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BOOK CORNER: ‘INFLUENCE EMPIRE … The story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition’ by journalist Lulu Chen.


BOOK CORNER: ‘INFLUENCE EMPIRE … The story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition’ by journalist Lulu Chen. The print length of the book is 283 pages. The publisher is Hodder & Stoughton. The Kindle version is priced at Rs 324.50 and the paperback is Rs 629.00.

    The title is a fascinating study of the tech giant and its symbiotic relationship with the Chinese government’ – Guardian.

    The title has been shortlisted for the ‘FINANCIAL TIMES BUSINESS BOOK 2022’ and *A TIMES BUSINESS BOOK OF THE YEAR 2022*.

    It is a story of a Chinese tech giant and the Chinese state. Behind the great firewall of China, there is a parallel universe. There’s a Baidu instead of Google, a Weibo rather than Twitter, an Alibaba instead of an Amazon or eBay. Lulu tells the story of a world-beating Chinese corporation that stays low-key.

    ‘Influence Empire by Lulu Yilun Chen is so much more than the long-awaited story of Tencent and its vital everything app, WeChat, the messaging tool used by 1.3 billion people. It’s also the sobering account of an entire generation of high-flying Chinese tech entrepreneurs, whose wings were clipped by the omnipotent hand of their own government.’ — Brad Stone, author of Amazon Unbound and The Everything Store.

    Tencent WeChat is an ‘everything’ app in China. It unfolds the features of WhatsApp and Facebook, TikTok and Tinder. It is an indispensable virtual town hall and marketplace. But it also has enormous clout in the world, with tentacles in Silicon Valley, finance, gaming and Hollywood. It is heavily invested in Tesla, Spotify, Epic Games and companies around the world including Flipkart and Ola. It is estimated to be the biggest video game company in the world.

    But what is Tencent exactly? Well, it sees itself as the ultimate connector. Its talk of internet+ is about connecting any industry with the internet to revolutionise it. Its first product QQ was modelled on ICQ, the Israeli chat service from the early days of the Web. Despite the charge that it was a copycat venture, it was moulded to the needs of Chinese users in internet cafes.

    It aggressively fended off Microsoft’s MSN, and became a Goliath in the tech industry. This growth spurt was based on an unusual technique. It opened up its platform, sharing traffic and tech know-how with companies it invested in. Today, China’s two tech titans Pony Ma and Jack Ma, the founders of Tencent and Alibaba, are locked in a fierce rivalry. They have warred over mobile payments, over start-ups, and new digital ventures and are compelled to take sides in this duopoly.

    Tencent rose as China rose. Its digital economy also boomed. In the middle of the last decade, when Tencent was on a tear, China’s internet users had expanded 36-fold. One unicorn was born every 3.8 days, and two billionaires were created every week.

    Of course, this also meant operating within the defined lines of the state. Tencent was careful not to cross the Communist Party and had to oblige with censorship and surveillance calls, blocking keywords from disclosing user information. It doesn’t matter how big a company is or how entrenched it is overseas, it cannot assume any independence from the state’s interest. When Alibaba the co-founder criticised Chinese inefficiencies, Alipay’s parent group Ant Group Co bore the brunt. In the ensuing stock market crackdown, Alibaba, Tencent and their industry peers lost $1.5 billion in market value.

    Today, Tencent finds itself facing not just global but also local pressures. Deng Xiaoping’s tolerance of a few people getting rich first has given way to Xi Jinping’s ‘common prosperity’ mantra that frowns on the ‘disorderly expansion of capital’. The government’s tech priorities have shifted to hardcore tech—semiconductors, robotics and fundamental research—to reduce reliance on the US.

    The overweening tech giants of the last decade had to be disciplined. While Tencent was already compliant with the party, it too has now embarked on a string of divestments and asset sales.

    While it is actively looking to the next frontier, investing in the cloud business and technologies that will succeed the smartphone—the metaverse? A decentralised Web3? Tencent will have a delicate manoeuvre on its hands, keeping the state on its side,

    In 2017, a company known as Tencent overtook Facebook to become the world’s fifth-largest company. It was a watershed moment, a wake-up call for those in the West accustomed to regarding the global tech industry through the prism of Silicon Valley: Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft.
    Founded by the enigmatic billionaire Pony Ma, the firm that began life as a simple text-message operator invested in and created some of China’s most iconic games en route to dreaming up WeChat – the Swiss Army knife super-app that combines messaging, shopping and entertainment. Through billions of dollars of global investments in marquee names from Fortnite to Tesla and a horde of start-ups, Ma’s company went on to build a near-unparalleled empire of influence.

