Best of Sept/Oct in Asia-Pacific
Curating the best content in the region
I’m all about doubt, questioning ones self, and the nature of reality.
Certainty is my enemy.
- Anthony Bourdain
A bit of time between emails, but I’ve been flat-out like a lizard drinking here. I’ll leave my personal mumbo jumbo until the end, so let’s get stuck in.
The growing demand for these commodities (rare metals key to the renewable energy revolution) is starting to shake up both the economics and the geopolitics of the energy world. The supply chains for some of these metals are becoming entangled in the rising tensions between the west and China, which dominates processing capacity for lithium, cobalt and rare earths and is considering restricting exports of some materials. Governments from Washington to Brussels to Tokyo are assessing where they can reliably source critical minerals without going through Beijing’s orbit.
The renewable energy revolution is underway, but there’s growing concern about actually sourcing the materials needed. And SHOCK! HORROR! Countries are (rightfully) looking after themselves!? Who woulda thought???
The poster child for harnessing value from materials is Indonesia, which produces nearly half of the world’s nickel, a key ingredient in electric car batteries. Years of export controls on raw nickel have already succeeded in building an extensive domestic smelting industry, as well as battery plants and several electric vehicle factories. After the country banned exports of raw nickel in 2014, it attracted more than $15bn of foreign investment in nickel processing, primarily from China.
Today Indonesia has banned exports of everything from nickel ore to bauxite, with an export ban on copper concentrate coming into effect next year.
Not everyone agrees with these policies, however: the EU has challenged them at the World Trade Organization and won an initial hearing. Indonesia is appealing against the verdict.
But government officials say the country’s efforts to build domestic industry and encourage manufacturing are straight from the same playbook that western countries used a century ago. “This is not something we are doing out of the blue,” says Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia. “We are learning from our developed country counterparts, who in the past have resorted to these unorthodox policies.”
Inject these slice of life pieces right into my veinsssss. Ever wondered what working in tech in China looked like? Wonder no more! Leo previously worked as a product manager for Kuaishou Technology, a leading technology company in the field of SFV and live streaming in China.
Regarding working experience, my biggest takeaway is the cultural emphasis on being data-driven and user-driven.
Data-driven: […] decisions regarding resource allocation or whether we want to fully scale the product after the beta phase are not made solely by the product owner. Instead, we heavily rely on data feedback from the beta launch, such as user retention and user engagement metrics. These also provide a starting point for further user research and reflection on previous version of product design. Kuaishou has a data analysis team of over a thousand members to support every product and business within the ecosystem.
User-driven: As a product manager at Kuaishou, you have the full support of a professional user research team, many of whom come from backgrounds in professional user research firms like Nielsen. For key products, user research is often conducted on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. As an example from my experience with an internationalization product - before launch, the product's official name was not decided by the product manager and the team, but rather by providing initial users with a shortlist and allowing them to vote for the final name, which turned out to be easy to pronounce for users in different languages and accents (this is crucial!) and had no negative connotations in local cultures (this is often overlooked especially when you plan to enter mutiple countries in a short period of time).
India is to this day a rather poor country, at least on a per capita basis. In nominal GDP per capita, it is ranked at the level of Congo, Ivory Coast, and Uzbekistan. If looking at PPP, India is still ranked in the vicinity of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Honduras.
This can be deceiving, due to India's massive population, which allows India to be the world’s 3nd biggest GDP if measured by PPP.
So somewhat paradoxically, India is too poor to really provide for its population, but can also mobilize massive resources into limited projects, as illustrated by the recent Moon landing, making India one of the only 4 countries on Earth to have explored the surface of the Moon.
I think this dichotomy is a major driver of the schizophrenic public opinion about India, usually falling either to “INDIA SUPERPOWER !!!!!!” or “undeveloped dysfunctional economy“.
Both opinions can be placated by cherry-picking either the GDPper capita or the total PPP GDP of the nation.
An absolute behemoth fromhere.
Nearly all of GRAB’s business operations are in highly commoditized industries (e.g. ridehailing, deliveries, advertising, banking). This implies that sustainable profitability is a direct function of adding value to the customer — which is what will generate excess Gross Profits. There are no moats to hack the system — the only way to grow the business is to genuinely add value to society.
Credit tofor getting me onto this one. Lol’d at the truth behind pesky people making everything so much harder.
Take away the people, and submarines become much easier and cheaper to build. For starters, Ghost Shark has no pressure hull – the typically tubular, high-strength steel vessel that protects a submarine's crew and sensitive components from the immense force that water exerts at depth. Water flows freely through the Ghost Shark structure. That means Anduril can build lots of them, and fast.
But why are these AI subs so important?
If America fails to act, it “could see a shift in the balance of power globally, and a direct threat to the peace and stability that the United States has underwritten for nearly 80 years in the Indo-Pacific,” the report (Closing the Deterrence Gap and Building the Future Joint Force) said. “This is not about the anxiety of no longer being the dominant power in the world; it is about the risks of living in a world in which the Chinese Communist Party becomes the dominant power.”
