Monday, April 30, 2007

Someone's not reading the signs

There's a new electronic road sign on Mumbai's Marine Drive. Its message alternates from:

No unnecessary honking.

No dangerous overtaking.
I'm afraid not all the drivers are paying attention even though the notice is sponsored by the local constabulary.

Reuters (and others) approved

The Danwei media blog reminds us of last year's run in between Xinhua in China and the international news and financial information providers who distribute there (or would like to). The Danwei piece is based on a Xinhua item reporting that four service providers have just been approved to distribute news and information in China:

The four agencies are Reuters Asia/Pacific Limited, part of the Reuters Group, JiJi Press of Japan, ET Net Limited of Hong Kong and NNA China Limited, which is affiliated to iNews Net Asia based in Japan.
But last year's effort by Xinhua to coral all news dissemination appears to lie close to the surface of this recent "reapproval":

It was Xinhua's first review of overseas news agencies that release news and information in China since promulgating a set of measures last September.

As China's state news agency, Xinhua News Agency is the institution legally empowered to administer the release of news and information in China by foreign news agencies.

My recollection is that last year this reached the level of a minor diplomatic spat. I wonder if this solves or it raises the issues all over again?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Travel day

On my way to Mumbai now. I'm going to try to be more reliable this week than I have in the past when travelling, but forgive me if I miss a few days.

As a Sunday bonus, I'll recommend what I've just been reading. I don't normally care for management books (most of them seem to be ideas worthy of 3 pages articles expanded to 300 pages). Lifestyle gurus are usually worse. However, I really like Karaoke Capitalism by Kjell A. Nordström and his partner Jonas Ridderstråle. Check out their Funky Business web site.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Challenging Shanghai Auto Show

The Shanghai Auto Show has been under way for almost a week and it's generating a mixed bag of stories. Day one apparently saw 100,000 people and a roof blown off by freak bad weather. Yesterday there were reports of a foreign visitor protesting about his business dealings with Brilliance Auto.

Today, some exhibitors are reported to be complaining that they were not in the main halls as expected but in Nanhui. The AFP story about this says:

An official surnamed Guo at the Shanghai Auto Parts Show, where the companies ended up, insisted nothing illegal had been done.
Hmmm. Perhaps not. It does sound, though, as two shows were going on at the same time and that exhibitors were not made entirely clear about which was which. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened at trade shows in China.

On another tack, this Flickr photo collection from Shanghai Sky shows that some things don't change about the world's motor shows. When I was a teenager in the UK, there was much excitement about about topless models at the London Motor Show. Changing mores put an end to that but China is clearly following the Japanese approach when it comes to selling cars. As you can see from Shanghai Sky's collection, there is not a car in sight....none!

The show closes today.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Where real business meets the media

We write a lot about the B2B companies servicing the consumer merchandise sourcing world. It was with some interest then, that we noticed a post on the China Law Blog directing us to a company which services the sourcing world and is blogging about it.

Asthon Udall's Product Global blog looks interesting and we shall follow it. The challenges he describes in the work of his company, Global Sourcing Specialists in the Bay Area, should direct the types of services and information that the likes of Alibaba, Global Sources and are developing.

In today's post, Udall touches on some of the issues that keep driving buyers back to China. He comments:

Many people have read or heard that lower prices can be found in other countries, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. We judge where to source for a given project based on not only what that project needs, but also what a country's manufacturing base has to offer. China, as we all know, has quite a bit to offer these days. For the small business beginning offshore sourcing, China offers a lot more than just low prices.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Time for India

It's obviously time to focus on India. I see that Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin was there a couple of days ago. UFI's President and Managing Director are there now and have just released a research report on the market; the executive summary's here while the full report is available to members in the closed sectionof the UFI web site.

I myself will heading to Mumbai on Sunday. It's time to do more there and we will be expanding our resources. Look over on the BSG corporate blog for updates and announcements in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Marring a good argument

There was a disgraceful advertisement on the front page of today's South China Morning Post newspaper. An expensive watch company whose over-priced baubles are supposed to look good on pilots' wrists suggested that "It appears on the bedside table of many stewardesses". Elsewhere there was a picture of a pair of socks with the admonition that these should be removed first. Obviosuly targeting British pilots...Really...the copywriters must have been drunk.

