My Q&A with Twitter’s VP of Emerging Markets, Shailesh Rao

2014 07 21shailesh

It’s online here and in the print edition of today’s Wall Street Journal Asia.

It begins:

Shailesh Rao has one of the most important jobs at Twitter Inc.: overseeing the company’s revenue in emerging markets.

Eight months after the messaging service’s initial public offering, the San Francisco-based company is betting that populous countries in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere can help it stem slowing user growth in the U.S. and boost sales.

Twitter’s revenue, most of which comes from advertising, more than doubled in the first quarter to $250.5 million. But the company, which was founded in 2006, has yet to make a profit. Some 78% of Twitter’s more than 255 million users are located outside the U.S., but the company derives just 28% of its revenue internationally.

Mr. Rao is trying to change that. The 42-year-old joined Twitter in 2012 after seven years at Internet search giant Google Inc., where he ran the company’s Asia display advertising business.

In an interview at Twitter’s offices in Singapore, Mr. Rao, who was born in Toronto and grew up in Pittsburgh, discussed the company’s goals for growth, how double-majoring in history and economics helps him on the job, and why yoga makes him a better manager.

A Warning for Southeast Asia’s Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

I wrote a recent WSJ Digits story about how e-commerce in Southeast Asia is set to boom, according to a UBS report:

Message for Southeast Asia’s brick-and-mortar retailers: E-commerce companies could soon be eating your lunch.

That’s according to a recent study by UBS , which showed the region’s consumers are already flocking to e-commerce sites at the expense of traditional retailers’ platforms.

Internet penetration in the populous region is higher than many assume, and will soon skyrocket thanks to the increasing use of low-cost smartphones and the availability of mobile Web connections, according UBS’s head of research and strategy in Thailand, Raymond Maguire, who authored the report.

Satya Nadella: ‘We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world’

What’s Microsoft’s role in a world that is less and less PC-based and increasingly mobile-focused?

Chief Excutive Satya Nadella last week sent a long email to his charges that provided some hints:

A snippet:

We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.

From my colleague Shira Ovide’s story:

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Satya Nadella, after five months on the job, signaled Thursday he won’t quickly reshape what Microsoft does, but is likely to cut the number of people doing it.

In a more than 3,000-word email to employees, Mr. Nadella said Microsoft needed to “rediscover our soul,” and he pointedly defined Microsoft’s mission not as delivering long-standing software products such as Windows or Office, but broadly as developing technology to help people live better lives and businesses run more efficiently.

The missive from Mr. Nadella, the third CEO in Microsoft’s 39-year history following Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, didn’t shed much light on how his Microsoft would look and act differently than the company of his predecessors. Mr. Nadella’s statements suggest he wants to inject urgency and speed without taking Microsoft in a new direction.

My Story on Messaging Apps in Southeast Asia

2014 06 25 messaging apps

The reason I have this special folder on my iPhone: I’ve been researching a story on messaging app makers battling for users here in Southeast Asia.

It ran in the WSJ Asia in print and online Friday.

The lede:

When Listri Samudra, an equity sales representative in the Indonesian city of Bandung, opens her smartphone to connect with her clients, she has three messaging apps to choose from.

She usually prefers BlackBerry Messenger, which remains highly popular in Indonesia, but also often uses WhatsApp—the company Facebook Inc. recently agreed to buy for $19 billion—or Line, a Japanese app that is rapidly gaining ground in the region.

The crowd of free messaging apps on Ms. Samudra’s phone illustrates why Southeast Asia is shaping up as an important battleground for messaging app makers. The region, in which no clear messaging leader has emerged, is critical, in part, because many of its roughly 600 million people have yet to upgrade from basic cellphones to smartphones.

Click through for a map of the region with estimates of which apps are most popular in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

My story on BlackBerry’s turn-around push in Indonesia

A chance encounter in Jakarta with legendary Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was merely an exhilarating byproduct of my recent Indonesia trip.

I traveled there to cover the debut of BlackBerry’s new low-cost, Foxconn-made smartphone, which it released in Indonesia as part of a high-stakes turnaround plan.

The story includes snippets from my interview with Chief Executive John Chen, and begins:

BlackBerry Ltd.’s latest stab at keeping its storied brand alive is starting here, at a launch event for its $191 smartphone, in the capital city of Indonesia.

The phone maker based in Waterloo, Ontario, unveiled its latest handset, dubbed the Z3, before several hundred people in a packed five-star hotel ballroom on Tuesday. An Indonesian hip-hop trio warmed up the crowd before BlackBerry’s new chief executive, John Chen, took the stage to introduce the phone.

The Z3 represents a number of firsts for BlackBerry, which recently replaced its chief executive and revamped its corporate strategy, after failing to find a buyer for its struggling business.

I also wrote a post with more color from the launch event.

BlackBerry Takes Preorders for Indonesia Smartphone

That’s the headline of a quick story I wrote today.

It begins:

BlackBerry is now accepting preorders for the low-cost, Foxconn-made smartphone it’s releasing first in Indonesia, where its devices have traditionally been popular.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said Monday it expects the smartphone, called the BlackBerry Z3, to be priced at 2,199,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$189), and that an official unveiling of the device will take place on May 13 in Jakarta. The phone can be ordered from two Indonesian telecommunications providers, Indosat and XL.

As part of a plan to cut its phone making costs amid declining market share in Indonesia and elsewhere, BlackBerry has outsourced much of its hardware business to Taiwan’s Foxconn, officially known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, which produces most of world’s iPhones and iPads.

Belatedly, my story on Singapore startups

I’ve been remiss in sharing some of my recent stories here.

In case you you missed it last month, I wrote an in-depth piece on Singapore’s increasingly lively startup scene.

Click through for an interactive feature on some Singapore-specific apps and a rundown of some local tech companies — and some potential challenges to the industry.

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(The story is for WSJ subscribers only — if you don’t already, subscribe! — but here’s a non-paywalled blog post introducing the piece.)

Next up: How I’ve helped out with Malaysia Flight 370 coverage. Stay tuned…