And another weekend comes to an end, hope everyone is safe and social distancing at home. Some possible scary times ahead especially with how NY is turning into the new epicenter. In some good news, the Bay Area (incl. SF) has been able to, so far, flatten the curve to buy the state and local authorities time to ramp up hospital facilities and there’s a sense of positivity there. Today is the fourth week of me working from home and it has become the new normal now, so if any of you still feel a bit antsy about working from home, don’t worry everyone originally felt it and soon it’ll feel somewhat normal :). On to today’s news, Houseparty is getting really popular in India (and the world) & how the Indian tech industry could use COVID as a catalyst to change radically.
So I’m not sure if some of y’all have read this piece yet, but I really enjoyed it. We don’t get too many pieces that are well written and make you think and debate.
I’m going to skip summarizing the introduction but the meat of the piece is around how India needs to strengthen safety nets for citizens & businesses both large and small. The US finally passed the COVID relief bill that will send $1200 to American citizens directly (if they make under some amount), and we’ve seen some local governments announce to do the same. America has been trying to figure out how exactly to get money to its citizens, while India could do this very easily since it built the payment & identity rails with UPI & Aadhar.
But just giving people money isn’t enough, we need loans for small and medium businesses (like America’s $350B in aid for small businesses). But unfortunately India’s banking sector itself doesn’t have the resources to put up that kind of low-interest unsecured capital to small and local businesses which have been hit the hardest.
With India’s Account Aggregator spec, entities might be able to better underwrite loans to businesses with the data available and with the hugely successful payment stack, anyone can start providing capital to underwrite these loans.
But would companies want to undertake these loans is the question I have. The author mentions Swiggy as a possible lending service provider offering low value short term loans to (presumably) restaurants on its platform. But would they want to underwrite these loans themselves already being a high burn business in uncertain times where flat and discount rounds are becoming the recent norms.
Secondly, as the author mentions there is definitely a trust deficit amongst startups & using public infrastructure. Does the Data Protection Bill do a good enough job to protect a consumer’s data once Account Aggregators are live. How does this evolve over time, would India remain a country where privacy is still respected or will the government be able to track citizens more because they own the public infrastructure for data, identity & payments.
I work for a company whose core essence is that your personal data should be vaulted in a trusted third party source that cannot be taken advantage of, and the state has the ability to take advantage of your data if it has a greater access to it.
On a much lighter note, the popular social group video app called Houseparty has quite quickly risen the charts in India and is being used very widely (most of my friends in both the US & India now have the app).
With people stuck at their homes, they want a more intimate way of connection with their social circle and are moving towards apps with an audio or video aspect. Houseparty lets you call your friends (multiple at a time) and play games with them as y’all chat or shoot the shit.
The best (or most annoying) part of the app is that it sends you a notification any time any of your friends are “in the house” aka available to chat so you can quickly pop-in and chat for a bit with them.
This is slowly becoming the social app that I spend the most amount of time on (other than Twitter), I think I spent over 2 hours/day this weekend alone.
Houseparty and other social products like NetflixParty could be indicators of what social products will look like in a post COVID world. I personally think that most gaming application will have a video aspect to them for when you play with your friends because it enhances the experience significantly. Imagine Ludo King with live video or playing poker while in a Zoom like interface. It would 100% make the game significantly more fun.