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Month: September 2016

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: LinkedIn Lite for India; India Telco Merger; Inflatbale Irish Pubs, Slankets for Hipsters

Edition 65 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Monday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.

Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

What I wrote in The WSJ

LinkedIn to Launch Stripped-Down Mobile Website for Indians With Poor Connections:

LinkedIn Corp. is set to launch its first-ever pared-down mobile website so users in India can access its platform through patchy web connections.

The Mountain View, Calif. professional social network, which Microsoft Corp. in June acquired for $26.2 billion, is eager to expand in the country.

LinkedIn says it already has more than 37 million members in India, making it the firm’s second-largest market after the U.S., where it has more than 130 million users.

The new mobile website, called LinkedIn Lite, should launch in the coming weeks. It will load four times faster than other websites and use less data, LinkedIn says.

Reliance Communications Merges Wireless Unit With Aircel:

Indian cellular service company Reliance Communications Ltd. said Wednesday it is combining its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel Ltd., closing the distance between it and bigger players in an increasingly competitive sector.

Under the terms of the agreement, which the two companies in a joint statement called the “largest-ever consolidation in the Indian telecom sector,” Reliance Communications and Malaysia’s Maxis Communications Bhd., Aircel’s majority owner, will each own half of the new company.

What I wrote at

Image of the Day: Amazingly Hardcore Hacker Stock Photo – I am very much enjoying perusing local newspapers here in India every day.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Here’s an epic, 31-page review of iOS 10.

iNerds out there will know that iOS 10, Apple’s newest mobile operating system, is now available for download. And at his excellent Mac blog Macstories, Federico Vitici provides a detailed round-up of what’s new.

2) Earth’s warming temperature, visualized over thousands of years.

This comes from the fantastic xkcd webcomic, and starts at 20,000 BC, so you can get a sense of how rapidly temps have been rising since we started burning fossil fuels.

3) “Abandoned places: the worlds we’ve left behind.”

Beautiful photos from a book by Kieron Connolly showing once-busy, now-neglected locations.

4) Behold The Napsack, a Slanket for hipsters

While the Slanket was merely a blanket with sleeves, the $135 (!) Napsack has zippers, chest pockets for your gadgets, and even a hole for headphones. The description says it all:

Perfect for summer trips, couch surfing, music festivals, jumping into after snowboarding, surfing or any other activity that brings your core temperature down

5) Forget bouncy castles. For your next party, pick up an inflatable Irish pub for your backyard.

I think it goes without saying that the provider of this service, the Paddy Waggon Pub, is Boston-based. The pubs can also be purchased.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.


P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Exclusive By Me Yesterday: Facebook Messenger Hires Anand Chandrasekaran

The story begins:

NEW DELHI— Facebook Inc. is hiring a high-profile technology executive with expertise in Silicon Valley and India to help develop strategies for its Messenger app, an increasingly important platform for the social-media company.

Anand Chandrasekaran, a former senior executive at Yahoo Inc., will assume a global leadership role working on strategies and partnerships for Facebook’s billion-user-strong texting service, said people familiar with the situation.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Mr. Chandrasekaran would be based in the U.S. or India.

An announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday, one of the people said.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the hire, but didn’t add anything further.

After working at Yahoo, Mr. Chandrasekaran served as chief product officer at Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s largest cellular company, where he launched Airtel’s mobile application and a popular music-streaming app.

Last year, he joined New Delhi-based Snapdeal, one of India’s major e-commerce startups, as chief product officer. He departed the company in recent months.

With global users increasingly flocking to messaging platforms such as Facebook’s own WhatsApp and Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat, the Menlo Park, Calif., company is eager to transform Messenger into a hub for activities such as e-commerce.

In April, Facebook emphasized its focus on the app at its annual F8 conference in San Francisco, showing developers how to create so-called chatbots for the service. These automated services can interact with consumers in real time to answer questions about the prices of goods, for example.

