Best of August in Asia-Pacific
Curating the best content in the region
“Life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not.”
- Uncle Iroh
Another month in the bag.
Personally, I released How a Fire Built Singapore [Video] and Zilingo and Investor Idiocy. Am I as productive as I want/should be? No. But I’ve stopped pressuring myself to be perfectly productive and have instead chosen to enjoy and maximise my backpacking travels. I get home in November and that’s when content will be priority numero uno.
Anyway, my longer, more personal rant will be down the bottom. Let’s dive into some of the most interesting content around Asia-Pacific this month!
Chart of the Month:
The War Economy: Is America falling behind China in science? [Link]
This graph above made me pause. Note: “Country affiliations are based on the country where the research received their undergraduate degree”. Meaning Chinese nationals who study abroad in the US would be counted as American in the “Where do top-tier AI researchers come from”. So the Chinese portion I’d assume is actually even larger.
Spending more money on research is really the key here, because that’s what creates demand. Yes, supply of research inputs is important — we need lots of high-skilled immigrants, and we need to push more Americans to go into STEM. But unless there are jobs for those researchers, Americans will be discouraged from going into the field, and the presence of immigrants will seem like a cutthroat zero-sum competition. Spending more money ensures that anyone who has the talent can see their talent put to work.
India's Fintech Success: UPI [Link]
Indians are quite proud of UPI. And they should be. In March, UPI facilitated 5 billion transactions. […]
Countries like the United States are still struggling to unify and update their sprawling financial industry to allow the introduction of a UPI-like service.
Many years of legacy practices and legacy players - each with their own incentives - have made it challenging to simply launch a smooth experience from end to end.
Mr. Yakult: Shirota Minoru, the Microbiologist Behind Japan’s Favorite Health Drink [Link]
Shirota firmly believed that the key to health was “not to treat disease, but to prevent contracting it”. As such, he wanted to develop a supplement that could provide the Shirota strain to as many people as possible in consumable form. He also believed that good health should be available to all people, regardless of wealth or status.
He went on to develop none other than the internationally famous probiotic drink, Yakult, a fermented milk-based beverage containing billions of units of Shirota strain. (The name Yakult comes from the Esperanto word for yogurt, “jahurto”).
10 Questions with Michael Dunne - Founder of auto advisory group ZoZoGo [Link]
Michael has previously worked for General Motors, JD Power, automotive consultancy Automotive Resources Asia and now runs the auto advisory company ZoZoGo. So he knows what he’s on about.
China's electric vehicle market is no longer dependent on subsidies to sustain momentum. Demand has already attained escape velocity. There is no going back to gasoline-powered cars. Chinese consumers will buy a record 6 million new energy vehicles (NEVs) this year, or about 60% of the global total. (Note: NEVs is China’s umbrella term that refers to pure electrics, plug-in electrics and hydrogen-powered vehicles).
Zilingo and Investor Idiocy [Link]
Tooting my own horn here but whatta story. Whacky world of investing stays undefeated. Startup shenanigans, idiot investors, and a sign of things to come. The rise and fall of Zilingo is a snapshot of the VC landscape at its worst.
two investors mentioned to Bloomberg that they decided not to back Zilingo after they found evidence of merchant fraud in Indonesia. But if they knew it, why didn’t others? This leaves us with two options. Either:
A) Investors like Temasek and Sequoia India’s due diligence absolutely sucks if they missed that critical piece of information, or:
B) They knowingly saw fraud and decided to look the other way in the hope that everything worked itself out.
More recommended reading:
Eugene gives a super clear and concise history of the last 200 odd years in Korea. And all within 43 minutes!
Bo Xilai: Ten Years On [Spotify]
Admittedly, I had never heard of the bloke prior to this podcast¹. Cracker of a story and if the show's snippet doesn't interest you, then nothing will.
The former mayor of Chongqing remains in prison to this day for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of office, along with his wife Gu Kailai, who is serving life imprisonment for the murder of a British businessman.
Is Simon a wizard? Knows about a billion statistics off the top of his head. It’s seriously impressive just to listen to someone that knows something this well.
"The reality is you've got the same person using multiple platforms. Now you can either then look at that and say, I can show the same ad to the same person, multiple times across different platforms. Or you can say to yourself, I now have the opportunity to reach the same person with different things in different context, at different moments of their lives on different platforms. Ideally you go with a second one, but admittedly, that's a lot more work."
As a kid, I wanted to be Nick Riewoldt. I wanted to play football like him. I wanted to look like him. And now I feel like a kid again. This podcast is a banger. Honest, upfront and insightful. Not commonly associated with a footballer. But this one is a goodie. Top 3 favourite podcast of this year for me.
Everything you do either brings you closer to who you want to be, or further away
As always, the most efficient way to share my video recommendations is through a YouTube playlist. I’ve got insightful and interesting videos related to Asia-Pacific featuring channels like Asianometry, FaultLine, Vice Asia, and plenty more.
Should honestly be required reading before coming to Bali. Gives a clear and concise history of Bali. Yet also helps explain a little bit about the people who live or have made a life there. Heaven and Hell, Bali gets under your skin in a way few other places can, yet also has an allure that just keeps drawing you back.
Another month on the road for me. Started in Bali, a pitstop in Singapore, a few days in Kuala Lumpur, a few weeks across Vietnam, and now back in Bali. I have no idea what structure and a schedule are anymore. September will be much tamer with only Bali on the itinerary for now.
At one point I will write about how being a ‘digital nomad’ ain’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong I love the life I’m living and wouldn't trade it for the world. But just know that influencers do be spewing shit and it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows being on the road constantly.
In happier news, my podcast Compounding Curiosity will be back releasing new episodes end of this year! So if you have any guest suggestions (or better yet introduce me!) are greatly appreciated :)
You can find previous posts here. I also interview legends at Compounding Curiosity, lurk on Twitter @scarrottkalani, and have a Discord server for everything Allocators Asia (I’d love for you to join our cool little community we got going).
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