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Month: May 2018

Hot on the Wheels of Grab, Go-Jek Rides Further Into Southeast Asia

gojek southeast asia

That’s the headline of a story out Thurs. that I wrote with my colleage P.R. Venkat. It begins:

Motorcycle-taxi service PT Go-Jek Indonesia will invest $500 million to expand its operations in Southeast Asia, revving up competition in a fast-growing consumer market just two months after Uber Technologies Inc. reached a landmark deal to exit from the region.

The Indonesian company said in a statement Thursday it plans to enter Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines in the next few months and is currently working with regulators and stakeholders across the region.

Go-Jek will initially offer motorcycle-hailing services in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, and provide traditional taxi services in Singapore, where motorcycle taxis aren’t permitted, a company spokesman said. The move, in effect, puts Go-Jek in direct competition with regional market leader Grab Inc.

Click through to read the rest.

Newley’s Notes 134: Indians in America; Scary AI; Feline Parkour

desert

Edition 134 of my email newsletter went out last weekend.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💰 1) By me in The WSJ: Walmart Picks a Freewheeling Partner for Its $15 Billion Passage to India [WSJ.com] — It’s official. Walmart on Wed. completed its blockbuster acquisition — the largest in the company’s history — of India’s biggest e-commerce startup, Flipkart. In this piece, my colleagues and I examined the potential corporate culture clash ahead. The lede:

The famously frugal and focused Walmart Inc. is betting $15 billion on a much different kind of company: a sprawling Indian e-commerce startup that has burned through mountains of cash to try to conquer the country’s online shopping market.

🇮🇳 2) By me on my blog: Book Notes: ‘The Other One Percent: Indians in America,’ by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh [Newley.com] — My notes from an excellent work I recently read. My brief summary: “An illuminating look at how Indians in America – a tiny percentage of the overall population – have come to enjoy such outsized success.” Highly recommended.

🗣️ 3) Shot: Should our machines sound human? [Kottke.org] — Google just showcased new tech that allows an artificial intelligence system to carry on life-life conversations with people.

Click through to listen to the demos as people unwittingly, it seems, speak with this program. This raises real ethical concerns. Should the person on the other end of the call not be made aware somehow that they’re not speaking to a real human?

🔮 4) Chaser: How Frightened Should We Be of A.I.? [New Yorker] — “If the arc of the universe bends toward an intelligence sufficient to understand it, will an A.G.I. be the solution—or the end of the experiment?” Tad Friend writes in the New Yorker.

🕵️ 5) Related: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. [NY Times] — From the top of Craig S. Smith’s story:

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.

And:

Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. “My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” he said.

📖 6) 50 Pulp Cover Treatments of Classic Works of Literature [Literary Hub] — Love it. And these are not spoofs! “Classic works of literary fiction have existed as pulps from the very beginning of pulp—the new paperback publishers of the 1940s and 50s printed them right along with classic crime and some genuinely lowbrow (and sometimes quite lurid) new novels, often commissioning the very same artists to design their covers,” Emily Temple writes.

🎮 7) How is this speedrun possible? Super Mario Bros. World Record Explained [YouTube] — One video game “speedrunner” explains how another, Kosmic, set the world record for completing the game in 27 minutes. Taking advantage of glitches, timing screen scrolling, and more — this is simply incredible.

💊 8) The New Science of Psychedelics [WSJ] — An essay adapted from Michael Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.” Related: Pollan, author of books like “Food Rules” and “In Defense of Food” was also recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

✈️ 9) Heartwarming story of the week: He searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her — and the restaurant she had named after him [Washington Post] — Kathryn Tolbert tells Bruce Hollywood’s remarkable story.

🐈 10) Silly cat video of the week: Graceful Alley Run [Neatorama/YouTube] — Lest you think I am too dog-centric, here’s a video of a majestic feline parkour-ing through a sticky situation — all set to AWOLNATION’s song “Run.”

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Newley

Delhi Snapshot: Transporting Eggs

carrying eggs in delhi

Think your job is tough?

Spotted recently on a major New Delhi thoroughfare.

This guy must have nerves of steel given the city’s chaotic traffic and crazy drivers. Much respect.