Image of the Day: Amazingly Hardcore Hacker Stock Photo

So, I posted this image on Twitter recently and it’s proven to be a big hit. 


People — and I guess I am one — seem to love stock photos of “hackers,” particularly ridiculous ones. And this one, which I noticed in an Indian newspaper the other day,  fits the bill.  

Rather than simply putting a Post-It note over the machine’s video camera, as some have pointed out, this man (or woman) has donned not merely requisite hacking gear like a hoodie, but also goggles and a balaclava. 

And perhaps best of all, gloves — which, as many have noted, would certainly make typing more difficult. 
It’s a dangerous world out there, folks. Stay safe. 

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: iPhone 7 in India; Trendy Ayahuasca; U.S. Fortuneteller in Cambodia

Edition 64 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Saturday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.

Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes. From the new iPhone to Pokemon Go to women on Facebook in India, it’s a been a busy week.

What I wrote in The WSJ

Why Will Apple’s New iPhone 7 Cost So Much More in India?

Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 7 smartphones go on sale Friday in the U.S. at a starting price of $649. They won’t be available in India until next month, and when they do land their base price will be close to $250 more expensive.

India Petition Seeks to Ban Pokémon Go for Insulting Hindus With Virtual Eggs:

An attorney has filed a petition to ban the smartphone game sensation “Pokémon Go” in India for placing virtual eggs in houses of worship and allegedly offending some people’s religious sensibilities.

In the hit game–which uses location-tracking and augmented-reality technology– players visit landmarks called PokéStops, where they can collect goodies including virtual eggs, which hatch into the eponymous Pokémon or pocket monsters. While the game hasn’t officially been launched yet in India, Pokémon Go enthusiasts have already found ways to play.

On Indian Facebook, Men Outnumber Women Three-to-One

As inexpensive smartphones allow millions of Indians online for the first time, internet newbies are rushing to sign up for Facebook at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, new data shows, an overwhelming majority of the Indians on the network are men

A report this week from U.K. consultancy We Are Social found just 24% of India’s 153 million Facebook users are women — meaning there are more than three men on the platform for every woman.

That figure, one of the lowest in the world, illustrates that even as technology starts to trickle down to more Indians, women are not accessing some online tools at the same rate as their male counterparts.

At a Glance: The Billion-Dollar Battle Between Tata and NTT DoCoMo

The battle over a potential $1.17 billion payment from Tata Sons Ltd., the holding company of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, to Japan’s NTT DoCoMo Inc. has its roots in an ill-fated deal that was agreed in 2009.

Singapore’s Garena Raises Fresh Funds for Expansion

Southeast Asia-focused online entertainment and e-commerce startup Garena Interactive Holding Ltd. has raised additional funding from some high-profile investors as it seeks to expand across the populous region.

Reliance’s Ambani Lays Out Plan for Low-Cost Mobile Data in India

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, on Thursday outlined his plans to shake up the country’s telecommunications industry through his new cellular company, which aims to lure customers away from the competition and bring millions of Indians online for the first time by offering data at low rates.

The chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd. told the company’s annual general meeting that its new wireless phone unit, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., will undercut its competitors by offering data for 50 rupees (75 cents) per gigabyte and monthly plans as low as 149 rupees, or $2.22. The first group of users signing up for the new platform, which launches Monday, will be offered free service until next year, said Mr. Ambani.

What I wrote at

Book Notes — The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

My notes from a surprisingly optimistic and hope-infused novel…that just happens to be about what happens when a mysterious plague wipes out all but a few people on earth. ¯(ツ)

Delhi Snapshot: ‘Selfie Garlic Bread’

The title of the post says it all.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Apple’s iPhone 7 launch, condensed into a two-minute video.

Just the highlights. Or the lowlights, if like many you found their newest smartphone underwhelming. (Personally, I’m pretty stoked about the new camera. And not too fussed about the new audio jack.)

