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Journalism

By Me Recently: E-Commerce Logistics in India, Outsourcing, Cyber-Security and More

2015 10 25 ecomm

In Friday’s Wall Street Journal and online here is a story I’m especially proud of.

My colleagues and I followed — literally — a sari across India, illustrating the logistical challenge e-commerce startups in the country face.

The story begins:

MADURAI, India—The future of India’s booming e-commerce market is in the hands of small-time customers like 27-year-old Gayathri Rajamansingh.
Each Sunday, the owner of a small hair salon browses the Shopclues website from her home, hunting for bargains. Recently, she fixed on a floral-print sari, a traditional Indian one-piece garment, and clicked “Buy Now.”

Ms. Rajamansingh’s impulse purchase of the 199 rupee ($3.06) sari, set in motion a logistical operation that is complex and costly. Delivering the item involved a three-day, roughly 1,200-mile journey from Surat, in the western state of Gujarat, to her home in Madurai, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. More than 30 people moved the package, through two overnight truck journeys, a long-haul flight and, finally, a motorbike to her doorstep.

There’s also an interactive feature with some fun videos and maps.

Meanwhile, here are some of my other recent stories:

  • Indian Startup Seclore Gains Traction Amid High Profile Hacks
  • Investors to Scrutinize India’s Information Technology Company Earnings
  • Ad-Focused Malware Targets Apple Users in China and Taiwan
  • Don’t forget that you can get my latest stories — and other links that catch my eye — delivered to your inbox. Sign up for my weekly email newsletter here.

    Categories
    Journalism

    By Me and a Colleague: Facebook’s Internet.org Iniative Faces Pushback

    The story, which ran last week online and on the front page of The WSJ‘s global edition, begins:

    When Muhammad Maiyagy Gery heard about a new mobile app from Facebook Inc. that provides free Internet access in his native Indonesia, he was excited.

    But after testing it, the 24-year-old student from a mining town on the eastern edge of Borneo soon deleted the app, called Internet.org, frustrated that he was unable to access Google.com and some local Indonesian sites.

    Mr. Gery said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is an “inspiration in the tech world,” but added that the company’s free Internet effort is “inadequate.”

    Mr. Gery’s reaction illustrates the unexpected criticism Facebook has encountered to its bold initiative to bring free Internet access to the world’s four billion people who don’t have it, and to increase connectivity among those with limited access. He is one of many users who say a Facebook-led partnership is providing truncated access to websites, thwarting the principles of what is known in the U.S. as net neutrality—the view that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to dictate consumer access to websites.

    Embedded above and online here is an accompanying video. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

    There’s also a piece called “5 Things to Know about Facebook’s Internet Initiative.”

    Categories
    Journalism Tech Travel

    By Me Yesterday: The Taj Mahal Just Got Free Wi-Fi

    The post, at our Digits blog, begins:

    The Taj Mahal: India’s most famous monument, where visitors can take in a striking example of Mughal architecture, gaze at the edifice’s gleaming white marble, and…surf the Internet via free Wi-Fi.

    Wait, free Wi-Fi? You better believe it.

    India’s federal information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Tuesday took to Twitter to kick off a new service in which state-run telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam is providing the service at the famed 17th century mausoleum.

    Click through to read more.

    Do we not live in an amazing world?

    Categories
    Journalism Tech

    Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

    It’s been a busy week or so.

    Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

    Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

    YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

    Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

    The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

    Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

    BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

    “Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

    Google declined to comment.

    The Economic Times first reported the news.

    InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

    Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

    NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

    Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

    “We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

    Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

    That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

    Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

    I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.

    Categories
    Tech

    By Me Today: Google Capital’s Coming to India

    The story begins:

    More evidence of global investors’ growing interest in India’s startups: Google’s new investment arm is setting up shop in the country.

    In what will mark the first such expansion outside the U.S., Google Capital — a wing of the tech giant that invests in mid-stage technology companies — is interviewing candidates for a position to lead their efforts in the populous nation.

    “It makes a lot of sense to focus on India right now,” Google Capital partner David Lawee told The Wall Street Journal. He noted that the country of 1.2 billion recently surpassed the U.S. in terms of its number of Internet users, and that local entrepreneurs “are responding” with “innovative” offerings for the domestic market and thinking about global growth, as well.

