Categories
Journalism Singapore

Uber Rented Defective Cars in Singapore: Our Page 1 Story

2017 08 04wsjP1

I’m late in mentioning this as I’ve been on the road for a few weeks — and if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook this may be old news — but I wanted to link to a page 1 story I wrote with colleagues that ran earlier this month.

The headline: “Smoke, Then Fire: Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars to Drivers.” And the dek: “Chasing breakneck growth, the ride-hailing giant bought Honda SUVs in Singapore subject to a recall — then one caught fire.”

The piece begins:

Uber driver Koh Seng Tian had just dropped off a passenger in a residential neighborhood in Singapore when he smelled smoke in his Honda Vezel sport-utility vehicle. Flames burst from the dashboard, melting the interior and cracking a football-sized hole in his windshield.

Mr. Koh walked away unhurt, according to the accident report filed with authorities. But the fire this January caused panic at Uber Technologies Inc.

The ride-hailing company had rented the Vezel to Mr. Koh after Honda Motor Co. recalled the model in April 2016 for an electrical component that could overheat and catch fire.

Uber managers in Singapore were aware of the Honda recall when they bought more than 1,000 defective Vezels and rented them to Mr. Koh and other drivers without the needed repairs, according to internal Uber emails and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with people familiar with Uber’s operations in the region.

Click through to see some images and read the rest.

The story was followed by news outlets across the globe, including Bloomberg, Reuters, USA TODAY, CNBC, CNN, Quartz, Axios and more.

Categories
Singapore

Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore

IMG 0342

Spotted recently at a 7-Eleven here in the city-state: bananas, in individual plastic bags, bearing the words “single and available.”

The sunglasses.

The plastic bag, despite — as a colleague pointed out on Twitter — the fact that bananas are naturally individually wrapped.

The “tip” at the bottom about when best to consume bananas according to ripeness.

It’s all too much.

Categories
Singapore Tech

By Me Monday: How Singapore’s Grab is Battling Uber Here in Southeast Asia

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

The region’s ride-hailing market is forecast to grow more than five times to $13.1 billion by 2025 from $2.5 billion last year, according to a recent report on Southeast Asia’s internet economy conducted by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Singapore state-investment firm Temasek Holdings.

There’s also a video, embedded at the top of the post, in the story, and online here. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

I last wrote about Grab — previously known as GrabTaxi — when they teamed up with fellow ride-sharing firms Lyft and Ola, and when they raised new funds last year.

Categories
Singapore Tech

Singapore Taxi Hack: Mirror for Passengers to Check Oncoming Traffic

Singapore taxi mirror

I spotted this clever feature in a taxi cab here in Singapore recently. Had never seen anything like it.

As you can see in the image above, the car had a mirror affixed to the outside of the rear seat passenger side door. When passengers get out, they can use it to check for oncoming cars or motorbikes.

Simple and clever.

I shared the photo on Twitter, and users pointed out such gadgets would be useful in far flung places like India, the U.K. and Uganda.

So there you go: Safety innovation, straight out of tiny Singapore!

Categories
Book Notes Books Singapore

Book Notes — ‘Asian Godfathers,’ by Joe Studwell

Note: I have long kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I 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. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

2016 06 01 asian godfathers

Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia
By Joe Studwell
Published: Oct. 2007
Read: Nov. 2015
Amazon link

Brief recap: An incisive look at how Southeast Asia’s godfathers got rich by exploiting the region’s dysfunctional governments — and how local elites have used godfathers, in turn.

One of the best books, if not the very best, on the region that I’ve encountered; should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the history of modern Southeast Asia.

My notes:

  • The region’s godfathers — largely Chinese and Indians — emigrated to Southeast Asia before World War II, taking advantage of opportunities for concessions and monopolies from local political elites in exchange for not seeking their own political power. Typical godfather behavior would be, for example, to bribe local politicians for lucrative monopolies, which they then used to build their own fortunes. Local elites got a steady stream of incoming cash in return, and weren’t challenged in the governmental sphere.

  • Southeast Asia and Hong Kong have very few global brands because they employ “technology-less industrialization” — entrepreneurs seek rents and have monopolies, so don’t need to improve productivity or become globally competitive.

  • The economic landscape in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong is “shaped by the interaction of two historical forces: migration and colonization.” That is, migrants came to Southeast Asia and began building their riches by taking advantage of colonial systems.

  • Thailand’s Thaksin was a godfather who committed the sin of political ambition — and alienated his fellow godfathers.

  • Studwell is highly critical of Singapore despite the fact it is known globally for good governance and its outsized economic development. He argues that its small size makes comparisons with countries irrelevant, and that both the city-state and Hong Kong show that small cities with deep water ports and good banking facilities were always destined to flourish in the region, despite their very different political models. “As relatively easily managed city states, with highly motivated and purely immigrant populations,” Studwell writes, “Hong Kong and Singapore perform a simple economic trick: they arbitrage the relative economic inefficiency of their hinterlands. In other words, business comes to them because they perform certain tasks — principally services — a little better than surrounding countries.”