Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon, Facebook and Walmart Need to Watch Their Backs in India

2019 02 01 india gate

That’s the headline on a story I wrote Tuesday with my colleague Rajesh Roy. It begins:

Hoping to match China’s success at protecting and promoting homegrown tech titans, India has plans to continue tightening restrictions on Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., Facebook Inc. and other foreign firms that have come to dominate the country’s budding internet economy.

As hundreds of millions of people get online for the first time, and with national elections due in the coming months, Indian policy makers are upping the pressure on American rivals and changing policies to favor domestic players.

The secretary of India’s Telecommunications Department, Aruna Sundararajan, last week told a gathering of Indian startups in a closed-door meeting in the tech hub of Bangalore that the government will introduce a “national champion” policy “very soon” to encourage the rise of Indian companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. She said Indian policy makers had noted the success of China’s internet giants, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. , the person said. She didn’t immediately respond to a request for more details on the program or its timing.

Asked about the comments, she said in a WhatsApp message that the idea is to promote Indian companies “to become global champions."

Click through to read the rest.

Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon, Walmart Foiled as India Tightens E-Commerce Rules

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That’s the headline of a story I wrote Thursday with my colleague Corinne Abrams. It begins:

India is tightening restrictions on foreign e-commerce companies operating in the country, in a new challenge to Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. as they bet billions on the nascent market.

Current rules forbid non-Indian online sellers from holding their own inventory and shipping it out to consumers, as is typically done in other countries. Instead, the foreign sellers have found a work-around, selling online what are effectively their own products but held by their affiliated local companies.

Click through to read the rest.

We wrote more about the issue Friday in another story, which began:

American firms are plowing billions into India’s internet economy in part because, unlike China, India promised a level playing field for foreign firms to compete against local companies. Now that field may be tilting toward domestic startups amid a global backlash against U.S. tech titans, according to analysts and industry officials.

With national elections approaching early next year, India’s government said Wednesday it is tightening restrictions on foreign e-commerce players, the latest move in recent months that restrains their freedom to operate compared with local firms. The new rules present a fresh challenge to Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. as they aim for growing slices of a market where many of India’s 1.3 billion people are starting to shop online thanks to inexpensive smartphones and data.

Vinay Kesari, a Bangalore-based technology lawyer specializing in regulatory matters who has worked with U.S. tech firms, said such moves to rein in foreign tech companies have been highly unusual and may be a sign of more to come.

“I’ve never seen anything like this happening,” he said. “All bets are off at this point.”

Click through to read the rest.

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Newley's Notes

Amazon India Doormat Flap; Assessing the G.A.N.; You’re Tying Your Shoelaces Wrong — This Week’s Newley’s Notes

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Edition 80 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share links to my stories and various items I think are worth highlighting.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Amazon Yanks Indian-Flag Doormats as New Delhi Threatens Punishment. The story begins:

Amazon.com Inc. pulled doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag from its Canadian website after the South Asian nation’s foreign minister threatened to oust the Seattle company’s employees.

“This is unacceptable,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to a posting from a user showing an image of the doormats for sale.

Ms. Swaraj, who has 7 million followers on the platform, called on Amazon to remove the “insulting” products and threatened to rescind visas for Amazon’s foreign staff in India if action wasn’t taken.

India a key market for Amazon’s future growth. The company does not want to anger consumers – or public officials – here.

WHAT I WROTE AT NEWLEY.COM

Book Notes: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

My notes from an excellent book about Jeff Bezos and the rise of his powerful, controversial company.

On Austin Tice, Syria, and Risks Freelancers Take.

Musings on a long story in Texas Monthly about Tice’s mysterious disappearance while reporting in Syria, and how dangerous being a freelancer in a conflict zone can be.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Cool: weed helps chronic pain. Not cool: it’s totally bad for your lungs. Those are among the conclusions of a lengthy U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report that examined over 10,000 studies, according to Quartz. The full study is here.

2) What is, truly, the G.A.N.? That’s Great American Novel, of course. Literary Hub has a survey of the contenders, from “The Great Gatsby” and “Moby Dick” to works by Toni Morrison and Jonathan Franzen.

3) Sick of those “Best 30 Under 30 Lists”? At NewYorker.com, Bess Kalb gives us “A Selection of the 30 Most Disappointing Under 30.”

Sample: “Joanna Feldman, twenty-two: Misquoted E. E. Cummings in her rib-cage tattoo.”

4) This simple shoelace-tying trick will change your life. Basically, if your shoes ever come undone, you’re doing your granny knots wrong. Take it away, Dr. Shoelace. And don’t miss the video. You will never again resort to double knots.

5) I love this concept: Astronaut.io is a website that provides a stream of YouTube videos that “have almost zero previous views.”

“Today, you are an Astronaut,” the site says. “You are floating in inner space 100 miles above the surface of Earth. You peer through your window and this is what you see. You are people watching. These are fleeting moments.

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Newley

Categories
Book Notes Books

Book Notes: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Note: From time to time I share notes about the books I’ve been reading, or have revisited after many years. For more such posts, see the Book Notes category

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The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone

Published: 2013
ISBN: 0316219282
Amazon link

Brief Summary

The fascinating story of the rise of Amazon, which is the story of Jeff Bezos himself. He is brilliant, analytical, highly competitive, and driven. Bezos built Amazon not only to create the best contemporary company of its kind, vanquishing all rivals, but engineered systems to innovate and continue to succeed well into the future.

My notes:

  • I read this book as part of the research for my Wall Street Journal story, published in November, about Amazon’s rapid progress here in India. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Amazon. I couldn’t have picked a better book.
  • Author Brad Stone, who covered Amazon for years for the likes of The New York Times and Newsweek, provides the fascinating story of Bezos’s personal background, his early academic success, and his bold decision to leave a high-paying Wall Street job to move out west and found Amazon.
  • The book is not a hagiography, however. Bezos and Amazon are presented warts and all. Anecdotes show the Amazon founder to be at times ruthless in his quest for success, and other times enormously generous. And the high-pressure nature of Amazon’s corporate culture is plain to see.
  • I’m old enough to recall the dotcom bust, but “The Everything Store” serves as a good reminder to younger readers just how bleak things got for Amazon, when its stock fell and many believed one of its e-commerce competitors, eBay, would be the runaway success, not Amazon.
  • From a communications perspective, it’s interesting to note the book highlights several instances when new public announcements have been timed over the years to conincide with competitors’ quarterly results, as a way to steal their thunder. And Bezos himself is a master at messaging, honing “Jeff-isms” to express the company’s point of view in a pithy manner, often deflect various criticisms of the company along the way.
  • If you want to learn more about Bezoz, Amazon, and its culture, Stone has helpfully provided a list of “a dozen books widely read by executives and employees that are integral to understanding the company. Some of the titles include the novel “The Remains of the Day,” books by Sam Walton and Alan Greenberg, and modern-day business classics like “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Black Swan.”
Categories
India Journalism Tech

Amazon Pulls Indian-Flag Doormats as New Delhi Threatens Punishment

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That’s the subject of my story yesterday, which begins:

Amazon.com Inc. pulled doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag from its Canadian website after the South Asian nation’s foreign minister threatened to oust the Seattle company’s employees.

“This is unacceptable,” Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter Wednesday in response to a posting from a user showing an image of the doormats for sale.

Ms. Swaraj, who has 7 million followers on the platform, called on Amazon to remove the “insulting” products and threatened to rescind visas for Amazon’s foreign staff in India if action wasn’t taken.