Think American Elections Are Bad? Indian Voters Get 1,000 Texts a Day

2018 05 16whatsapp

That’s the headline of my most recent story, out yesterday, which I wrote with a few colleagues. It begins:

For Gurupad Kolli, a 40-year-old lawyer who lives in a remote Indian village, the torrent of WhatsApp messages surging to his phone a few weeks ago meant one thing: election day was near.

They’re at turns strident, angry, buoyant, informative, misleading, gripping and confusing, he says. Some days he received as many as 1,000 of them through the popular messaging service. Pleased to no longer “depend on the mass media like newspapers,” the resident of Ramapur village in the southern state of Karnataka nonetheless also conceded “there’s so much false and fake news going around.”

He isn’t alone in his bewilderment. The rapidly falling cost of smartphones and mobile data in the world’s second-most-populous nation has turbocharged the spread of WhatsApp, where it is growing far faster than other social media and messaging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

India is home to more WhatsApp users than any other country, accounting for more than 200 million of the 1.5 billion monthly active global users. That rivals the popularity in India of Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp. Tens of millions of Indians of all ages have made the messaging service, which is simple to join and use, their entry point to the world of digital communication, especially in poor, remote areas where users are flocking to the internet for the first time.

Click through to read the rest.

Book Notes: ‘The Other One Percent: Indians in America,’ by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh

the other one percent

From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited recently after many years.

These posts are meant to help me remember what I’ve learned, and to point out titles I think are worth consulting. They’re neither formal book reviews nor comprehensive book summaries, but simply my notes from reading these titles.

For previous postings, see my Book Notes category.

The Other One Percent: Indians in America

By Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur, Nirvikar Singh
Published in 2017
Oxford University Press
ISBN–10: 0190648740
Amazon link

Brief Summary

An illuminating look at how Indians in America – a tiny percentage of the overall population – have come to enjoy such outsized success.

My Notes

The jacket copy sums up nicely the miracle that is Indian immigration to America:

One of the most remarkable stories of immigration in the last half century is that of Indians to the United States. People of Indian origin make up a little over one percent of the American population now, up from barely half a percent at the turn of the millennium. Not only has its recent growth been extraordinary, but this population from a developing nation with low human capital is now the most-educated and highest-income group in the world’s most advanced nation.

You read that passage, and the title of the book, right: There are only about 3 million people of Indian origin in the U.S.

That’s an astoundingly low number when you consider their prominence in tech, medicine, finance and more. As a group, they have much higher levels of education and income than other citizens.

How’d that happen?

The short story: A U.S. immigration act in 1917 virtually terminated immigration from Asia. But changes to the law in 1965 opened things up, and thus began an influx of Indians.

But not just any Indians.

The authors – academics at Temple University (Chakravorty), the University of Pennsylvania (Kapur) and the University of California, Santa Cruz (Singh) – argue that Indian immigrants were “triple selected”:

  1. They came from dominant castes and had access to higher education
  2. They were selected to take exams in tech fields
  3. They benefitted from U.S. immigration law, which favored immigrants with tech skills

The book is absolutely brimming with data, and makes for a fantastic resource. (One reason I read substantive books in paper rather than on a Kindle is so I can underline passages, take photos for blog posts like this one, and then put them back on my shelf for future use!)

“The Other One Percent” contains some excellent graphs and charts, like this one, illustrating just how exceptional this population is:

IMG 0645

There were three phases of Indians coming to America:

  1. The early movers, in the 1960s and 1970s
  2. The families (1980s through early 1990s)
  3. The IT generation (after the early 1990s)

IMG 0648

Here’s a map of where Indian-Americans tend to be clustered in the U.S., based on community organizations:

indians in america by geography

And here’s data on the boom in H–1B visas (a topic on which I’ve reported before) issued to highly skilled workers – and Indians’ huge proportion of those.

indian visas and america

Finally, while the book argues that “the success of Indian Americans is at its core a selection story,” the authors do touch on other potential factors. These include:

  • “thrift and pooling of savings”
  • English language skills
  • strong social networks
  • “cohesive families”
  • an experience with social heterogeneity in India that has made them more “adaptable”

I highly recommend “The Other One Percent” for those interested in immigration and immigration policy, the Indian diaspora, and American society broadly.

