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Business News/ Weekend / Best of the Week | Ticket woes at Bengaluru's Chinnaswamy Stadium
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Best of the Week | Ticket woes at Bengaluru's Chinnaswamy Stadium

Election, its effect on markets, and the entry of AI

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Best of the Week

Dear reader,

The Chinnaswamy Stadium, a ground where Indian cricket has seen many historic matches, is only about 4 km from where I live in Bengaluru. Every now and then, when a match is happening, I can see the floodlights from my balcony.

However, getting a ticket to go and watch a match there can be a painful experience. Let me provide you with some context to go with my rants. Royal Challengers Bengaluru, the most popular franchise in the Indian Premier League to have never won a men’s trophy, is playing their arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings at Chinnaswamy today. The match is such a hotly anticipated one that tickets were sold out on RCB’s official website within seconds. There's no option to buy tickets at the stadium, and prices on the black market are exorbitant—ranging from 12,500 to 13,500 for a ticket originally priced at 3,500.

Anyway, despite trying out every form of jugaad out there to get my hands on a ticket, I think I’ll have to make do with just the floodlights.

On to Mint’s best journalism this week:

🌽 ✅ India's fourth phase of the general election, held on 13 May, was a crucial event. Over 1,100 candidates vied for 96 Lok Sabha seats across 10 states and union territories, including Andhra Pradesh. With its 175-member legislative assembly, this state was at a crossroads, with voters facing a pivotal decision that would shape its future policy direction and economic health. The choice was between prioritising welfare programs or pushing for more industrial development. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), led by former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, campaigned for increased industrialisation, citing its past success in attracting significant investments such as Kia. In contrast, incumbent Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) advocated robust welfare schemes that have broadly supported the rural poor. As Andhra Pradesh grapples with substantial debt, the election results will be a turning point, determining whether the state will maintain its focus on extensive welfare spending or shift towards balancing this with increased developmental efforts. This decision is poised to significantly impact both the state's fiscal stability and the livelihoods of its residents. Mint’s senior national editor N Madhavan provides a comprehensive analysis of the political scene in Andhra Pradesh, a state that still boasts the presence of strong regional political parties.

🤖 With the election in full swing, politicians are leaving no stone unturned to have their voices heard by the people. And just as with everything in 2024, AI has also entered the political game. Political parties are using AI to evoke all kinds of emotions in voters. For instance, former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa was heard critiquing both the central and state governments in a clip released on her birthday in February. The Dravidian leader, however, passed away in 2016. Her voice was recreated using AI. The trend of using AI to recreate the voices and images of late politicians has been gaining traction across India. The technology allows parties to forge a personal connection with voters, especially the youth, who are new to the electoral process. Platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are awash with such content, crafted to sway voter sentiment and solidify party loyalties. Mint invited independent journalist Sanghamitra Kar P to write about the latest election tech trend in this Long Story.

🧳 More and more Indians are flying abroad now than before. With higher disposable incomes, the Indian middle class is willing to take to the skies and fly overseas for vacations. However, an Indian passport will only allow you to visit 26 countries visa-free. This makes procuring a visa an essential step in planning a trip abroad. Here’s where an interesting trend is emerging. Mint’s Varuni Khosla reports on how Asian countries are seeing more Indian tourists than European countries. South Korea, for example, has emerged as a popular destination for Indian travellers, primarily due to its simplified visa process. This trend reflects a broader shift among Indian tourists, who are increasingly opting for Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Sri Lanka over European destinations due to easier entry procedures. Countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka have also enhanced their appeal by introducing visa-free access for Indian travellers, contributing to a surge in travel bookings. Industry reports forecast significant growth in India's outbound tourism, with projected spending expected to reach $44.8 billion by 2032.

🚗 Mini cars have long been the gateway to four-wheeled transport for many in India, but they're facing a bit of a rough patch. Maruti Suzuki, the biggest player in India’s car market, is hitting the pause button on sprucing up this segment. Why? Well, it boils down to costs and affordability. Right now, Maruti dominates the hatchback market, holding about 70% of it, but they’re choosing to hold off on upgrades until these cars become more wallet-friendly for the average buyer. Their mainstays—the Alto, Celerio and S-Presso—won’t see significant changes for a while. Maruti’s betting that once incomes go up, these entry-level cars will become popular again among first-time buyers. But here’s the kicker: the overall market for entry-level cars has really dipped, from more than 470,000 units back in 2011 to just over 160,000 in 2024. Customers are more inclined towards entry-level SUVs instead. Mint’s auto correspondent Alisha Sachdev writes on the shrinking market for entry-level hatchbacks.

🏢 Nasdaq-listed IT firm Cognizant, which has more than 250,000 employees in India, is getting strict with employees resisting returning to the office. The company warned that continued absence could lead to termination. This move, detailed in a letter from April 15, makes Cognizant one of the first major IT companies to use firing to get people back to their office cubicles. Until recently, Cognizant was flexible about office attendance, letting individual teams decide based on their project needs. But earlier this year, they changed gears and started asking their employees in India to be in the office three days a week. They even began tracking office attendance closely. Mint’s IT correspondent Jas Bardia reports on the emerging trend of IT companies using termination as a tool to get people back to the office. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys have also been tightening policies around office attendance, linking them to pay hikes and bonuses, indicating a significant shift from the more flexible remote work policies during the pandemic.