I'm not singing praises of Singapore or elevating Lee Kuan Yew. I simply admire their mastery of public relations and strategy. Unlike Hong Kong, which has nothing but empty slogans, Singapore's propaganda is the real work of masters.
What caught my attention was Li Ka-Shing's subsequent commentary. He reflected on Lee Kuan Yew's early policies in Singapore, which some might consider authoritarian today. He said, "In the context of their era and historical backdrop, there was no room for laxity. The focus was on improving people's livelihoods and building the future. This, in essence, was the most humane approach, and I deeply admire him for that."
Just another fun slice-of-life post.
If you imagine a Japanese person sweating, you’d more likely imagine it due to stress than the sun. But for anyone who has been to Japan in the summer, especially during any prolonged heatwave, you’ll know that the sun can be as unbearable as any arid desert or tropical getaway.
Agree or disagree on Evan’s points, it’s extremely well written.
The streets of Beijing still show progress; armadas of electric cars glide by like props in a sci-fi film, and the smoke that used to impose a perpetual twilight is gone. But, in the alleys, most of the improvised cafés and galleries that used to enliven the city have been cleared away, in the name of order; overhead, the race to build new skyscrapers, which attracted designers from around the world, has stalled.
As someone in the early days of, I loved the chance here to interview Timen and pick his brain endlessly on building something from scratch. Particularly enjoyed his point about storytelling as a Superpower
“In wine and spirits, storytelling is so important and the history of Rémy Martin as a Cognac brand is a huge part of why people want to buy Rémy Martin. So it’s the same what we’re trying to do but it started there. I had an excellent experience with working with an artist here in Vietnam and it was there that I realized the added financial value that storytelling can bring to a product because without that context, it’s just another coffee product. If you build that context for consumers and if they appreciate it, not all consumers will appreciate it, but a lot of consumers do, they wanna know about where the products come from and who grew it and things like that. So if you’re able to tell that story alongside your product, you’re gonna add some value and people are willing to pay for that. […] It’s like, we’re selling coffee, but it’s coffee with the story for people that care about where their products come from. […] We’re after people who are curious about the world around them and they care a little bit more about where the products come from and who made it and was it made with care and things like that
Turned my post about the Life and Lessons from Zhang Lei into a video!
A gem. A rare book that makes me reevaluate my life and changes how I think. BUT! I don’t think everyone will like this. If you told me “Kalani, this was pure soppy dog shite aimed at basic people looking for life advice”, I wouldn’t argue with you.
“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
Think this is one of those books that will either hit you hard, or not at all. I’m glad it hit me.
“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”
Pretty mid if I’m honest. Usually, I’m all over these kinds of books, but this felt pretty stale. And like one big ad for Dyson products about how they’re so damn great. I don’t know. It just felt light on storytelling, heavy on self-serving bullshit. Pretty dry.
“My tale is one of not being brilliant. I wasn’t even trained as an engineer or scientist. I did, however, have the bloody-mindedness not to follow convention, to challenge experts and to ignore Doubting Thomases. I am also someone who is prepared to slog through prototype after prototype searching for the breakthrough. If a slow starter like me could succeed, surely this might encourage others.”
[READING] Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson
Doing the audiobook version of this (thanks Spotify!) and really enjoying it so far. I also loved Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography and this is right up that alley. Note: I have already read Ashlee Vance’s biography on Musk (admittedly like 2 years ago?) and I’m not finding this repetitive. The book starts perfectly with a banger:
“I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship, did you think I was going to be a chill, normal dude?”
I swear I say this every month, but busy period for me lately!
Targeting a December 1st launch for my Golf gear venture. I’ve been mad as a dog screen-printing, designing, learning to sew, all so I can put together something unique that reflects me and my passions.
The last thing I’ve wanted to do with this is slap a logo on a tee that’s been all done overseas, without having any of my input and toil put into it.
I’m piss poor at marketing, I’m the first to admit it, but when I put together the full process of my work, I think that’s going to go a long way in showing how much effort and love I put into this.
Anyway, chuck me a follow on Instagram (@OKKAGolf) to see where I’m at :)
I’ll finish with this email with this video though:
That's how much time you get if you're lucky.
75 years. 75 winters. 75 spring times. 75 summers. 75 autumns.
When you look at it like that, it’s not a lot of time is it. Don't waste them.
Get your head out of the rat race and forget about the superficial things that preoccupy your existence and get back to what's important now. Right now. This very second.
And I'm not saying drop everything and let the world come to a grinding halt.
I'm saying that you can become a seeker. You could be loving more. You can be taking some chances. You could be living more. You can be spending more time with your family. You can be getting in touch with the part of you that lives instead of fears. The part of you that loves instead of hates
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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