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General Insurance premiums back to growth in June

Despite cash crunch and liquidity concerns at a household level, gross general insurance premiums in India grew by 7.8% for June 2020 as compared to same month, last year. Although, specialist insurers and standalone health insurers were the ones to take the group figure up.  While life insurance business has also been steadily picking up after the plunge in April, for the month of June 2020 they still showed a 10.46% contraction in new business premiums Year-on-Year.

Paytm comes sniffing: With the ambition of becoming a financial services behemoth in the Indian landscape, this week Paytm and founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma announced their acquisition of Raheja QBE General Insurance Company. While they are already distributors for both life and general insurance, this acquisition will be key to getting them into the manufacturing space.

Why the interest: There are two key words related to the insurance industry: risk and fear. Both those words have now been trending for the last few months, thanks to the-disease-that-shall-not-be-named. Ergo, we see Indians waking up to the fear of health and risk of high hospital bills in a market with a large scope for penetration left for insurance players to exploit and grow.

Tik tok claims stake to digital diplomacy poster child

From an app that people used when they were bored (no wonder usage soared in the times of corona) to being a symbol of digital China that are countries find easiest and most visible to dump as a result of their diplomatic ire, Tik tok has come a long way. As India banned Tik tok among 59 chinese apps, it’s started a ripple effect of sorts. Not only did the parent company Byte Dance file an appeal in court revealing it stands to lose $500,000 a day, other unbelievable numbers began to tumble out. Indian Institute of Human Brands reported that top 100 Indian influencers stand to lose Rs. 120 Crores a year, with the top few making Rs. 5-6 Crores a year!!

India, the trend setter: Once India went ahead with banning it, suddenly countries seem to be waking up to the possibility of this action or atleast the threat of it. Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the country was seriously considering banning Chinese social media apps, including Tik Tok. An Australian MP called for Tik Tok’s ban in the country and there are concerns about the collected data being misused and abused. Probably to signal distance from Mainland China, Tik tok reversed the ban cycle by announcing their decision to pull out of HongKong following the controversial National Security Law.

What next? To not be victimised by the increasing global hostility towards China, parent company Byte Dance is considering moving their global headquarters out of China. On the other hand, Instagram is offering to fill the vacuum with it’s introduction of Instagram Reels.

Countries collaborate to investigate Clearview AI

You know the future is here when we are talking about things we only saw and imagined in sci-fi shows till a few years back. Clearview AI, a small company founded by Australian Hoan Ton-That is in hot waters for it’s usage of public photos of millions of people to feed into the facial recognition app.

What is Clearview? It is a company that allows you to upload the photo of a stranger to enable linking of it to other public photos, mostly on social media. So, you can easily click photos on the street of a random stranger and be able to recognise on social media with all their details. While Clearview mentions that they use legal technology under the First Ammendment Act and that it is being used for good deeds like law enforcement, the jury is out on that. This NY Times article outlining the shady, secretive way of company operation seemed to open a can of worms. Now, UK and Australia have opened joint data-privacy investigation into Clearview AI.

Facial recognition debate: This is not the first time that this technology is being debated. While a lot of us are comfortable with using our face as our identity to unlock phones, where does it stop? Law enforcement agencies anyway use it, for the greater good. On the other hand, IBM made news for stopping commercial sale of facial recognition technology for ethical reasons. So, for all practical purposes, the status for facial recognition remains “It’s complicated”.

IN SNIPPETS

Jio BP to foray into fuel distribution: Reliance Industries and British Petroleum announced a joint venture to start with immediate retailing of fuel and Castrol lubricants from existing petrol pumps, with rebranding to follow.

Samsung ensures good PR for it’s new smartwatch with “Make in India” news: Playing the news cycle smartly, Samsung announced launch of the new Galaxy Watch Active2 4G Aluminium edition by stating that they are shifting their entire smart watch production to India in their Noida factory.

ED provisionally attaches properties of Rana Kapoor and DHFL promoters worth Rs. 2200: Seriously, mentioning crores is becoming redundant when it comes to Indian scams. It is alleged that approximately Rs. 4,300 (yes, crores!) was laundered with the collusion between Yes Bank and DHFL.

Warren Buffett donates in billions: Distributing 15.9 million Class B shares worth approximately $2.9 Billion, Buffet made a charity donation via this route to five chosen philanthropies including the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. He also revealed that in the last 15 years, his tax outlay has reduced by 43 cents for every $1000. Looks like charity donation is a friend with benefit for Buffett.

Deloitte staring at a record fine: A UK accounting watchdog has told an independent tribunal that Deloitte should be fined 15 million GBP for instances of recklessness, lack of objectivity and a failure to discharge its’ public interest duty in it’s audit of technology firm Autonomy. In 2011, HP bought it but a year later had to write off 75% of the value alleging fudged books.

MARKET PULSE

The market saw upswing, in part thanks to the powerful, optimistic message given by PM Modi at India Global Week 2020. In the sectoral indices FMCG, power, capital goods and oil & gas saw some profit booking while metals, finance, banks and energy stocks pulled the markets to end in green.

Post closing hours, TCS bit the bullet to announce it’s Q1 results. Missing estimates, the company shared news of 13.8% drop in revenue as compare to last quarter with the bottom line in the commentary suggesting the worst is behind us.

WILD CARD

The most magical place on earth, Disneyland Orlando is all set to open again with two parks on Saturday and the other two on 11th July. Of course there are T&Cs galore, but may this reopening spread it’s magic around the world.

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