Newley’s Notes 133: Facebook Dating; Angry Elon; Stoned Raccoons

Freight container 3388238 1280

Edition 133 of my email newsletter went out last weekend.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🛒 1) More on Walmart and Flipkart from my colleagues and me Friday: Walmart Takes on Amazon With $15 Billion Bid for Stake in India’s Flipkart [Wall Street Journal] — The story begins:

Walmart Inc.’s battle with Amazon.com Inc. is heading to India.

Walmart is leading a group that will invest about $15 billion for a roughly 75% stake in Flipkart Group, India’s largest e-commerce company, according to people familiar with the matter. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is planning to invest in Flipkart as part of the deal, other people familiar with the situation said.

It would be a big bet by Walmart that India will be a source of growth at a time when Amazon is gaining ground in the country. It is also an effort by Google to keep Amazon from potentially acquiring Flipkart itself.

Watch this space.

😠 2) Highlights From Elon Musk’s Combative Tesla Earnings Call [Wall Street Journal] — Worth a listen. “During the more than one hour call, Mr. Musk cut off two analysts asking about capital-expenditure plans and reservations for the Model 3 sedan, dismissing them as ‘boring, bonehead’ questions and ‘dry,'” my colleague Tim Higgins wrote in an accompanying story. Tesla’s stock fell nearly 6% after the call. I found listening to be interesting insight into Musk’s personality.

❤️ 3) The 5 biggest announcements from Facebook’s F8 developer conference keynote [The Verge] — Facebook: Tinder killer? Among the news from Facebook’s annual developer conference: The social media titan is getting into dating. A new feature “allows people to browse potential matches at inside groups or events you’re interested in attending,” Natt Garun reports.

🌈 4) Tourists flocking to Peru’s newfound ‘Rainbow Mountain.’ [AP] — The latest Andean backpacker must-see, near Pitumarca, Peru: “Stripes of turquoise, lavender and gold blanket what has become known as ‘Rainbow Mountain,” a ridge of multicolored sediments laid down millions of years ago and pushed up as tectonic plates clashed.”

🎵 5) Swan Songs: Music For Your Final Exit [NPR] — I challenge you to listen to this podcast without choking up. NPR’s “All Songs Considered” asked listeners what songs they’d want to have played at their funerals. Morbid? Maybe a little. But also highly moving and inspirational.

🚲 6) The Bike-Share Oversupply in China: Huge Piles of Abandoned and Broken Bicycles [The Atlantic] — Absolutely insane images.

📷 7) Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78 [NY Times] — And speaking of striking pics: Last year a New York City conservancy worker found nearly 3,000 unpublished color slides of life in the city’s parks during the summer of 1978. An intriguing photo essay from the NY Times. There’s beer drinking, swimming, double dutch, landscape paining — and so smartphones.

🎾 8) A Competitive Team Sport. For Your Dog. [NY Times] — My new favorite thing, probably ever: Flyball, aka relay races for dogs (and their owners). Sample videos here and — best of all — here.

😂 9) Quote of the week:

“I’m sitting at one of the firehouses. No pet raccoons are overdosing here.”

That’s from this story out of KSHB in Kansas City: “Pet raccoon, stoned off of too much weed, brought to Indianapolis firehouse. Confusion ensues.” And yes, there is audio.

🐶 10) Silly video of the week: Sound way up –> “Do you like your new toy?”. My favorite part is the owner’s resigned “alright” at the end. Oh, and it has spawned some memes, natch.

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Newley

Walmart Bets $15 Billion on an E-Commerce Passage to India

Walmart filpkart

That’s the headline of a story just out today with my colleagues Eric Bellman and Corinne Abrams: It begins:

NEW DELHI—The famously frugal and focused Walmart Inc. is betting $15 billion on a much different kind of company: a sprawling Indian e-commerce startup that has burned through mountains of cash to try to conquer the country’s online shopping market.

The deal for a roughly 75% stake in Flipkart Group is set to be announced as early as this week.

If the union works, it could provide India’s leading online seller needed funds and traditional retailing expertise, while Walmart would be well-positioned for e-commerce in the world’s second-most-populous nation.

“I would not have bet on a deal converging between Walmart and Flipkart, primarily because of the culture difference,” said Kashyap Deorah, a veteran internet entrepreneur and author of “The Golden Tap,” a 2015 book detailing the history of Indian tech startups.

