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How access to healthy and tasty packaged food is now an open secret



India may be progressing rapidly across sectors, standing shoulder to shoulder with the superpowers of the world, yet it is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world when it comes to packaged food. “Despite being a $15 dollar category, Indian families don’t have access to healthy and tasty options,” says Ahana Gautam, Co-founder, and CEO, Open Secret.

Growing up in Bharatpur – a small town in Rajasthan – and raised by a working mother, Ahana’s struggle stemmed from her own childhood. “I used to come home from school and binge on junk food. I was thrice my current size and I would fall sick all the time. Back then, I did not know my food habits were impacting my health and well-being,” she recalls.

The desire to do something in the snacks segment was triggered when she was at Harvard Business School. Unlike foreign supermarkets that had aisles full of healthy snacking options, Ahana realised how its Indian counterparts lacked the same when her sister-in-law would struggle with finding healthy snack brands for her daughter. “That reminded me of my childhood,” she says. This led Ahana and co-founder Udit Kejriwal to launch the healthy snack brand Open Secret in 2019.

Mothers at the centre

Ahana says that Open Secret is a purpose-driven company that aims to ask ‘why’ and challenge the norm in the sector with their own twist. “And our Northstar was right in front of us – mothers! Several mothers have guided us on this path to achieve our potential as a brand. Our aim is to un-junk every family’s favourite snacks for India and Bharat,” she says.

The team went on to un-junk some of the most popular snacks like cookies, chocolates, chips, etc – all using ingredients that mothers love and approve of. In chocolates, refined sugar was replaced with jaggery and flour was replaced with cookies. “We leverage nuts to do a lot of un-junking because mothers say that kids like nuts and they have immunity-boosting properties. We have shake mixes, where we remove refined sugar and add jaggery and probiotics for healthier drinks,” she adds.

Another reason that led Ahana to startup was to prove to girls in her hometown – which has the lowest female literacy in the country – that anything is possible. Currently, more than 50 percent of Open Secret’s leadership team consists of women. Ahana also wants to bring back mothers to work, because we need to empower the other gender for India to become a $5 trillion economy.

Towards an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’

As a consumer-first brand, Open Secret follows an omnichannel approach. “Online sales have given us nationwide visibility and more than 80 percent of our sales come from online channels. Offline channels on the other hand have given us deeper penetration in areas where we were seeing good online traction. And today more than 50 percent of orders belong to these very pin codes,” she reveals.

Ahana says the team has always resonated strongly with the belief of an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, and this reflects in their operations as well, where they manufacture their own snacks by employing women from local communities.

“So when you see .in, you know we want to build a brand for Indian families, made in India. Gone are the days when Indians would source high-quality products from abroad. We are building a brand where Indian families do not have to look at international brands for quality,” she says.

The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) has helped hundreds of businesses like Open Secret to distinguish themselves as a brand with its .in or .Bharat domain — which is India’s Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). It’s among the few internet exchanges in the world to offer a ccTLD in multiple languages.

“A .in extension has only helped in amplifying our intention to give back to society in the kind of work we do and the initiatives we run for mothers. Our website helps understand the customer better and e-commerce gives a budding business like ours a pan-India presence,” she adds.

The journey ahead

Open Secret made the most of the pandemic and thought it was a good time to scale. And it paid off. “In the past 12 months, we not only grew our cookie business and expanded our presence in six more categories but also launched nuts, cereals and shake mixes,” says Ahana.

Their B2C website was also a major growth channel through which the team received feedback from customers on the launch of new products. Ahana credits their rapid growth and new launches to the feedback of their customers that helped them with insights about new innovations. “It took us six months to launch cookies. We moved extremely fast,” she adds.

In the past one year, Open Secret has grown 10x. Ahana says that the huge growth trajectory is due to families snacking more and realising the importance of eating better. Today, Open Secret’s customers range from across the country – from Mumbai to Bharatpur. And Ahana is further looking at expanding their distribution process to reach more people.

As Open Secret gears up for growth in the next few years, Ahana insists that the vision remains the same – the need for every Indian family to snack better with tasty and healthy options. “We have five more launches coming up in the savoury categories – something which customers wanted,” she signs off.

The ‘Shaping India Inc’s Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.

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The FTC files suit to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition



The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. It contends that the acquisition, if completed, would give Microsoft an unfair advantage over its competitors.

This morning, the four-person commission voted to issue the lawsuit. The three Democrat members (chair Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya) voted in favor and the Republican (Christine Wilson) voted against. The commission allegedly met with Microsoft the day prior to discuss concessions, according to a report from The Washington Post.

If its news release is anything to go by, the commissioners weren’t convinced that Microsoft wouldn’t withhold Activision Blizzard’s popular games from competing services. The FTC cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax, and how games such as Starfield and Redfall became exclusive following its close.

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement, “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”


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The FTC is not the only government body to express concern about the implications of the acquisition. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating. It recently closed Phase One of the investigation, and expressed concerns in its issues statement.

