Month: January 2024

Apple tops India smartphone market in revenue share in 2023; Samsung in volumes: Counterpoint

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iPhone maker Apple led India market with highest revenue in 2023 for the first time while Samsung topped the chart in terms of sales volume, market research firm Counterpoint Research said on Wednesday.

While India’s smartphone shipments remained flat in 2023 at 152 million units, Samsung and Chinese mobile phone makers Vivo and Oppo were able to grow their shares, according to Counterpoint’s Monthly India Smartphone Tracker report.

“Apple’s focus on India is also aiding the trend, with the brand surpassing the 10-million-unit mark in shipments and capturing the top position in revenue in a calendar year for the first time, propelled by robust demand for both its latest and older iPhones.

“The opening of own retail stores and increasing focus on large-format retail through regular promotions contributed to increased offline shipments,” Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research Shubham Singh said.

Vivo followed Samsung with 17 per cent market share in terms of volume.

“The first half of the year was challenging due to ongoing macroeconomic turbulence leading to low demand and an inventory build-up. The market started recovering in the second half of the year supported by 5G upgrades and better-than-expected festive sales,” the report said.

Market share of Chinese smartphone players Xioami slipped to third spot from top position in volume market share. The company’s market share fell to 16.5 per cent in 2023 from 20.3 per cent a year ago.

The Indian smartphone market in the December 2023 quarter, however, grew by 25 per cent on a year-on-year basis on account growth in the premium segment and 5G upgrades.

“India’s smartphone market grew in Q4 2023 after declining for a year. The elongated festive season further aided this growth, as the availability of steep discounts, easy financing schemes and lucrative promotions boosted demand,” Counterpoint Research Senior Research Analyst Shilpi Jain said.

She said 5G smartphone shipment share crossed 52 per cent in 2023 with 66 per cent growth on a YoY basis.

“The last quarter (October-December) exited the market with healthy inventory levels compared to last year, setting the right tone for growth for next year. We believe the market will grow by 5 per cent YoY next year driven by premiumization, diffusion of 5G in lower price bands and better macroeconomic conditions,” Jain said.

In the December 2023 quarter, Xiaomi held top position with 18.3 per cent share while Vivo is estimated to be in second spot with 17.3 per cent share, followed by Samsung with 16.8 per cent share, Realme 11.5 per cent and Oppo 9.5 per cent share.

Smartphone makers have increased focus on premium devices, which has been driving growth in their business.

The premium segment, devices priced above Rs 30,000, witnessed a 64 per cent YoY growth in 2023 driven by easy financing schemes, which resulted in consumers jumping price bands to purchase higher-priced smartphones.
“One out of every three smartphones was purchased through financing in 2023,” the report said.

Counterpoint expects foldable smartphones will also become more popular in the premium segment as more companies come up with foldable devices.

“We believe that foldable shipments will cross the 1-million milestone in 2024,” the report said.

Counterpoint expects a growing trend of audio-video enhancements in smartphones, powered by features like dolby atmos, dolby vision and dolby vision recording in 2024.

OnePlus grew by 33 per cent YoY in 2023 driven by offline expansion and better product portfolio in the affordable premium segment which comprises devices in the price range of Rs 30,000-45,000.

Transsion brands grew by 31 per cent YoY mainly driven by a hybrid channel strategy, focus on bringing premium features to the affordable segment and strong presence in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

The only home-grown smartphone brand Lava grew by 36 per cent. Google and Motorola grew by 111 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Travelling to Middle East? Check out these lesser known Middle Eastern marvels | Travel

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The Middle East, known for its diverse culture, rich history and modern marvels, extends far beyond the glitz of Dubai. While the city shines brightly on the travel map, several other destinations in the region now offer distinctive experiences waiting to be discovered and cherished.

Travelling to Middle East? Check out these lesser known Middle Eastern marvels on your next trip (Photo by SALEH on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Lubaina Sheraazi, CEO and Co-Founder of BRANDit, recommended checking out these Middle Eastern destinations beyond Dubai, that offer an array of different experiences from adventure to cultural immersion, varied gastronomy and more –

Catch the complete coverage of Budget 2024 only on HT. Explore now!
  • Doha, Qatar: The Fusion of Tradition and Modernity

Doha, the ever-evolving gem of Qatar, skillfully weaves tradition and modernity into its captivating fabric. The city renowned for its architectural marvels offers an array of experiences that fuse warm Arabic hospitality with contemporary luxury. The cultural tapestry unfolds at Katara Cultural Village, nestled between the expansive beachfront and the twin Katara Hills, where art, culture, and culinary wonders converge at the heart of Doha. Doha’s emergence as an art district further elevates its appeal, captivating enthusiasts with its energetic artistic scene. Visit the iconic National Museum of Qatar, envisioned by the pioneering architect Jean Nouvel, stands as a representation of Qatar’s heritage, depicted through its awe-inspiring design which is reminiscent of a desert rose. Or discover Richard Serra’s magnificent East-West/West-East installation made of colossal steel plates is a monumental testament nestled amidst the limestone formations just beyond Zekreet.

Qatar offers a gastronomic journey like no other, that starts with traditional Qatari flavours and culminates in a selection of dishes from the global cuisine in settings ranging from street food trucks to fine dining restaurants. Thrill seekers can prepare for an adrenaline rush with exciting activities in the mesmerising Khor Al Adaid such as sandboarding, camel rides, and thrilling quad bike and ATV excursions. The thrill extends to various water adventures like sailing, water-skiing, canoeing, kitesurfing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, diving and more thanks to the 560 km of coastline with crystal clear waters and vibrant marine life.

  • Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Gateway to the Red Sea

Jeddah, the gateway to the Red Sea, beckons adventurers with its aquatic wonders. Offering thrilling experiences like snorkelling and scuba diving, this city is more than a marine paradise—it’s a cultural gem. The historic district of Al-Balad showcases ancient architecture and lively souks, introducing visitors to Hijazi cuisine and enriching shopping tours around its landmarks.

  • Muscat, Oman: Experience the Omani Opulence

Muscat, the Omani capital, mesmerises with its luxury and cultural heritage. Discover the allure of the renowned Amouage Perfumery, marvel at architectural wonders like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Mutrah Souq. Witness dolphins in their natural habitat and explore Oman’s rich history at various museums like the Bait Al Zubair Museum which brings the rich cultural heritage right before you. As the oldest independent state in the Arab World, the country has embraced the tenets of modernisation while preserving its quintessential cultural tapestry. Nestled within a dual resort complex is Shangri-La Muscat seamlessly integrating cultural, artistic, culinary and architectural heritage. Its location along the Gulf of Oman pays homage to its rich maritime history even as the architecture is designed to resemble forts, villages, towns, and markets. An in-house Frankincense Sommelier is appointed to give insight into Omani cultural nuances and traditional welcome rituals too.

  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Where History Meets Modern Entertainment

Riyadh, the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, balances historical treasures with a bustling, modern cityscape. Uncover the city’s historical legacy within old palaces and contrast it with the vivid entertainment scenes in places like Riyadh Boulevard. From luxury shopping destinations to thrilling activities like hiking the Edge of the World, Riyadh blends business, entertainment, and cultural richness seamlessly. Held between October to March, Riyadh Season transforms the city into the biggest winter entertainment event in the Middle East with huge concerts, food trucks, cafes and shopping experiences from around the globe. The festivities embody the essence of Saudi Arabia, showcasing its rich Najdi heritage and vibrant present-day dynamism.

  • AlUla, Saudi Arabia: Unveiling Hidden Historical Marvels

AlUla, a treasure trove, entices travellers with its deep historical significance. Home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this land reveals ancient civilizations and stories etched within its rocks and inscriptions. Delight your taste buds with innovative Najdi cuisine against breathtaking views, and embrace exceptional experiences like rock climbing, hiking, and camping under the starry desert sky.

These Middle Eastern destinations offer an array of experiences, blending history, culture and modern allure with the generosity of Arab culture, inviting travellers to explore and appreciate the diverse tapestry woven into the fabric of the region.

Argylle review – The worst movie in ages cruelly deceives Henry Cavill fans | Films | Entertainment

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Matthew Vaughn has made some fantastic action blockbusters over the years, from Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class to the Kingsman movies.

So when the director announced another spy caper starring Henry Cavill – bagging the A-lister before the James Bond producers, as he put it – we were initially very excited.

An all-star cast was announced for Argylle including Dua Lipa, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, John Cena, Samuel L Jackson, Ariana DeBose and more.

It soon became apparent that the film was to be based on debut novelist Elly Conway’s spy thriller of the same name, promising a globetrotting adventure involving a “luxury train speeding towards Moscow” and “a Nazi hoard entombed in the remote mountains of South-West Poland”.

But then came the first trailer for the movie adaptation and suddenly our anticipation was somewhat squashed.

It turned out the blockbuster was taking a meta spin, with the movie actually following fictional Argylle novel author Conway (Howard), who discovered that her books reflect the real-life world of espionage.

It’s not long before Rockwell’s actual spook Aidan drags the writer and her cat (owned by Vaughn’s wife Claudia Schiffer) on an adventure to discover the truth; one in which we were still hoping would have big roles for the other major stars. Tragically this was not the case at all.

Argylle’s trailer and poster turned out to be pure clickbait. Cavill and Dua Lipa are front and centre of the latter and alongside John Cena and Ariana DeBose are only in the movie for a couple of scenes. This is mostly in the film’s opening and was akin to the cameos at the start of Austin Powers’ Goldmember.

Instead what we get is a sub-par, should-have-been-straight-to-streaming-at-best disappointment. Howard and Rockwell’s characters amble off on an incredibly boring quest that made the audience member next to me literally decide to take a nap rather than engage with the utter garbage in front of our eyes.

Of course, there’s plenty of over-the-top action, which is one of Vaughn’s signatures, but it’s tonally completely off given the real-world setting. Lowlights include the silly CGI cat scratching a villain’s face, Conway ice skating on spilt oil as she takes out baddies and the two leads dancing to “our song” – which tastelessly ended up being the just okay AI-aided John Lennon Beatles track Now and Then, released only a few months ago.

The only redeeming feature of being robbed of almost two and half hours of our lives we’ll never get back was the promise at the end of what audiences had been excited about in the first place.

That’s right, after Cavill fans were cruelly tricked into watching this nonsense, there’s a promise that an actual adaptation of the Argylle novel (which is out now) is in the works. And to be honest, after what we’ve just witnessed we’re not even sure if we want it anymore.

The most painful thing about this rubbish is that Vaughn is usually brilliant at making tongue-in-cheek action-packed spy movies.

But having chosen this narrative route (with all its overdone twists and turns inspired by other well-established spook stories) has meant a colossal waste of his and the A-list cast’s talent. An abysmal disappointment.

Argylle hits UK cinemas on February 2 and will stream on Apple TV+ at a later date.

2024 Mazda 3 G20 Evolve review

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It’s still a common sight on Australian roads, but the Mazda 3 isn’t the sales favourite it once was.

The Japanese small car was Australia’s top-selling nameplate once upon a time, and remained a segment leader even once the SUV craze took hold. In 2024 however, it doesn’t even make the Top 20 list.

