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When work was warship: Pepsi’s navy was once the world’s 6th largest

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The Pepsi-Coca-Cola war might have been largely fizz-ical. But if things ever came to a head, Pepsi would have been capable of blowing more than just bubbles, as it once had the world’s largest navies at its disposal.

End of the Cold War

After a long period of living behind the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union emerged and shook hands with the United States under Nikita Khrushchev’s more liberal leadership. As a result of the shift in leadership, the relationship between the superpowers was smooth sailing, relieving the cold war scenario. The visit resulted in a permeation  of liberal lifestyles in the USSR, via which Pepsi made inroads.

Pepsi’s Push

Pepsi’s arrival into the Soviet Union was a big deal, as it was the first time a firm from a capitalist country offered a popular consumer product there. Following talks, Pepsi began exporting its syrup to the Soviet Union in 1972, effectively shutting out Coca-Cola from the Soviet market. Nixon took Khrushchev to a soft drink vending machine the next day and offered him a Pepsi. 

After the United States outlawed Soviet imports in 1980 as a result of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Pepsi was compelled to offer Stolichnaya vodka payment, and made PepsiCo the exclusive distributor for it in the US. Pepsi’s Soviet sales rose for years as a result of the contract, but when Pepsi stopped accepting Russian vodka as payment, Russia had to find a new means to pay for its fix of Pepsi. The Soviet government and Pepsi negotiated an unusual agreement in 1989…

If it floats your boat…

In the years 1989 through 1990, PepsiCo secured expansion deals with the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990 that involved the bartering of Soviet submarines, a destroyer, and other ships and tankers as payment, technically making Pepsi “the 6th largest military in the world” before selling its fleet.

Pepsi was taking the fizz out of the USSR’s military might rapidly, and disarming them faster than the US government. 

USSR breaking down

From thereon, things changed quite dramatically. The USSR broke apart into separate countries in 1990, and Pepsico’s assets were confiscated. The shipyard had relocated to Belarus and Lithuania, which supplied mozzarella to Pizza Hut, just wanted US dollars in exchange. To make things worse, Coca-Cola entered the Russian market, breaking Pepsi’s monopoly.

And so ended the life of the world’s sixth-largest fleet, with Pepsi trading it all off to continue making its unique brand of bottled joy that is beloved by millions.

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India’s looming power crisis inches ever closer

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A power catastrophe is looming in India amid the global energy crisis, with the country’s power facilities running on critically low coal inventories. In the face of growing demands, three out of four power plants in the country have less than a week’s supply of coal on hand. Many states, including Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu, have been affected by the coal shortage.

The reason for the coal crisis in India is the pandemic, which has caused disruptions like never before. When compared to the same period last year, power usage has increased by over 17% in the last two months. Power plants have little incentive to increase production because it is difficult to raise the price that consumers pay for electricity. In the case of coal, despite having the world’s fourth-largest reserves, domestic producers in India are unable to fulfill ever-rising demand.  

After China, India is the world’s second-largest coal importer. However, importing coal has become difficult due to record-high international coal prices as a result of increased worldwide demand. India’s government feels it is on the right road as it strives to reduce emissions by 33 percent by 2030 and ensure that renewable energy accounts for around 40 percent of its installed power capacity.  

An expert in this field said that an investment in multiple power sources, a mix of coal and clean sources of energy is the right way to go for now. 

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Squid Game, Netflix’s runaway hit that almost never got made

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Squid Game has wrapped its tentacles around a global audience in less than three weeks.

Since its premiere on September 17, the #1 Netflix Korean drama about financially desperate people fighting in a high-stakes tournament has only grown in popularity.

That’s why it came as a shock to find that Squid Game author and director Hwang Dong-hyuk was rejected by a slew of studios when he first proposed the idea more than a decade ago.

The notion was previously deemed “too ugly and impractical” by studios, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While living with his mother and grandmother, Hwang Dong-hyuk came up with the idea for Squid Game, but he had to put the script on hold and sell his laptop to make ends meet.

Hwang believes that the classist concerns that were brought to the forefront during the pandemic’s peak were a factor in Netflix’s decision to buy the show two years ago.

Squid Game has now been subtitled and dubbed in 31 languages. It’s also at the top of the charts in over NINETY COUNTRIES.

With over 17 million views, the trailer for Squid Game has now exceeded those of Bridgerton and Lupin.

Netflix’s VP of content for Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Minyoung Kim, claims that “nothing has ever grown as swiftly and aggressively as Squid Game.”

Those studios that first turned down Hwang’s concept appear to have made a huge mistake.

With the show growing from strength to strength, and audiences riveted and waiting for more, studios will surely be ruing the decision not to pick up the show earlier.

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Decoding Air India’s sale to the Tata’s

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Indian conglomerate Tata Sons have won a bid to acquire Air India for ₹18000 crore. Tata beat out competition from Spice Jet to bag the airline that was once known as the crown jewel of JRD Tata’s sprawling empire. 

The debt-laden national carrier has for long been a subject of divestment, an objective that has now come to fruition. 

Embed Ratan Tata tweet

The prodigal son returns 

For the Tata’s, who were the original owners of Air India, bringing the airline back to the group has been a long awaited dream. Much has changed since Air India left the fold, but the Tata’s never let their love for the open skies fade away, and the national carrier was often referred to as JRD’s true labour of love. While there are emotional undertones, the fact means that this is a deal that has for long been on the radar. 

Why was the government keen to divest?

It is a sign of how poorly run Air India was that it has never posted a profit since 2007. If one were to look at the documents even more closely, the government exchequer has spent over ₹ 1.1 lakh crore since 2009 to cover for the loss making entity. 

The piper always has to be paid though, and as debts mounted as high as ₹61,562 crore by August 2021, something had to give. The fact that each additional day of operation cost the government ₹20 crore – which would have totted up to an annual loss of ₹7300 crore – meant that the powers that be were keen to cut their white elephant loose. 

What did the sale entail?

Besides the sale in Air India, the government also announced the sale of two other businesses — Air India Express Ltd (AIXL) and Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt Ltd (AISATS) in a 100% deal, as opposed to previous attempts that saw the government try to hold a stake in the beleaguered airline. These attempts, until 2020’s most recent attempt, failed to gather much interest since private players wanted to control all the chips at the table and not a piecemeal solution. 

The fact that the government would not even be a minority stakeholder proved to be a catalyst. That, coupled with the fact that potential buyers were allowed to decide how much of the mountain of Air India’s debt they’d take on, proved to be critical to the sale going through. 

What does this sale signify?

This sale can be seen as an extension of the Modi government’s commitment to reducing the role of the government in major economic sectors, as it attempts to rationalise its holdings. Without a doubt, this will prove to be of some relief to the national exchequer, and the tax paying public. 

However, if one were to step back and look at it in cold, analytical terms, there are still some concerns flying under the radar. As mentioned earlier, Air India had a total debt of ₹61,562 crore, of which the Tatas agreed to take on ₹15,300 crore, with a further ₹2,700 crore being paid to the government to sweeten the deal. 

A simple back of the napkin calculation means that this leaves ₹43,563 crore of debt still dangling over the government. With asset sales likely to generate in the region of ₹14,718 crore, this leaves the government holding a bag worth approx. ₹28,844 crore to be handled. 

The final word

All said, this is a win-win situation for all parties. The Government gets to write down a mountain of debt that was staring them in the face. The Tatas get an emotional reunion with their long lost pride and joy, and you can be sure that they will go above and beyond to restore the national carrier back to its halcyon days, in a move that can only bode well for the common man. Blue skies are in the offing, and we are clear for takeoff. 

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