Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Careful with those pharma ads

Medical advertising in China has long been one of the world's more bizarre corners of the wild claim. Medicines which claim to cure everything from acne to athlete's foot and AIDS are still regularly promoted in many media.

It was with some interest then that we noticed this Xinhua piece about new restrictions on medical advertising. It notes that "new regulations, which will take effect on January 1, 2007, will eliminate exaggeration of the effects of certain medical treatments by banning the mention of any disease names".

We assume that this will be welcomed by the mainstream international medical media. Their relationships with the major international pharma companies - the fount of all profitability in the medical media business - should allow them to stake out the high ground of medi media more effectively in China with this sort of government backing.

China looks to India

I liked this story today on ContentSutra about Haier's plans to set up a development centre in India for mobile applications. What is missing here? The west, that's what's missing. We are looking at a newly-emerging world class company outsourcing some of its software development activity and there are no European, no US companies directly involved in any part of it. Be sure that most of the western media will miss the point. That being said, and kudos to them, CMP's EE Times, were the ones who picked it up.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Too close for comfort

The announcement of a 'new' B2B online directory system called The Global Source Directory seems on the unimaginative end when it comes to naming. The press release announcing this launch quotes Jack Ma of as "not worried" but - surprise, surprise - does not mention that other Hong Kong-based, NASDAQ-listed giant of the B2B web business. Click here if you're new to the world of China B2B and don't know what I'm talking about.

If I were a lawyer involved with these businesses, I think I'd be calling in the office pencil-sharpener right about now! [One friend of mine did work for a New York law firm once that actually employed somebody whose job was to sharpen the pencils].

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Join the crowd

We continuously read excited pieces about what will happen when "" comes to China. From outside, there is a naive belief that the big international on-line brands are bound to do better than the local upstarts. This has often proven not to be the case (vis Google/Baidu and Taobao/Ebay). I noted, with interest, then this posting on the Danwei blog listing all the major video services already available within China. These include:

6 Rooms

Qing Yule
5 Show
Mantou TV

Look at the Danwei post for a neat description of each one. But, boy, it looks crowded out there.

Update: Nice post here on China Web 2.0 Review with details of recent upgrades to Tudou which is apparently the original Chinese web-based video sharing service.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Postman Jack

I was interested yesterday to see news of a tie-up between China's old and new worlds: and the Chinese post office, China Post. The People's Daily quotes Alibaba founder Jack Ma saying that "the cooperation would help solve the problem of delivery that bottlenecks the country's burgeoning e-commerce". It says that the post office will develop a special Express Mail Service (EMS) which will be 40% cheaper than regular EMS and will be directly linked to (Alibaba's auction site) and the Alipay online payment system. We assume that, once the proposed 'test drive' in Hangzhou is completed and the service rolls out nationally, it would ultimately be opened up to other e-commerce providers.

But, round 1 to Alibaba.

Unlike post offices in some developed countries, the China Post actually has quite a good reputation in China for slow but reliable delivery of everything from magazine subscriptions to good, old-fashioned letters. It's current EMS system is pretty efficient but is regarded as too expensive for the low-priced items typically traded on auction sites like

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Social bookmarking in China

I'm not personally convinced that so-called social bookmarking is anything other than a nerds' delight and flavour of the month. Perhaps I'm too old to appreciate what makes it work (if it really does).

Anyway, it obviously remains flavour of the month and I was interested to see this piece on the China Web 2.0 Review blog about Baidu's plans to launch its own site We wish them well with it.

I was most interested to note this insight in the piece:

There are many social bookmarking sites in China, the most popular so far is The market is crowded, and in a survey among Chinese active bloggers, their favorite social bookmarking service is

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lam calls for HKCEC Phase IV

At a reception marking 18 years of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Fred Lam, the Executive Director of its owners, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, put down a marker calling for industry support for a further phase of development at the venue after the current, Phase III works are completed. He suggested that, in order for Hong Kong to remain competitive against its neighbours such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, it needed more downtown space than even the current extension (we reported here on its controversial approval last year).

This call will, no doubt, greeted with some 'interest' by the management team at AsiaWorld-Expo located out at the Hong Kong Airport. It will also be watched closely by Hong Kong's increasingly vociferous environmental hawks who are policing with some ferocity the new policy of no more reclamations in Hong Kong harbour. The nearby bus station must be, one assumes, the site that Lam is still eyeing for Phase IV.

