NFT: An Opportunistic Future or a Bubble?

by Sandeep Kumar | April 9, 2021

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An NFT is an on-chain token of an off-chain asset. At the most bare-bones, it is a social contract between the asset creator and the surrounding community.

So, what makes it different from a crypto currency and what is this fuss about non fungibility. An NFT is a digital token that’s like a cryptocurrency but can’t be exchanged for another NFT. This is what makes it non fungible. A bitcoin for a bitcoin, but not one NFT for another. Each NFT is different and unique.

This token is added to a blockchain that supports this special ‘NFT type’ token (such as Ethereum) recording the details of ownership of some commodity, somewhat like how a house deed records the ownership of a house.

The only catch is the commodity, the off-chain asset, must be ownable and somewhat nonfungible. So, you can’t have an NFT on currencies or gold (non-fungibility), nor on Mars or Niagara Falls or the Mona Lisa (unless you own the Mona Lisa of course, then you can do whatever you want, also its highly likely won’t be reading this anyway).

Examples of NFTs Trades: 

  • Digital Art: The $590,000 selling of the famous Nyan Cat Gif, for example, could have only happened because of the meme’s enormous success over the years. 
  • Sports Collectibles: Similarly, the NBA’s highest-selling NFT was a highlight reel of LeBron James, which sold for $200,000. Less well-known players, on the other hand, had reels that sold for as little as $9.
  • Tweets: In March, Jack Dorsey’s original tweet sold for $2.5 Million, paving the way for more similar deals.

Why all this chatter on NFT then?

Because NFT allows storing more data per block. Bitcoin blocks allow only 1MB of data for example, just enough to record a bunch of transactions and some other details. 

This single feature elevates the NFT from more than just a ledger that records transactions (essentially what a cryptocurrency is) to record/store the ownership of pretty much anything such as jpeg files, music files, videos, internet domains, real estate, vintage cars, in-game purchases, art pieces, ad spaces, unlisted shares, horses, just anything.

So just to make things clear, if you are an artist, this is an easy way to monetize your work securely. NFTs also allow a share to the artist each time the NFT changes hands.

As a buyer, which you most likely are, you can buy NFTs of an autograph or highlight reels of an upcoming sports star that you think may strike it big. If in case that happens, it is likely the value of the NFT would have climbed manifolds.

Role of the community in guaranteeing NFTs

Unlike the fiat currencies that are legally backed by central banks, gold, governments and who knows what, a particular NFT only falls back on its scarcity to back it up (the other two tenets of an NFT are its utility and authenticity, both of which are not as effective as an NFTs scarcity is). The ploy of scarcity is a delicate one. The artist or NFT holder may not be able to enforce his ownership, may not get any special rights to own it, may very simply be fooled into buying that NFT or the creator may break its promise. It is the community however that enforces scarcity and hence values it. The creator of the NFT has no say in it.

The value of the NFT comes not from the NFT or the art or the off chain assets that it brings on the chain, it is the NFT and on chain assets’ community and its interactions that hold and/or derive value. It is not the NFT, but the community that is holding value. Most NFTs are worthless, but a few NFTs are focal points of creators and admirers both. Call it a digital bandstand or an art gallery if you wish. 

NFT “An Opportunistic Future”

  • NFT can be a new revenue stream for gaming, sports, art and technology.
  • Like Decentraland, NFTs can transform our attitudes toward ownership and make it possible to own a real-world asset that’s thousands of miles away.
  • Many crypto unknowns could introduce cryptocurrencies for the very first time through NFTs.

Risk associated with NFT

  • It may end up like the initial ICO (initial coin offering) craze as people’s attention shifted to other technology and the space cooled down.
  • What may seem like a hot commodity today may not be as so in the future as seen in the case of Jack Dorsey’s tweet.  
  • Complaints of several pieces of art being stolen and purchased as NFTs leaving the original art creators with no proof of their work.
  • NFT owners must also trust that the maker will not produce another batch of tokens with nearly identical artwork, devaluing the NFT they paid for.

Why the craze of NFT holds despite the associated risk? 