In this fascinating narrative – crammed with insider interviews and exclusive details – Lulu Chen tells the story of how Tencent created the golden era of Chinese technology and delves into key battles involving Didi, Meituan and Alibaba. It’s a chronicle of critical junctures and asks just what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in China.

    ‘Lulu Yilun Chen has written a sharply informed, smart and compelling account of the rise of some of the most powerful companies in China, which also stand among the biggest and richest tech giants in the world. Despite their enormous size and power, few outsides of China know of or understand these companies. Now, thanks to Influence Empire: Inside the Story of Tencent and China’s Tech Ambition that will finally change — Howard French, former NY Times Shanghai bureau chief and author of ‘Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power’.

‘There’s so much fascinating detail here.’ — The Times

By Kamlesh Tripathi




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(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).  


(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)


(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA; Black Gold Cooperative Library Administration, Arroyo Grande, California).


(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)


(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his way through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available on Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day-to-day life. The book is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)


(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)


(The story of the man who received His Holiness The Dalai Lama and his retinue in 1959 as a GOI representative when he fled Tibet in 1959. The book was recently launched on 21st November 2022 by His Holiness The Dalai Lama).

Short stories, Book reviews and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: 1. Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; 2. Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; 3. Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; 4. Indica, 15.8.20; 5. The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; 6. Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. 7. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; 8. Happy Days, November 15, 2020; 9. The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15, 2020; 10. Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021; 11. Three Refugees, March 15, 2021; 12. Rise and Fall of Ajatashatru, March 31, 2021; 13. Reformed Ruler, May 15, 2021; 14. A Lasting Name, May 31, 2021; 15. Are Animals Better Teachers?, June 16, 2021; 16. Book Review: The Gram Swaraj, 1.7.21; 17. Right Age for Achievements, 15.7.21; 18. Big Things Have Small Beginnings, 15.8.21; 19. Where is Gangaridai?, 15.9.21; 20. Confront the Donkey Within You 30.9.21; 21. Know Your Strengths 15.10.21; 22. Poverty 15.11.21; 23. Top View 30.11.21; 24. The Bansuriwala 15.1.22; 25. Sale of Alaska 15.2.22; 26. The Dimasa Kingdom 28.2.22; 27. Buried Treasure 15.4.22; 28. The Kingdom of Pragjyotisha 30.4.22; 29. Who is more useful? 15.5.22; 30. The White Swan from Lake Mansarovar 30.6.22; 31. Bhool Bhulayya 15.9.22; 32. Good Karma 30.9.22; 33. Good name vs Bad Name 15.10.22; 34. Uttarapath—The Grand Trunk Road 1.12.22; 35. When Gods Get Angry 1.1.23



THE LOOK-ALIKE VIDEO OF GURMEHER KAUR—exposes the dark side of Indian mindset


By Kamlesh Tripathi


     The look-alike video of Gurmeher Kaur has been making the rounds of social media for quite a few days now. I too, got a few copies from some of my whatsapp friends. Correspondingly, I too, sent out a few here and there. But, before sending it out, I keenly sat through it a couple of times. Where, I could happily reflect on my jaunty college days, nothing more and nothing less.

    But, as expected within minutes, some of my friends. On receiving the video reacted by saying—the girl I’m trying to troll. Is not the one who is in the video. The social media is only trying to malign Gurmeher Kaur by sending out this video. Which, I definitely don’t deny. But I have another point of view to highlight—towards, all the fracas or whatsaap jostle, as I would like to call it. That some of my friends tried to create about the whole issue.

    While, most of them, reacted to the video in a more conformist and derogatory manner, with of course, sympathies for Gurmeher. Where, they all tried to tell me. The video is indecent and should not be circulated. But, I had a more of a promethean point of view towards the whole issue. Because, I felt in certain ways. It only exposed the primitive mindset of my friends and that too in a glaring manner. As, I, would like to ask them? What was so obscene and vulgar about the video. That I shouldn’t have circulated? And, about which, you made such a brouhaha. If having a couple of drinks in the plush confines of a car with your close friends is an obscenity, so be it? Don’t women drink in India? Isn’t that a reality of our country? So where is the vulgarity in it? Come on, just let India grow up. Had a boy been drinking under the similar circumstances, would you have reacted in the same manner and called the video obscene and vulgar?

