The Nobel Prizes for 2022 are done and dusted. And we wrote about why three US-based economists won the economics award for their work on understanding banking crises.
But have you ever wondered about the origins of this award? Or even who doles out the prize money each year?
Okay. So, the Nobel Prize was established in 1905 in honour of the brilliant Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. But here’s the thing…it’s not as if someone woke up one fine day and said, “Hey, I think we should honour Alfred Nobel by distributing an award in his name.” Nope. It was Nobel himself who explicitly asked for it in his will.
Well, the story goes that when Alfred Nobel’s brother Ludvig died in 1888, a French newspaper erroneously thought that it was Alfred who’d passed. And they printed an obituary for Alfred Nobel instead. They labelled him 'Le marchand de la mort est mort'. Translated to English, it read 'The Merchant of Death Is Dead.' They were referencing his invention of the dynamite that was used in many wars and killed people!
As a prolific inventor with over 355 patents to his name, Nobel didn’t want his legacy to be just about destruction. He wanted to be remembered for good.
So he donated his fortunes, which was 31 million Swedish Kroner at that time (worth over 2 billion SEK in today’s value), to this cause and asked for awards to be instituted in 5 disciplines — physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Peace, get it!
Sidebar: The Nobel Prize in Economics was introduced only in 1968
Anyway, he’d even laid out specific instructions on how his fortunes should be managed. He recommended investments in “safe securities”. These investments would earn interest. And that portion would be handed out to the winners.
But in the 1950s, the Nobel Foundation went, “Look, the money should probably grow a bit faster. Let’s invest in stocks too.” They got the green light from the Swedish government and began diversifying a bit more.
So yeah, that’s how each Nobel Prize winner gets a reward of 10 million SEK today.
Anyway…with that long intro out of the way, let’s move on.
Here’s a soundtrack to get you in the mood 🎵
Pahadon Mein by Salman Elahi
Shoutout to our reader Yogesh Arora for this soothing recommendation.
Ready to tap your foot along? Let’s get started then.
What caught our eye this week 👀
Correlation is not causation?
On Friday, social media was abuzz with one particular story: UPI has killed India’s toffee business. Everyone has latched on to a post on LinkedIn by the founder of GrowthX.
The contention was simple. Back in the day, we used to hand a ₹10 note to the shopkeeper to pay for an item worth ₹8. Since they never had any change, they’d give us a couple of candies or toffees instead of paying the balance in cash. But now that everyone seemingly uses UPI to make payments, there’s no need for ‘toffees as change’ anymore. And toffee makers have seen their sales plummet after the pandemic.
But is it true?
Not everyone thinks so.
Deepak Shenoy, an investment veteran, decided to look at the numbers of Lotte India (the makers of Coffy Bite). He found that the company reported phenomenal sales last year.
So yeah it doesn't seem as if UPI is killing toffee, for now.*
What are your thoughts?
This didn’t make the cut ✂️
Remember our story on Maiden Pharma?
In it, we focused on contaminated cough syrups and the probable regulatory lapses that could have led to the deaths in Gambia, as alleged by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But since then, there has been some debate on whether the cough syrups were in fact responsible for what happened to those poor children. During the early part of the investigation, Gambian authorities believed E-coli (a bacteria) or tainted paracetamol could have caused the adverse reaction. But do note that the investigation was still in its infancy at the time. And on October 5th, WHO released a product medical alert flagging four contaminated medicines prepared by Maiden Pharma and urged countries to remove them off their shelves. Then, in a press conference they noted that these tainted products may have been responsible for kidney injuries and the unfortunate deaths in Gambia.
But wait, how did they rule out E-coli and why did it take a month to establish the connection?
Well, Gambian officials did not have the necessary equipment to fully study the matter and WHO had to step in. And they haven’t ruled out E-coli yet. They simply noted that the syrups were the likely culprit.
How? you ask.
Well, initially they believed E-coli contaminated water could have played a part. And the children did test positive for E-Coli in 60% of the cases. But the preliminary investigation also showed that the illness wasn’t detected among siblings of similar age or household members. So if they were all drinking contaminated water, why were a few select children falling so terribly sick?
