Yao “The Walking Great Wall” Ming, Tallest Professional NBA Player at 7 ft 6 in, Author, Athelete

17 04 2009

Yao Ming is the world’s most celebrated Asian athlete and is from the most populous nation in the world, China.

Playing center for the Houston Rockets, Yao has recently overtaken the mantel of top NBA center over  Shaq and has shattered many stereotypes and silenced numerous critics along the way.

He has led Forbes’ Chinese celebrities list in income and popularity for six straight years, earning 51 million U.S. dollars (357 million yuan) in 2008.

A major part of his income comes from his sponsorship deals, as he is under contract with several major companies to endorse their products.

He was signed by Nike until the end of his rookie season; when they decided not to renew his contract, he signed with Reebok. He also had a deal with Pepsi, and he successfully sued Coca-Cola in 2003 when they used his image on their bottles while promoting the national team.


Before Yao’s first meeting with Shaquille O’Neal on January 17, 2003, O’Neal said,

“Tell Yao Ming, Ching chong-yang-wah-ah-soh”, prompting accusations of racism.

 O’Neal denied that his comments were racist, and said he was only joking. Yao, the bigger person,  also said he believed O’Neal was joking, but the comments led to increased media coverage in the buildup to the nationally televised game.

In the game, Yao scored six points and blocked O’Neal twice in the opening minutes, and made a game-sealing dunk with 10 seconds left in overtime. Yao finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds; O’Neal scored 31 points and 13 rebounds. Yao’s final averages in 55 games were 22.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks a game. 




Yao is married to Ye Li, a women’s basketball player for China, whom he met when he was 17. Ye was not fond of Yao at first, but finally accepted him after he gave her the team pins he had collected during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Their relationship was first made public when they appeared together during the 2004 Olympics closing ceremony, and on August 6, 2007, Yao married Ye in a ceremony attended by close friends and family that was closed to the media.

Both of Yao’s parents are former professional basketball players.  Yao was born in Shanghai, China and started playing basketball at age nine when he also went to a junior sports school.


At 13, he first tried out for the Shanghai Sharks on the junior team of the Chinese Basketball Association and practiced for 10 hours a day before he finally make the team. He played on their senior team for five years in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and won a championship in his final year.

He entered the 2002 NBA Draft and was selected by the Houston Rockets as their first overall pick of the draft.

His rookie year in the NBA was the subject of a documentary filmThe Year of the Yao, and he co-wrote, along with NBA analyst Ric Bucher, an autobiography titled Yao: A Life in Two Worlds.





Speaker & Car Entrepreneur, Myles Kovacs

12 02 2009


Myles Kovacs  embodies the blending of different worlds. Three-quarters Japanese and one quarter Hungarian, he grew up speaking Spanish in tough East L.A. During high school, he got his first taste of cars and stars as a delivery boy for a rim shop frequented by rapper Tupac.

Today, his own cars-and-stars glossy, DUB Magazine (thinkMTV Cribs meets InStyle), is the place where automakers seek validation and advice on the ever-changing youth market.

Famously, Kovacs spun the Chrysler 300C into a monster hit by hooking it up with 50 Cent, who featured it in a video. As a result, the 300C became a hip-hop icon and Kovacs an automotive star-maker, as domestic and import car manufacturers alike sought his help in giving their vehicles “street cred” and steering them into the sales-rich market mainstream.

Myles has become a force in the urban car scene, with a traveling auto show featuring the outrageously customized cars of rappers and athletes, as well as a growing list of auto accessories sold nationwide. Myles Kovacs’ simple yet hugely successful formula of bringing high-end polish to the street look has corporate executives, trade groups and car lovers alike vying for his ideas and insight into the growing auto customizing market. Without question, Myles Kovacs and DUB are defining what’s cool – and people are listening.



Guggenheim Fellowship, Author, Poet, Jhumpa Lahiri

6 02 2009


Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and author of two previous books. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year.

Her novel The Namesake was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications.

Jhumpa’s real name is Nilanjana Sudeshna. When Jhumpa began kindergarten in Kingston, Lahiri’s teacher decided Nilanjana  was too difficult to pronounce and decided to call her by her pet name, Jhumpa.

She recalls,

“I always felt so embarrassed by my name […] You feel like you’re causing someone pain just by being who you are.”

Lahiri’s ambivalence over her identity was the inspiration for the ambivalence of Gogol, the protagonist of her novel The Namesake, over his unusual name. Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School, and received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989.

