* Landfill Fodder: On Adam Minter’s “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale”

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Reviewed by Susan Cunningham
Los Angeles Review of Books

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE out-of-style clothing we dump in the charity bin? Or the decades of furnishings downsizing empty-nesters donate to the local thrift shop? What follows the surge of self-satisfaction we feel as responsible recyclers, along with the hope that someone else will get a little pleasure from our discarded things? In Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, the intrepid Adam Minter sets off to find some answers, traveling from his home in Malaysia to interview cleaners, sellers, sorters, exporters, and importers in Japan, India, West Africa, and North America.


As with his first book, Junkyard Planet (2013), which focused on the far-flung fates of discarded scrap metals, Minter, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, does his best to sift sense from dodgy data. But it’s his vibrant sketches of entrepreneurial characters and his dives into obscure industrial histories that make a persuasive case: Discarded goods are becoming a big environmental problem. MORE

* Report on 5th Conference on Media Development

I served as the rapporteur at this annual conference in Yangon and wrote the attached report (as pdf). The subtitle is “Inclusive Independent Media in a New Democracy.” The presentation of a study at this conference about gender equity in media gave me the idea for this story for Mizzima. The conference’s chief sponsor is the Swedish NGO International Media Support

Report_5th_Conference_on_Media_Development_in_Myanmar_2016 (1)

* Grab Usage in Freefall in Singapore Since Uber Exit

By Susan Cunningham
The Star (Malaysia)


27 March 2019

When ride-sharing company Grab agreed to buy Uber’s South-East Asian assets a year ago, it seemed that its hardest and longest fought competition was finally over – at least in its seven markets that weren’t Indonesia.

In its home base of Singapore, Grab especially had a wide open field, having raised US$4.64bil (RM18.9bil) in funding from the likes of SoftBank and DiDi Chuxing.

Its chief competitors were those taxi drivers who didn’t use the Grab app. The hailing apps from well-funded foreigners – German-Brazilian Easy Taxi and Britain’s Hailo and Karhoo – had been driven out by 2016.

Yet instead of surging with an influx of Uber’s former passengers, the number of “Daily Active Users” of the main Grab app in Singapore plunged after Uber withdrew from the city-state in May.

The number of such users fell from almost 171,000 on June 1, 2018 to 135,576 by Dec 1, 2018, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb’s data on Android phone users. That’s a loss of almost 40,000 Daily Active Users over the six-month period.  MORE


Postscript: I should have mentioned in the story that the Android operating system had about 75% of the Singapore smartphone/tablet market during most of 2018. In Indonesia, Android had about 92% of the market.

* Forbes Asia’s 2018 Heroes of Philanthropy

Forbes Asia Heroes of Philanthropy 2018 -Thailand

Hotelier Malee Tangsin and 35 of her scholarship boys.

In November 2018 Forbes Asia‘s 12th annual philanthropy issue honored a total of 40 generous people or families from Australia, Hong Kong and 13 Asian countries. I wrote about Malee Tangsin, 90, Chairwoman of Bangkok’s Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Hotel. She and her family foundation have supported 450 boys while they attended high school in Bangkok. The photo shows the current three “classes,” most of whom are from Hmong or Akha hill tribe villages. More here.

* Priceza, Priceprice, PricePanda – Who’s Winning And Losing SE Asia’s Price Comparison Races

[Originally published on Forbes.com in 2015]

With the soft launch last month of Priceza websites in Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore, Thailand’s number one shopping price comparison portal now has a presence in five countries with a total of 540 million residents. Priceza Thailand debuted in January 2010 and Priceza Indonesia in May 2013.  Next market in 2015: Vietnam. If all grows as planned, the six sites will attract nearly 400 million annual visitors in 2019.

Back in 2009, when three former Chulalongkorn University classmates were dreaming up website ideas,  “we were looking for a scalable model. From day one, we knew wanted to be in other countries too,” says Priceza CEO Thanawat (Wai) Malabuppha.

It’s complicated, though. The competitive landscape in each country is different. That isn’t just a reflection of  per capita income and internet penetration but also of payment systems and the sheer number of e-commerce websites. MORE