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Recent Stories: Google CEO Visits India

I was in India recently covering the first offiical visit Google CEO Sundar Pichai has made to his home country.

In the scenesetter, I wrote about the importance of India to Google — and other big U.S. tech companies, like Facebook:

NEW DELHI— Alphabet Inc.’s Google became a global technology titan serving developed-world consumers on their personal computers, but it is now increasingly turning to a new kind of customer for growth: people on low-cost smartphones in poor countries.

The Mountain View, Calif., company’s efforts to reach users in emerging markets will be in the spotlight this week, when Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai makes his first official visit to India since taking the top job in August.

In the next story, from Delhi, I wrote about what Pichai says Google is doing, specifically, to try to get more people online in India:

NEW DELHI— Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, on Wednesday outlined the technology titan’s plan to increase Internet access in India, underscoring its focus on the world’s second-most-populous country.

A partnership with the Indian government to offer free Wi-Fi at railway stations across the country is on track to open in 100 stations by the end of 2016, Mr. Pichai said during his first official visit to the country in which he was born since taking the top job in August.

Mr. Pichai told a conference for software developers in New Delhi that the first station to get the Wi-Fi service will be Mumbai Central, in the city on India’s west coast, next month. The initiative was announced in September.

The 43-year-old Mr. Pichai also said that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is pushing ahead with Project Loon, which aims to use high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access in remote areas of the country.

I also wrote about a talk Pichai gave to university students in Delhi. The brief story, which proved especially popular online, is headlined Google’s Sundar Pichai on How India Can Produce More Tech Leaders Like Him:

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai on Thursday said the Indian education system, which nurtured him, needs to allow students to take risks, and to fail, if it wants to produce more global technology leaders.

Mr. Pichai also reiterated his message that Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., is bullish on growth in India, “an amazingly young, vast country,” he told students packed into a gymnasium on the campus of Delhi University.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pichai outlined at a conference for software developers more of the Mountain View, Calif., company’s plans to boost Internet access in India as it looks to the fast-growing country for future growth.

The 43-year-old, who was raised in the southern Indian city of Chennai and attended the elite Indian Institute of Technology before moving to the U.S., said he has been struck by how much India’s startup sector has grown over the past few years and also by the enthusiasm of its entrepreneurs.

There is a “unique opportunity” to build new tech companies in the country because of its huge scale, he said.

Asked how India might improve its educational system to create more executives like him, Mr. Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and took the top job in August, said “It is important to teach students to take risks.”

 

 

 

 

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Does Social Media Make TV a Better Entertainment Medium for Our Time than Film?

This snippet in Richard Brody’s recent New Yorker piece on the best movies of 2015 struck me:

The cinema’s self-conscious modernity arose when its makers put a virtual mirror into its lenses and revealed the filmmaking process in the films themselves. They reflected the world around the movie within the movie, the director on the screen. But television has outrun the cinema here, too, by replacing the mirror with an echo chamber; by means of social media, television has gone beyond reflexivity to become participatory. It has become its own story. “Transparent” isn’t about an elderly father who comes out as a transgender woman; it’s about the making of a show on that subject. “Mad Men” is about the making of a show about advertising people in the nineteen-sixties. Unlike movies, where reflexivity is a matter of aesthetics, TV has made it a matter of ethics, politics, and sociology.

Food for thought.

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By Me Yesterday: Lyft Teams up with India’s Ola and Singapore’s GrabTaxi

The story begins:

The international alliance of Uber Technologies Inc.’s ride-hailing competitors is growing stronger.

San Francisco startup Lyft Inc. confirmed Thursday it is teaming up with Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. and India’s Ola to allow users of each app to hail rides from drivers of the other apps while they are traveling to the other country. Lyft and Chinese startup Didi Kuaidi Joint Co. announced a similar arrangement in September, when the Journal also reported that they were in talks with GrabTaxi and Ola.

Each service will collect payments from its own users in their native currency so that, for example, Indian visitors to the U.S. can open their Ola app to order and pay for rides on Lyft, after which Ola will remit that money to Lyft. The companies said the connected system will go live in the first quarter of next year.

The alliance will connect four services in nine countries, potentially bolstering the competitive field against the much larger Uber. Now in 350 cities around the world, Uber is currently raising up to $2.1 billion more in funding at a valuation as high as about $65 billion, according to a document reviewed by the Journal.

 

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How the Paris Attacks Were Planned

Don’t miss this story from my colleagues in France about the remarkable ease with which the Paris attacks earlier this month were planned and executed.

Online hotel booking services, easy movement across borders, etc. The nut graf:

The account emerging from French officials, witnesses and those who interacted with the suspected terrorists shows how the operation hinged on Mr. Abaaoud’s ability to use the tools of everyday modern life to lay the groundwork for the massacre. The ease with which he and his teams moved—all while avoiding detection by France’s security apparatus—suggests the challenges in identifying would-be terrorists and preventing further attacks in the fluid, digital and transnational world of today, especially when they are European citizens.

 

 

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Me on Bernard Leong’s Analyse Asia Podcast

Bernard Leong interviewed me for this week’s episode of his Analyse Asia podcast, which is about tech, business and media in the region.

We discussed three India-related issues I’ve written about for The WSJ (and have mentioned on this blog): Facebook’s Internet.org project, Google’s Android One, and the talent cruch for top startup coders in the country.

You can play or download the episode above, or click through to listen to it on the podcast’s home page, where you’ll also find the show notes. You can also search your favorite podcast app for Analyse Asia; it’s the most recent show.

Happy listening.

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Exclusive: DJI’s Releasing an Agriculture Drone

A colleague and reported today that DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, is releasing a crop-spraying drone.

The story begins:

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s top consumer-drone maker, is setting its sights on the agriculture industry with the launch of a crop sprayer that will test whether farming is fertile ground for drone technology.

DJI, which helped kick-start the global craze for drones with its $1,000 easy-to-fly devices, will on Friday unveil an eight-rotor drone priced at roughly $15,000 that is designed to spray pesticides on crops, a spokesman said. DJI said the drone, which has a 2.6-gallon spray tank and a typical takeoff weight of 49 pounds, can fly for about 12 minutes.

It can spray pesticides on seven to 10 acres of farmland per hour, depending on how much it needs to climb, descend or turn to follow the terrain.

The battery-powered DJI Agras MG-1 will be available first in China and South Korea, though the company didn’t specify exactly when it would go on sale. In China, DJI is taking preorders starting on Friday. The drone is expected to be available in other markets later, the company said.

 

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Scoop: Facebook Eyeing Asia for Instant Articles Ad Platform

A colleague and I reported earlier this week that Facebook’s looking at Asia to launch its Instant Articles advertising platform.

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. is laying the groundwork to expand its Instant Articles service in Asia, underscoring the extent to which it considers populous emerging markets as it implements new features.

The world’s largest social network has in recent weeks advertised job openings via its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore for contractors who will work with “new publishers to begin developing Instant Articles” and “provide direct support to publishers” who use the service. The jobs call for candidates who can speak Thai or Vietnamese.

Instant Articles allow media companies to publish material directly on Facebook, rather than as links to their sites. Facebook says these articles load ten times faster than standard articles on mobile phones. The company launched Instant Articles in the U.S. in May and in India last week.

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