2) Speaking of Apple, here’s how to fix a major design flaw in the Apple TV remote

Thanks, A!

3) “The Drug of Choice for the Age of Kale”

That’s the title of this week’s #longread, a New Yorker’s story by Airel Levy examining the growing popularity in the U.S. of Ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogenic drug found in the Amazon.

4) How to choose the fastest supermarket line.

There are some good tips here. For example, it makes sense to get in line behind someone with a full cart rather than several people with smaller amounts of items because the time taken between customers tends to be longer than you’d imagine.

5) American Soothsayer Rakes In Small Fortune

Interesting story about an American woman who has set up shop at a market in Cambodia, providing tarot-card readings in Khmer. My favorite part is the end of this passage:

“I didn’t have a job, I needed something to do and I wanted to help people through my spiritual work. I was getting messages to do this, so I just followed my gut,” said Eileen, who speaks conversational Khmer and asked to be identified only by her first name so that her mother in the U.S. would not find out about her new trade.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.


P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Delhi Snapshot: Goat Eating a Paratha

Came across this fellow here in Delhi yesterday. He (or she) was eating a paratha

Given his/her interesting colouring, neck adornment, and hoof bling, I was wondering if it might be an auspicious goat, kept and fed by people nearby in the neighborhood. 

So I asked some guys hanging out nearby. They kept repeating a word I didn’t understand. I thought it might be the creature’s name, or an adjective meaning something like “special.”

Then I looked it up and it was “bakara,” बकरा. Which means “goat.”  

So there you go. 

Delhi Snapshot: ‘Selfie Garlic Bread’

Spotted here in Delhi: a brochure for an Italian restaurant promoting free “selfie garlic bread.”

I have no idea what it has to do with selfies. And who is the guy in the photo?

It’s a distinct possibility that I’m overthinking all of this. 

Book Notes — The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

The dog stars

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
Published: 2013
ISBN: 1611736137
Amazon link
Rating: 8/10

Brief recap: A beautifully written, hope-infused post-apocalyptic novel. Yes, you read that right.

My notes:

  • I am not ashamed to admit I an enamored of post-apocalyptic fiction. Like another well-known book about a disaster-struck world, Cormack McCarthy’s “The Road,” this novel tells the story of handful of people left behind after most of the world’s population has been wiped out. But unlike “The Road,” as some reviewers have noted, this book — while it does contains some very real nastiness — is dominated by the protagonist’s love for his deceased wife, his bond with his beloved dog, and his hope that the future may bring salvation of some sort. In other words, it is strangely optimistic. And very moving.

  • Narratively speaking, Heller does an excellent job recounting, in bits and pieces via flashbacks, the sickness that befell humanity. But rather than get into highly specific medical or scientific details, he hints at symptoms and theories, leaving the reader to ponder precisely what happened. Similarly, the reader gleans just enough details about the how chaos unfolds to still leave some questions unanswered. This is not, in other words, “World War Z,” replete with gory details (and zombie attacks), viewed from some future standpoint.

  • The novel is set in Colorado, and there are some really gorgeous passages here about nature: mountainous vistas, deer, trout. Striking stuff.

  • This is a book aviation buffs will enjoy, as the narrator, Hig, lives with his partner at an abandoned airport. Hig frequently takes his Cessna out to patrol surrounding areas and visit other survivors, and the book has some detailed passages about the experience of flying.

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Ford in India; a ‘City’ in the Desert; Experts’ Book Picks; Invasive Capybaras

Edition 63 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox a few days before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!

Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes.

What I wrote in The WSJ

India Payment Firm Paytm Raises $300 Million:

NEW DELHI—Indian online payment and e-commerce firm Paytm is raising $300 million from a group of investors led by Taiwanese chip-design company MediaTek Inc., according to a person familiar with the situation.

