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Me on Bernard Leong’s Analyse Asia Podcast

Bernard Leong interviewed me for this week’s episode of his Analyse Asia podcast, which is about tech, business and media in the region.

We discussed three India-related issues I’ve written about for The WSJ (and have mentioned on this blog): Facebook’s Internet.org project, Google’s Android One, and the talent cruch for top startup coders in the country.

You can play or download the episode above, or click through to listen to it on the podcast’s home page, where you’ll also find the show notes. You can also search your favorite podcast app for Analyse Asia; it’s the most recent show.

Happy listening.

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Exclusive: DJI’s Releasing an Agriculture Drone

A colleague and reported today that DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, is releasing a crop-spraying drone.

The story begins:

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s top consumer-drone maker, is setting its sights on the agriculture industry with the launch of a crop sprayer that will test whether farming is fertile ground for drone technology.

DJI, which helped kick-start the global craze for drones with its $1,000 easy-to-fly devices, will on Friday unveil an eight-rotor drone priced at roughly $15,000 that is designed to spray pesticides on crops, a spokesman said. DJI said the drone, which has a 2.6-gallon spray tank and a typical takeoff weight of 49 pounds, can fly for about 12 minutes.

It can spray pesticides on seven to 10 acres of farmland per hour, depending on how much it needs to climb, descend or turn to follow the terrain.

The battery-powered DJI Agras MG-1 will be available first in China and South Korea, though the company didn’t specify exactly when it would go on sale. In China, DJI is taking preorders starting on Friday. The drone is expected to be available in other markets later, the company said.

 

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Scoop: Facebook Eyeing Asia for Instant Articles Ad Platform

A colleague and I reported earlier this week that Facebook’s looking at Asia to launch its Instant Articles advertising platform.

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. is laying the groundwork to expand its Instant Articles service in Asia, underscoring the extent to which it considers populous emerging markets as it implements new features.

The world’s largest social network has in recent weeks advertised job openings via its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore for contractors who will work with “new publishers to begin developing Instant Articles” and “provide direct support to publishers” who use the service. The jobs call for candidates who can speak Thai or Vietnamese.

Instant Articles allow media companies to publish material directly on Facebook, rather than as links to their sites. Facebook says these articles load ten times faster than standard articles on mobile phones. The company launched Instant Articles in the U.S. in May and in India last week.

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By Me Yesterday: ‘What the New H-1B Visa Reform Bill Could Mean for Indian Outsourcers’

The story begins:

Life could get tougher for Indian outsourcing firms that do business in the U.S. and for Indians who want to get visas to work there.

A key part of India’s outsourcing industry has long been to send thousands of its information-technology engineers and programmers to the U.S. on skilled-worker permits known as H-1B visas.

But two U.S. senators are renewing their efforts to force employers to try to hire Americans first before foreign workers.

Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin last week introduced a bill that would require all companies that want to hire workers under H-1Bs to first try to hire U.S. citizens.

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By Me Yesterday: ‘Flush Indian Startups Face Shortage of Skilled Workers’

The story begins:

BANGALORE, India—Software engineer Anshul Goel graduated from college in 2013. In the 2½ years since then, the 24-year-old has switched jobs three times, jumping from one Indian tech company to another, and doubled his salary.

Mr. Goel, who specializes in writing code that e-commerce startups and others use to predict customer behavior, says he is deluged with emails from headhunters. “My mailbox is full of them,” he said. “And it’s not only me.”

Indian startups, flush with cash from foreign venture capitalists, have been on a hiring spree as they race to scale up and beat rivals in an increasingly competitive market. Venture capitalists have poured some $4.54 billion into India’s startups so far this year, surpassing the $4 billion invested last year, says Indian data tracker Venture Intelligence. But a shortage of skilled workers is driving up wages and turning into a serious hurdle to companies’ expansion plans.

The country is home to millions of information-technology workers, veterans of India’s huge outsourcing industry. But, tech executives say, few of them have the cutting-edge abilities that startups in businesses from e-commerce to ride-booking apps crave.

I also wrote a post at our Digits blog about perks some workers are securing:

Free rides to work, cool offices with tasty food, new smartphones — it’s a good time to be a talented software engineer in India.

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By Me This Week: Zuckerberg Visits India

The story begins:

Shut out of China, Mark Zuckerberg is training his sights on India as a source for future growth.

The Facebook Inc. founder arrived in India on Tuesday as he continues working to expand the company’s reach in a billion-person economy becoming increasingly important in the social networking giant’s quest to add new users.

It is Mr. Zuckerberg’s second visit to India in the last 12 months. During the last one he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched a free Internet initiative.

Connecting more people in the developing world has become an important goal for Mr. Zuckerberg and his firm. India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people, millions of whom speak English, will be one of the biggest targets for the company’s global growth plans, analysts say, as China doesn’t allow its citizens access to the website.

I also helped some colleagues out with a liveblog for the town hall Q&A Zuckerberg held in Delhi.

Click through for a re-cap of the event, in which Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s controversial free Internet project, Internet.org, which I mentioned writing about few weeks back.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Taking Selfies But Were Afraid to Ask

2015 09 16 selfies

Aanand Prasad, pictured above, has written an amusing — and exhaustive — guide to taking selfies:

Do you ever hate how you look in photos taken by other people? That’s because other people have no clue how to make you look good. But you can very easily learn how.

Selfies have been a positive force in my life ever since I came across the wonderful #dudetime and its gently radical flipping of the default male gaze. If you think selfies are bad for any reason, I don’t want to know. I suggest getting in a bin and sharing your bad opinions with the other trash.

The target audience is straight dudes, but there are tips in here for everyone. He covers topics like lighting, camera angles, facial expressions, backgrounds, composition, and more.

Fun stuff.

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By Me Yesterday: Singapore Online Grocery Startup RedMart Hires Amazon Exec

The story begins:

Singapore-based online grocery-delivery service RedMart has scored some valuable new talent in its quest to conquer Southeast Asia.

The startup said Thursday it has hired a longtime senior executive at Amazon.com Inc. who once spent two years as a technical adviser to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.

Colin Bryar, a former Amazon vice president, has joined Redmart as the company’s chief operating officer, and will oversee issues such as engineering, marketing and operations, according to RedMarket Chief Executive Roger Egan.

Mr. Bryar has “such tremendous experience shadowing one of the top leaders in tech for two plus years,” Mr. Egan told The Wall Street Journal.

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By Me: Commercial Drone Startups Are Taking Off Here in Asia

The story begins:

Half a dozen men gathered around a workbench in a government building one morning as Tack Wai Wong, an engineering expert clad in a crisp white shirt and gray trousers, took his place at the front of the table.

“Once upon a time all of this was military technology,” said Mr. Wong, 50 years old, as he ran his fingers along the rotors of one of several small unmanned aerial vehicles spread out before him. “Now you can make drones yourself.”

The workshop was aimed at teaching people in this tightly controlled city-state how to fly drones safely—and maybe even hatch ideas for commercial applications.

The U.S. is a hotbed for commercial drone startups, and the Federal Aviation Administration in February proposed long-awaited rules for drones that will likely make their use even more widespread in the country.

But drone startups are increasingly taking flight across Asia. They are using the crafts to locate faulty solar panels in Singapore, prospect land in the Philippines, map plantations in Thailand and more. While companies also use such applications in other parts of the world, entrepreneurs here are working with cooperative governments in some places, taking advantage of lax regulations in others, and providing services that appeal to local markets in new ways.

There’s also a slideshow and, embedded above, a video (narrated by yours truly).

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