Lahiri then received multiple degrees from Boston University: an M.A. in English, an M.A. in Creative Writing, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She took up a fellowship at Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center, which lasted for the next two years (1997–1998). Lahiri taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

In 2001, Lahiri married Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, a journalist who was then Deputy Editor of TIME Latin America (and is now executive editor of El Diario/La Prenda, New York’s largest Spanish daily and America’s fastest growing newspaper). Lahiri lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two children, Octavio (b. 2002) and Noor (b. 2005)

As a popular young writer of Indian background, Lahiri is a representative figure for non-immigrant Americans who do not fully understand what it means to straddle the line between two cultures. Jhumpa Lahiri admits:

“I’m lucky that I’m between two worlds…I don’t really know what a distinct South Asian identity means. I don’t think about that when I write, I just try to bring a person to life.”

All these factors are what add to Lahiri’s popularity. Her poignant attitude is what draws her readers in and keeps them wanting more. Interestingly, with all the energy and intrigue her cultural status brings, she conveys it in a real way that her audience can learn from and understand. One of the main reasons for Lahiri’s success as a writer is because she writes for herself. She doesn’t have critics or peers in mind when writing; she just writes.

Lahiri is also able to draw her readers into the story not only through her detail but also by making them feel the emotional, physical, and mental needs of the characters. All nine of the stories in Interpreter of Maladies focus on the characters’ inability to communicate with people who are important in their lives. She continues her story by plotting her “motif of exclusion, loneliness, and search for fulfillment” (Mandal 18) as the central issue.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s career has just begun, one can only imagine what creative works she will stun the public with next.



Screen Actors Guild Awards, star on the Mangalorean Horizon, Freida Pinto

18 01 2009

16slid124-year-old Freida Pinto, the female star of the new movie, “Slumdog Millionaire” traces her roots to Mangalore. The movie, by British director Danny Boyle, has won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. 

Freida Pinto traversed the modeling circuit in Mumbai [represented by Elite Model Management India] for two years before gaining her big break when director Danny Boyle picked her out in the audition process to play the female lead, Latika for Slumdog Millionaire.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of how Jamal, a contestant on reality show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ uses this medium to contact his childhood love, Latika.  Dev Patel plays the male lead.  {my favorite movie for the year.}

Surprisingly, Freida, who studied at Mumbai’s St. Xaviers College, only began taking acting classes  after completing her debut film – when she attended a three-month workshop by Barry John, the veteran theatre guru.

Before this year, from 2006- to 2007, she anchored “Full Circle,” a travel show which was telecast on Zee International Asia Pacific. She went on assignments to Afghanistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Fiji among other countries.

Freida is trained in some forms of Indian classical dance as well as Salsa.

Who are your favourite stars?

I liked Charlize Theron in Monster. I also like Irrfan Khan, Rajat Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, Marlyn Monroe, Nicole Kidman, Shabana Azmi, Kevin Beacon, Johnny Depp, Smita Patil.

On why she thinks “Slumdog” was a success: 

I think it is a success is because it is based on a universal topic. It is about an underdog who has a dream and he goes gunning for his dream, won’t stop at anything until he gets what he wants. So it’s a universal theme. You struggle in life, you literally fall flat on your face many times and then finally you pick yourself up and get what you want, after a lot of struggle. It is a very inspirational story and most people can relate to it which is why everybody is going crazy, because the film has perfect comic-timing, a love story and a class struggle, deceit, redemption. It’s also got a very interesting ending to it. 


On her quick rise to fame from Bollywood to Hollywood, Freida Pinto exclaims, “It just came to me. I just wanted to act, and so when Bollywood came to my door, who am I to shut the door and say “No”? So when Bollywood came to me, I just accepted the role!” 

Freida is a great example of someone who helps shed light on a place in the world most Americans may not know about. (She is from Mangalore.) Mangalore is the chief port city of the Indian state of Karnataka and is bounded by the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghat mountain ranges.

Her words of encouragement? “Go for your dream, believe in yourself and it will happen.”




Image from: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=53994

Button-making, internet advertiser, shoe entrepreneur, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

30 12 2008


You know, part of the reason why I started the Asian Heroes Project is because I didn’t know who my hero was. For over a decade now, I have looked up to folks like Richard Branson, David Novak, Warren Buffet, and  Kevin Rose. Today, with help from a friend, Jasmine Kuan, I might have found a hero who also happens to share my cultural heritage. Read on and be inspired.

