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Asia Tech Review: 30 September 2019

Welcome back, This week's newsletter is a pretty busy one with lots going on, highlights: 🚫 A leaked
September 30 · Issue #132 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
This week’s newsletter is a pretty busy one with lots going on, highlights:
🚫 A leaked memo offered a window into censorship at TikTok
🚔 Southeast Asian countries are teaming up to tackle Big Tech
🎬 Facebook won a major cricket deal in India, where Netflix is testing a new customer acquisition model through free first episodes
🚕 Gojek is competing with Netflix and I rounded up how Asian ride-hailing companies inspired Uber’s slew of new product updates – which may be its largest launch event ever
By the way, if you like Asia tech newsletters, we at The Ken have a rather good one that goes out each Saturday called The Nutgraf. Unlike ATR it is an editorial look at the previous week with a focus on India and global context. Sample before you commit: the latest one is here.
See you again next week!

Leaked document details how TikTok censors content
We know that prominent Chinese tech companies have had an embedded police/state presence for some years, but a new initiative will reportedly see the numbers increase within 100 firms in Hangzhou including Alibaba. Money quote: “Fraser Howie, author of Red Capitalism, said the move highlighted how ostensibly private companies are “state overseen enterprises”.” link
A list of European companies, including Adidas, BMW and Carlsberg, that do business in Xinjiang, where China has detained as many as 1.5M Muslims and put many to work in factories that work with overseas companies link
Google removed nearly 50 Android apps from China’s iHandy in its latest (suspiciously quiet) crackdown on “deceptive” ads link
The Trump administration is said to be considering ban on Chinese listings link (more trade war bluster or just above my pay grade? 🙃)
China’s mobile malware campaign targeting Uyghur Muslims also went after senior Tibetan officials and activists link
Xiaomi’s newest concept smartphone has a wraparound screen link
Alibaba now owns 33% of Ant Financial – the deal was announced last year and it’ll mean no more profit-sharing link
Alibaba also announced a new AI chip – used to run product search, translations and recommendations on its websites link
Chinese unicorns are finding it harder to raise link
Baidu will divest one-third of its 19% Ctrip stake, which is worth $1 billion link
Tough times at NIO: the electric car maker is laying off staff and seeking funding after poorer-than-expected financials, including $480M loss in Q2 link
Meanwhile, drone maker Ehang is tipped for a $200M Nasdaq IPO link
First the Middle East/India, now Luckin is headed to Europe link
Tencent led a $20M round for blockchain supply chain startup Everledger link
DT Dream, a cloud computing business backed by Alibaba, is now a unicorn link
Podcast on the madness of China’s plastic surgery industry link
Gogoro has a new lightweight scooter – runs for 85km on swappable batteries link
Facebook secures digital rights for ICC cricket events
Netflix’s newest test to attract users is to offer free access to the first episode of new show Bard of Blood – the company aired shows on YouTube but this is through its app link
How will SoftBank’s India-based bets fare in the light of pressure on WeWork and Uber? link
The challenge behind implementing India’s plastic ban, which will eliminate single-use plastics in 2022 link
Travis Kalanick’s cloud kitchen startup has big plans for India link
Rivigo, a logistics for trucking startup, is now valued at over $1B link
HR tech startup Darwinbox raised $15M for expansion in Asia link
Cancer care startup Onco raised $7M link
NoBroker could raise $130M led by Tiger Global and General Atlantic link
Cash from Japan's biggest firms could power startups
Didi’s Japanese service is expanding to 20 cities link
Palantir is reportedly wooing investors in Japan for more capital link
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asian countries consider a joint approach to regulating big tech companies
Students in Indonesia took cues from Hong Kong to protest a controversial law to punish extra-marital sex link
Honestbee owes staff nearly $1M in unpaid wages link
Grab issued a new report outlining its ‘social impact’ in Southeast Asia which includes a claim that it contributed $5.8 billion to the region over the last 12 months link
Meanwhile, Malaysia is escalating its anti-trust report into Grab’s acquisition of Uber’s local business link
Gojek’s expertise is being lapped up by Bangladesh’s Pathao, an on-demand startup that raised money from Gojek and has been through a testing period lately link (it seems that the local market for motorbike hailing is growing)
Back in Indonesia, Gojek now competes with Netflix link
Sky train wraparounds, big commuter billboards: it’s quite surreal to see so much public Gojek branding in Gurgaon when the service itself isn’t present in India – I’m pretty fascinated at how to build a tech brand for hiring only link
Dyson is going big in Southeast Asia with plans to hire 2,000 across the region link
PayMongo in the Philippines raised $2.7M for its payment processing business link
Outside of Asia tech
SoftBank’s Vision Fund investment strategy is under fire, mainly due to WeWork but you can throw in Uber’s post IPO performance, too link
