Big Tech’s big trouble: Meta faces data challenge, Amazon tie-up on hold


Traders hold an effigy of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos during the protest as a part of the nationwide campaign 'Bharat Chhodo Morcha' demanding a boycott of foreign e-commerce companies operating in the country, in Bhopal on Monday. (ANI Photo

Much to the disappointment of book lovers, Westland, one of the largest publishing houses in India, is being shut down by e-commerce giant Amazon

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Mumbai

Increase in data rates in India limited the user growth of Meta (formerly Facebook) in the December 2021 quarter, the social media major has said. Telecom companies Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio had increased their mobile service rates in the range of 18 to 25 per cent in the December quarter.

The profit of Meta declined by 8 per cent to $10.28 billion in the December 2021 quarter, from $11.21 billion in the same period a year ago. Data price hikes limited Facebook user growth in India: Meta

“Facebook user growth was impacted by a few headwinds in the fourth quarter. In Asia-Pacific and Rest of World, we believe Covid resurgences during prior periods pulled forward user growth. User growth in India was also limited by an increase in data package pricing.

“In addition to these factors, we believe competitive services are negatively impacting growth, particularly with younger audiences,” Meta’s Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner said during an earnings call.

Its monthly active users (MAUs), however, grew 4 per cent on an annual basis to 2.91 billion, while daily active users (DAUs) increased 5 per cent to 1.93 billion, as of December 31, 2021.

For its family of apps, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Whatsapp etc, monthly active people base increased by 9 per cent y-o-y to 3.59 billion and daily active people base rose 8 per cent on an average to 2.82 billion. The total revenue of Meta jumped by 20 per cent to $33.67 billion during the quarter, from $28 billion in the same period of 2020.

For the year ended December 31, Meta’s net profit increased by 35 per cent to $39.37 billion, compared to $29.15 billion in 2020.

Total revenue climbed 37 per cent to $117.92 billion for the year 2021 from $85.96 billion in 2020.

In another big setback to Big Tech, the Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the Delhi High Court’s 2021 order, refusing to stay the ruling of an international tribunal that had halted the Future Group’s deal with Reliance Group on an appeal by retail giant Amazon, and ordered fresh adjudication over the issue.

The top court bench headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana also quashed two other orders of the High Court over the dispute. It found “procedural errors” with the HC’s orders and said the Future Group was not provided “insufficient” opportunity while dealing with the pleas of US online retail giant Amazon.

The issue dates back to 2020, when Amazon approached the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) arguing that the Future Group’s deal with Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Retail was a violation of their contract. The SIAC subsequently put the Future-Reliance deal on hold.

The Delhi High Court — in its October 29 verdict last year — said it will not interfere with SIAC’s order on the Rs 24,713 crore merger deal. Before that, the HC on February 2 had directed status quo to be maintained concerning the merger deal, and on March 18, it attached the properties of Future Group promoter Kishore Biyani and other officials linked to the company.

Meanwhile, in a related development, much to the disappointment of book lovers, Westland, one of the largest publishing houses in India, is being shut down by e-commerce giant Amazon.  The publishing company, which was acquired by Amazon from Trent Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Group, in 2016, has published works of several bestselling authors, including Amish Tripathi, Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Rujuta Diwekar, Preeti Shenoy, Devdutt Pattanaik, Anuja Chauhan and Ravi Subramanian.

“After a thorough review, we have made the difficult decision to no longer operate Westland. We are working closely with the employees, authors, agents, and distribution partners on this transition and we remain committed to innovating for customers in India,” said Amazon in a statement.

The news regarding the closure came as a shock to the editors, Westland team members and its public relations agency, who according to a staff member requesting anonymity, were informed about the decision today only. It was particularly sad for bestselling fiction writer Ashwin Sanghi, who wrote his debut novel with Westland in 2008 and went on to publish a “dozen books” over that many years.

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