But that’s not to say it’s because the Mazda 3 is falling behind the pack. If anything it’s still one of the best small cars you can buy, especially as numerous rival brands withdraw their small passenger car nameplates in Australia.

This fourth-generation Mazda 3 first launched in 2019, and has received numerous running changes since but no major facelift or redesign. In my eyes, it’s still one of the best-looking small cars on sale.

Here on test we have the 2024 Mazda 3 G20 Evolve Hatch, the one-up from base hatchback model that can be parked in your driveway for a little over $36,000.

WATCH: Paul’s video review of the 2020 Mazda 3 G25 Astina

Mazda rolled out some running changes last year as part of an MY24 update, including a larger infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the discontinuation of manual and mild-hybrid variants, while the ‘G20’ 2.0-litre petrol engine received a fuel-saving cylinder deactivation function.

How does it fare in today’s super competitive market? Read on to find out.

How does the Mazda 3 fare vs its competitors?

View a detailed breakdown of the Mazda 3 against similarly sized vehicles.

Mazda 3 cutout image

Mazda

Mazda 3

How much does the Mazda 3 cost?

Prices rose for last year’s update by up to $2310, but have remained the same since.

It’s worth noting the Mazda 3 is available as both a hatchback and a sedan, with no price discrepancy between body styles.

Prior to this update, the six-speed automatic commanded a $1000 premium over the now discontinued six-speed manual transmission.

2024 Mazda 3 pricing:

  • Mazda 3 G20 Pure: $30,320
  • Mazda 3 G20 Evolve: $31,870
  • Mazda 3 G20 Touring: $34,520
  • Mazda 3 G25 Evolve SP: $34,520
  • Mazda 3 G25 GT: $38,420
  • Mazda 3 G25 Astina: $42,320

Prices exclude on-road costs

See how the Mazda 3 shapes up against its rivals using our comparison tool.

What is the Mazda 3 like on the inside?

Pretty much the same as it has been since this generation launched, but there’s a larger screen now.

Even as newer rivals have arrived, the now mature-aged Mazda 3 continues to be a benchmark for compact interiors.

From the high ratio of soft-touch materials, stitched leatherette accents, and overall clean design, the Mazda’s cockpit could be mistaken for a premium-branded model if you covered up the badge on the steering wheel.

It’s a very minimalist cabin, with a lot of clean lines and a pared back approach to physical switchgear – though there are still actual knobs and buttons for the climate control, volume and the like.

The steering wheel is another tactile highlight. The classic rounded design with a thin centre hub and clicky buttons looks and feels lovely in the hand, while the grooves and cutouts for your hand feel well thought out.

Comfort up front is likewise very good, with supportive seats that, while manually adjustable, have angle adjustment for the thigh cushion. It’s pretty easy to find the perfect driving position.

Mazda hasn’t rolled out its new digital instrument cluster beyond the Large Architecture range (CX-60, CX-90), though the 3’s 8.0-inch part-digital cluster is a nice balance of new-school meets old-school.

Both the instrument binnacle and Mazda Connect infotainment display offer a minimalist design with beautifully clean fonts, which make for a very classic look. It’s all very easy to read and navigate, too.

You can toggle a couple of different views on the driver’s display too, including a conventional virtual dial with needle, a minimalist driver assistance display, a speedometer with central trip computer. I like the classic one, personally.

Our test car’s optional Vision Technology Pack not only brings more assistance and safety systems, but also a larger 10.25-inch infotainment display – up from 8.8-inch.

While the larger display makes everything a little bigger and clearer, there’s little other differentiation from the smaller Mazda Connect system. You also don’t get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in this spec, which is frustrating given the same unit in the Touring and above do (plus a wireless phone charger).

The Mazda Connect interface comes with embedded satellite navigation, DAB radio, and wired smartphone mirroring. It all works as you’d expect.

An increasing amount of rivals are adding connected services to their infotainment systems, which the Mazda currently lacks. Given the Japanese brand is rolling out telematics and connected services this year starting with the MX-5 sports car, we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the next model-year change for the 3.

Things are perhaps a little less rosy in the rear, especially in the Mazda 3 hatch. The fastback-style roofline and pinched glasshouse mean it’s quite a dark place to sit, and if you’re taller that sloping roofline eats into headroom.

At 6’1 I can squeeze in behind my own driving position with limited knee room and legroom. My VW Golf is far better equipped for people carrying, for example, let alone newer rivals in the segment like the Kia Cerato and Skoda Scala.

Stepping up to the Evolve over the Pure gets you rear air vents and a fold-down centre armrest, which makes the second row a lot more liveable should you need to carry people in the second row.

Other amenities include a map pocket behind the front passenger’s seat (not the driver), bottle holders in the doors, and the requisite child seat anchor points (i.e. ISOFIX and top-tethers).

Arguably the 3 Hatch’s biggest weak spot is the boot, which is among the smallest in class. It offers just 295 litres of capacity with the second row upright – Mazda doesn’t quote a two-seat figure, either.

There’s a steel temporary space saver spare wheel under the boot floor of every Mazda 3.

What’s under the bonnet?

Model Mazda 3 Skyactiv-G 2.0
Engine 2.0L 4cyl petrol
Power 114kW (6000rpm)
Torque 200Nm (4000rpm)
Transmission 6-speed auto
Driven wheels Front-wheel drive
Weight 1414kg
Fuel economy (claim) 5.9L/100km
Fuel economy (observed) 7.7L/100km
Fuel tank size 51 litres
Fuel requirement 91 RON

See how the Mazda 3 shapes up against its rivals using our comparison tool.