🏦 The banking sector is basking in the glow of an extraordinary earnings season for the March quarter. State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, posted a record-breaking profit of more than 20,000 crore rupees for the quarter, outshining even Reliance Industries, India's most-valuable company. Punjab National Bank is another state-run lender that's making waves, with its net profit skyrocketing almost three-fold. Private players including HDFC and Axis Bank, too have reported strong numbers. However, not everything is smooth sailing. The robust post-pandemic economic recovery has led to a surge in credit growth, especially in the retail segment, which has outpaced deposit growth. This situation has pushed the loan-to-deposit ratio to a decadal high of 80%, signalling potential liquidity and credit risks. Banks are now caught in a tough spot. They need to either reduce loans, which could stifle growth, or increase deposits, which might hurt margins because higher interest rates would have to be offered to attract depositors. Mint’s Abhishek Mukherjee examines what’s behind the stellar fourth-quarter performance of banks and whether the results show the complete picture.

📶 India's telecom department is considering a strategy to replace 'non-trusted' telecom equipment, primarily sourced from Chinese vendors, deployed before the 2020 mandate requiring telecom service providers to use trusted vendors. Unlike the US's comprehensive 'rip and replace' approach, India may opt for a selective replacement strategy, depending on the extent of Chinese equipment in existing networks. Service providers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, with substantial legacy networks, could be significantly impacted as they assess and possibly replace a portion of their infrastructure, reports Mint’s telecom correspondent Gulveen Aulakh. These networks contain an estimated 20-25% of equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE, introduced over several years before the 2020 directive. This directive, issued under the National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector (NSDTS), mandated that from June 2021, all telecom equipment must come from trusted sources. This policy did not initially require the removal of already deployed Chinese equipment. The potential costs of replacing such equipment are considerable, with estimates of the value of Chinese gear in current networks at 9,000-10,000 crore.

🚚 Since its launch in December 2022, the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has seen a remarkable 436% increase in transactions, signalling a robust uptake, particularly in the mobility sector, notably auto-rickshaw rides. However, the platform is experiencing challenges in expanding beyond food-related categories, highlighting the difficulties in broadening e-commerce access across India. ONDC, aiming to be the 'UPI of e-commerce,' has successfully grown its reach from 250 cities in early 2023 to over 1,000, with the number of sellers more than doubling annually. Despite strong performance in food and beverages, with significant participation from restaurants across 347 cities, non-food sectors such as fashion, personal care, and electronics are lagging, underscoring the complexity of scaling diverse e-commerce offerings. The platform's design to standardise marketplace operations and promote local suppliers is proving more effective in some sectors than others, with food delivery and mobility showing the most promise. Mint’s Sowmya Ramasubramanian reports on ONDC’s growing challenges and how it is trying hard to compete with established e-commerce services like Amazon and Flipkart.

🇨🇦 Canada is experiencing a significant decline in its appeal as an educational destination for Indian students, with application numbers to top universities like the University of Toronto dropping by 40-45% this year. This downturn is largely attributed to a new policy introduced by the Canadian government, which reduces the number of international students permitted by 35% for the 2024 academic year. This policy has injected a level of uncertainty that is deterring students. Compounding the issue are Canada's ongoing housing crisis and the scarcity of job opportunities for students and young professionals, which have further discouraged prospective applicants. These challenges are expected to persist until the Canadian elections in October 2025, suggesting a prolonged period of uncertainty for higher education. Mint’s workplace correspondent Devina Sengupta reports how these barriers are causing students to alter their plans, opting for universities in the US.

📈 Amid India's ongoing Lok Sabha election, differing strategies between domestic and foreign investors are shaping the dynamics of the Nifty derivatives market. Domestic retail as well as wealthy individuals are showing a strong bullish sentiment, reflected by their substantial net long positions in Nifty futures contracts. This optimism is driven by their confidence in a decisive victory for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition. Conversely, Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) are exercising caution, possibly due to concerns over potential electoral upsets. This group has significantly hedged their investments in Indian equities by taking the highest net bearish positions in index futures contracts since early November, indicating a defensive posture against potential market volatility. Mint’s markets correspondent Ram Sahgal reports on the effect election is having on the market.

👨‍🦳 👩‍🦳 🛫 K.S. Kumar, a 70-year-old retiree from Bengaluru, along with his wife Radha, 62, enjoys a post-retirement life filled with extensive travel, spending 60% of their annual budget on trips around the world. Having already visited 31 countries, they look forward to exploring South America and Antarctica. Kumar credits his early retirement at 54 to a well-managed financial plan that included strong rental income from his real estate investments. Kumar’s retirement was underpinned by the rental income from his properties, which provided a steady cash flow that supported his lifestyle and family responsibilities. He strategically used a systematic withdrawal plan (SWP) starting in 2019 to manage his household expenses. His investment strategy employs a "bucket approach," segregating his retirement corpus into liquid, short-term, and long-term buckets to meet different financial needs at various stages. This method ensures a continuous replenishment of funds across the buckets, maintaining a balance that supports both their daily needs and their extensive travel plans. Mint Money’s Jash Kriplani writes on how you can save enough to travel the world in your retirement.

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

If you have any feedback, have a spare IPL ticket, 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

3.6 Crore Indians visited in a single day choosing us as India's undisputed platform for General Election Results. Explore the latest updates here!

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: 18 May 2024, 08:00 AM IST
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