I mention this because there have been a couple of interesting articles (here and here) on China Economic Net in the past two days on the develop of B2B online in China. Yesterday's piece talked about the role of search in e-Commerce.

Today's focuses on collaboration between the likes of and Zhejiang Netsun. The latter has, apparently, been managing other people's B2B websites for a while and has, since January, produced its own. It quotes David Wei (as we did a few days ago) saying "in the upcoming few months, would have an all-around and in-depth cooperation with outstanding industry websites to jointly integrate quality and professional business information and provide massive information and professional contents for extensive enterprises with as the platform. Meanwhile, partner websites would be allowed to share's tremendous commercial information".

So, what's the connection between that and ill-judged ads for over-priced watches aimed at randy pilots who need to be reminded to remove their socks when swinging into action? Well, for some reason, this otherwise worthy Chinese business web site, has what can only be described as "totty shots" in the top left hand corner of each page. They link through to celebrity articles with titles like "Jeon Ji-hyun changes hairdo for new film". Just what every Chinese economist needs to know I'm sure.

It reminds me of my early days as a shipping journalist in London. We used to be sent an English language shipping and trade newspaper published in Tokyo. It was a worthy, if dull, publication whose editors decided that they would enliven the inside pages by re-running the famous page 3 topless shots from the Dirty Digger's London Sun newspaper. It seems that business editors in Beijing are picking up some bad habits from Tokyo.

P.S. I have rarely been more delighted with both Google and Wikipedia to discover that, if you Google the phrase "Dirty Digger", it links to here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Korea beats Japan

The OECD has just released the latest information on broadband density among its members. Denmark wins (tillykke to the Danes), followed by the Netherlands, and Iceland. Those small, cold places obviously like their band to be broad.

In fourth place for this measure of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants (drum roll), comes Korea, far and away the highest placed in Asia. Japan is tucked down in 14th place between France (13) and the United States (15). As you can see from the chart I've tucked in here (click on it to make it big enough to read), these two also come ahead of Australia (16) and New Zealand (21).

Hong Kong doesn't rank as it presumably gets lumped in with the rest of China. Is Singapore not an OECD member? I'll bet they wish they were if they're not.

Update: In answer to my own question, no Singapore is not one of the 30 members of the OECD. See here for the list of those who are in the 'club'.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Alibaba dealers' rebellion?

This story has popped up in a few places today, but all links point to one source. The piece is tantalising in its suggestions but not in its detail. Who are these 16 "dealers" who want a 40% discount from Why are they so dissatisfied? Where did the story come from?

P.S. This story has those deeply irritating ContentLink pop-ups which make you doubt whether there is any editorial integrity behind the web site. Paul Conley has been railing against this technology for months. I personally can't imagine why advertisers would be stupid enough to pay for it but, as long as they do, I fear we will see plenty of it in China.

Alexa steps

If you scroll down to the tootoo posting from the other day, you'll see a little exchange of thoughts on inadequacy of rankings. I suspect that I know where Anon is based and who he/she works for; Alexa really gets up their nose.

Anyway, what I wanted to show you was the odd steps and undulations which appear in almost everybody's rankings. Explain them to me if you can: Alexa relies on an installed toolbar and the thinking from those who like to dump on it is that, if you can get enough of your friends (or staff) to install this toolbar, you can game the results. Maybe. That still doesn't explain to me the undulations.

So, here goes. First we see for the past three months. The percentage "reach" figure refers to Alexa's estimate of the percentage of global internet users (1,114,274,426 according to

Here, then is Global Sources:

...and, finally,

Make of that what you will. I'm really interested in anybody's theories about this. The site is quite new. It looks as though, at the beginning of April, somebody either gave up caring or took the toolbar off their site. What do you think? It's hard to ignore the fact that the graph dips to zero on no fewer than 3 occasions.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

First cut of IDG China network map

I'd really welcome the chance to get your input into this. What have I forgotten? Click on the map to make it readable. Sorry, haven't yet worked out how to make it interactive online within this blog!