How does the Mazda 3 drive?

The Mazda 3 really embodies the brand’s zoom zoom driving philosophy.

Even with the base 2.0-litre petrol engine, the Mazda 3 offers willing performance and engaging dynamics that make even the daily grind a fun time behind the wheel.

There’s a really nice directness and responsiveness to all of the driver controls, though it’s not so connected or unassisted that everyday driving scenarios a chore. If anything, it’s quite the opposite.

I love the buttery fluid steering, and the wonderfully balanced ride that allows for playful and natural body roll in corners to tie in with the keen front end, while also doing a good job at ironing out the lumps and bumps of city driving.

There was a bit of hullabaloo about the 3’s switch from a multilink rear suspension to a torsion beam setup for this generation, and while the hatch in particular can be a little stiff at the rear over harsher imperfections it’s far from uncomfortable and is sort of in keeping with the 3 Hatch’s more athletic and fun focus.

Some may pan the Skyactiv-G 2.0’s meek on-paper outputs as being ‘underdone’, and while its straight-line pace won’t knock your socks off, the revvy petrol engine and six-speed auto make for decent progress.

In normal driving it’s more than adequate, with great naturally aspirated response and snappy shifts, though if you need to gun it you’ll feel it run out of puff at the top end. For most people though, it’s perfectly fine.

There’s a more powerful and more expensive 2.5-litre engine available higher in the range, nearly $3000 dearer in its cheapest form. Said G25 Evolve SP adds a bit more kit too, including keyless entry, a powered driver’s seat and wireless smartphone mirroring, amongst other items – it could well be the sweet spot in the range.

If you like a bit more grunt under your right foot, it could be something to consider.

But should you spend most of your time commuting around the city and the suburbs, you probably won’t need more than what the 2.0-litre offers. Plus, you’re likely to spend less on fuel if you go for the smaller engine.

We saw an indicated return of 7.7 litres per 100km in mixed conditions favouring high-traffic peak-hour commuting, which while up on Mazda’s combined claim 5.9L/100km isn’t a world away from the urban claim of 7.3L/100km.

That said, something like a Volkswagen Golf 110TSI will use a litre or two less, and that gap widens further if you’re looking at something like a Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

Something tells me that if Mazda kept the 24V mild-hybrid system and added cylinder deactivation for the standard engine, we’d see better all-round economy given I’ve observed a circa 1.0L/100km improvement with urban-heavy driving in the past when comparing the outgoing G20 and G20e.

As for driver assistance features in the real world, the Vision Technology-equipped Mazda 3 is decked to the nines with features – I’d strongly recommend the $2000 option pack.

The 360-degree parking camera is a huge help given the coupe-like glasshouse, aided by front parking sensors for that long bonnet. Mazda’s semi-autonomous Cruising & Traffic Assist function also is a pretty intuitive companion on traffic-ridden freeways.

Standard LED headlights with auto on/off and auto high-beam are also sweet, but Mazda why do you persist with the crappy halogen daytime running lights on anything but the flagship grade? At this stage, just make the adaptive LED headlights standard or part of the Vision Technology Pack – I reckon there would be good take up.

What do you get?

Mazda 3 Pure highlights:

  • 16-inch silver alloy wheels
  • Auto LED headlights
  • Auto high-beam
  • Rain-sensing window wipers
  • Auto-folding side mirrors
  • Rear spoiler (Hatch)
  • 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster
  • 8.8-inch Mazda Connect infotainment system
  • DAB+ digital radio
  • Satellite navigation
  • Wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
  • 8-speaker sound system
  • Push-button start
  • Electric park brake
  • Leather-wrapped gear shifter
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Black cloth upholstery

Mazda 3 Evolve adds:

  • 18-inch grey alloy wheels (Hatch)
  • 18-inch silver alloy wheels (Sedan)
  • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Paddle shifters
  • Rear air vents
  • Rear centre armrest

Options

Vision Technology Package:

  • 360-degree view monitor
  • 10.25-inch Mazda Connect display
  • Cruising & Traffic Support
    • Active lane centring
    • Traffic jam assist
  • Driver monitoring
  • Front cross-traffic alert
  • Front parking sensors

Is the Mazda 3 safe?

The Mazda 3 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2019 Euro NCAP testing.

It scored 98 per cent in adult occupant protection, 89 per cent in child occupant protection, 81 per cent in vulnerable road user protection, and 76 per cent in safety assist.

Standard safety features include:

  • 7 airbags incl. driver’s knee
  • Autonomous emergency braking (forward, reverse)
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
  • Reversing camera
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Tyre pressure monitoring

Vision Technology Package* adds:

  • Cruising & Traffic Support
  • Driver monitoring
  • Front cross-traffic alert
  • Front parking sensors
  • Surround-view cameras

*$2000 on G20 Pure, G20 Evolve, G20 Touring, and G25 Evolve SP; $1500 on G25 GT

The Vision Technology Package is standard on the flagship G25 Astina.

How much does the Mazda 3 cost to run?

The 2024 Mazda 3 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

This update has seen the Mazda 3 move to longer 12 months or 15,000km service intervals (up from 10,000km), which is now in line with the industry average.

While not the priciest brand to maintain your car with, Mazda’s scheduled servicing averages out at $400 a year which is a bit more than Toyota and Honda are charging these days.

2024 Mazda 3 service pricing:

Service Interval G20 G25
1yr or 15,000km $334 $341
2yr or 30,000km $530 $536
3yr or 45,000km $414 $414
4yr or 60,000km $530 $536
5yr or 75,000km $334 $341
Total $2142 $2168

CarExpert’s Take on the Mazda 3

There’s still plenty to love about the Mazda 3.