    That she was in shorts. So what? Aren’t women entitled to wear shorts in India? Then, she was with some of her male friends. Perhaps, they were her college friends. So, is that a big deal? That she was tipsy and entwining in the car listening to a love song. So what? Is that a crime? Most certainly not and above all, aren’t women supposed to enjoy as men do is the moot question. And by calling the video vulgar, aren’t we even exhibiting a sexual bias towards them?

    The short point that I’m trying to make is. There wasn’t anything vulgar or even obscene in the video. But, because, of our deep-seated dig and reactions. We made it look like it. For, any college child can enjoy in this manner in the company of his or her friends. Whether boy or a girl. We all have behaved like that in our college days. And, for a moment, even if the video was of Gurmeher. I wouldn’t have rated it in anyway vulgar and obscene. To, run her down. But yes, preferably, any man or a girl would have preferred to keep it as a private property.

    Last but not the least the video turned viral only because of the protagonist, who happened to be a girl. So to my friends—you told me not to circulate the video because it was vulgar. But I found no vulgarity in it and that only speaks of your polluted mindset.

    Sadly, I kept waiting for at least one person to tell me. You can circulate the video as there is nothing indecent about it. But I’m still waiting. Perhaps the wait will be much longer than what I had thought. India still has to grow up.



Glamour, showbiz, One-upmanship- the veiled face of Facebook


Kamlesh Tripathi


‘A steadfast and voracious facebooker’ – is what I called him, till I met this old friend of mine Harish, recently in Mumbai, is when I came to know he’s gone off Facebook. I swallowed what he told me with a pinch of salt as it sounded quite incredible. Did he? I reminisced. And asked why? He replied.

‘Because you brag without being asked to. For how does it matter where you’ve been for a holiday, which car you drive, in what kind of a house you stay, how well connected you are both professionally and socially. How many jobs you’ve changed, how exquisite your new office looks, how you look in that dress, how many promotions you’ve got, your career path or even your designation. Or how grand was your birthday party, how well groomed and aristocratic you look while standing in that plush lounge of Mumbai or John F Kennedy airport or in that swanky lobby of a five star; and the number of flights you may have undertaken last week to show how busy you are, or how big and pedigreed is your dog or for that matter the brand, colour and size of your underpants?’ As all of this is fairly bugging.

‘But then what is so wrong about bragging? One can only brag, if one is accomplished and has possessions and achievements to show around.’ I enumerated.

‘Definitely, but not by making a public announcements. It’s like inviting everyone to snoop into your worthy life. I value the privacy of my achievements and possessions and would like to limit it to my family, relatives and some close friends. But in the Facebook, I find most talk only about their newly acquired possessions and achievements of life, and that to just for some digital ‘likes’ and appreciative comments.


Point made by Harish had rattled me for a moment, as there was a point in his point. Is Facebook taking us away from our vedic and ancient culture of sadgi (simplicity). And will Bapu, the strong supporter of non-violence and sadgi like and approve of this. I thought for an instant, as all websites have a domain culture; where members of Facebook appear to be drifting away from simplicity. Facebook, allows anyone above the age of 13 to open an account, and after registering the users can create a user profile, post status updates, pictures, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Also, users may join common-interest user groups, organized by workplace, school or college, or other characteristics and categories such as people from work or close friends. So the intent is very noble, exciting, knowledge building, innovative with perks of a global reach. But, I guess the gravity is moving towards mere showoff and showbiz. And, it is about time the members come up with something more mentally nourishing where Facebook can chart the way. Remember what our ancestors always said, ‘don’t brag and showoff- nazar lagti hai


Yes as most notifications in Facebook, are about self aggrandizement and digital announcements of achievement and accomplishments. Perhaps the longing vent of modern day etiquette better understood in otherwise traditionally starved India; and that insinuates about Facebook’s gravitational pull towards newfound consumerism of India. I guess it is now a war of between two cultures; the ancient aging culture of India that teaches you sadgi versus the materialistic web-culture mobilized via Facebook. Sure enough the soft world is taking on the hard world and maybe reason enough for China to ban Facebook?

A converse point of view also describes the young emerging India through Facebook that brings along day to day transparency by digitally describing even minor activities through notifications, pictures and videos which at times might even put your spouse in trouble for those occasional furloughs. And, last but not the least.

Harish needs to get back to Facebook. But no one shall tell him when, as he will figure out for himself, the smart bloke he is. I know him well enough and he is not the sort to give up something so easily- and that too his first love, Facebook. For I know he will still login at broader intervals to see how the war of cultures is brewing and the day he feels the tangy slant of cultures has lessened he will write again, what’s in his mind. To once again bring cheer, laughter, knowledge, information and accomplishments to others and that too in abundance.