Category Archives: Journalism

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.

By Me Yesterday: What Trump Said About Working Visas to the U.S.

The story begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said his administration will scrutinize what he called “abuses” of visas amid speculation that he intends to restrict the flow of skilled workers into his country.

In a two-minute video posted on YouTube, Mr. Trump for the first time since the Nov. 8 election articulated to the public what he plans to do during his first 100 days in office.

“On immigration,” Mr. Trump said, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

He also said he would take action on trade, energy policies and more.

My previous stories on Trump and immigration are here and here.

By Me on Friday: How Amazon Has Taken India by Storm

The story begins:

NEW DELHI– Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

“We are winning in India,” Mr. Bezos said at a conference in San Francisco, arguing that Amazon has pulled past Flipkart to become “the leader in India now.”

Amazon’s attempts to push into developing markets—marked by difficult logistics and significant cultural differences in shoppers’ expectations—reflect the e-commerce giant’s search for new routes to growth as it saturates the U.S. market. Countries such as China and India promise rapidly growing populations with steep rates of online shopping adoption as technology becomes more accessible.

Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

By Me on Thursday: H-1B Skilled-Worker Visas and Donald Trump

The story, which seems to have gotten a lot of attention online (it’s been shared widely on Facebook and has attracted 49 comments on The WSJ site so far), begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will likely crack down on the use of skilled-worker visas issued to Indian outsourcing firms, said a leading anti-immigration campaigner.

Mr. Trump is still picking his cabinet, and how his policies will evolve is hard to guess, but he was elected pledging to restrict immigration. That means the tens of thousands of mostly Indian migrants entering America on high-skilled worker, or H-1B, visas could become a target for tougher vetting, said Roy Beck, president of Arlington, Va.-based NumbersUSA, which advocates for limited immigration.

“It would be very surprising if we don’t see the rules around H-1Bs really tighten,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Beck said his organization provided information and analysis to Mr. Trump and a handful of other candidates during the campaign, though the group does not support any individual candidate and does not currently work with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s presidential-transition media team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump emphasized tightening immigration and criticized companies that ship jobs overseas to countries like India and China.

Click through to read the rest.

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.

Recent Stories: Grab <--> Lyft; Microsoft Exec on Self-Driving Cars; Venture Capital in Southeast Asia

I’m behind in sharing some of the stories I’ve been working on. Here are a few from last week.

The first, on Grab’s integration with Lyft in the U.S., begins:

The latest step in a global ride-sharing alliance between rivals of Uber Technologies Inc. went into effect Thursday, allowing users of a popular Southeast Asia-focused transportation app to begin making car bookings via Lyft Inc. in the U.S.

Users of the app from GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd., which operates in 30 cities across six Southeast Asian countries, can now use the service to hail vehicles in more than 200 U.S. cities via Lyft. In December, Lyft said it was teaming up with Grab, as the company is known, after announcing a similar agreement with Chinese startup Didi Chuxing Technology Co. in September, bolstering the competitive field against the much larger Uber.

The second, on Microsoft, which I wrote while in Hong Kong for our Converge tech conference, begins:

Microsoft Corp. isn’t building its own self-driving car, but is bullish on helping others with related technology, a senior executive said.

“We won’t be building our own autonomous vehicle but we would like to enable autonomous vehicles and assisted driving as well,” said Peggy Johnson, who heads business development for the Redmond, Wash., tech titan, speaking at the Converge technology conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal and f.ounders in Hong Kong Friday.

Ms. Johnson said Microsoft has asked various auto makers what kind of technological applications they are looking for, whether it is working with Azure, its cloud-based service for businesses, Office 365, the cloud version of its productivity software suite, or its Windows operating system.

And finally, another from the conference: a look at how investors – such as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin – are increasingly pouring venture capital funds into Southeast Asia:

Venture capitalists and investors attending the Converge technology conference in Hong Kong on Friday expressed optimism about the future of startups in Southeast Asia, despite significant challenges.

“Between Southeast Asia and India there are about two billion people,” said Facebook Inc. co-founder Eduardo Saverin, speaking on a panel about investment opportunities in the region. “It’s arguably the fastest-growing internet market in the world.”

In the first quarter of this year, funding to companies in Singaporethe region’s startup hub–rose sharply to $199 million from $53.1 million a year earlier, according to Hong Kong-based AVCJ Research.

Nick Lemann in The New Yorker on Thiel, Gawker, and press freedom in the U.S.

A passage from the piece worth worth highlighting:

Before the middle decades of the twentieth century, the Supreme Court didn’t find that the First Amendment gave the press extraordinary protection to publish private material about public figures, or secret government documents. As the press moved from its raffish Front Page period into at least trying to behave like a profession, the Court gave it steadily more protection. But today the American press has a profoundly different structure than it did in the Sullivan era. Established, professionalized news organizations make up a far smaller portion of the whole, and most are under economic stress. The roguish part of the press is proliferating. People like Nick Denton love to mock the mainstream media for being preachy and self-regarding, while taking full advantage of the protections that arrived during its brief period of general public esteem. Now the public likes the press less and less, and that invites a sustained reconsideration of the protections.

Read the whole thing.