Update: Thanks to Fons Tuinstra in Shanghai and Hugo Martin in Berlin for drawing attention to this project.

Another new IDG partner in China

We posted almost a month ago about the tangled web of partnerships that IDG is weaving in China. Said at the time that we needed to start mapping.

We also posted earlier in March on a company called Zero2IPO which provides services to China's VC and private equity industries.

Now we see from the China Web2.0 Review that they've hooked up with IDG on a social network for entrepreneurs, Cyzone. This screen capture will give you Chinese readers a better idea of what it's all about:

And as for that map? Work in progress. Watch this space.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Belly Dancers at the Airport

If yesterday was Alibaba day, then today was Global Sources day. Had a run out to AsiaWorld-Expo this morning for the opening of the sell-out part 2 of the China Sourcing Fair. Managed to avoid the speed trap which caught me there on Saturday (the police were hiding half way along the Tsing-Ma bridge on the airport-bound side if you're driving out any time soon).

It was good to see Merle Hinrichs, Sarah Benecke and other members of the Global Sources senior management team. They were in good spirits after a successful event last week and all indications of an outstanding gift fair this week. Their minds, however, were not all in Hong Kong. Dubai is flavour of the month at Global Sources and they were keen that attendees should remember that their next big launch is in the Gulf in June.

The size ambitions of the Dubai show are relatively modest compared to the Hong Kong events but it sounds as though they're going to have a good crowd there. To help us remember to go, Christina Anthony and colleagues from the Dubai World Trade Centre were in attendance along with Hong Kong-based belly dancers at the opening ceremony. Sadly, I'd left my camera at home, so you'll have to made do with this generic shot for now.

Update: Oh, glory be! Now I can post a picture of the actual belly dancers with Merle Hinrichs and other VIPs at the opening of the China Sourcing Fair this morning.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Taxis, toilets and smatching

Well, I find that I might have been wrong in my previous post about the focus on transactions within the mainstream B2B web sites. kindly invited me today to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce speech given by the urbane President of its B2B division, David Wei.

He kicked off by dispelling the myth that the Alibaba Group had turned into Hong Kong's largest taxi company (see picture to see what I mean). He also denied any plans to run the airport despite the company's logo being more liberally displayed there than that of home carrier Cathay Pacific.

He then launched into a good series of stories trailing the progress of his conversion from e-commerce doubter when he first met Jack Ma in 2000 to missionary for the concept. The bright light apparently hit him not on the road to Damascus but while discussing toilets with a buyer for his previous employer, British home improvement retailer B&Q.

On a more serious note, Wei spoke of how the company's links with Yahoo! have allowed it to roll out what he called "world class search technology". Today, he said, the company is launching an advanced search service it is calling "smatching" where search and matching are combined. We look forward to trying it, if not using that neologism.

Looking into the future, Wei predicted the roll-out later this year of transactional services which sounded very much as though - as we have predicted all along - Alipay will be extended from its current use in the B2C auction site into the B2B domain. The transaction service will be subscription based removing, he suggested previous disincentives for deals to be done on line. It sounds like another interesting year in store from the guys in Hangzhou.

Of too-toos and global markets

Really interesting post at Seeking Alpha on Ninetowns. We wrote about them back in September when they made a significant investment in Guangzhou-based Global Market but haven't paid too much attention since then.

The Seeking Alpha post talks about the struggles that Ninetowns has had with its core B2G offering since the Chinese government 'encouraged' it to offer a free version. It notes, though, that its China sourcing site appears to have picked up traffic very quickly. Its rankings (the least unreliable source of traffic data but still quite dodgy we should add) show its 3 month average being higher than Global Sources. We doubt that but it's certainly worth watching.

The article goes on to note:

A few weeks ago Ninetowns announced the next step in its B2B strategy. By acquiring Baichuan, a leading Chinese vertical search engine, Ninetowns plans to offer industry specific web search for suppliers and buyers engaged in Chinese international trade. In order to enhance the quality and relevancy of search results, Ninetowns plans to use the supplier verification technology from its existing iDeclare and iProcess service platforms.