Nearly five years on from launch it’s still a good thing, and arguably a better buy than its increasingly popular CX-30 crossover sibling which now outsells it by some margin.

It’s attractive, fun to drive and has one of the plushest compact car cabins on the market. In Pure and Evolve spec with the Vision Technology Pack, it’s also something of a bargain given the level of high-end features on hand.

Time has started to test the 3, however. Its naturally aspirated engines, while revvy and fun, are losing out to newer and electrified competitors on real-world efficiency. Turbocharged rivals also offer better low-down punch, while competitors with more gears are less stressed on the highway.

You also can’t avoid the inherent packaging drawbacks that come with the rakish looks. The Mazda 3 hatch has one of the smallest boots in class, and a tight rear seat that isn’t a patch on the segment’s best. But if you’re single or a young couple, you shouldn’t really have any issues.

If you want more luxury kit, the 3 has one of the most comprehensive line-ups out there. If you prefer a lifted ride, the CX-30 is effectively the same car – you can’t knock Mazda for not giving you enough choice.

Despite it all, the Mazda 3 remains a solid option that’s easily recommendable. It’s still one of my personal top picks of the class, and the sheer amount of trim options available means you should be able to find one that caters to you and your budget.

Click the images for the full gallery

BUY: Mazda 3
MORE: Everything Mazda 3

Can Israeli-Emirati business ties survive the Gaza war?

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IN 2020 MIDDLE EASTERN commerce was transformed. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a few other countries signed the Abraham Accords with Israel, normalising relations between the Jewish state and some of its Arab neighbours. Israeli tourists flooded into Dubai on the first ever direct flights. In the first eight months of 2023 Dubai welcomed almost 230,000 travellers from Israel, 73% more than in the same period last year. Nowadays travel agencies in Tel Aviv even offer bar-mitzvah tours in the emirate, with pit stops at kosher restaurants.

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Business dealings have blossomed, too. The UAE-Israel Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement came into force in April. Official trade between the two countries is expected to surpass $3bn this year, from nothing in 2019. Last year Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala, reportedly invested $100m in six venture-capital (VC) funds based in Israel or focused on Israeli startups. It also bought a $1bn stake in an offshore natural-gas field from NewMed Energy of Israel. Israeli technology companies such as Liquidity Group, a fintech darling, have opened research-and-development centres in the UAE. Israeli and Emirati universities have forged research partnerships on things like artificial intelligence.

All of this progress is now at risk as a result of the war raging between Israel and Hamas. Since the conflict erupted, reports one Israeli entrepreneur, many Emirati contacts have gone silent. An Israeli-American investor who splits his time between Dubai and Tel Aviv worries that even after the conflict abates, Arab firms will think twice about transacting with Israeli ones.

That would be unwelcome for Israel and the UAE alike. Israeli business confidence was slumping even before the hostilities in Gaza. Proposed reforms to weaken the supreme court worried corporate bosses. Amid a worldwide VC winter, Israeli startups raised less than $4bn in the first half of 2023, the lowest since the same period in 2018. More than two-fifths of Israeli companies surveyed in late October reported that their prospective backers had cancelled or delayed investment agreements. Israel’s businesses could therefore use the UAE’s deep pools of capital and access to its domestic market, especially as their country recovers from hostilities that are, according to surveys, already affecting four in five of its tech firms.

The UAE, for its part, covets Israeli know-how, which could accelerate the country’s economic diversification away from oil and help it keep up with competition from its bigger neighbour, Saudi Arabia, itself in the throes of a modernisation drive (and, until the Gaza war, on course to forge diplomatic ties with Israel). In the past decade private investment in the UAE has declined as a share of GDP. Although the government has put in place various incentives for entrepreneurs, from accelerator programmes to credit guarantees, the IMF has recently pointed to the “weak technology content” of the Emirati economy. Most new tech ventures end up looking like copycats of stale e-commerce businesses. Israel, with its keen technological acumen in areas from digital technology to water desalination and a culture of free enterprise, has a lot to teach the Emiratis.

The commercial logic of continued rapprochement, then, remains sound. Many businesspeople in Israel and the UAE know it—and are hoping that the current pause is just that, rather than a collapse.

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Here’s Why Prices of Ethereum and Polygon Could Surge, Outperforming Top Cryptos in 2024

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The crypto markets have witnessed the emergence of a wide variety of altcoins, which have established a strong presence in the space. In recent times, we have witnessed the AI space gaining more attention. Hence, it is believed that some sectors of the crypto space, including AI, RWA, DeFi, etc could thrive and dominate the markets in the coming days.

Alongside, the Ethereum & Polygon networks are growing stronger regardless of the price actions of their respective native tokens, ETH & MATIC. Interestingly, these networks could become a major base for RWA projects, which are considered the future of the crypto space. As per reports, Ethereum and Polygon host nearly 50% of all the RWA or real-world asset projects, across all blockchains. 

Source: X

Ethereum has been the home for smart contracts, decentralised finance, NFT, etc., and numerous projects have been growing over the network. Meanwhile, Polygon’s large user base, relevance, and popularity have also helped the network gain immense adoption, which has led to RWA adoption. However, the other networks are also trying hard to gain some dominance, while Ethereum & Polygon have set up a strong base.

How will this impact the ETH & MATIC prices?

The growth of the value of the native tokens usually depends on the strength and activity of the chain. The growing interactions over the network make the traders optimistic about the future of the token. This could, in turn, increase the buying pressure, which may positively impact the value in the future. With the resurgence of the AI & RWA projects, the ETH & MATIC prices are believed to thrive in the latter half of 2024.

