Category Archives: India

Trip Report: Three-Day Getaway to Neemrana Fort Palace

At the end of December we took a entertaining, three-day getaway to the town of Neemrana, India

It’s about three hours by car southwest of Delhi, in Rajasthan state on the way to the well-known city of Jaipur.

Our destination: the excellent Neemrana Fort Palace, shown at the top of this post. It’s a 15th-century fort that has been expanded and renovated and made into a comfortable hotel.

Here are some images from our stay. There’s not much happening in the city itself but the palace is great location for relaxing, eating food, sipping coffee or tea and enjoying sunsets.*

The highlight of the trip, for me, was visiting a step well about a 15 minute walk away. Step wells are unique to South Asia; rather than a conventional well, step wells are large and wide and allow people to walk down to the source of the water.

In this case the structure is water-less and seems to be abandoned, but it’s still fun to hike, down and around. More on that below.


On the way down from Delhi. One of the many interesting sights to see on Indian highways.


Entrance to the hotel. 


Blue, blue skies


Inside the hotel


The nearby step well


Looking up toward the step well entrance 


Requisite #StepWellSelfie


Waking Back to the hotel

The hotel itself is spread over many stories, and is fun to explore in its own right; its many alcoves and vistas invite quiet contemplation.

Highly recommended for a quick getaway from noisy Delhi.

*There is also a zipline. I did not try it.

Video: New Delhi Street Dogs are Totally Unflappable 

​I often pass this group of street dogs near our office building in Connaught Place. 

These mutts are totally unflappable. 

Honking cars, pedestrians weaving between them, bicycles, horses, you name it. 

They could care less. 

They just keep dozing, sunning themselves as New Delhi buzzes all around them. 

A level of zen I can only one day hope to attain!

Previously: a super-enterprising street dog I saw back in August.

The difference between saying something and actually doing it 

About a quarter of the time I take Ubers here in Delhi the driver asks me, when I get out, to give him a five-star rating. (Drivers must maintain a certain rating to ensure they can continue working on the platform.)

Usually I just nod my head and say “yeah okay,” and proceed to give them whatever score I would have given them anyway. 

The other day a driver did something different. 

As I was getting out of the car he said “sir” to get my attention, then pointed at his phone, where he had selected five stars in his rating for me

Then when he saw I was looking, he pressed submit.

When it came time for me to score him later, I also gave him a similar rating. 

He was a good driver indeed, but he also understood the law of reciprocity. He knew the difference between just saying something and actually taking action. And that I may well feel inclined to help him out too (since riders are also ranked). 

Clever. 

Amazon Pulls Indian-Flag Doormats as New Delhi Threatens Punishment

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That’s the subject of my story yesterday, which begins:

Amazon.com Inc. pulled doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag from its Canadian website after the South Asian nation’s foreign minister threatened to oust the Seattle company’s employees.

“This is unacceptable,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to a posting from a user showing an image of the doormats for sale.

Ms. Swaraj, who has 7 million followers on the platform, called on Amazon to remove the “insulting” products and threatened to rescind visas for Amazon’s foreign staff in India if action wasn’t taken.

Google CEO’s Advice to Ambitious Students: Loosen Up

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That’s the gist of my story yesterday, which began:

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has some straightforward life advice for students at his alma mater: loosen up and have some fun.

The India-born Mr. Pichai, speaking Thursday at the elite Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur outside Kolkata, told university students who asked how they could emulate his success to pursue their passions, take risks, and be creative.

That is unconventional advice in a country where parents often pressure their children from a young age to study hard so they can secure steady employment.

“Academics is important but it is not as important as it’s made out to be,” Mr. Pichai said, adding that during his time studying metallurgical engineering at the school more than two decades ago he stayed up late, slept through the occasional class — and may even have earned a C in one course.

“I worked hard but we did have our share of fun as well,” he said.

And:

Near the end of his hour-long town hall, an earnest student asked Mr. Pichai for advice on how he could make the most of his four years on campus. Mr. Pichai’s response was simple: “I wouldn’t overthink it.”

Previously: Google’s Newest India Focus: Connecting Small Businesses.

Google’s Newest India Focus: Connecting Small Businesses

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That’s the subject of my latest WSJ story, which begins:

NEW DELHI— Alphabet Inc.’s Google is ramping up its efforts to get India’s small businesses online, the latest step in its quest to win new users in the populous nation.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said on Wednesday that the Mountain View, Calif., company will launch later this year a tool that allows owners of small businesses that are now offline to create mobile-friendly websites for free. Google says nearly three quarters of the country’s 51 million small businesses currently lack a web presence.

India will be the first country to get access to the feature, which will then be rolled out to other nations.

“India shapes how we develop products in so many ways, big and small,” the India-born Mr. Pichai told a conference of entrepreneurs here. He said the company has added more staff locally and executives have been spending more time in the South Asian nation.

As I’ve noted before, India holds huge potential for Google — and other big U.S. tech firms, like Uber and Amazon — because it is home to more than 1.2 billion people, most of whom have yet to get online for the first time.

How Uber’s Racing to Add Drivers Here in India

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That’s the subject of my latest story, out Thursday, which begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar, “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.

Scoop with a Colleague: Apple Is Discussing Manufacturing in India, Government Officials Say

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The story, which ran Tues., begins:

NEW DELHI— Apple Inc. is discussing with the Indian government the possibility of manufacturing its products in the country, according to two senior government officials, as the company seeks to expand its sales and presence in the South Asian nation.

In a letter to the government last month, the Cupertino, Calif., firm outlined its plans and sought financial incentives to move ahead, the officials told The Wall Street Journal. Senior Trade Ministry authorities in recent weeks met to discuss the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Making goods such as iPhones locally would allow Apple to open its own stores in India, helping build its brand in a country where it has less than a 5% slice of a booming smartphone market.

Our piece was followed by Reuters and picked up by many outlets:

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As I wrote on Facebook, subscribe to The WSJ to get such news before anyone else!