How Tech Business Interests and Politics Could Clash in India—Data Sheet

August 26, 2019, 1:13 PM UTC

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There’s a reason the business world is agog about India. Its economy grows at more than twice the rate of the United States, it has 1.3 billion people, and some of the smartest minds in tech hail from or call India their home. Not a day goes by without some evidence of vibrancy:

* Aaron has published a short article about the remarkable rise of Reliance Jio, which he dubs India’s “wireless wonder.” The mobile-phone arm of the energy and insurance conglomerate has more than 300 million subscribers despite having started up just three years ago. That can’t happen anywhere else in the world.

* Amazon has invested in Future Retail, an Indian bricks-and-mortar chain. This is a potentially important move because the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the rules on foreign e-commerce companies just before his re-election this year. It is unclear if Amazon will be able to up its stake in Future to stay relevant in India.

* It has been almost exactly a year since Walmart spent $16 billion for a controlling stake in Indian e-commerce company Flipkart. Bloomberg reported recently that PhonePe, a payments startup inside Flipkart, plans to raise capital at a valuation of as much as $10 billion—an unexpected bonus for Walmart.

All this is happening against the backdrop of Indian leader Modi’s blatantly authoritarian move to re-make the political order in Kashmir, a formerly semi-autonomous region of India where Muslims are in the majority. It’s a microcosm of the China story: There’s so much damn money to be made that multinational businesses will look the other way as long as they possibly can.


As a too-frequent flier, I so enjoyed this lovely and erudite essay by the Danish writer Morten Hoi Jensen, “Air Travel Hasn’t Lost Its Magic.” I plan to try to embrace his cup-half-full thinking next time I need a dollop of calm while traveling hither and yon.

Adam Lashinsky

On Twitter: @adamlashinsky



Just stop talking. After a few too many controversies, Google is tamping down political discussions among its employees. In new community guidelines, the company says workers should "avoid conversations that are disruptive to the workplace or otherwise violate Google’s workplace policies.”

Just stop talking, the sequel. Tech stocks were particularly hurt on Friday by President Trump's tweet that he was ordering all American companies out of China. AMD lost 7%, Nvidia, Apple, and Qualcomm 5%, Intel and IBM 4%. And what happens on Monday is anybody's guess, as stock futures gyrated wildly before the market opened on competing tweets from Trump and Chinese officials about the state of trade talks. Also, Qualcomm is bouncing back 2% pre-market, as a federal appeals court on Friday partially stayed a lower court ruling against the company in the antitrust case filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

Out to pasture. A few years ago, the question was who wouldn't have a mobile wallet app and/or phone pay service. Now we're in the consolidation phase. Mega-bank JP Morgan Chase is killing its mobile pay app, Chase Pay.

No binge for you. Some more details have leaked about Disney's upcoming streaming service, some appealing, some less so. The $7-a-month Disney Plus service will allow four simultaneous sign ons and include 4K HDR video quality, CNET reports. But episodes of original series will be dribbed and drabbed out weekly, not all at once, Netflix-style.

Shelf stocking shenanigans. An investigation by the Wall Street Journal of toys and other items listed on Amazon's web site found thousands for sale by third party sellers that were improperly labeled, had been deemed unsafe, or were banned by federal regulators. Amazon said it moves quickly to protect customers when concerns arise about items listed for sale. In other Amazon controversies, major book publishers including Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster sued the company on Friday for copyright infringement over a new captioning service for Audible audiobooks that relies on an A.I. program to generate text in real time. Audible said the captioning is an educational feature designed to improve literacy and "is not and was never intended to be a book.”

Regifting. VMware is indeed acquiring its sister Dell Technologies company Pivotal Software for $11.71 per share, as we reported on Friday. But what we missed is that $11.71 is the blended price being paid for all share classes. Holders of Class A shares from Pivotal's IPO last year will get $15, the same price charged in the IPO, not a penny less.


Without much fanfare or magazine cover story treatment, e-commerce service Shopify has become a quiet tech superstar. The service behind some of the biggest names in social network-powered shopping (like Kylie Jenner), Shopify's stock price is up 176% this year and its $42 billion market cap has surpassed those of much more famous e-commerce peers eBay, Square, Wayfair, and Pinterest. Tim Bradshaw of the Financial Times talked to Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke about what's fed the Ottawa-based company's success.

“There was no ‘powered by Shopify’ anywhere,” said Mr Lütke, who started what would become Shopify in 2004 as a side-project of his online snowboard store. “We built a brand behind other people's brands.” 

Shopify’s absence from the Silicon Valley spotlight has been by design. Germany-born Mr Lütke has long resisted the San Francisco Bay Area’s gravitational pull, calling the costly fight for talent and property there “one of the most pure examples of groupthink gone wrong”. “I’m flabbergasted why anyone would ever consider starting a company in that area at this point,” he said.


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Star architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed some of the most iconic structures of the 20th Century. I didn't realize quite how many, however. Photographer Andrew Pielage is trying to photograph every still-standing Wright building. How many is that? 431. As of this month, Pielage has only captured 68, he tells Fortune. Better get busy.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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