Weekend Bites: Corporate Samurai keels over, and big deal that's Met Gala

In which we munch over the week's platter of news and views

Priyanka Chopra with husband Nick Jonas at Met Gala 2023

Priyanka Chopra with husband Nick Jonas at Met Gala 2023

Suveen Sinha New Delhi
As we wrote in a special section last year about India at 75, Nusli Wadia symbolises Mumbai’s old-money elite. His group has businesses across biscuits, textiles, and aviation. However, Wadia would be forever talked about for his long and illustrious list of corporate battles, some of which are:
  • Wadia versus Dhirubhai Ambani
  • Wadia versus Ratan Tata
  • Wadia versus Russi Mody
  • Wadia versus Darbari Seth
  • Wadia versus Ajit Kerkar
  • Wadia versus Rajan Pillai
  • Wadia versus Nani Palkhivala
However, Wadia, 79 this year, may have met his Waterloo.

Story of the week: Gone Air

Wadia-owned Go First filed for insolvency, no longer able to carry the burden of its grounded planes. It blamed the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, for the grounding of its planes.

Pratt & Whitney, in response, said the airline had a "history of missing its financial obligations".

The National Company Law Tribunal on Thursday reserved its order on Go First's plea seeking voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings.

The proceeding have become ensnared in a tussle with aircraft lessors after they asked the aviation regulator to deregister some of Go First’s planes as a step towards taking them back.

The mounting losses at Go First have become unsustainable for the Mumbai-based Nusli Wadia group. In 2021-22, for the first time, the net loss of the air carrier exceeded the combined net profit of listed firms in the group.

Our Edit pointed out that engines are not the only problem here. Aviation has always been a bumpy ride in India and Go First is unlikely to be the last one grounded.

This marks the first major airline collapse in the country since Jet Airways filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

In other news…

IBM expects to pause hiring for roles it thinks could be replaced with artificial intelligence in the coming years. Hiring in back-office functions — such as human resources — will be suspended or slowed. These non-customer-facing roles amount to roughly 26,000 workers. “I could easily see 30% of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period,” IBM CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg. That would mean 7,800 jobs lost. Part of any reduction would include not replacing roles vacated by attrition.

A day after Tata Steel flagged the risks to its UK operations posed by a possible economic downturn in Europe, its CEO, T V Narendran, told us in an interview that the offer from the UK government won’t justify the investment required for the impending transition to greener steel. 

GST collections in 2022-23 crossed Rs 18 trillion — a record since the inception of the new indirect tax regime six years ago. Collections in the pandemic year FY21 declined, but bounced back in the subsequent years, indicating resilience in the economy. 

Derailed by the government’s punitive action, electric two-wheeler registrations in April fell by nearly a fourth. Okinawa, Hero Electric, Ather Energy, and TVS clocked their lowest registrations in the four months of this calendar year. Ola Electric was the only exception.  

Tech that: Word from the world of technology and start-ups

Nasdaq-listed IT services firm Cognizant will incur $400 million in costs over two years as it restructures its operations amid sluggish growth rates. As part of this shift, it will eliminate 80,000 seats, or 11 million square feet of real estate in large cities of India. This is expected to reduce Cognizant’s annual real estate costs by $100 million by 2025.

Tata Motors is the runaway leader in electric cars in India. But Mahindra & Mahindra is mounting a big play in e-SUVs. Can M&M catch up with Tata Motors?

What is Suveen obsessing over these days?

The Met Gala is really a benefit event for a museum. Actually, for the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Who would have thought!

Given the glam and glitz around the show, in which the celebs appearing on the red carpet — all strictly by invitation — are encouraged to push the boundaries of fashion, one wouldn’t associate the Gala with something as prosaic as a museum. Reports say the price of the entry — yes, there is a price in spite of the invitation — this year was $50,000 a ticket and the price of a table began at $300,000.

Since Weekend Bites has yet to receive an invitation to the Met Gala (the price of the entry or table is not in place either), we are not in a position to tell you what really goes on inside. Apparently, it is a secret, guarded by a no-phone and no-social-media policy that the guests must follow. All we get to see are strictly controlled glimpses and, of course, the pushing of the boundaries on the red carpet.

It used to be a much quieter affair till the end of the 1990s. Until Anna Wintour, who has been a high-profile editor of Vogue, the fashion magazine, since 1988, took charge of the Met Gala in 1999 and began her relentless campaign to turn it – successfully – into the party of the year and made the first Monday of May a red-hot day on New York’s social calendar.

The Indian presence at the Gala has been increasing and was headlined this year by Isha Ambani, Alia Bhatt (making her debut), and Priyanka Chopra.

This is Suveen signing off. Please send comments, news, or views about anything — from adventurous fashion trends to blunted samurai swords — to suveen.sinha@bsmail.in.

(Suveen Sinha is Chief Content Editor at Business Standard)

First Published: May 06 2023 | 10:28 AM IST

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