6 Easy Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience

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What if you created content so great your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an experience?

That scenario can happen when you opt for one or more of these ideas to take your content goals beyond simple consumption and clunky experiences.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

Someone who constantly talks about themselves irritates the listener. Review your content to see how often the words I, me, we, and us are used. Now, count how often the word “you” appears. If the first-person uses outweigh the second-person frequency, edit to delete many of the first-person references and add more second-person references to the text.

Let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text — headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Its color-coded review system identifies categorical problems and common fixes for them:

  • Yellow — lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red — dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink — lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue — adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green — passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. It includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests rephrasing this sentence, “It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content ‘like a media company would.’”  In its place should be this version, “It is no longer good enough to produce content ‘as a media company would.’”

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to engage you. When someone asks something — even in writing — the listener or reader likely pauses for a split second to consider their answer. They change from a passive participant to an active one.

This technique can also encourage readers to interact with the author by answering the questions in the comments section or by emailing.

4. Provide more formats

Adding audio makes your site more accessible to a broader audience, allowing readers to consume your content on the go. This layer of the content experience is fairly easy to do once you find your tool. We use Everlit (free for content creators), but other tools are available, such as:

  • Play.ht (limited free and paid versions)
  • BeyondWords (free and paid versions)
  • Speechify (free with limited TTS features and paid versions)

If you’re pressed for time, simply add and keep updated a reliable audio plugin that requires minimal quality control, advises Michelle Saunders, director of content at Convince & Convert.

Don’t make audio auto-play the default. “It not only takes control away from users, but it also takes up unnecessary bandwidth, slows speed, and negatively impacts SEO,” she says.

However, if you can dedicate a person to quality control, a platform that allows customization of the audio experience is your best option. The image below shows a customized audio player with a thumbnail of the cover image and title of the article.

Want to learn more? I’ve written an article on several ways to elevate the text-to-audio experience for your content. Give it a read (or listen).

CMI also offers video and text versions of its weekly What’s New? feature. Robert Rose records the video and then shares a transcript that is modified to an article by the CMI team for the blog.

5. Include links

Content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Links can help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • Link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point.)
  • List the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article.)

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks at the beginning of long-form content — a table of contents, of sorts — to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek. This technique can keep visitors on your website longer because they find the information they want more quickly.

We included a linked table of contents in CMI’s annual B2B research report, listing 13 topics readers could click and go directly to.

A linked table of contents in CMI’s annual B2B research report, listing 13 topics readers could click and go directly to.

6. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought if it’s considered at all. Yet, alt text for visuals is essential to a great content experience for people using text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default text created by the tech tool works better for audience understanding.

To create the alt text, first, ask what a listener would miss if they couldn’t see the image. If they wouldn’t miss any context, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. It might be used for aesthetic reasons to break up a text-heavy page or repeat information already in the text (as I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above). You also wouldn’t need alt text if you:

If a listener misses context by not seeing the visuals, the image is informative and requires alt text. General alt-text guidelines recommend up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best. That adds up to a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Halloween costumes for cats, I would include an image of my cat Milo in a costume.

If I relied on the AI tool or wrote non-descriptive alt text, it might say: “An image showing a cat.”

Brown tiger cat with white paws, mouth, and nose in a light blue, red, and white shark costume lying on a multi-colored rug.

A more valuable version of alt text — that doesn’t waste any valuable characters with “an image showing” would be: “Brown tiger cat with white paws, mouth, and nose in a light blue, red, and white shark costume lying on a multi-colored rug.”

The more descriptive text used only 124 characters, including spaces.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you create (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please send me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in this article were suggested by the author. If you’d like to suggest a tool, share the article on social media with a comment.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can’t attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

Updated from a January 2023 article.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Byju’s investors express concern over founder’s involvement in business

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Troubled edtech major Byju’s investors have expressed reservations over the company’s founder Byju Raveendran’s involvement in the day-to-day running of the company, according to sources.

This comes at a time when Byju’s kicked off a $200-million fundraise via rights issue on January 29. The valuation is between $230 million and $250million, significantly lower than the company’s last funding round at $22-billion valuation.

The company has not responded to a detailed questionnaire sent by businessline.

The rights issue comes at time when the company is cash strapped and is in need of capital for daily operations.

  • Also read: Byju’s launches rights issue to raise $200 million from existing investors at $230-$250 mn valuation

A rights issue, by design, is a participatory pro-rata means of raising capital, wherein existing shareholders participate and maintain shareholding without the need to ascribe valuations. Staff stock options or ESOPs will be protected as per the terms and the company can issue more options to employees to recoup the loss in value.

Raveendran has to arrange at least $40-42 million for his pro-rata investment in the company, sources added.

“A rights issue allows existing shareholders to maintain their proportional ownership in the company by purchasing additional shares at a predetermined price. It provides an opportunity for companies to raise capital without significantly diluting the ownership stakes of existing shareholders, as they have the first right to subscribe to new share.” said Maulin Salvi, Leader- Startup and Corporate Governance Practice, Nishith Desai Associates.

  • Also read: Byju’s overseas lenders file insolvency proceedings in India
The plan

As per the current plans, Byju’s will only tap external investors if the rights issue is not fully subscribed. However, the current investors are in talks with its internal investment committee for the rights issue.

“Most investors have mid-to-high single-digit stakes in the company. If any investor wants to invest higher than pro-rata, then the fund/individual will stand to gain more stake at a cheap price,” sources added.

In a note to the investors, CEO Byju Raveendran said the company has not ‘shied away from taking several tough decisions’ amid its current challenges. He also revealed that the founders have infused over $1.1 billion of their personal funds into the company over the past 18 months.

