Things we are reading today - November 30th, 2023

PhonePe, an Indian fintech giant backed by Walmart, is planning to launch consumer lending in January 2024. They aim to first act as a distributor for personal loans from banks and NBFCs to build up their credit underwriting abilities. Over the next 6-7 months, PhonePe plans to introduce multiple consumer credit products, potentially including a credit line next year. Currently, PhonePe distributes insurance policies through its platform and has sold over 5.6 million policies. Entering consumer lending would allow PhonePe to replicate its success in insurance. In June, PhonePe launched merchant lending to leverage its network of over 35 million businesses.

For the first time, a commercial plane flew across the Atlantic using only sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) instead of fossil fuels. However, SAFs currently account for just 0.1% of airlines’ fuel consumption due to limited production. While SAFs can immediately reduce aviation emissions when blended with conventional fuel, they are still more expensive. In the long run, new technologies will be needed for zero-carbon flights using batteries, hydrogen, or other alternatives. SAFs provide a bridge to reduce emissions until then. Interestingly, the record-breaking SAF flight required a special blend including plant-based synthetic fuel to replace aromatic compounds essential for engine performance with 100% biofuel. Governments and industry are working to boost SAF supply and demand through incentives and carbon credit programs, but production must greatly increase to make a sizable impact.

The issue of capital flight from India was discussed at a high-level meeting of the finance ministry. Officials stressed the need for factual analysis before reacting to perceptions of capital flight. One suggestion to curb capital flight was to introduce an exit tax on high net-worth individuals taking wealth out of India. Reforming the tax filing system and greater coordination between tax departments were also proposed to make compliance easier and retain capital. The meeting minutes noted the debate around positive versus negative policy approaches. Estimates show India lost over 6,500 high-net-worth individuals in 2023, continuing a trend of wealth leaving the country. Prime Minister Modi recently voiced concern about Indians traveling abroad for weddings and spending money outside India.