NFTs can be called collectibles. People buy paintings or any other kind of physical art for the same purpose. Utility, authenticity, and scarcity are typically the driving factors behind their demand. 

The obvious one is utility. People are willing to pay for an NFT ticket because it helps them to attend a meeting. Alternatively, they are more likely to purchase art if they can view it in a virtual environment. They’re also willing to spend money on an object that gives them unique abilities in a game. The definition of authenticity explains how an NFT works. What was the source of it? Who has owned it previously? Finally, Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting “The Mona Lisa” better describes scarcity. There may exist millions of copies, yet there’s only one original Mona Lisa.

The big player of the NFT market

OpenSea is the first and largest marketplace for user-owned digital goods, which include collectibles, gaming items, domain names, digital art, and other assets backed by a blockchain-based in New York. The number of unique participants after the bubble of 2018 has grown steadily from 8,500 accounts in February of 2018 to over 20,000 accounts in December of 2019. The market is driven by a core group of power users. On OpenSea, the median seller has sold $71.9 worth of stuff, whereas the average seller has sold $1,178 worth of stuff, indicating a large number of power sellers.

Market sentiments and perception

The market for non-fungible tokens is quite small (yet). It is also harder to measure than cryptocurrencies due to the lack of spot prices. Focussing only on secondary trading volume (peer-to-peer sales of NFT, not the creation of NFTs) as an indicator of market size the current secondary market is expected to be roughly $2 – $3 Million USD in volume per month on average.

The total trading volume of non-fungible token (NFT) artwork hit an all-time high of $8.2 Million in December 2020 compared to $2.6 Million in November 2020.

It might sound like a gold rush right now, but the main question is how long will value be produced in all of these new forms if the supply is unlimited? And what would be the most prudent position to take?  A good way to get a piece of the action, yet to stay unharmed is to service the bubble, not to take part in it. Case in point: do now what Levi’s or Wells Fargo did then. NFTs will tokenize everything. It won’t be long before off chain assets get on the blockchains. All valuable assets will then be stored on a decentralised digital ledger, with the NFT being a token of digital representation of an object or person on the chain.

 

This article has been co-authored by Sayan Mitra and Khubaib Abdullah, who are in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

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Reinventing meat and cultivated proteins: Gauging the investor’s interest through sustainable investment products

by Sandeep Kumar

Keep up to date with the latest research

Overview and Evolution

The popularity of alternative meat products from Beyond Meat (NASDAQ: BYND) and others, as well as early regulatory permission for some cultured meat products, has sparked a flurry of investment in this nascent business.

Despite this enthusiasm, the business is still in its early stages and is mostly pre-revenue, with a number of growth obstacles ahead, including the need for clear legal frameworks, more economically viable products, and scalable technologies. As the traditional cattle industry tries to defend its market share from produced protein sources, providers will almost certainly encounter greater lobbying attempts.

Even while widespread adoption may be several years away, improving consumer sentiment, together with increased demand for more sustainable food choices, will undoubtedly boost investment in grown protein products.

The key industry drivers for alternative meat products industry

· Antibiotics and hormones-free: Industrial farming conditions can be unsanitary, resulting in sick animals who are frequently treated with antibiotics. Hormone injections can also help to promote muscular growth or, in the case of dairy, milk production. These therapies may have an impact on human health, such as the transmission of animal hormones to people or the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterium strains. Cultivated proteins are made in sterile conditions without the use of antibiotics or hormone therapies.

· Free of zoonotic diseases: Zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, can be transferred to humans through animal meat intake. Because it is produced in a controlled, sterile setting, cultivated beef is deemed safe from this risk.

· Ability to design and change nutrient profiles: Cultured meat manufacturers can change inputs to generate products with better nutritional value, such as proteins, amino acid composition, vitamins, and minerals.

· Food security: Cultivated proteins offer a potentially large new food source that isn’t constrained by livestock’s significant land, water, and food requirements. This is especially essential in light of expected worldwide population growth and corresponding food demand.

· Environmental advantages: Some people believe that produced protein is a better option for the environment than conventional animal production. According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of Amsterdam, cultured meat may be produced with only 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and 2% of the area required for conventional meat production, while requiring 45 percent less energy. 16 Critics have noted, however, that the energy required to create grown meat may originate from fossil fuels, resulting in worse environmental repercussions than animal agriculture in some ways.