His beginnings

At age 12, Tony Hsieh, CEO of  Zappos.com, ran a button-making business by sealing photos between a sheet of plastic and a metal disk. After advertising in a directory aimed at other kids, he was soon bringing in a few hundred dollars a month.

Pizza Partners

A lot of success stories in Silicon Valley were started by two guys. Hewlett-Packard. Apple. Microsoft. Oracle. Google. Tony found his partner in fellow Harvard classmate, Alfred Lin.

As a Harvard undergrad, Tony was selling pizzas out of his dorm. Another student, Alfred Lin, was equally enterprising: He bought whole pizzas from Tony, took them upstairs, and resold them by the slice.  Today, they work together at Zappos.com


In 1995, Tony graduated with a B.A. in computer science from Harvard. He went on to work as a Software Engineer at Oracle while starting an Internet advertising company called LinkExchange (www.linkexchange.com).

The Internet Link Exchange allowed anyone with a web site to advertise their site on banner ads on thousands of other participating web sites for free. In order to participate in the Link Exchange, members agree to insert some HTML code into their web pages. This will cause banners of other members to automatically appear on their site. Other members will be doing the same thing, and the end result is that members will all be displaying ads for each other, and everyone who participates wins! The number of times a site was advertised was directly proportional to the number of times that site has advertised for other sites.

To date, these services have been used by over one million users with a reach of over 50% of Internet connected households.  They grew the company to 100 employees and, in 1998, 24-year-old Tony Hsieh sold his company to Microsoft for $265 million.

Tony then went on to co-found Venture Frogs (www.vfrogs.com) with Alfred Lin. Tony met Alfred Lin (COO/CFO) at Harvard, when Tony was running a pizza business and Alfred was his #1 customer. Venture Frogs is an incubator and investment firm that reported making more than 20 investments — each ranging in size from $100,000 to $3 million — from a fund of some $27 million. Some of the companies receiving investment money from Venture Frogs: Ask Jeeves, Entango, NeoPlanet, and Fusion.com.

Fun fact? Tony has a restaurant too

At Venture Frog, Tony  Hsieh’s co-workers met and ate at the company’s restaurant wheres speciality dishes were named after well-known technology companies.

Tony hired his parents to run the restaurant. For them, it was a way to spend more time with their son.

Sometimes I visited him,” says Judy Hsieh. “He wasn’t available. He wasn’t there. He was on the phone. He was busy or he was sleeping by the desk on the floor. Doing this, I’m able to see him more often.

Zappos.com almost didn’t happen

A voice mail from a young entrepreneur Nick Swinmurn brought him to Zappos.com. First Tony was about to delete the mail:

Nick left a message saying he wanted to start a company that sold shoes online. I didn’t think consumers would buy shoes sight unseen, and Nick didn’t have a footwear background. It sounded like the poster child of bad Internet ideas. But right before I hit “Delete”, Nick mentioned the size of the retail shoe market – $40 billion. And the more interesting thing was that 5% was already being done through mail order catalogs. That intrigued me.

He soon invested $500,000 in ShoeSite.com (they soon changed the name to Zappos, after zapatos, which is Spanish for “shoes”). Within six months, he and Swinmurn were running the show together. Early this year, Swinmurn moved on, leaving Hsieh at the helm of a company that had sales of $252 million in 2005.

Tony originally got involved with Zappos as an advisor and investor in 1999, about 2 months after the company was founded. Over time, Tony ended up spending more and more time with the company because it was both the most fun and the most promising out of all the companies that he was involved with. He eventually joined Zappos full time in 2000. Under his leadership, Zappos has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to $840M in 2007 by focusing relentlessly on customer service.

Which customer-service elements make Zappos.com stand out?

Tony says,

It’s free shipping both ways. We have a 365-day return policy. We promise customers that they’re going to get their shoes in four to five business days, but actually, for almost all of our customers, we do a surprise upgrade to overnight shipping.  […] On any given day, [repeat business] is about 75 percent of our orders.

Tony Hsieh will be the first to tell you he’s not motivated by money — he makes $36000 a year — but by the prospect of creating something different.

It doesn’t matter which position you [accept]. You can be an accountant or a lawyer, and you still go through that same training that our call center representatives go through […] If we want our brand to be about customer service, then customer service needs to be the whole company, not just a department.

In fact, customer reps are given $1000 to leave the company during the training if they feel that they don’t fit with the culture of customer satisfaction. He focuses on continuing to grow the business at a rapid pace while maintaining the culture and feel of a small company.