“Walmart is an extensively positive margin driven culture, and Flipkart has consistently been a gross margin negative business,” he said. The deal shows “Walmart considers India as a long-term strategic market,” he said.

Click through to read the rest.

Newley’s Notes 132: Walmart –> India; SF Scooter-pocalypse; Amazonian Robots

2018 05 03abstract

Edition 132 of my email newsletter went out on Sunday.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox, simply enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.


🔥 So. It’s hot here in Delhi.

Like, really hot.

Today the high was over 100 Fahrenheit (39 Celsius), and it could get up to 109 later in the week. Crazy!

Unlike tropical Bangkok and Singapore, where we lived earlier, it’s not humid here in the Indian capital. But man is it starting to feel oven-like. The monsoon rains should start in July, bringing perhaps some relief.

Anyway, on to this week’s NN:

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🛒 1) Just out, a new story with my colleagues Sarah Nassauer and Luciana Magalhães: Walmart Looks to Scale Back in U.K. and Brazil, With an Eye on India [Wall Street Journal] — It begins:

The world’s biggest retailer has concluded it can’t take on the whole world by itself.

Walmart Inc. is in discussions to give up control over hundreds of stores in the U.K. and Brazil, two big markets where it has struggled for years, according to people familiar with the talks. At the same time, it is preparing to pour billions of dollars into an Indian e-commerce startup to crack a promising market that has long eluded the U.S. giant.

Yes, we could be seeing Amazon vs. Walmart – here in India.

🐷 2) Amazing headline of the week: Researchers are keeping pig brains alive outside the body [MIT Technology Review] — Contains the memorable quote, “I think a lot of people are going to start going to slaughterhouses to get heads and figure it out.”

📷 3) I’m Sorry To Report Instagram Is Bad Now [Buzzfeed] — The photo sharing platform’s Stories feature — which allows people to post ephemeral images on the fly — may mean they’re sharing less to the more carefully curated main feed, Katie Notopoulos writes. (I’m neither here nor there on this feature, but my feeling is that we’re about a year away from a more serious Instagram backlash; I think newsfeed-based social media platforms are on the way out.)

🛴 4) Adults Are Terrorizing San Francisco On Tiny Electric Scooters [WSJ] — My colleague Eliot Brown reports in a memorable A-hed that:

Last month, a trio of well-funded startups began flooding the city with hundreds of electric for-rent scooters that can travel up to 15 miles an hour—starting at just $1 a ride. Riders pick them up and leave them most anywhere.

The whimsical transit option has turned sidewalks into breeding grounds of conflict, pitting pedestrians against fans of cheap car-free transportation. In compact San Francisco, where a freewheeling culture often collides with anti-tech sentiment, scooters are joining an array of unconventional transportation from self-driving cars to electric unicycles.

Bonus link, from Curbed: Everything you need to know about the great electric-scooter takeover of San Francisco.

⚙ 5) RIP AirPort Base Stations [iMore] — AirPort Express, Extreme, and Time Capsule are being discontinued, Rene Ritchie writes. It’s unclear why Apple no longer wants to make routers; perhaps sales were never that significant to begin with.

😑 6) Shot:Researchers Hacked Amazon’s Alexa to Spy On Users, Again [ThreatPost] — As I wrote on Twitter, “I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. If you’re concerned about privacy, you’re nuts to have a connected device in your home.”

🤖 7) Chaser: Amazon Has a Top-Secret Plan to Build Home Robots [Bloomberg] — “Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car,” Mark Gurman and Brad Stone report.

⚽ 8) The Admirable Legacy of Arsène Wenger [New Yorker] — Hua Hsu provides a balanced summation of what Wenger leaves behind, now that he’s announced he’s leaving. “Wenger’s teams have always seemed cultured and sophisticated, hard-wired to entertain and delight,” Hsu writes.

🗞️ 9) A farewell to free journalism [Washington Post] — The excellent Megan McArdle, riffing on the news that Bloomberg might be the latest news organization to erect a paywall, says the days of the free-news-in-exchange-for-viewing-ads business model may well be numbered. Increasingly, if you want quality journalism, you’re just going to have to pay for it.

🤣 10) One heartwarming thing: A 9-Year-Old Girl Enters The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest [YouTube] — This is adorable.

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

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