason? Over the last 10 days, thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been moving towards Delhi to register their protest against the government’s policies on minimum support price (MSP). MSP is the minimum price a farmer can get for his crop from the government. However, the obligation to comply with MSPs is entirely on the government. Private players can still choose to pay farmers a price below the MSP. Now, farmers are demanding that the MSP be legally sanctified. Farmers want a MSP to be fixed for everyone, including private buyers. They also want the MSP to be fixed at a higher level. But are these demands valid? Is it a fair ask from the farmers? Sayantan Bera, who writes on rural India for Mint, tackles these questions in this deep dive

India’s largest steelmaker by capacity, JSW Steel might be close to buying a 20 per cent stake in Australian coal producer Whiteheaven’s Blackwater mine, for $1 billion. With geopolitical tensions triggering global coal prices, the transaction is deemed pivotal for the steelmaker. JSW needs sufficient amounts of imported coal if it wants to double its capacity to 50 million tonnes by the end of this decade. The mine, located in Australia’s Queensland, along with another mine, Dauniam, was bought by Whiteheaven in October last year for $3.2 billion from BHP. This means the Australian company is selling stake in the mine for a significant markup. Mint’s Nehal Chaliawala reports on the mining deal, which could prove crucial for the steelmaker. 

Indians are going the healthy way, and the government is planning to help. With more than 101 million diabetic Indians in the country, sugar is lethal for many. The government is now planning to take on the issue in a sustainable way - by extracting sweeteners from onion waste. The project, which is still in the approval stage, is expected to yield results by the end of the year. The government has even enlisted startups to execute the project. Mint’s Dhirendra Kumar and Puja Das report on the initiative which uses a process called caramelization, where sugar or sucrose is heated and takes on a brown hue and sweet flavour, and is used to extract sweetener from onion peels.

The Indian government plans to make it more appealing for people to get rid of old, polluting cars by offering better incentives. The government is looking at giving tax breaks and discounts on new cars. The idea follows successful models from other countries like the USA and Germany. The goal is to encourage more people to scrap their old vehicles, which will help reduce pollution and create jobs. However, so far, not many have taken advantage of the scheme, and most old cars end up being sold in rural areas instead. Mint’s Nehal Chaliawala and Mihir Mishra report on the government’s strategy which will replace the current old car scrappage policy that hasn't attracted many people.

India’s public sector undertakings or PSU stocks are having their time in the sun. Over the last fiscal year, the 56-stock BSE PSU humbled the Sensex, which produced a 24% return. So why have PSU stocks risen sharply? Which stocks have driven the rally, and what are the risks? Mint’s market correspondent Ram Sahgal may have the answers. One possible reason: mutual funds and retail investors on the secondary market have stepped up buying. Mutual fund holdings in PSU shares rose from 12.57 trillion at the end of June to 12.94 trillion by January's end. An increase of 370 billion shares over seven months. 

Move over placards and dharnas, digital dissent is here to stay. India’s public sector bank employees have created fresh avenues to protest, marking a departure from traditional unions with clear political affiliations. What attracts the dissenting employees to social media is the anonymity it offers.  Take the case that sparked online protest from bank employees. A video from June 2020 showing a cop assaulting a female banker in Surat went viral. It caught Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's attention. This led to the constable's suspension. Spearheading this digital protest was Newton Bank Kumar, an anonymous banker inspired by the film Newton. He is advocating against the privatisation of state-owned banks, demanding better work conditions, and asking for a five-day workweek. Mint’s banking correspondent Shayan Ghosh writes this in-depth story on the relatively new phenomenon of digital dissent among bank employees.

What if you find out that the provident fund (PF) contribution from your hard-earned money is not reaching its destination- the Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)? There are several steps you can take if your employer fails to deposit your PF contributions to the EPFO.  You can start by filing a complaint with EPFO or use the EPF Integrated Grievance Management System (EPFiGMS) online to report the issue. If that doesn't get things moving, you can escalate your complaint through the Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS), a platform that ensures higher attention to your concern. Mint’s Aprajita Sharma writes about the action plan you can choose to ensure your contributions are reaching the correct destination. 

Education technology companies in India are not having a good time. The pandemic induced rise in demand for remote learning helped edtechs gain a foothold in the Indian market. But with the implosion at Byju’s things look rather bleak for edtechs. Unacademy is one of these companies. The Bengaluru-based startup, was valued at $3.5 billion during its last round of fund raising in August 2021.  It made a string of acquisitions between 2018 and 2022 –  13 to be precise. This was in a bid to launch new products. Most of these launches are now either dead or being operated from the sidelines. With a common consensus among experts about edtech hitting a growth roadblock in India, the nine-year-old startup is facing an existential crisis. Mint’s startup reporter Samiksha Goel spoke to Unacademy’s CEO Gaurav Munjal who seems focused on turning the company profitable. Samiksha’s story examines what worked for Unacademy, and what did not.

That's all for this week, I hope you have a pleasant weekend!

If you have any feedback, want to talk about food, or have anything else to say about our journalism, write to me at siddharth.sharma1@htdigital.in or reply to this mail. You can also write to feedback@livemint.com.

Best, 

Siddharth Sharma 

Community Editor

Subscriber Experience Team

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Siddharth Sharma
Siddharth works as a Community Editor for Mint. He is a co-writer of Mint's flagship newsletter, Top of the Morning. Siddharth also co-writes the script of the podcast by the same name, and contributes to the Best of the Week newsletter. In his free time, can be found looking for a new street food joint.
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Published: 23 Feb 2024, 11:55 PM IST
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