    Categories
    Journalism

    By Me and a Colleague: BlackBerry Releases High-End ‘Classic’ Smartphone in India

    A story I wrote with colleague Jai Krishna:

    Samsung this week said it would unveil in India a sub-$100 smartphone based on its own operating system, its latest attempt to turn around its declining sales.

    That isn’t stopping rival BlackBerry from launching a high-end smartphone in the country, with the Canadian company hoping corporate executives and professionals there will pay a premium for its devices.

    BlackBerry on Thursday said it is releasing its new Classic phone for 31,990 rupees ($518), slightly higher than the $449 it costs in the U.S., where it went on sale in December.

    The Classic, which comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard and trackpad, reflects the company’s plan to appeal to corporate customers in search of secure services, Sunil Lalvani, managing director at BlackBerry India, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

    Click through to read the rest.

    Categories
    Tech

    Consumers in India Can Now Pre-Book Their Whoppers — on Ebay

    That’s the subject of a story I wrote today:

    Indian consumers have in recent months shown a penchant for ordering goods like smartphones in short-lived, online sales called “flash sales.” Now Burger King is trying to get them to pre-order its sandwiches — on eBay.

    In an apparent attempt to tap into the popularity of flash sales — Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi says it has sold more than 500,000 of its low-cost handsets in India using such methods since July — Burger King is allowing customers to pre-book its Whoppers via online marketplace eBay.

    The world’s second-largest burger chain after McDonald’s is set to open this month for the first time in the populous country. Cognizant of the religious practices of Hindus and Muslims who comprise the majority of the country’s population, Miami-based Burger King late last week said it would offer chicken, mutton and vegetable versions of its signature Whopper sandwich.

    Through Wednesday, customers can pay a promotional price of 128 rupees ($2.08) with a credit card, debit card, or online bank transfer for a Whopper. (It’s unclear how much of a discount the price represents.) Buyers then receive a voucher via courier that they can redeem at a new Burger King shop in New Delhi’s Select City Walk Mall when it opens on Sunday. Those who order the sandwich also receive a T-shirt.

    Apart from the discounted price and the shirt, however, it is unclear why consumers would buy the sandwiches online ahead of time, when they could presumably be bought quickly in the restaurant.

    Click through to read the rest.

    Embedded above and online here: A video in which I talk about Burger King’s campaign and flash sales in India.

    Categories
    Misc.

    Audio Slide Show: Kolkata (Calcutta), India

    A and I are back in Bangkok now after four exceptional days in Kolkata (Calcutta) India.

    Here’s a 2 minute, 20 second audio slide show I’ve put together with some images and sounds I captured in the city. ((My previous audio slide shows about anti-government protests here in Bangkok can be found here and here.))

    For more images, you can find 35 photos from our trip in this Flickr set.

    (Note: Those of you reading this via my rss feed will need to click through to view the audio slide slow on my site.)

    Categories
    Misc.

    “India is to frugality as Bethlehem is to Jesus”

    That’s a line from Anand Giridharadas’s Letter from India in today’s IHT: “For tips on frugality, look to India

    VERLA, India: Watching Americans try to make themselves frugal is like watching Mongolians try to make Bordeaux wine.

    Thrift does not come naturally to a country that turned layaway, zero-interest home loans and pre-approved credit cards into a mode of living. And so as they trudge through a cruel holiday season, Americans are cutting back, but hesitatingly and maladroitly.

    They are standing in line by the thousands at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, pushing and pulling, and on one occasion trampling an obstructive employee to death with their frantic, frugal feet.

    They are embracing the alien idea of sacrifice. Mothers are forgoing personal shopping to spend on the family, and, according to Consumer Reports, pet owners are depriving themselves before shortchanging their pets.

    Fourteen percent of Americans are making gifts, not buying them, that magazine reported. Twelve percent are plotting to pass on to others the gifts others give them. Many plan to tip less, scale back charity and go shopping accompanied by that leafy commodity so foreign to Americans: cash.

    And then it hit me. The jostling in line, the stampeding, the motherly sacrifice, the homemade presents, the regifting, the thick wads of rubber-banded cash: America is becoming India!

    Categories
    Misc.

    Incredible Photos from India

    Don’t miss “Scenes from India,” from the Boston Globe’s exceptional photo blog.

    Number 19 — the pic of the Bengal tiger being returned to the wild — is one of my favorites. Number 24, the shot of the human pyramid, is also incredible.

    (My own meager attempts to make compelling photos in India can be found here and here.)