The reception was staged as the final event in Atrium 1 on the footbridge linking the Phase 1 and Phase 2 sections of the HKCEC. That section of the venue will shortly be closed to accommodate the extensions of Halls 1, 2 and 3 which comprise Phase III.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wei doing it himself at Alibaba?

There have been a number of items around the Internet over the past few days, as yet unconfirmed, suggesting that David Wei, former head of British DIY retail chain B&Q's China Division is to join as head of its B2B division. Reuters reports the news here.

In all the excitement over Yahoo! China and's successful run against eBay, the B2B core of Alibaba does appear from the outside to have been treading water over the past 12 months. A senior executive of Wei's stature would presumably be tasked with driving it forward again.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Adwords gets stranger

I complained a few weeks back about some dodgy China dating ads that Google was throwing up on to my site. Well, now they've surpassed themselves with bizarre-ness. Whatever is behind this ad (don't click, it's a screen shot. I'm sure they don't deserve your traffic), I can't even begin to imagine what contextual bouillabaise generated this link.

There's nothing odd, of course, about the China Sourcing Fair. But come on; "Next Pope is John Paul II"? Where on earth did that come from?

India’s First Internet Stock Naukri To List Tomorrow [Re-post from ContentSutra]

India’s First Internet Stock Naukri To List Tomorrow: "India’s first pure play internet stock - InfoEdge Ltd - will be listing tomorrow as its founder Sanjeev Bikhchandani rings the opening bell at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The listing price is Rs 320, the higher end of the band (Rs 290-320). The IPO of the owners of portals like, and was oversubscribed 55 times. At the higher end of the band, the company will be raising Rs 174 crore.

The issue would constitute 19.50 per cent of the fully-diluted post issue paid-up capital of the company. The market cap at Rs 320 a share will be about Rs 900 crore. It’s a big day for Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO and founder of InfoEdge, who owns 43.23 per cent stake in the company.

ICICI Securities and Citigroup Global Markets India were the lead managers for the issue, while Intime Spectrum Registry was the registrar.


-Naukri IPO Oversubscribed 55 Times

Firefox users approaching 30%

I posted first on this on October 25 as I was intrigued by what I thought was the relatively high proportion of Firefox users coming to this blog. In less than a month, that 22% has risen to 28%. IE7 users are up 1% to 3% while IE6 users are down from 72% to 65%. Sadly, Apple's Safari seems to have fallen off the user list.

Making it easy to infringe

Anybody reading our post back in July about protecting the interests of web sites which provide links to pirated material, will not be surprised to see the decision regarding which has generated some steam in the general media this weekend. According to the BBC, the Chinese court decision provides all search engines with the easiest of get-outs: "the ruling said the service did not constitute an infringement as the music was downloaded from webservers of third parties".

The IHT quotes Baidu saying ""If the music companies had won, the whole search engine sector would have ground to a halt". A similar excuse was used by the British in China to defend their opium trade and justify a war 165 years ago.

If you want to get a sense of how easy this all is, go to a page such as this one which lists the sources for the number 1 song in Baidu's current top 100. Click on song name and a little window like the one pictured will pop up to direct you right to the source of the pirated songs.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Breathless at the Beijing Auto Show

Given the state of the air in Beijing (and Hong Kong is even worse these days), it is something of a cruel joke to use the phrase "breathless" in relation to cars in China. The country is set to overtake Japan to become the world's 2nd largest car market and the opening of last week's Beijing Auto Show seems to have generated a lot of excited and, dare I say, breathless commentary.

The China Rises blog includes two very excited posts including one which begins:

The annual auto show in China is one of the major automotive exhibits in the world today, up there with Detroit, Frankfurt and Tokyo.

Tim Johnson, the blog's author follows up with a second post which includes some fun pictures (his, so I'll not repost them here) of Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Porsche exhibits at the fair.

Tom Walsh of the Detroit Free Press suggests "With its deafening music, raffle drawings, flying acrobats and dance acts, and Disneyesque costumed donkeys, roosters, penguins and oranges strolling around, plus all the copycat cars and names, the atmosphere is more carnival than world-class business event". He goes, on though, to say "But Auto China 2006 is no more a pretender than its host country, China".

People are paying this event pretty serious attention and a variety of international auto industry B2B media are congregating around it. Crain's Automotive News has been organising a major conference in Beijing and recently launched the latest in the company's series of China e-newsletters (see here for previous posts on what they're up to) in the auto sector.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mobile advertising

We're just finishing up a report for our partners at EPS in London on mobile content in Asia. With 400+ million mobile telephone users in China alone, it's a big topic and one of importance to all types of media company.

