GrabTaxi, Asia-Based Uber Competitor, to Open Tech Centre in Seattle

GrabTaxi, Asia-Based Uber Competitor, to Open Tech Centre in SeattleGrabTaxi, the on-demand ride service and Uber competitor in Southeast Asia, is opening a technology centre in Seattle, marking the company’s first physical presence in the United States.

GrabTaxi said on Wednesday the new centre will work on cloud computing and data projects to support the smartphone app its customers use to hail rides in a car or motorbike.

GrabTaxi said it hired Raman Narayanan, a former Microsoft engineer, as technical adviser to the centre and to lead recruitment efforts. The company plans to hire a full team over the next year.

Seattle is home to e-commerce giant Amazon as well as a growing startup scene. Microsoft is located in nearby Redmond, Washington.

The Seattle centre will complement GrabTaxi’s engineering centres in Singapore and Beijing.

GrabTaxi is the leading ride-hailing app in Southeast Asia, serving Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Its services include private cars, taxis, carpooling and deliveries.

Created in 2012, GrabTaxi says it has 185,000 drivers and up to 1.5 million bookings a day.

While the Seattle centre is GrabTaxi’s first physical presence in the United States, the company has a budding relationship with San Francisco on-demand ride service Lyft.

The two are part of a ride-hailing coalition created last month that also includes China-based Didi Kuaidi and India-based Ola that will allow passengers to use all platforms to hail a ride as they travel between the United States and Asia.

Seattle lawmakers last month approved an ordinance that gives drivers for on-demand ride companies, well as taxi and for-hire drivers, the right to collectively negotiate on pay and working conditions.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Uber Subsidiary Fined $7.6 Million in California

Uber Subsidiary Fined $7.6 Million in California

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday hit an Uber subsidiary with a $7.6 million (roughly Rs. 51 crores) fine for failing to comply with reporting requirements fully and in a timely manner.

The commission also said that the subsidiary, Raiser-CA, was in contempt and had 30 days to pay the penalty or face suspension of its license to operate in the state.

Information sought by the commission included whether requests for rides got similar responses regardless of neighborhood and whether people with disabilities are able to access Uber vehicles, a press release said.

The commission said it was trying to determine whether services were being provided safely and “in a nondiscriminatory manner enabling equal access to all.”

In a statement later Thursday, Uber said it was disappointed with the ruling and vowed to appeal.

Uber maintained that it provided what information it could without risking the privacy of riders and drivers.

Uber lets people use smartphone applications to summon and pay for rides provided by drivers using their own cars.

The San Francisco-based company last month made its billionth trip in a milestone for the global ridesharing service.

Uber has expanded to hundreds of cities around the world in at least 68 countries, offering new options for both riders and drivers but also running into complaints from the taxi industry and regulators.

The company has reached a valuation of more than $50 billion based on private investment disclosed to date.

Uber still faces competition from US-based Lyft and other global startups.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football

Enter the Dragon: Under President Xi, China looks to achieve world domination – in football
Photo Credit: Alejandro Pagni / AFP
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Earlier this week, Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan’s dreams of glory faded as the club exited from the preliminaries of the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, suffering an unforgiving 6-0 defeat against China’s Shandong Luneng FC. Neither the elimination nor the manner of capitulation caused particular disgruntlement among the Indian players or fans, but the result did highlight China’s lofty footballing potential, originating from both a historical and political context.

Football in China is not a recent phenomenon. In the third century BC during the Han dynasty, cuju, or kick-ball, was a leather ball game between two teams on a marked pitch with goals at two ends. Kicking was a key form of propulsion. Emperor Wu Di was both an aficionado and connoisseur, according to historical accounts.

Cuju might have been rudimentary, but China was the cradle of the earliest forms of football. China’s early settled cities and social hierarchies allowed for a framework wherein spontaneous play became organised and institutionalised. Yet the historical importance of the Chinese for football never translated into much in today’s global game.

For years, football has been a synonym for abject failure in China. Serbian coach Bora Milutinović, a doyen of international football, guided China’s team to the 2002 World Cup, but Lóngzhī Duì ,or Team Dragon, finished bottom of Group C with a goal difference of -9 after matches against Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. Chinese clubs also failed to make much of an impact internationally.

Xi Jinping embraces the beautiful game

Then came President Xi Jinping and, with him, an insatiable desire to propel China onto football’s world stage. The president is a self-declared football fan – of the Manchester United inclination. In 1983, he attended a friendly between China and Watford in Shanghai. The London club’s comfortable 5-1 victory must have been traumatic for Xi: in 2011 he proposed a goal-orientated vision for his country. The Chinese president listed three ambitions, all football-related: to qualify for the World Cup, to host international football’s biggest jamboree and, ultimately, to win it.

Those Greek dreams speak of a larger narrative of Chinese nation-building. As an editorial in China’s Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper pointed out:

“Dreams have power, and the constant jarring reality of Chinese football threatens nothing less than the Chinese ability to dream of a more powerful nation.”

Football is a reflection of the president’s profound insecurities that, notwithstanding the republic’s great strides forward, China remains a B-list power, shunned for its many peculiarities and deemed unfit to join an elite club of countries that matter.

For Xi, football is a soft-power tool to mitigate the nagging fear that China’s quest for hegemony might never materialise, but rather fizzle out and be absorbed by the open and integrated global order. Football is required by the Chinese administration to rule with more legitimacy, for increased geopolitical standing and projection of power, according to Xu Guoqi, a Harvard-educated historian at the University of Hong Kong.

Football neatly fits in to the everyman image Xi has been cultivating since he became president in 2012. Yet Xi’s self-proclaimed football love is more than just hoopla.

A rapid resurgence

Chinese club football is improving drastically with Guangzhou Evergrande a prime exponent. They won the Chinese Super League or CSL five consecutive times and rose steadily to become a continental powerhouse, winning the AFC Champions League under Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Club World Cup was still a step too far as they failed to muster any pugnacity in the semi-finals against FC Barcelona’s triangulated game and Luis Suarez’s goal-poaching instincts.

In the January transfer window, Guangzhou signed Colombian midfielder Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for £31.5 million, 2016’s highest fee. Ramires, Elkeson and Gervinho also completed high-profile moves to inject the CSL with star ethos and quality. At this rate, China will become the biggest non-European league, overtaking the Major League Soccer, with healthy average attendances of 22,000 and a television rights deal package worth £850 million over the next five seasons.

The CSL may form the basis for a stronger national team, together with a grassroots level movement. By 2017, about 20,000 football-themed schools will be opened with the aim of educating and producing more than 100,000 players. They might be part of a future generation of Chinese star players. Mohun Bagan and the rest of the football world may want to take note: China’s footballing power is not to be taken lightly.

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