 Ethical ramifications: Some consumers, such as vegans, avoid eating meat because of animal welfare concerns. Because no animals are injured in the manufacturing of cultivated meat, it is considered an ethical advance.

The environmental and ethical advantages of cultivated meat are based on a one-to-one substitution for traditional meat. On the other hand, a single cow can provide hundreds of distinct products. For example, if cultured beef totally replaced conventional ground beef, demand for steak, leather, gelatin, and steric acid would remain unchanged, meaning that cattle demand would remain steady, albeit ground beef demand might shift to new markets.

Competitive Landscape and Market Mapping

Source: PitchBook

Investors’ Trust Growing with Market

Compared to the initial years when alternative meat was first introduced to recent years, the market has witnessed steady growth in VC funding from a single $25 Mn deal in 2012 to a total of $303 Mn invested across over 30 deals in 2020. While the annual deal count has nearly tripled in 2018, the average deal size decreased. However, it is expected that the fundings will increase in tandem with the growth in the industry. The first five months of 2021 have seen a surge in investment with over $772 Mn recorded. With this pace, it is expected that the funding activity will triple this year, as compared to 2020.

Source: Pitchbook

Investment trends suggest that the cultivated protein providers have received the largest share of VC funding. Those among the top recipients include UPSIDE Foods, Eat Just, and Modern Meadow. Each of them have received more than $100 Mn funding, individually. Besides receiving funds from VCs, cultivated meat producers have also started to gain trust of investors like impact investors such as AiiM Partners, impact angel investors including Richard Branson, and even large corporations such as Cargill, Tyson, etc. These large companies have started to realise the importance of the alternative meat and are engaging through strategic investments.

How are Incumbents Reacting to the New Alternative Meat Market?

Combining the benefits of plant-based proteins along with cultivated proteins have proven to have cost and scale efficiencies, without leaving a significant impact on nature. Apart from health benefits like low cholesterol and with a taste similar to real meat, the alternative meat sales reached over $1.4 Bn in 2020. This growth in demand justifies why the existing food companies are venturing into this domain.

Based on location, Singapore is emerging as a hub for cultivated meat and is attracting many companies primarily due to ease of access to funds and required talent, attractive regulatory environment and significant market opportunities in South-East Asia. Companies like Avant Meats, Shiok Meats, Aleph Farms, etc. are considering to set up production units in Singapore.

Challenges Faced by the Culture Protein Production

The alternative meat market is yet to realise its full potential. Despite its wide range of benefits, there are certain roadblocks that are restricting the fast growth of the market. The Cultured protein market has three stages of production — developmental scale, pilot sale, and commercial scale. Most companies are yet to access the commercial scale. Once it is able to attain commercialization scale, plant-based meat will be available at a cheaper price compared to traditional options. It is estimated that cultured protein would be 5x cheaper by the start of next decade.

Currently, these options are not widely available to the customers and still require further advances in R&D processes to ensure the growth of the sector. Food Tech startups are continuously evolving to generate cost-efficient alternative meat. It requires huge amounts of investments and specialised workforce to experiment with different techniques from the use of AI, to bioprocessing and 3D bioprinting. This can be taken care of through greater funding from investors. The median funding for early stage VC rounds in cultivated meat startups have gone up from $4 Mn to $9.5 Mn in the last three years. Companies are trying their best to make the alternative meat very close to the traditional meat in taste and texture so that they are able to fully replace the animal meat in the coming years.

A Nascent Industry with Great Potential

Environmental concerns with the regular meat industry, change in food preferences, health benefits, cost efficiencies are some reasons that are facilitating the growth of the alternative meat market. It is estimated that the market for cultivated food, including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, etc., would reach close to $18 Bn by the year 2035, with a consumption of about 6 million metric tons. While this may be just 1% of the total protein consumption in the future, the market may witness high growth.

Currently, a huge part of the alternative protein production goes into research and development. However, as the market enters commercialisation scale, costs will come down. Studies suggest that by 2035, cell-based and plant-based meat alternatives will be 10x cheaper than the traditional animal products, and will allow families to save over $1200 in food costs. It is also expected that by next decade, companies’ revenue will also increase 100x for plant-based meat.