FY22 financials

Byju’s posted its FY22 financials reporting a consolidated revenue jump of 118 per cent from ₹2,428 crore in FY21 to ₹5,298 crore in FY22. Its losses also ballooned from ₹4,564 crore in FY21 to ₹8,245 crore in FY22.

Byju’s filed its FY22 financials with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), almost 22 months after the reporting period ended. Meanwhile, the audit of its FY23 financials is yet to be completed even as FY24 is ending.

American banks now offer customers a better deal

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When the Federal Reserve began to raise interest rates more than a year ago, American banks enjoyed a nice little boost. They increased the interest they charged on loans, while keeping the rates they offered on deposits steady. In other countries this move attracted public opprobrium and politicians floated measures to ensure that customers were not swindled. Americans were happy to rely on a more American solution: competition.

It has done its job. Average yields on interest-bearing bank deposits have soared to more than 2.9%, up from 0.1% when the Fed began to raise interest rates. The extent to which higher rates have been passed on to customers—known as the “deposit beta”—has been a popular subject on recent quarterly earnings calls. Despite assurances by bank bosses that they have peaked, betas are likely to keep rising in the coming months, pinching profits.

image: The Economist

The process is being driven by customers shifting their money from low-yielding products to higher-yielding ones. Data from quarterly filings show that the share of bank deposits held in interest-free accounts has fallen from 29% at the end of 2021 to 20%. Had this figure remained constant, bank interest costs would be roughly 10% lower than they are now. Quarterly filings also show that banks which have lost more than 5% of their deposits since the start of the year have increased the average rate on interest-bearing deposits by 2.7 percentage points, compared with a more miserly 2.1 percentage points at those institutions with more secure deposits.

This much is familiar from past Fed tightening cycles. Historically, however, big banks have enjoyed an advantage over smaller peers, owing to their pricing power—something that now appears to be dwindling. America’s “big four” banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup) reported average deposit costs of 2.5% in the third quarter of the year, identical to the median rate across all the country’s banks. And the funding gap between the biggest and smallest institutions has flipped since the last tightening cycle. In 2015-19 banks with assets of at least $250bn paid 0.3 percentage points less on their deposits than banks with less than $100m in assets; today they are paying 0.8 points more.

Brian Foran of Autonomous Research, an advisory firm, suggests that this may reflect greater competition among big banks for corporate and high-net-worth clients, who are most likely to be aware of other, higher-yielding places to stash their cash. When rates were at zero, competition for such deposits was non-existent, notes Mr Foran. Now, with money-market funds offering 5%, the competition is much fiercer.

How much longer will the squeeze continue? Chris McGratty of kbw, an investment bank, says that banks have felt most of the pain, but that costs have a bit further to rise and are likely to stay elevated, given that the Fed has signalled it will keep rates higher for longer than previously expected. Even if the Fed’s policymakers are done raising rates and banks keep yields steady, customers will continue to shift deposits from lower-earning to high-earning products, pushing up costs for banks. This will put pressure on deposits, forcing banks to slow their lending. While savers will benefit from higher rates of return, borrowers are another story altogether. 

For more expert analysis of the biggest stories in economics, finance and markets, sign up to Money Talks, our weekly subscriber-only newsletter.

Florida doctor reveals his own cancer journey to help others handle the emotions a diagnosis brings

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With more than two million new cases of cancer expected in 2024, a Florida physician who survived the disease wants to help others navigate the terrain of a life-changing diagnosis.

Dr. Chris Scuderi, who practices at Millennium Physician Group in Jacksonville, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in Nov. 2020 — at the end of a challenging year amid the COVID pandemic. 

“My diagnosis came as a great surprise because I was in my mid-40s, had no family history, worked out almost every day and overall ate a very healthy diet,” Scuderi told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

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Scuderi had none of the risk factors or typical symptoms normally associated with bladder cancer.

“I thought I had food poisoning,” he said.

A cancer diagnosis can come with a wide range of overwhelming emotions, survivors shared with Fox News Digital. (iStock)

He underwent surgery a week after the diagnosis and then completed a year’s worth of chemotherapy specifically targeted for bladder cancer. 

Today, Scuderi is healthy and cancer-free. He’s made some lifestyle changes, including putting a greater emphasis on eating more plant-based foods and getting regular exercise. 

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“Stress, overwork and irregular sleep were areas of my life I had to address as a physician, husband and father,” he said. 

“Over the past two years, I have been using a fitness tracker to closely monitor my sleep, stress levels and recovery each day, and use this objective data to prioritize my rest.”

Emotional roller-coaster

Each patient’s emotional reaction will be different, Scuderi noted.

“The first few weeks can bring up a lot of emotions, and the unknown is extremely scary,” he said. 

“You don’t know what treatment options you will have or how this will affect your life or your family members’ lives. You don’t know how this will affect your work or future plans.”

Dr. Scuderi - cancer diagnosis

Dr. Chris Scuderi (left), who practices at Millennium Physician Group in Jacksonville, Florida, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in Nov. 2020. “Stress, overwork and irregular sleep were areas of my life I had to address as a physician, husband and father,” he said. (Dr. Chris Scuderi)

“There’s a lot to process, and it feels like your life is stopping while the rest of the world is moving forward.”

Some patients may feel grief over the loss of their health, and the abandonment of plans that must be put on hold, the doctor noted. This can also cause feelings of anger.

Denial is also a common response, as many patients resist the reality of their lives changing.

“The first few weeks can bring up a lot of emotions, and the unknown is extremely scary.”

