Hey folks!

Edtech was once the most sizzling business in town especially when education moved online during the pandemic. But funding for these startups has plunged by nearly half of what it was in 2021. Thanks to edtechs like Byju’s whose prowess of being in the news for all the wrong reasons shook the trust of venture capitalists!

But then a lot of these startups tried to stay relevant by tying up with foreign universities to offer undergraduate courses. But guess what? The UGC (University Grants Commission) which regulates university education in India has pulled them up. Apparently, such courses don’t have the UGC’s approval. And if students choose to do it, they simply take up the risk of signing up for a course that the UGC doesn’t even recognise.

Maybe if these edtechs just tried to move offline instead like the giant PhysicsWallah (PW) did, they’d be more relevant today. A couple of months ago PW shook hands with approved universities in Bengaluru to offer four-year-long residential programmes in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. And apparently, the competition in this space is getting intense now with another company called Scaler backed by Tiger Global already having a similar business model in place.

But setting up offline colleges again is no easy feat. Moneycontrol suggests that startups in the Kindergarten-12th Grade education business received just about $25 million till August this year. That’s a whopping 98% drop in funding! Funding to higher education and upskilling platforms has also plunged 65%.

So what are these edtech startups going to do now is anyone’s guess.

Here’s a soundtrack to put you in the mood 🎵

Indigo by Dot.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

A couple of things caught our eye this week 👀

How Microsoft Excel became a sport

Spreadsheets can terrify most of us. It reminds us of the dreaded work reports and projects that can be draining. But what if we told you that there are people who spend not just their work day but even leisure hours on Microsoft Excel? What do they do? They game!

Yikes! That can be pretty geeky. But creating financial models and cracking case studies is actually an esport now. It’s called the Microsoft Excel World Championship and live streams on YouTube and ESPN. So how did Microsoft Excel become an esport?

Well, it all started nearly a decade ago when a group of spreadsheet enthusiasts, mostly accountants, actuaries and financial service professionals got together once a year to test their spreadsheet skills. It was called the Financial Modelling World Championship (FMWC). But enter the pandemic, there was no way to have these competitions. That’s when Andrew Grigolyunovich, who also participated in the FMWC (in its early days) and then became chairman teamed up with his colleagues to take the competition to YouTube.

It was also the time when esports was getting a lot of attention since people couldn’t hop out for entertainment. Esports like Counter-Strike were garnering viewers and managed to keep the viewership steady even after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. And that’s exactly how Microsoft came to know of and sponsored the FMWC too.

ESPN broadcasted the FMWC finals last year attracting a whole new audience. According to The Verge “More than 800,000 people have since watched the full 2.5-hour competition on YouTube (ESPN showed a 30-minute edit of the battle), and the folks who started the World Championship say it changed the event’s trajectory forever.”

What happens here, you ask?

People who love spreadsheets and wish to compete simply sign up on FMWC’s official website. They then pass different levels of tasks where they solve complicated puzzles using Excel. And if they make it, they participate in the finals held in Las Vegas.

This week Andrew Ngai aka Annihilator, did a hattrick when he won the championship for the third time since 2019 and took home $15,000 as prize money.

Well, that’s quite a sweepstake to make from something most of us find boring no?

***

Can’t spammers spell?

“Dear customer, H.D,F,C BNK reward points Rs. 9980 was successfully earned of point expired by today. Click now for cash (link)”

I received this SMS a couple of days ago. And since I was busy with work, my mind only registered ‘reward points Rs. 9980’. I knew I had accumulated points on my card so it made sense. But luckily, the work fog in my head cleared up before I could click the link. It was so evidently a spam message.

And spam is a huge problem in India right now. McAfee, the antivirus company, ran a small survey and found that we receive nearly 12 scam-related messages each day across platforms. And we spend nearly 2 hours every week poring through these messages to check their veracity. That’s such a colossal waste of time.

But it also got me thinking - Why do these phishing messages use such poor language and grammar?

Well, for starters, it could help the scammer get past the spam blocker. These blockers might keep an eye out for certain keywords and by misspelling those words, it might be able to slip past and land in your inbox.

And the more important reason is that bad grammar and spelling are the #1 scammer filter. If you can spot the mistakes, the scammer isn’t interested in you. See, scammers spend a lot of time trying to dupe people. And it’s not like they have a 100% success rate. So if you’re someone who’s spotted the mistake, chances are that you’re already fairly smart and tech-savvy. And scammers know that it’s going to be harder to fool you. They only want the gullible ones who can’t pick out the fraud despite the glaring errors.

But the problem here is that as digital penetration rises in India, it’s the already financially unaffluent who will fall prey to scammers. They may not be aware of these tricks of the trade. And will end up parting with their hard-earned money. That’s the unfortunate reality.

Jargon of the day ✏️

Money tips 💰

The thin line between savings and stinginess

Imagine waking up one morning to find out that your toothpaste tube is almost over. What do you do?

I would even out all the paste from the end of the tube and squeeze it all the way towards the cap. That way I’d have enough toothpaste to use for two more weeks. And I know that you’d agree with me on that, especially if you’re Indian.

We love squeezing out every penny’s worth of things we use at home even if it’s not toothpaste. Got a faded or torn tshirt? Use it as a wastecloth for cleaning. Got an old toothbrush? Use it to clean your comb. An empty box of Danish cookies? Use it to store your sewing kit. I can go on and on. But what does all that have to do with money?

Well, in wanting to make the most of things we often forget that we can be silly. Just think of how you bargain with your local vegetable vendor (or sabziwala/li). You always want them to toss in some free coriander, add an extra veggie or pay less per kilo. But we don’t do that at a supermarket. We can’t. Neither do we remember the amount of money spent on things that may not be used to their fullest potential. For instance, may be you signed up for an annual OTT subscription, but you may have been too busy last month to watch anything on it. These little things eat into your savings too. And it’s important to realise that when you bargain. There’s a very thin line between saving money and coming across as stingy.

So the next time you bargain, remember to be sensitive about whom you’re bargaining with. In the end, everyone’s trying to make the most out of their money.

Readers Recommend 🗒️

Two Broke Chicks by Sal & Al

Women Who Travel by Condé Nast Traveler

This week we have two podcast recommendations from our reader Garima Bhatt.

Two Broke Chicks is a podcast by journalists Sally McMullen and Alexandra Hourigan who share life lessons describing themselves as “broke in funds, but rich in life!”

Women Who Travel tells one story every week where the host of the show Lale Arikoglu who is also an editor at Condé Nast Traveler editor interviews female-identifying guests about their most unique travel tales.

Thanks for these interesting recommendations Garima!

Finshots Weekly Quiz 🧩

It’s time to announce the winner of our last week’s quiz. And the winner is…🥁

Sandhya G! Congratulations. Keep an eye on your inbox and we’ll get in touch with you soon to send over your Finshots merch. And for the rest of you, we’ve moved the weekly quiz to our weekly wrapup. So make sure you answer all the questions correctly and tune in here next week to check if you got lucky.

Until then, don’t forget to tell us what you thought of today’s newsletter. And send us your book, music, business movies, documentaries or podcast recommendations. We’ll feature them in the newsletter! Just hit reply to this email (or if you’re reading this on the web, drop us a message: morning@finshots.in).

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