Although the overall consumption of plant-based meat is currently very less, the market shows no sign of slowing down. The sector is still in its nascent stage and companies can gain from grabbing the opportunities early, which would be possible only through sufficient funding support from investors.

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This article has been co-authored by Sargam Palod and Tamanna Kapur, who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

Why the crypto industry needs regulation and will it then become safer?

by Sandeep Kumar

Keep up to date with the latest research

 

Money or the currency system has evolved itself over the years. One such system that is raging these days is cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is basically a virtual currency that is generated and secured through cryptography, making it almost impossible to counterfeit. While the idea of such currency started to establish in the late 1990s, the first actual cryptocurrency came into existence in 2009 with the creation of Bitcoin. Presently, the global cryptocurrency market has hit the $2 Tn mark as of August 2021, and the market is only growing with more awareness and acceptability.

Features that make Cryptocurrency Unique

What makes cryptocurrency unique are its fundamental features. Let us have a look at these, before we understand the crypto market.

 Security — Cryptocurrencies are secured as they consist of cryptography codes. Each owner has a unique set of encrypted codes which are difficult to replicate. The blockchain technology ensures the integrity of transactional data and is an essential part of the system.

 Decentralised — It is not controlled by any central authority. This feature makes crypto immune to the old ways of government control and interference. The system of blockchain record-keeping maintains transaction records and keeps the network transparent.

 Irreversible Transactions — One has to be cautious before initiating crypto transactions as they are irreversible. Once the permission is granted, the transaction will be carried out completely. And due to lack of regulation, no organisation will be able to help in case of wrongly initiated transactions.

 Limited Supply — There are fixed, predefined amounts of cryptocurrency that can be mined. While some miners release a proportion of total supply to ensure price stability, others release all coins at once. With limited supply, the demand for each crypto determines its price. Hence, it can be quite volatile in terms of pricing.

Apart from the above features, Crypto transactions can be processed super-fast, and do not require any physical location, making it easy to use for the people.

Cryptocurrencies that are Leading the Market

Source: Statista

From just 66 crypto-coins, to more than 6000 in 2021, the growing popularity and advancement in technology has led to growth of several currencies. Out of vast number of options available, the following are leading the market presently:

 Bitcoin (BTC) — The first cryptocurrency created in 2009, by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is the largest cryptocurrency in the world. With a market capitalisation of over $856 Bn, it has witnessed a growth of about 8900% in its price in the last five years.

 Ethereum (ETH) — With a market capitalisation of over $357 Bn, Ethereum is one of the biggest cryptocurrency. It is popular among users particularly due to its usability in crypto-goods and non-fungible tokens (NFT). Launched in 2015, Ethereum has seen a significant growth of over 27000% in the last five years.

 Binance Coin (BNB) — Founded in 2017, Binance Coin currently has a market capitalisation of over $70 Bn. It can be easily used to trade and pay fees on Binance platform which is one of the largest crypto exchange platform in the world. Since its inception, BNB’s price has risen by whooping 419000%.

 Tether (USDT)  Tether is a stable coin with a market capitalisation of over $64 Bn. It is the most consistent crypto-coin as it pegs its value to fiat currency like the US dollar.

Source: statisticsanddata.org

Acceptance Around the World

While most people buy cryptocurrencies to gain from price volatility through speculative investments, they have already started to gain recognition as a payment option in many companies across the world. From big firms like Microsoft, CocaCola, BMW to small businesses and even gig workers, across different industries have already started to accept crypto payments. In case of global companies, transacting in cryptocurrencies serves as an added advantage as they are able to dodge additional 2–3% cost they have to incur while making international payments. However, most businesses are dependent on crypto-exchanges that convert crypto payments into fiat currency, which then goes to the receiving party. Tesla’s announcement of accepting Bitcoin as a direct payment option is considered to be a big move in the favour of crypto acceptability. Such instances rally up the prices of the particular crypto coins.