The history of the planned acquisition

Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the publisher in January. Through this acquisition, it would become the regent of popular gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and many others. Reportedly, it offered around $69 billion for Activision Blizzard.

The concerns about the scale of the acquisition emerged almost as soon as it was announced. The FTC reportedly moved to investigate the deal almost immediately. Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said at the time that Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3 billion if the deal was blocked.

The current focal point of the antitrust concerns is the Call of Duty franchise. Sony has repeatedly contended, in public statements primarily aimed at the CMA’s investigation, that Microsoft could undermine its competition via these popular and lucrative games. It could, according to Sony, either outright stop publishing them on Sony’s platforms, or it could offer them on its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Sony claims Call of Duty on Game Pass would diminish demand for Sony consoles even if Call of Duty is still published on them.

Microsoft has, in turn, responded that its competitors have plenty of exclusive titles of their own. It’s also offered to sign 10-year deals with Sony, Nintendo and Valve (the company behind PC games store Steam) to offer Call of Duty titles on their platforms. It announced earlier this week that it has inked such a deal with Nintendo.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge, “We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”

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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch



As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 

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Kubernetes Gateway API reality check: Ingress controller is still needed



No doubt the new Kubernetes excitement is the Gateway API. One of the more significant changes in the Kubernetes project, the Gateway API is sorely needed. More granular and robust control over Kubernetes service networking better addresses the growing number of use cases and roles within the cloud-native paradigm.

Shared architecture — at all scales — requires flexible, scalable and extensible means to manage, observe and secure that infrastructure. The Gateway API is designed for those tasks. Once fully matured, it will help developers, SREs, platform teams, architects and CTOs by making Kubernetes infrastructure tooling and governance more modular and less bespoke.

But let’s be sure the hype does not get ahead of today’s needs.

The past and future Kubernetes gateway API

There remains a gap between present and future states of Ingress control in Kubernetes. This has led to a common misconception that the Gateway API will replace the Kubernetes Ingress Controller (KIC) in the near term or make it less useful over the longer term. This view is incorrect for multiple reasons.


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Ingress controllers are now embedded in the functional architecture of most Kubernetes deployments. They have become de facto. At some point, the Gateway API will be sufficiently mature to replace all functionality of the Ingress API and even the implementation-specific annotations and custom resources that many of the Ingress implementations use, but that day remains far off.

Today, most IT organizations are still either in the early adoption or the testing stage with Kubernetes. For many, just getting comfortable with the new architecture, networking constructs, and application and service management requirements requires considerable internal education and digestion.

Gateway API and Ingress controllers are not mutually exclusive

As we’ve done at NGINX, other Ingress maintainers will presumably implement the Gateway API in their products to take advantage of the new functionality and stay current with the Kubernetes API and project. Just as RESTful APIs are useful for many tasks, the Kubernetes API underpins many products and services, all built on the foundation of its powerful container orchestration engine.

The Gateway API is designed to be a universal component layer for managing service connectivity and behaviors within Kubernetes. It is expressive and extensible, making it useful for many roles, from DevOps to security to NetOps.

As a team that has invested considerable resources into an open source Ingress controller, NGINX could have chosen to integrate the Gateway API into our existing work. Instead, we elected to leverage the Gateway API as a standalone, more open-ended project. We chose this path so as not to project the existing constraints of our Ingress controller implementation onto ways we might hope to use the Gateway API or NGINX in the future. With fewer constraints, it is easier to fail faster or to explore new designs and concepts. Like most cloud-native technology, the Gateway API construct is designed for loose coupling and modularity ­— even more so than the Ingress controller, in fact.

We are also hopeful that some of our new work around the Gateway API is taken back into the open-source community. We have been present in the Kubernetes community for quite some time and are increasing our open-source efforts around the Gateway API.

It could be interpreted that the evolving API provides an invaluable insertion point and opportunity for a “do-over” on service networking. But that does not mean that everyone is quick to toss out years of investment in other projects. Ingress will continue to be important as Gateway API matures and develops, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Plan for a hybrid future

Does it sound like we think the Kubernetes world should have its Gateway API cake and eat its Ingress controller too? Well, we do. Guilty as charged. Bottom line: We believe Kubernetes is a big tent with plenty of room for both new constructs and older categories. Improving on existing Ingress controllers —which were tethered to a limited annotation capability that induced complexity and reduced modularity — remains critical for organizations for the foreseeable future.

Yes, the Gateway API will help us improve Ingress controllers and unleash innovation, but it’s an API, not a product category. This new API is not a magic wand nor a silver bullet. Smart teams are planning for this hybrid future, learning about the improvements the Gateway API will bring while continuing to plan around ongoing Ingress controller improvement. The beauty of this hybrid reality is that everyone can run clusters in the way they know and desire. Every team gets what they want and need.

Brian Ehlert is director of product management at NGINX.

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