The Baichuan acquisition allows Ninetowns to merge with Baichuan’s Baichuan has entered into alliances with more than 30 Chinese B2B portals with access to 400,000 suppliers and 1.5 million products.
We had missed that (although we now see it was reported on MSNBC) and it sounds interesting.

We're not sure we agree with this bit of the penultimate paragraph:

Although revenue projections are impossible at this stage, competitor Global Sources (GSOL) has had rapid growth in profits and revenues recently. Although Global Sources relies heavily on sourcing fairs to facilitate transactions, Ninetowns has the potential to succeed without sourcing fairs if its search results can accurately provide quality import/export leads.
This has been the dream of Internet analysts for a decade now and it reveals a misunderstanding of how most people really buy the consumer merchandise which is at the heart of the Global Sources/ businesses. It is, though, worth watching.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Meckler rising

For many years, Alan Meckler has been one of the B2B media industries most effective self-publicists. In my opinion, he outdoes the governments of Singapore and Shanghai combined. That puts him in the league of the true elite.

With that health warning, I direct you to his post on apparent rise of the Japanese version of which I gather from his post on his entertaining blog, he still owns. As the posts often are, it's a bit thin on specifics, but he says:

In the last year or so Japan.Internet.Com has been growing rapidly. Similar to what we are doing in the United States, our Japanese version of is adding features this year. This is a much smaller online media business than in the USA, but it is growing rapidly. Last year it grew about 30% with nice profits and we hope it can match that growth this year.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Techno-wrong-ti in Asia again?

Various posts today cover the report from blog index Technorati that Japanese is now the most common language on the Internet. Global Voices takes it as face value:

It will likely come as quite a surprise to the English-speaking world that the number one language of bloggers worldwide, in terms of number of posts, is not the “language of international communication”, as English is typically regarded. Nor, before the Chinese chime in, is it the language of the most populous state on the globe. According to the 2006 fourth quarter results of the State of the Live Web report issued quarterly by Technorati, a blog search engine which at last count tracks over 70 million weblogs, in terms of blog posts by language, English and Chinese in fact rank second and third, at 36% and 8%, respectively.

Edging out English for first place this quarter was Japanese, with over one-third of all blog posts — 37% — written in this language.
Over at China Herald, however, Fons Tuinstra takes issue with the report. He says:

Today it is Global Voices that has been put on a wrong leg as it believes Technorati statistics on what language is spoken on the internet. Japan wins, followed by English and then Chinese.

What is proves is that Technorati has a very good team in Japan that helps to register weblogs at the Technorati-server, while it does a poor job in China. To be noted you have to ping the Technorati-server. In China very few people see the need of pinging a service they have never heard off. It of course does not help the technorati-IP address is blocked in China.

It doesn't really sound right to us there is more blogging in Japanese than either English or Chinese but you never know. We commented on a similar question when Edelman released its report on blogging (also based on what sounded to us like dodgy Technorati data) earlier this year.

Baidu Japan blocked

It must be a bit odd to be running China's leading Internet search business, darling of Nasdaq (sort of) and find part of your business blocked in your home country. But, that is what's happened to Baidu. According to Danwei, Baidu's new Japanese site is no longer accessible within China. Apparently, it had become a popular shortcut for Chinese users wishing to access porn and pictures of young men standing in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Asian sites attract most visits per visitor

Two Chinese and one Korean site occupy the top 3 places in Comscore's February rankings according to ClickZ Stats. The three top scoring sites in terms of visits per visitor were Korea's NHN Corp. and Tencent and, both in China with 33, 31 and 29 visits/visitor respectively.

Comscore reported 739.8 million unique visitors in February on the worldwide Internet. In terms of individual visitors, the Microsoft sites just edged out Google for top spot. All top 10 sites in that measure were US-based.

Back in action

I'm back in Hong Kong after almost 3 weeks travelling. I did manage to post from Miami, but since then I'm afraid there's been radio silence on this channel. My older son is getting close to university decisions and we were touring some of the UK's finer establishments as well as visiting family over the Easter holidays.

The son in question took this photo of his old man doing the tourist pose in Durham.

Thanks for asking, those of you who wondered where I was. We'll try to get back to some regular posting.