Seema Singh

CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

85 Articles published

Top Comments by Seema Singh

Reliance Jio wants India's 2G users. So it's killing 2G

Adithya, it's not contradictory. It means, relatively speaking, Airtel would not spend too much on migrating 2G users to 4G because it'd still be a big bet whether these users would move to a higher plan (or whether Airtel would be able to sell enough services) with a subsidised 4G smartphone. On the other hand, given the sheer size of this user base, it'd continue to run its 2G network as long as it can. I'm sure they'd have done their math too - what is the tipping point where shutting down 2G and losing out on those users would be offset by 4G users.

Seema Singh

Saving Indian vaccine makers from Covid (pseudo) nationalism

Mahesh, I have no gripe. My job is to report and initiate or contribute to public discourses. To your point on the market share, which a few other readers have incorrectly raised too, Indian vaccine makers don't have a signifiant market share. The global vaccine market in 2020 is about $35-38 billion. Indian vaccine makers, if you add their total vaccine earnings, together gross less than $1.5B in annual revenue. So that's nowhere close to any significant market share. As I have said before, none of these companies sell in any regulated market, most supply to governments or Aid agencies. It's not about aping the rich countries at all. It's about building your base. Think about it- other than Zydus no one has a vaccine candidate of their. It's all US collaboration. Why? As for finding funds, not sure how much VC investment in life "sciences" you follow in India. There's no risk capital available because there's no e-comm or edtech like exit in this sector. It's a slow burn, long gestation sector. There's been a dearth of great startups, but there's been a greater dearth of risk capital for life sciences. I've followed this sector for very long and hence say this with some conviction. Plus, vaccine manufacturing is complex (not like generics).

Seema Singh

Saving Indian vaccine makers from Covid (pseudo) nationalism

Harsh, agreed. These are two separate issues, but yet they are related. All these companies have grown because of plugging into the global Aid supply chain. They've remained small (relative to their age), almost like a cottage industry. If this pandemic can give them some size and scale, it's good for both India and these companies because there's a resurgence in vaccines. Both for preventive and therapeutic use. And who knows what bug will nature throw at us next. What most of these companies produce are generic vaccines, tried & tested but old technology. It's time they upped their game. But for that you need a strong balance sheet. Which is why I published their revenue and profit numbers. There's no reason they should go on the generic drugs path of Indian pharma and only dabble in old technology and patent-expired products. I know for sure that Bharat has a novel Zika vaccine candidate, discovered and patented months before the outbreak in Brazil. The vaccine couldn't move beyond a point because there was no R&D support and ICMR was even suspicious that Bharat worked on a Zika vaccine when there was no outbreak. Innovation doesn't happen in that manner. Anyhow, that was a long answer to why we need to demand transparency and quality but also support industry to move up the value chain.

Seema Singh

Saving Indian vaccine makers from Covid (pseudo) nationalism

Abhijeet, that'd be a tactical and shortsighted approach. To use fiat instead of helping build infrastructure for long term. All Indian vaccine makers put together constitute the biggest suppliers, but to the international aid agencies like WHO, UNICEF and GAVI. They are not the largest sellers in the private market globally. (They just don't have the muscle to build a private market. MNCs dominate that.) The govt has no business to disrupt the supply to these aid agencies which are for regular immunisation programmes. Even if GOI did, they'd only get some capacity. World over, vaccine companies are adding capacity, they are not substituting. Advance purchase orders will help these companies build capacity and infrastructure.

Seema Singh

Telecom regulator’s 5-year legacy: unforgettable and unforgivable

Well, we are talking a new telco here, not any hypothetical startup. You think a new telco can buy spectrum license, set up all the infra and do this all over again? I don't think so, nor does anyone in the telecom industry or TRAI or DOT for that matter. Let TRAI or TDSAT come and say this is incorrect, and I'll correct it. Till then we'll wait for another telco, or as you say, any startup to do it all over again. Moreover, there's an element of interpretation in my statement. I am surprised why you are failing to see that.

Seema Singh

Telecom regulator’s 5-year legacy: unforgettable and unforgivable

Pls refer to Point 9.4 in the TTO -- "The Authority is also of the view that there is no need to further restrict the time period of promotional offer from existing stipulation of 90 days. Currently, while the offer period is restricted to 90 days, there is no restriction on the period of benefit to consumers. Regulatory Principles applicable for regular tariff offers are equally applicable to promotional offers as well."

Seema Singh

Telecom regulator’s 5-year legacy: unforgettable and unforgivable

Mahesh, the story doesn't take a myopic view. It just shows how regulation wise, we did poorly. Nobody denies customers benefited with Jio's entry or that it expedited the adoption of 4G, but it was an artificially created boom. Tomorrow if only one or two telcos are left, and then they start squeezing customers or stop innovating, where would competition come from to correct the market? Anyhow, the story is not about customers, it's about the regulatory mess India has created in telecom. Jio had better technology, it'd have acquired customers in any case. There was no need for bending rules to benefit one telco over the other.

Seema Singh

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