Anxiety and fear are also typical emotions, Scuderi said, as any cancer diagnosis sparks feelings of uncertainty and unease. 

“Talking with your health care team about the diagnosis, including how you feel about it and the plan for treatment and any next steps, is helpful in relieving some of that anxiety,” he said. 

“It’s also common to wonder, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ or ‘Did I do something to cause this?’” the doctor added. 

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“Patients may have conflicting emotions — like shock, sadness, peace, hope and fear — all at the same time. Knowing you have people on your side and a plan in place makes all the difference.”

Erin Gratsch, an Ohio mother and fitness instructor who received two breast cancer diagnoses — first in 2016, then again in 2022 — also experienced a wide range of emotions, she told Fox News Digital.

The first was shock. “How did this happen to me?”

Erin Gratsch at 2013 Boston Marathon

Two-time cancer survivor Erin Gratsch, shown here, has completed nine Boston Marathons.  (Erin Gratsch)

Next was guilt. “What did I do? Could I have done something to cause or prevent this?”

Anger was another prevalent emotion, especially when Gratsch’s second diagnosis arrived.

“I remember throwing my end table across the family room and it broke into pieces,” she said.

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Gratsch also experienced worry and depression, thinking things like, “Will I die? I don’t want to go through radiation or chemo. How will I pay my bills and work? I don’t want to be a burden to my family. I want to live to become a grandparent.”

Then came survival mode and hope — when Gratsch shifted her outlook to, “OK, what do I have to do to beat this?”

A big shift in perspective

Gratitude plays a big role in Scuderi’s daily routine, he said.

“Before I fall asleep, I identify three things I am grateful for specifically from that day, as I have realized now more than ever that each day is a gift,” he said.

“Many studies show how powerful gratitude is for our health, and it is easy at our current pace to miss many of the great moments and connections we had during our day if we don’t take time to reflect on them.”

Cancer support group

It’s important to have a support team who can help you along the path from diagnosis to treatment and recovery, a doctor said. (iStock)

Scuderi has spent more time with his family and friends since his diagnosis, prioritizing travel and experiences. 

To celebrate the end of his cancer treatments, he hiked the last 100 miles of the Camino de Santiago with a group of good friends. 

“I identify three things I am grateful for specifically from that day.”

“Cancer changes your perspective,” he said. “Getting through a diagnosis and treatment really helps you see what is truly important. It also helped to renew the power of choice in my life.”

Scuderi’s triumph over cancer has also strengthened his belief in the importance of encouragement.

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“There were many people who kept me up during my diagnosis, surgery and treatments,” he told Fox News Digital. “It has since become a mission of mine to encourage others.”

He also emphasized that growth even post-cancer is not linear. “It is sometimes two steps forward and one step back.”

Tips for dealing with post-diagnosis emotions

For those who have just received a diagnosis, Scuderi and Gratsch offer tips for navigating those first days and weeks.

Communicate with your care team

“Talking with your family physician, oncologist and other members of your treatment team will be helpful in managing any anxiety and uncertainty around the diagnosis and fear of what’s next,” said Scuderi.

“Many patients notice their stress lessens when they know what they need to do, and how to take back control of their health.”

Erin Gratsch

“Cancer takes a lot from you — but running and exercising was one thing I could do to feel good about myself,” said Gratsch. (Denise F Photography/Denise Haney)

In Scuderi’s case, the urologist who led his care has been “a huge part” of this journey.  

“It is important to have a team that you can communicate well with and trust,” he added.

Getting a professional second opinion can also help patients feel they’re making the most informed decisions in their care, Gratsch said. 

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“This gives the patient confidence that they are making the right decisions knowing both doctors are recommending the same plan,” she said. “Also, you may get additional advice or information from the second doctor that you didn’t get from the first.”

Build a non-medical support team

In addition to talking with your treatment team, Scuderi said it’s essential to have a support team of loved ones who can help you along the path from diagnosis to treatment and recovery. 

“Don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need extra support,” he said. “It’s OK to be honest — a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming no matter what, and sharing your fears with others can lighten the mental toll so you can put all your energy toward your recovery.”

Woman with doctor

Getting a professional second opinion can also help patients feel they’re making the most informed decisions in their care, a survivor shared with Fox News Digital. (iStock)

Gratsch echoed the advice to allow others to take care of you.

“Take advantage of local resources,” she said. “Social workers, hospitals and oncology offices can refer patients for help with financial support, emotional support groups, rides to treatment and meals.”

Keep up with physical exercise as much as possible

“You may not be able to exercise as intensely as you did previously, but a 20- to 30-minute walk is a great way to relieve stress and feel better,” Scuderi said.

“Being outside when possible may also have benefits to improve our immune systems. Talk with your team about which exercises are best for you.”

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Over the course of her cancer journey — through multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation — Gratsch, an avid runner, maintained about five marathons per year. 

“Cancer takes a lot from you — but running and exercising was one thing I could do to feel good about myself,” she said. 

Continue doing things you enjoy

Pursuing enjoyable hobbies and activities will help to maintain a sense of routine and keep your spirits up, Scuderi said. 

Senior woman pickleball

To maintain a sense of routine and keep your spirits up, pursuing enjoyable hobbies and activities will help, a doctor said. (iStock)

“Sometimes patients with serious illnesses can become depressed due to the emotional toll of cancer, chemotherapy and being in hospital settings, so staying close to your hobbies and loved ones will help reduce these feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” he said.

Focus on the present day

“It’s so important to stay in each day and not get caught up in worrying too much about tomorrow or living in the regret of yesterday,” Scuderi said.

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“Cancer recovery takes a lot of energy — and my patients who do their best to be present in each day seem to do better.”

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