I noted, then, with interest a piece on the Digital World Tokyo site about Google extending its experiment with mobile advertising into China, India and Australia. The piece says that its been doing this in the US, UK, Germany and Japan since August. It talks also of the obvious "click-to-call" options which are so easily activated in this format as shown in the picture here.

Something here about it from Google itself.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Free wi-fi in Singapore

Asia's pocket-sized mega trading economies, Hong Kong and Singapore clearly lend themselves to a variety of tech experiments. Hong Kong was the first place in the world to install 100% fibre in its telecoms network. Singapore, taking advantage of its less densely-packed concrete and steel towers and lack of mountains, looks set to win the race to install a free city wi-fi network in Asia. See this Tokyo Digital Times piece for more details.

India travel sector busy

Indian Express appears to be moving fast to build new partnerships in its online businesses. Just over week after we reported on its deal with TechTarget, they're back in the news with another deal, this time travel related. The same brief report talks about activity in the online travel sector at Mumbai-across-town-rivals

Meanwhile, over at eBay India, yet another deal was announced in this segment with Cultuzz Digital Media agreeing to supply travel-related services. These are designed to strengthen eBay India's Travel, Tickets & Vouchers section.

We noted just a couple of weeks ago an item reminding us that up to 75% of Indian e-commerce relates to travel.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Biggest VC funding in Chinese blog co

China Web 2.0 Review reports on a $3 - 5 million Series-A funding of Blogbus. The piece suggests that this is the "this is the largest series A funding among Chinese BSPs (blog service provider)".

The piece also reports on a Rmb120 million (US$15 million) investment in classified provider Sosoko (is this a CSP?).

Private equity and German trade fairs?

Just spent the weekend working with clients in Bangkok. Colleague Wolfgang Schelkes of Fair Relations in Germany was there too. In a presentation on the trade fair industry in Europe, he raised a topic I hadn't heard before (I've obviously had my head buried too deeply in Asian matters); the possible privatisation of some of the large German trade fair companies, now almost all owned by city governments.

Many other German government activities have gone this way, but Wolfgang suggests that this may be too difficult for trade fairs because of (a) the complex local politics involved and (b) the size of the required investments. On (a) I am in no position to judge, but I imagine that would be pretty hard. On (b), though, even the largest of the Messe would be a chicken feed investment for one of the big private equity funds now prowling the B2B media world. If KKR can offer $51 billion for Vivendi, then surely even Deutsche Messe AG in Hanover, along with Cologne, Frankfurt, Duessledorf and Munich could all be bought in a single deal by one of these funds without too much of a stretch....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thoughts from Beijing

At the airport in Beijing en route to Bangkok after a busy week at the UFI Congress. Somewhere over 400 gathered from around the world for the event. Programme highlights for me included tremendous presentations on economic and business development in China from Prof. Fan Gang , Director of the National Institute of Economic Research at the China Reform Foundation and from Dong Tao, Chief Economist for Asia of Credit Suisse. They talked of the tremendous demographic pressures at play in both India and China. Prof. Fan suggested that, having created 200 - 250 million industrial jobs in the last 20 years, China needs to create another 200 million in the coming 10 - 20 years to create full employment.

Dong Tao pointed out that China's population peaks in 2017 after which the effect of the one-child policy will cause a massive drop-off in new entrants to the workforce. At that point, he suggested, we may need to be looking for other people to knit our socks.

Prof. Werner Delfmann from Cologne deftly picked up the ball passed to him by Dong Tao and dug deeper into the issues of demographics and their likely impact on the development of the global trade fair centres. He asked what kind of impact the "World Cities" and "Gateway Cities" concepts much loved by large consulting firms, will really have on the trade fair industry.

All seemed convinced that strong future growth in Asia was still the order of the day.

The final session, as has become a tradition at this conference, included two lively sessions with two contrasting speakers from outside the industry: if you're young, hip and trendy (I fulfil none of these requirements), you probably know Jones Soda. Peter van Stolk, its idiosyncratic founder told us all to fight our own ground on our own terms (in his case, don't try to take on Coke and Pepsi, because you can't win). He also turned a few stomachs with his Turkey & Gravy soda story. It's true!