The investment values the Noida, India-based company at $5 billion, up from an earlier valuation of about $2.5 billion, the person said. MediaTek’s contribution amounted to $60 million, according to the person.

In a country where users are increasingly coming online via low-cost smartphones, Paytm provides a popular mobile app that can be used to pay for services like rides from Uber Technologies Inc. and utility bill payments.

Ford Leads $24 Million Funding in India Car-Rental Startup Zoomcar:

NEW DELHI—A Ford Motor Co. subsidiary is among the investors contributing $24 million to a vehicle-rental startup in India, the latest development in the race to use technology in new ways to target consumers in the world’s second-most-populous country.

Bangalore-based Zoomcar allows users to rent its vehicles for as little as an hour at a time, a model similar to the U.S.’s Zipcar Inc., which Avis Budget Group acquired for about $500 million in 2013.

India Wins Its First Olympic Medal in Rio as Wrestler Sakshi Malik Gets Bronze:

Indian wrestler Sakshi Malik won bronze in women’s wrestling at the Olympic Games in Rio on Wednesday, bringing home her country’s first medal of the competition — and she did it in dramatic fashion.

Twenty three-year-old Malik defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova in the 58-kilogram freestyle in a thrilling bout, making a comeback in the final seconds to win 8–5. At one point early in the match she trailed 5 points to none.

India’s Ola Lays Off Workers Amid Growing Competition From Uber:

NEW DELHI—ANI Technologies Pvt.’s ride-hailing service Ola is laying off hundreds of workers at a fellow Indian operator it bought last year, a sign of possible consolidation amid increased competition in the country from Uber Technologies Inc.

Bangalore-based Ola last year acquired Serendipity Infolab Pvt.’s TaxiForSure for $200 million in cash and stock, saying the two companies would continue to operate separately. Ola said at the time that it would retain TaxiForSure’s 1,700 employees.

What I wrote at

The Capybaras are Coming. Be Very Afraid. Forewarned is forearmed. How awesome/creepy are these rodents?

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) This Century-Old Map Details the Path to Musical Success

A map from 1913 shows musicians how to become successful: by climbing a mountain toward one’s objectives, and keeping clear of pitfalls like flattery, laziness and “weak morals.” Also: avoid bohemianism.

2) LongRead of the week: “A Monument to Outlast Humanity,” by Dana Goodyear, in The New Yorker.

The story is abuot artist Michael Heizer, who has been building an enormous work, called “City,” in the Nevada desert since 1972. It is not open to the public, but will be viewable in a few years:

After decades of torment—“When’s it gonna be done, Mike?”—the piece is nearly complete. Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, says that the site, which lacma will help to administer, will admit its first visitors from the general public in 2020. Govan, who has been raising money for “City” for twenty years, sees it as one of our civilization’s greatest achievements. “Mike started the idea that you can go out in this landscape and make work that is sublime,” he says. “There is nothing more powerful, romantic, and American than these gestures that in Mike’s case have taken his whole life.”

Click through for a few fascinating images.

3) is a fantastic repository of book recommendations.

It’s not a new site, but it’s new to me. The concept is simple: experts recommend five of their favorite books that help explain their areas of expertise. It’s that simple.

Check out WSJ columnist Jason Zweig on the best personal finance books, the Center For American Progress’s Van Jones on change in America, academic and author Ian Buruma on books about the east and west; author William Dalrymple on the best books about ancient and modern India, and much, much more. A truly fantastic resource.

4) “A Critic’s Lonely Quest: Revealing the Whole Truth About Mother Teresa.”

An interesting look, in the New York Times, at Dr. Aroup Chatterjee, who has devoted years to exposing the dark side of Mother Teresa’s work.

5) “The 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films.”

To be sure, we’re only talking a decade and a half here, but this BBC roundup has some gems.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.


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Delhi Snapshot: Nighttime Autorickshaw Ride

Snapped on a rainy evening recently, while stuck in traffic. 

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