* Keeping Up With Rocket’s Southeast Asian Adventures

By Susan Cunningham
Forbes.com

Beginning with fashion site Zalora in the Philippines in late 2011, Germany’s Rocket Internet has been hatching dozens of copycat e-commerce sites in Southeast Asia and the general vicinity–and quickly shutting down some of them. It’s invested at least $200 million already in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam–perhaps more like $500 million if Rocket startups are spending tens of millions of marketing dollars in each country as rumored.
rocket in SE Asia


In the coming year,  we’ll  probably see  some of that money expended on the intense city contests for taxi-booking apps and restaurant delivery services.  I also think that, as new fashion sites pop up  or existing ones become more visible, Zalora will have to come up with a better selection of women’s clothing. MORE

 

* Pete Bodharamik Goes Big on Broadband

Forbes Asia July 2013 Richest Thais

Jasmine’s Pete Bodharamik

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

Five years ago Pete Bodharamik was a 35-year-old with a big challenge. He had just taken over as chief executive of Jasmine International, the telecom holding company his father had started back in 1982. It was going through rough times, emerging from years in bankruptcy court after his father had diversified madly on borrowed money in the 1990s.

One of Jasmine’s biggest assets, a 30% share of fixed-line operator TT&T, was in bankruptcy itself. And expectations weren’t high that Pete was the one to turn things around. He had held what he calls a “small job” at Jasmine for a few years, dabbling (and losing) in the dot-com boom, before leaving in 2003. “It was surprising,” one equity analyst recalls. “To many observers he was just a rich boy with a big inheritance. No one thought him capable of cleaning up his dad’s mess.” MORE

* Thai Beverage Man Tan Passakornnatee Is On a Mission

By Susan J. Cunningham
Forbes Asia

April 15, 2013

As he clowns around for a photo shoot in front of the giant fiberglass animals adorning his restaurant compound off of tony Thonglor Road, Tan Passakornnatee is sporting vivid yellow pants and a polka-dot shirt, his customary style for addressing college students or business groups.

When he’s in an even more casual mood, he wears T-shirts with the image of a pig (he was born in the year of the pig). But either way he always dons a captain’s hat–not least when he flies amid tall buildings wearing a caped costume in the commercials for his company’s current promotion. The tubby superhero “Tan Man” is on his way to change the lives of 60 people–one a day for 60 days–who are about to win 1 million baht ($33,000). As consolation prizes, he’s also giving away … MORE

* 48 Heroes Of Philanthropy – 2013

By John Koppisch
Forbes Asia

This is our seventh annual project highlighting the generous and often innovative efforts of the Asia-Pacific region’s most notable givers. We feature biotech entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who’s working to improve cancer care in India. And, below, we spotlight the 2013 crop of 48 leading philanthropists in the region. MORE

I contributed to this annual issue of Forbes Asia.

* Norodom Sihanouk’s wonderful, horrible life

Mao-Peng Zhen-Sihanouk-Liu Shaoqi in 1956--credit US Army

Mao, Peng Zhen, Norodom Sihanouk, Liu Shaoqi in Beijing, 1956

 By Susan Cunningham, Guest Contributor
 New Mandala

For more than a half-century, Dr. Milton Osborne was an observer of the wonderful, horrible life of Norodom Sihanouk, whose funeral ceremonies take place in Phnom Penh next week. Sihanouk  died in Beijing in October, 61 years after he assumed the Cambodian throne for the first time as the unlikely selection of the French colonial masters.  

Dr Osborne first met Sihanouk, then prince and prime minister,  when he was a young Australian diplomat posted in Phnom Penh in 1959.  Osborne then earned a PhD in history at Cornell, taught at the Australian National University and overseas universities, and worked for the United Nations along the Thai border during the early years of the Cambodian refugee crisis. From 1982 to 1993, he returned to government service as Head of the Asia Branch of the Office of National Assessments. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Dr. Osborne is the author of many articles and ten books about Cambodia, the region and the Mekong River. They are so well written they can be read with pleasure and benefit by people without advanced degrees in the social sciences.  His newest book is Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Literary History.

Published in 1994, Sihanouk: Prince of Light, Prince of Darkness is the definitive biography, though a smart publisher should order a new, updated edition that covers Sihanouk’s second reign as king and his final attempts to influence events in his homeland.  Back in 1973—before the Khmer Rouge victory in the civil war–Dr. Osborne already made a persuasive case in Politics and Power in Cambodia: The Sihanouk Years  that the prince’s own economic policies and megalomanic personality led to his deposition by coup d’état in 1970.  On Sihanouk’s death, he wrote this obituary for the Lowy Institute.

Q: Was Sihanouk really that charismatic?


MO: Sihanouk was one of the few people I have ever encountered who deserves to be described as charismatic. On an individual basis he radiated charm and for Cambodians in particular he had a striking capacity to enthrall a crowd–for good or ill. Have a look at my account, pp.3-4 of the biography, for an account of the remarkable double act he and Sukarno performed in 1959 and which I was lucky enough to witness. But he could also ‘work’ a non-Cambodian crowd. So, at a soirée dansante in the palace which, again, I was lucky to attend, at around 1.30 am, and after the king and queen had left, he beamed at the rest of us and said, ‘Well, their majesties have gone, and I suppose the rest of you can go too now, but I am going to play until dawn and I do hope you will stay.’ And, of course we all did. MORE