Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Now a GrabPay user, the promo will lead to inflated metrics

There are so many e-wallets in Malaysia now, it sure feels like I’ve got e-wallet fatigue and I don’t even spend much time in KL or use most of these wallets. I am more a fan of the AMEX, followed by Visa or MasterCard. Eventually e-wallets are going to have to implement merchant fees that seem closer to these credit card networks (your rewards have to be paid somehow…).

I have tried GrabPay before in Singapore where I loaded SGD$20 into my wallet from my credit card. I never did get to spend it. This balance sticks around for when I am next in Singapore. You have a separate e-wallet for Malaysia. I tried to set this up a few days ago, and they require a photo of your passport or IC to verify your ID (unlike Singapore). I seem to have failed this verification (it looks like an actual human does it, but when you fail it, they don’t tell you why; not that it matters, it seems you can still use it just fine). Also, Grab is now holding photos of the front of Malaysian’s Identity Cards… let’s hope they never have a data breach.

Today as I was trying to get a ride, a pop-up (potentially the first useful ad I’ve seen in the adware that is Grab…) said I could get RM5 off 2 Grab rides if I use GrabPay credits. So I promptly topped up my GrabPay wallet with RM20 (which came from my credit card), and then paid for a ride with GrabPay credits.

I see absolutely no difference with paying via a credit card. I believe you can use your debit card to pay for your Grab rides as well. There is an argument that cards are unpopular in South East Asia as evidenced by this Twitter thread, but if you have a bank account in Malaysia, you get a debit card by default that you can use for Grab. Maybe the play is that people will use it for peer-to-peer payments, like when you need to pay a friend for splitting the bill (like Venmo? Maybe I have a generation gap)?

However from a metrics standpoint, my desire to save RM5 off two rides (a total of RM10), has made me an active user of GrabPay. I loaded up a balance of RM20. Will I be able to bring that balance to zero or does Grab earn interest on my money (like they do for my Singaporean balance)? Will future promotions only apply to GrabPay payments that aren’t via credit card, but via this e-wallet service?

Yes, we Malaysians, and Singaporeans and probably most South East Asians love a good deal. One of the reasons that Grab probably won before Uber exited the South East Asian market was GrabRewards. If you could expense your Grab rides, participate in the loyalty program, and naturally keep the rebates, why would you ever use Uber?

Measure what matters. Anyway, back to e-wallets. The banks will wake up. The VC money will run out. Economics will eventually meet reality.

Beyoncé, Jay-Z, streaming music and earned media

Last week, I read in the WSJ an article about Beyoncé and Jay-Z and their new album, “Everything is Love”. If you have a subscription, feel free to read: Beyoncé and Jay-Z Go Pay-to-Play With New Album.

Naturally, that tempted me to listen to the album with my Apple Music subscription. I was not moved (keeping in mind, Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind is one of my favourite tunes).

So Taylor Swift has done before too. One of the reasons why I have subscribed to Apple Music was to listen to her music when she pulled out of Spotify. While this has changed, I have never bothered to change my streaming music service of choice.

It occured to me that these folk only do this to get in the news. It is free advertising, via “earned media”. I generally don’t read music reviews in the papers that I subscribe to, but if it makes the main pages, it is quite hard to skip over.

Region restrictions in a globalised world

I think we can all agree that globalisation has won, and we live in a flat world.

However when it comes to consuming media, we still live in a world of regional restrictions. Rights are not issued globally, and rights owners see this as milking every last penny by ensuring that regional restrictions apply. This is not just true for the movie world, but also the music world, and generally the book world. Apparently the entertainment industry is one of the last holdouts in realising that we live in a truly globalised world.

Yesterday I read an interview in the FT with Kate Tempest, a writer/rapper whom I’ve not heard of. I immediately hopped onto iTunes, searched Apple Music and started playing her tunes from her album Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest. This was a success and I’d discovered a new artist.

A few months back I was in a bar (the recently shuttered La Conserverie) in Paris, speaking to a Japanese friend, and I was telling her that I did know some J-Pop; growing up it wasn’t too far fetched you would listen to some songs that made the mainstream English radio stations. One example was Utada Hikaru’s First Love. The French friend who was there said he’d love to hear it, so I fired up iTunes on my phone, and tried in vain to find the song, and realised its not in the catalogue (don’t worry, YouTube saved the day). This was a failure, and I didn’t get to reminisce properly.