Here’s a new example: the story of the chaotic mess left at dog walking startup Wag 2 years after its massive $300M investment from SoftBank link
Speaking of Uber, it made a slew of announcements to (and I quote) become “the operating system for your everyday life” – lots seem to be inspired by Asia and there’s more on that below ⏬ link
And one that isn’t SoftBank-related: The world’s most digitally competitive economies, according to the International Institute for Management Development link
Photo of the week
Robin Moroney
The great American soft-power sounds of rock and hip hop decline in Indonesian searches, while K-Pop stays strong. 2016 was the year Indonesian ears de-Americanized and Koreanified.
And finally... Uber's Asian inspiration
Since nobody did it, let’s take a brief look at how Uber’s Asia-based peers inspired its new product launches last week.
This is not intended to knock Uber, but instead to show Asia is responsible for new ideas and approaches. Indeed, ATR understands that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made a recent visit to Southeast Asia to meet with Grab (he is a board member) and check out the latest updates from the region.
Uber has now merged rides and food on its home screen
This is a given in Southeast Asia where, for some time, Gojek and Grab have offered an array of non-transportation services on the home screen.
Uber added in-trip safety reporting
China’s Didi Chuxing added a button that places a call directly to police in the event a passenger needs it during their ride. Unfortunately it took the murder of two female for this to happen.
Uber now supports multimodal trip planning with public transport
This may be an Uber first. India’s Ola last year acquired a startup that handles buying public transport tickets and monitoring traffic. It was suggested that the deal could help Ola customers combine public transport with cars, but so far that hasn’t happened. (Uber recently began to show JUMP and Lime bikes in its app, cribbing from Didi in China which added a range of bike sharing services a long time back.)
New subscriptions and improved rewards
Grab has offered subscriptions in Singapore (at least) for some time, and the Singapore company is among those to pioneer reward points.
An improved Uber driver app
Unsure on this one.
Uber launches its own incubator
In more detail: This is an initiative that’s open to both Uber employees and those outside of Uber to develop products and services on top of Uber’s platform.
Grab and Gojek are streets ahead here. Gojek has a dedicated investment fund, while Grab Ventures is a more generalist ‘investment arm’ that includes an internal program (which has birthed Grab rental bikes) and an accelerator program called Velocity. Gojek too recently announced an accelerator. (Plug: I wrote about the two firms’ approach to investments, which are ramping up.
Now to the interesting part, what features might Uber add in the future?
On-demand services
Gojek’s Indonesia service allows users to order a massage, manicure, haircut and more than 10 other services on demand. Its fleet of motorbike taxis whisks professionals to customers’ homes. Seems a long way out of Uber’s comfort zone.
Gojek has developed its own services but Grab turned its ride-hailing app into a platform for third-party services such as grocery deliveries. This one seems very likely for Uber at some point, given the marketplace model. Former CEO Travis Kalanick believed the company could rival Amazon on logistics, which is another type of platform play.
Gojek just launched GoPlay while Grab has a tie-in with Hooq to offer episodes and movies in its app. Unlikely. Don’t wait on UberFlix.
EV infrastructure
Didi is actively working with EV makers and the government to build out infrastructure that includes charging stations, and provide benefits for drivers such as discounts for maintenance and insurance. Grab and Ola are also running smaller initiatives aimed at doing the same. The US has a more mature EV system, and Uber has/had put emphasis on autonomous cars – that unit just got spun out and it is likely its forward-facing long shot.
Financial services
This is the big one in Southeast Asia. Alongside food, fintech could help Grab and Gojek eventually become profitable. I can see this happening for Uber but, with the situation different in Uber’s markets, it isn’t clear exactly what this might entail.
A digital wallet is likely to be one area – details spilled out following PayPal’s recent $500 million investment – and another may be lending, it seems.
rat king
knew that uber was dabbling in payments and $$$ space but didn't expect they would go into lending

very curious how they do it, and if it's based on income per their driving habits

(their venture into similar-ish area of car lease approval did not go well)
What do you think?
Let me know if I missed any glaring features or you have other ideas not on the list. Good suggestions will get a shout out in next week’s newsletter.
Upcoming events
Tech In Asia Conference: 8-9 October in Jakarta, Indonesia link
Hong Kong FinTech Week: 4-8 November in Hong Kong link
TechCrunch Shenzhen: 9-12 November in Shenzhen, China link
Singapore Fintech Festival: 11-15 November in Singapore link
If you run a tech event not listed here or want to recommend an addition, please email me
That's all for now, see you next week!
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