Finally, and for me telling a quite remarkable story, was Robert Swan. The man who, 20 years ago, walked both to the South Pole and then to the North Pole. That alone would be extraordinary. But he has then parlayed this experience into a global environmental and youth education programme which is worthy of our support. Although the slogan belongs to somebody else, he basic message was "Just Do It"!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tech Target to India

I read with particular interest the news of Tech Target's Indian deal - their fifth of the year. They will be partnering with Indian Express. I worked closed with Indian Express's Business Publications Division in the late 1990s as Miller Freeman was expanding its presence in India and wish them all well in their endeavours.

This will be a much-needed boost for the Express team as they gear up for the next round of battle with listed Cybermedia, IDG's new India operations and local Mumbai rivals Jasubhai and Infomedia. The IT media field has been fiercely competitive over the past decade as local and international brands have jostled for space in a market characterised still by very low prices but with tremendous growth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Reed Business Information secretly relocates to Australia

This may come as surprise to the Anglo-Dutch management of Reed Elsevier, but we know that everything on the Internet is true and that's what it says at this posting about the Reed/Infomedia JV's Hotfrog launch in India.

There's more on the deal here at along with another piece here about Reed/Infomedia's snagging Suresh Ramakrishnan from Jasubhai Digital Media. Let's hope he doesn't start singing Waltzing Matilda at Board meetings by mistake.

Of smog, cheap factory workers and limited growth models

One of the odder press release editorials we have seen recently comes from a Portland, OR-based company called China Grabber. The company describes China as "a planet of factories, smog and cheap factory workers. And, oh yea, trade companies that have websites".

It then goes on to suggest that the existing sourcing sites have "limited growth models of sourcing sites". Try telling that to Merle Hinrichs and Jack Ma.

China Grabber concedes that it presents a limited product range but believes that its secret weapon is online payment. They may not have heard of the Global Sources Direct product which links them into e-Bay for the types of transactions where completion online is desired or desirable - not that many in the current B2B environment it turns out.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Up in India, down in China

What is? Print advertising, we hear.

While Hugo Martin reports from Germany relates that "Readership and Ad Revenues are Booming" in India, Dutch writer Fons Tuinstra tells us that "Last year for the first time in two decades, revenue from advertisements did not grow anymore. The realization that print media have a hard time now online ventures tend to be faster, more engaging than the traditional ink on dead trees, is for the first time also hitting China".

The question we have is whether things are developing differently in India or simply with some delay over China and the rest of the world. It could be either. I am not convinced of the future for print media in China. For India, the jury is out.

Economist promiscuous in India?

Promiscuity is not a charge too regularly levied at the worthy 163 year old 'newspaper' The Economist. That does, however, seem to be the underlying issue in this contentsutra posting about its new deal content-sharing deal with Indian Express. Apparently, they're doing it with everybody.

The next billion

Back in Hong Kong for a few days after a long flight back from Rhodes via Athens and Rome. The gods were obviously smiling as my suitcase arrived back with me despite two tight transfers.

Catching up on news and other blogs, I was intrigued with this piece on the China Stock Blog which quotes Intel chairman Craig Barratt on a trip to China saying "There are about a billion Internet users. The next billion aren't going to be city dwellers." He talked more about how affordable technology needed to be a key focus for opening up these new markets to technology.

In a similar vein, asks Can India’s Largest Vegetable Market Really Go Online? It touches on some of the cultural issues that have to be addressed even if technical and pricing constraints can be resolved: "a large number of transactions are not billed, and traders would prefer things to remain that way", it says.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Busy week in Hangzhou

It's been a busy week at Earlier in the week, it was widely reported that the company was investing in classified site The amounts of the investment and percentage of the company acquired were not confirmed although rumours in the mainland consistently mentioned a figure of around $6 million for the company. Koubei, like Alibaba, is located in the scenic Zhejiang city of Hangzhou.

Elsewere, founder Jack Ma is reported to have told a Singapore conference that Yahoo! China will go all Web 2.0-ey and base itself much more on user generated content. We get the sense that early enthusiasm in the wake of the Yahoolibaba deal for Yahoo! as a Google-busting search engine has been dented and that Jack and boys are a seeking a new way forward for their big brand.

This may not be unrelated to their realisation that is going to be hard to beat. It has just announced Q3 earnings up 900%. Even that hasn't satisfied some who were reported to be disappointed with Baidu's results. There are even suggestions that the company is now 'in play' although others vigourously discount this rumour.