Well, we don’t know. But maybe that’s why WHO believes the syrups could be the culprit. In any case, Indian authorities have requested more data from the health authorities at WHO to establish the causal connection and the investigation is still ongoing.
Maybe we will finally know what killed those children in a few days.
Having said that, there’s very little doubt that the cough syrups were unfit for consumption. And there’s something else that caught our eye when writing the story.
A few years ago, a research report published by a bunch of professors in Canada and the US found something startling. In the report, they mention and we quote, “Made in India’ drugs purchased from Africa are of worse quality than those purchased within India, and from Non-Africa countries outside of India.”
Yup, they examined the quality of 1470 antibiotic and tuberculosis drug samples that were said to be from India and found that 11% of the products failed a basic assessment test. The formulations of the drugs in most cases did not have enough dosage to combat the intended malaise.
And while they didn’t come to a rock-solid conclusion back then, they felt this would have something to do with two things.
- Poorer nations could be willing to accept less-than-perfect medicines if the price is lower. So Indian suppliers may simply be filling a market gap. To put this in perspective, Gambia’s GDP per capita stands at ~$836 versus India’s $2,183. So cheaper drugs are going to be welcomed with open arms.
- African regulatory oversight is weaker. And exporters could perform minimal quality checks when they send over medicines to low-income countries because they know that drug quality isn’t of utmost importance to them
Even the WHO has found that 1 in 10 medical products in developing countries are either substandard or completely falsified. And most of these make their way into Africa.
So yeah, it looks like the problem of ‘dumping’ unfortunately exists. And one can only hope that things change for the better. We don’t need more people dying due to the callousness of corporate greed.
Money tips 💰
You love your company. The work you do is fulfilling. The pay is solid. Even your boss is fun and empathetic. And you imagine your ‘early’ retirement party at this company.
But one day, things turn topsy turvy.
The company gets a new investor on board. You have a new boss. Things change drastically and the environment becomes toxic. You don’t feel valued anymore.
And you’re in a bit of a pickle. You want to quit your job and practice some self-care. But you also hope that if you grit your teeth and hold on, things could get better. After all, quitting now could derail your plans for early retirement.
You look at your emergency fund — it’s worth 3 months of your expenses. Just like what financial planners say. But you know it’s for a rainy day only — things like emergency travel, a dental issue, a car repair, and stuff like that.
You then look at your retirement fund that’s growing slowly and steadily. You don’t want to break it either. That’s your long-term nest egg.
Well, it’s for moments like this that you need something called FU Money. I don’t need to explain what that stands for, do I?
Put simply, it is money that allows you to live and choose to do as you please. FU Money is the freedom to walk away from your job. To do something new. Or do nothing at all for a while.
But remember, FU money isn’t going to appear magically overnight. You need at least 1-2 years of your expenses set aside for this goal. It’s going to take a while to get there and it’s not going to be easy to save up. Especially when we have so many distractions that scream, “buy me!!!”
But the freedom you get at the end of it all is going to be worth it.
Readers Recommend 🗒️
Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis by VICE and HBO
It’s a perfectly timed recommendation from our reader Ashish Ahuja.
Well, remember what we said about the Nobel Prize in Economics? It was all about research on bank collapses and financial crises. And we’d even written a story about whether Credit Suisse could trigger another banking crisis.
So in light of that, maybe it’s a good time to revisit the 2008 crisis and discover what really happened back then.
Anyway, that’s it from us today. What do you think of this edition of Sunny Side Up? Send your bouquets and brickbats by replying to this email (or if you’re reading this on the web, drop us a message: firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Like clockwork, we’ll see you next Sunday!
*Correction: In an earlier version of the draft, we noted that sale of Coffy Bite may have still taken a beating despite the topline growth, considering the company also sells Choco Pie. But the annual report noted explicitly that sales of both Coffy Bite and Choco Pie increased this year and we have edited the draft to convey this detail. The error is regretted.