To make crypto payments more accessible, Bitcoin ATMs have been installed at various places. The United States has the highest number of such ATMs. Compared with the rest of the world, the USA has the most number of businesses accepting crypto payments. In June 2021, El Salvador became the first country to accept Bitcoin as the legal tender. Athena Bitcoin, a provider of crypto ATMs, is investing over $1 Mn to install about 1,500 crypto-ATMs in the country. Such moves indicate the growing acceptability to the new form of currency system around the world.

Dark Side of Cryptocurrencies

Decentralisation is the most important feature of cryptocurrency. There is no official organisation that keeps a record of cryptocurrency. While this provides immunity from government interference, this feature has also led to some negative consequences. Due to lack of regulation and anonymity of transactions, it is used for dark activities and frauds. While the blockchain technology makes it difficult for third parties to access transactions, some hackers may be able to crack the code. Recent times have seen an increase in the number of such thefts. From $4.5 Bn worth of theft in 2019 to $1.7 Bn worth of theft in 2020, the value of crime has decreased but the number of crypto theft jumped by 40% YoY. In August 2021, hackers carried out the biggest ever theft of over $600 Mn in digital coins from token-swapping platform Poly Network, of which hackers returned about half of the amount within a couple of days. This shows the vulnerable side of digital currencies.

Changing Regulatory Scenario

Despite the negative consequences, several countries have started to realise the potential of digital currencies. As a result, governments and organisations are working towards changing the policy scenario to make the crypto market a better place.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) puts cryptocurrencies under the securities category, on which security laws are very much applicable. The US is even considering strengthening crypto tax measures that will be beneficial for the government as well. On the other hand, China is trying to tighten crypto activities, primarily through crypto mining regulations. While the regulatory scenario across the world is still in its nascent stage, it is believed that clear regulatory norms would remove significant roadblocks for cryptocurrency.

Divided View on Cryptos — What does its future look like?

There is no doubt that the crypto market has seen significant growth since its birth. It has seen widespread growth in its adoption in various firms-big or small, across the world. And when big names like Elon Musk favour such digital currencies, it immediately rallies its prices to a new high. However, there is a divided view about cryptos among big investors. While it is gaining popularity, some of the big investors in the world, including Warren Buffett are against the idea of crypto, deeming it to be risky and worthless, primarily due to its distinctive features.

But at the same time, with the growth of blockchain technology, governments and organisations have started to realise its importance. Several governments have already started working on creating and amending policies regarding digital currencies that would make it a safer option for investors and will also curb the demerits associated with crypto.

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This article has been co-authored by , who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

How increased acceptability towards EdTech platforms is changing the long-standing traditional education industry?

by Sandeep Kumar

Keep up to date with the latest research

Edtech market landscape and growth in the short run of pandemic

Edtech abbreviation for Education Technology is the combination of IT tools and educational practices aimed at facilitating and enhancing learning. Edtech encompasses not only the hardware and software program but also the learning theories and the most effective ways to teach people. Edtech solutions are being increasingly adopted as it offers numerous advantages. A majority of educators believe that each student learns at their own pace, a few major benefits that Edtech offers students are the accessibility of resources to learn from and flexibility to train at their individual pace. Another advantage is the comparatively lower cost which makes it more affordable for anyone to expand their knowledge.

Globally the market opportunities amount to $227 Bn and likely to reach $404 Bn by 2025 growing at a CAGR of 16.3%. The global Edtech venture capital funding in 2019 was around $7 Bn, in 2020 this amount increased more than doubled and reached $16.1 Bn! The booming sectors of Edtech are

· K-12 education

· Post-secondary education

· Corporate training

K-12 is the largest segment of the market; however, the highest funding received was by skill development startups. This signifies that the rise of Edtech startups has created awareness for skill development and not just graduation for a successful career.

Snapshots

· Key Players: Byju’s, Yuanfudao, Zuoyebang, VIPKId, Articulate, Udemy. etc.

