Category Archives: Tech

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.

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!

IPhone 6 Touchscreen Problems? You’re Not Alone

2016-06-11iphone2.jpg

Shown above and online here are a series of Tweets about a very annoying experience I’m having with my iPhone 6, which I bought less than a year and a half ago, in February 2015.

The touchscreen has been intermittently failing for several weeks – sometimes it works as it should, and sometimes it’s unresponsive, with touches and swipes yielding no response.

There are many accounts online about similar issues with various models of the phone.

Sometimes rebooting works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes locking the screen and then unlocking it again works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Perhaps most maddeningly, at times touches yield delayed actions, or massively sped-up ones. Sometimes the phone even suffers from phantom touches, with apps being opened or screens being swiped completely independently.

I tried erasing and restoring it as a new device, but that didn’t work. The problem persisted.

So I finally took it to an authorized service provider here in Singapore recently.

The tech quickly diagnosed the problem, noting that unfortunately, the phone is out of warranty.

It seems to be suffering from a hardware issue, she said, perhaps due to motherboard or display problems. She said it would cost as much as S$550 (about $400) to fix it, and that even then it would only have a ninety-day warranty, and the problem could persist. One option: I could sell the phone to them – for about $50.

I asked the tech and a more senior manager if this is a problem they see frequently, and they said they had seen it before.

Sadly, thus, I don’t have a fix to share. But if you’re similarly beset by the issue, just know this: You’re not alone.

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.