Just last week, I fired up Netflix (now blocking all VPN traffic, an almost impossible thought two years ago, with VPN providers giving up the fight nowadays) and started streaming The Mirror Has Two Faces. I stopped around the half way mark and switched countries only to realise that now I’ll have to wait to be in the same geographical location again to continue watching the movie! I’d mark this as a failure because it hurts the user experience; it isn’t Netflix’s fault, it is the entertainment industry.

I still listen to an old song that I like, that resides on my drive and not in the cloud — Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page – Come With Me from the Godzilla soundtrack. It’s not on Apple Music, but it is available with Amazon Prime Music, that comes for free with an Amazon Prime subscription! I’d mark this as a failure since I’d expect my music collection to be available in one place, not scattered across various services.

We’re living in an increasingly globalised world. We have friends from all over the world. We’re travelling more frequently. This is all supposed to be a good thing – exposure to the world. Why hasn’t the entertainment industry caught up yet? Would they prefer everyone just focused on content piracy? Region restrictions do not work in a globalised world.

SAP customers would rather do business elsewhere?

I just read, Buy SAP again? 60% of customers say no, says Nucleus Research. SAP isn’t pleased but made clear that they don’t participate in this particular report (presumably they do for Gartner/Forrester/IDC).

Besides the opportunity for others playing in the space SAP plays in, I am reminded by how a humble research firm (Iceberg Research) brought Noble Group down – Singapore Noble Group Rejects Iceberg Research’s Claims, Nobbled, How Richard Elman’s Noble Empire Crumbled (when this was written, its share price dropped 75% since the research report). This wasn’t the case for SAP (Noble lost 9.5% the day the report came out), and may not be (who knows).

As an aside, it regularly shocks me that people don’t realise that when it comes to analyst firms, the whole game is “pay to play”. You pay a sum of money, you get to speak to their analysts, the analysts get to query your customers, and boom, a report is produced. Firms tend to be clients of analyst companies.

Spotify and the App Store

Via Recode, Spotify says Apple won’t approve a new version of its app because it doesn’t want competition for Apple Music.

Why is this surprising to Spotify? Amazon has a Kindle app on the App Store but doesn’t sell books inside said app. Its Apple’s App Store, you play by their rules, no?

I read the New York Times which presumably allows you to subscribe via the app, but I log in via my account since I have a direct relationship with them. I read the Financial Times, and they didn’t want to play by the App Store rules – they’re a full-featured HTML5 application.

Maybe Spotify should take heed from the FT and invest further in play.spotify.com? (The spec obviously support it, since Rdio had a browser based interface before Spotify did; I don’t know the status of how mobile browsers handle it.)

Personal shopper services (and the SQ plane fire)

I cannot imagine what it is like to be on a plane that has engine problems and catches fire upon landing. I’m glad everyone (222 passengers, 19 crew) are safe.

I was just taking a long haul flight myself and wondering why they bother showing the safety video, since these days you don’t really find the need for such things (planes disappear; they crash; you rarely hear about how putting on one’s lifejacket saved your life).

As an aside, a lot of the photos (and a video) seem to come from a Ms. Lee Bee Yee, who was presumably flying to Milan to perform “personal shopping” services (she is the proprietor of a site called Premium Mall). A simple search of her name reveals that she’s been 43 for quite sometime! Emerging Trend of Online Retailers Attempting to Evade GST Jan/Feb 2015, Singapore Airlines plane catches fire on Changi Airport runway; no injuries reported. I’m sure there are such “personal shoppers” operating in Malaysia too; I can only imagine what happens when customs catches up.

The Star in Malaysia recently reported that the future might be personal shoppers, in Parkson’s decline a sign of the times for retail stores. The whole article is worth a read, because Malaysia in this respect, seems “backwards” to what is taking much of the retail world by storm (key: nationwide e-commerce needs to rock; too much just focus on the Klang Valley). But the fancy quote for one to think about:

The future wave could be the birth of “personal shoppers” where they shop for others for a fee.

A “personal shopper” acts as a conduit to connect individual purchasers with online websites in other countries such as the United States that do not provide delivery services of their products to this part of the world.

The personal shopper takes down orders, secures an appropriate price and sources for the products in a foreign country. The personal shopper then handles the delivery from the foreign country to the customer.

And it is all done at a fraction of a cost compared to what the boutiques charge.

At the moment, celebrities generally engage the services of “personal shoppers” also known as “personal groomers” to source for their clothes.

In recent times, services of “personal shoppers” have been engaged by professionals and the working crowd to get the best bargains from the Internet.


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