My first job was at The Asian Age newspaper in Delhi. Even while stationed in the national capital region, little did I understand the true import of the name 22 years ago. Today, I do. The world is finally entering an Asian age.
It’s not just because of the two large economies of China and India. Smaller and midsize countries are also growing, even punching above their weight. In purchasing power parity terms, Vietnam has overtaken Belgium and Switzerland economies; Indonesia will become the world’s seventh-largest economy by 2020, according to the IMF. While some countries have already taken to investor-funded new economy businesses, a few others, backed by their government, are taking a sandbox approach in chosen sectors. Like fintech in Malaysia, for example. Or Indonesia, which is already in the thick of a digital transformation. Singapore has become a financial hub, even for Indian businesses.
In the midst of such exciting times, we have decided to look towards the east. What would it take to produce deeply reported, analytical and ground reality-driven stories like we do at The Ken from Southeast Asia?
Find people from the region with a passion for journalism, hunger for knowledge, penchant for analysis, and a flair for writing. Our first step in that long journey was to bring Jon Russell on board in July. Jon wore his thinking hat for almost a year before he agreed to jump the ship. He was probably already creating a mental team he’d work with over the coming months. Soon after he joined, he began shortlisting potential hires, thoughtful and eager to tell authentic stories like himself.
For instance, Nadine Freischlad, who’s joining us from Jakarta, asked me some really good questions. Like, how soon did we realise that there was an appetite for a broad range of stories? Did we have them from the beginning? How did readers react to them given that they are inherently not as buzzy as tech stories.
In Malaysia, Ka Kay Lum is getting ready to write the “most authentic stories on the region compared to [international] reporters who write on the region from the outside.” She is tired of breaking news and would like to write better stories. What more could we ask for?
It’s better Jon introduces them in detail.
Promises are promises, we take them seriously.
When I joined The Ken in July, we told you that we’d broaden our deep reporting into the growing market of Southeast Asia. Now I’m delighted to announce that we are tripling down on that pledge with two new hires that grow our headcount outside of India to three.
That’s right. Today, we welcome Nadine Freischlad and Ka Kay Lum as the newest additions to our talented roster of reporters.
Their arrival will accelerate our storytelling in Southeast Asia, which has already shone light on key topics. Like the giants—they don’t come much bigger than Grab and Gojek and their grand designs for the region; the up-and-coming, like fashion player Zilingo and OYO rival RedDoorz; behind-the-scenes insight you won’t find elsewhere—such as the chaos at IPO-bound Iflix and how Sequoia’s Surge program is disrupting the VC scene. And more.
But I can’t do it all alone in Southeast Asia and The Ken’s true value comes from a team of hungry journalists—that’s where Nadine and Kay enter the frame.
Nadine is a Jakarta-based journalist who is giving up her freedom for us. That’s to say that she is committing to The Ken after nearly two years of freelance work, during which time her work has appeared in SCMP, VICE, KrAsia—the Asia-focused offshoot of Chinese media startup 36Kr—among other places. Nadine’s priors include Tech In Asia, the Jakarta Globe and the Goethe Institut, an independent cultural center that’s backed by the German government.
Nadine’s interest in tech was formed at a young age: in fact, she said it’s quite likely that it all started when her German father read Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to her sometime in the 1990s. By the time high school rolled around, Nadine had turned into a bonafide Sci-Fi nerd, pondering questions like “how does technology shape society?” and “should robots have rights?” Unsure how to turn that particular interest into a career, she went on to study biology, then pivoted to settle for “something with media”—a win for us all.
Kay joins us from Deal Street Asia where she closely followed private equity and venture capital across Southeast Asia, as well as tech and startups in Malaysia and beyond. Prior to that role, Kay spent time reporting for The Edge Property Malaysia and Digital News Asia. A journalism graduate from Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, she began her career with an internship at Bernama, the Malaysian National News Agency.
Aside from tracking the money, Kay enjoys stories of entrepreneurs who overcome cultural challenges to build pan-regional businesses because no market in Southeast Asia is the same. Having written news stories through her career to date, she now wants to focus on the bigger picture. She’s certainly come to the right place.
Both of these reporters have been on my radar for a long while, and I’m excited to finally have the chance to work with them directly.
So please send congratulations, story tips, fan art and other such salutations to them via email — that’s nadine at the-ken.com and kakay at the-ken.com. To get an inside view of their work, you can follow them on Twitter: @nfreischlad and @kakayy .
And by the way, if you’re a reporter who is passionate about telling deep stories about Southeast Asia and interested in being part of an ambitious media startup, drop me a line. We’re also hiring actively for a bunch of roles, details of which you can find on our Careers page.
Headline image combination Azlan Baharudin/Unsplash and Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash