Category Archives: Tech

By Me Yesterday: India’s Paytm Sees Surge in Usage After Demonetization

The story begins:

Indian online payment firm Paytm says it has added 8 million new users in the two weeks since the government announced the replacement of the country’s highest-denomination bank notes.

In a bid to root out corruption, counterfeit money and tax evasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 announced the replacement of notes worth 500 rupees ($7.30) and 1,000 rupees ($14.60). That move has resulted in a cash shortage, with scores of people lining up outside ATMs and banks to deposit their cash, exchange old notes or withdraw new bills.

The inconvenience has also pushed people to sign up for digital wallets.

“This is the golden age of investment in digital payments in India,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, chief executive of Paytm parent company One97 Communications, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Patym, which is backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., makes a popular mobile app that can be used to pay for everything from auto-rickshaw rides to groceries.

The Noida, India-based firm is adding about 500,000 new users daily following Mr. Modi’s announcement, according to Mr. Sharma. It added 100,000 a day last month.

Click through to read the rest.

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.

Image of the Day: Amazingly Hardcore Hacker Stock Photo

So, I posted this image on Twitter recently and it’s proven to be a big hit. 

Why? 

People — and I guess I am one — seem to love stock photos of “hackers,” particularly ridiculous ones. And this one, which I noticed in an Indian newspaper the other day,  fits the bill.  

Rather than simply putting a Post-It note over the machine’s video camera, as some have pointed out, this man (or woman) has donned not merely requisite hacking gear like a hoodie, but also goggles and a balaclava. 

And perhaps best of all, gloves — which, as many have noted, would certainly make typing more difficult. 
It’s a dangerous world out there, folks. Stay safe. 

Short Film: Guy Who Built Enormous Model Train Set

Some Kind Of Quest from Andrew Wilcox on Vimeo.

Embedded above is “Some Kind of Quest,” a short documentary about Bruce Zaccagnino and Northlandz, a 52,000-square-foot model train setup he created in New Jersey over a period of four years.

Dedication, pure and simple.

Related video: the Belgian gentleman who is really into marbles.

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.