· Market Size: $227 Bn

· CAGR: 16.3%

· Average Valuation of top 10: $6.49 Bn

Edtech market size ($ Bn)

Source: Holon IQ

The rapid change in industry dynamics post-covid

The pandemic resulted in shutdowns of physical classrooms, globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom. To tackle this education changed drastically with the rise of e-learning and remote teaching. Prior to the pandemic, the EdTech sector was growing but at a relatively slower rate as online education was still met with some resistance. The lockdown and fear of COVID-19 spread have taken schools, colleges, and educational institutes online, thus leading to the emergence of many EdTech products and services and a rise in adoption. Though in its nascent stage, there has been a significant transformation in curriculum development and pedagogy where we have moved from thinking digital to being digital.

Drivers of growth

The increasing penetration of mobile devices, easy accessibility to fast internet, and the impact of the pandemic and growing online teaching-learning models to keep running the education system are majorly driving the growth. The presence of interactive and immersive learning can impact several as it increases the level of interaction. Educators are also increasingly adopting newer technologies like AI, virtual reality, and gamification.

Edtech development over the past made the educators doubtful about the impact of technology on improving the outcomes of students. It also created suspicion about overreliance on smart devices. However, the situation is now changing with schools investing more in the attempt to integrate new technology into traditionally delicate educational structures. Employers are also investing in such skills with a focus on leadership and management and creative problem-solving.

China and India are the biggest markets for education in the world. The Asian region has always shown lower-income elasticity for education relative to other sectors. Moreover rising access to digital tools and increasing government initiatives in India and China has further emphasized the importance of education.

VC Deal Size

Source: Pitchbook

Segment-wise market mapping and major players

The ed-tech industry, generally segmented into the Pre-School, K-12, and Higher Education sectors have continued to evolve over the years.

With digital learning, the preschool segment is expected to witness the fastest CAGR from 2021–2028. The global early education market is expected to reach $480 Bn by 2026. Implementation of technology in this segment will enable educators to use applications to maintain records of the students in a much more efficient way, as well as help curate interactive games, storybooks, and other content for early childhood learning. Companies like Makeblock, Tinker Garten, Flintobox, etc., provide interactive activity-based learning for young minds.

The major share is captured by the K-12 sector, with a share of about 41% as of 2020. There are great developments in the education system across the globe that supports experiential learning which is enabled with the help of gamification and AI-based technology. While the use of technology such as interactive whiteboards, learning management systems had already started to gain acceptance before the Covid-19 pandemic era, more focus is shifted towards software that provide O2O tutoring, virtual field trips, interactive lab experiments, etc. Key players in the K-12 segment are BYJU’S, K12 Inc., Kahoot, Khan Academy, Chegg, Quizlet among others.

The global higher education market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.2% from 2019–2027. With university and college fees soaring, people are relying more on edtech platforms for e-learning, college or career preparations, and even financial assistance. Professionals in the modern world are constantly required to constantly upskill themselves to match with the evolving job opportunities. Thanks to MOOC platforms, one can now have access to the world’s top university courses, sitting at home. Major edtechs like Coursera, upGrad Education, Udemy, Skillsoft, DataCamp, etc. make learning an easy and affordable process for young aspirants and professionals.

Innovations and new technologies leading to a colossal $404 billion market in the future

Implementation of the latest technology contributes significantly to the growth of the edtech industry.

Valuation multiples for the global edtech space

Global peer comparision and their EV/Revenue Multiple

Edtech sector provides a lucrative investment opportunity with high growth prospects, but as evident by the peer comparison as the company grows the market saturates as most of the available opportunities have already been captured. We are cautiously optimistic about entering into the market as later into the life cycle of the business chances of above-par returns will be sleek.

The edtech conundrum: necessity or costly?

Online courses and programs offer cheaper options for learning than traditional education options. According to reports, a degree course in a traditional university or college costs a total average of $85,000. On the flip side, an online degree costs $30,000. This means enrolling for a course online offers students the opportunity to save more tuition fees and boot camps while enjoying greater flexibility. However, that doesn’t mean that the traditional method is not all bad; they offer tangible learning and study experience and access to university resources.

In our opinion both methods have several offerings and calling on better than the other won’t be right as both have their pros and cons. This brings us to the inevitable, that integration of both the methods is the way going forward.

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This article has been co-authored by Ayush Dugar and Tamanna Kapur, who is in the Research and Insights team of Torre Capital.

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