You can tell the most about people in the little details…

We figure the best way to have an open-door policy is not to have a door in the first place. I think, for employees, it’s good because they can just walk by and say hi or ask a question.

I think it helps humanize all of us and makes us more approachable. We have, for example, happy hours for different departments and the new classes, and I try to attend as many of those as possible. I also host a New Year’s party and a Fourth of July barbecue at my house every year, and all the employees are invited.

What’s next?  Tony Hsieh’s top 10 eCommerce Lessons (from http://www.good2work.com/article/6353)

  1. The e-commerce business is built upon repeat customers.
  2. Word-of-mouth really works online.
  3. Don’t compete on price.
  4. Make sure your Website is 100% accurate.
  5. Centrally locate your distribution.
  6. Customer service is an investment, not an expense.
  7. Start small, stay focused.
  8. Don’t be secretive. Don’t worry about competitors.
  9. You need to actively manage your company culture.
  10. Be wary of so-called experts. No one knows your customers better than you.

Follow him here. Also, from the Venture Frogs website:

Venture Frogs, LLC
1000 Van Ness, #201
San Francisco, CA 94109
Tel: 415-345-6260
Fax: 415-928-4606

If you are visiting their offices, they are located at 1000 Van Ness in San Francisco, at the corner of Van Ness and O’Farrell.

Image from: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/files/2008/04/tony-hsieh-bw-photo.jpg

Innovative confectionary products, Pocky, Ezaki Glico

30 12 2008

The Ezaki family has been creating and innovating confectionary products, including the immensely popular Pocky, since 1922. Their company, Ezaki Glico is currently run by Katsuhisa Ezaki, who has been serving since 1982.

First sold in 1966, Pocky consisted of a biscuit stick coated with chocolate. Simply enough, right? It had sales of ¥30b yen in its first two years (roughly $30.2b USD) and was an instant hit among Japanese teenagers.6267 osaka ebisu bashi glico kanban - entertainment district

Founding Father

After the death of one of his sons, Riichi Ezaki had retreated to a fishing village and noticed a group of very healthy and active children playing. Further investigation yielded the villagers’ high consumption of oysters which contained elevated levels of glycogen.

Convinced of the diet-to-good health relationship, Riichi began extracting glycogen for use in foods, particularly in confectionery, in order to improve the health of Japanese children.

The result was a caramel candy containing glycogen named “Glico” in 1921. The following year, their company was born. By 1925, the company was forced to expand its production capacity and moved to a new manufacturing facility.  Glico was on its way!jp3_glico_500-217x300

They were clever at PR too

Glico was an innovator on other fronts as well. Early on, the company adopted a successful publicity campaign called, “300 Meters on a Single Piece,” featuring the Glico Running Man, the company’s mascot. The implication was that a single piece of Glico candy provided enough energy to run a 300-meter race.

Fun fact?

“Pocky,” after the sound Pocky makes when bitten. The original was followed by “Almond Pocky” and today includes mousse, green tea, and coconut flavored coatings.

Life is like a box of chocolates

The early 1980s were marred by a series of crimes conducted by the “Phantom with 21 Faces” gang targeting Japanese confectioners including Glico, Morinaga, and food companies: Marudai Ham and House Food Corporation. The gang laced a dozen packages of chocolates with cyanide, causing a national panic and forcing a number of confectioners to withdraw all products. Glico had a resulting loss in sales of more than $21 million and laid off 450 part-time workers.

In 1984, the gang kidnapped then (and current) Glico president, Katsuhisa Ezakia, in return for a ransom of ¥1 billion and 100 kilograms of gold bullion. Katsuhisa escaped three days later but Glico’s headquarters were firebombed for more money. By 1985, however, the crime wave ended when the gang suddenly declared that it would not engage in further attacks. They never caught the gang but you can learn more here.

The innovation continues

Glico has continued to innovative and today has a market cap of $119b. In 2005, they announced the development of a process to transform wood cellulose, which was normally indigestible by human beings and most animals, into amylose, a substance which can be digested. Net net? It means we can one day eat wood and make it taste like candy!

World hunger? Pst!

Image from: http://manga.about.com/od/imagegalleries/ig/Manga-Tour-2008-Gallery/PJT-Manga—-Glico-Evolution.htm

Indonesian singer/songwriter, Anggun Cipta Sasmi

30 12 2008

To date, Anggun Cipta Sasmi has become the most successful Asian artist outside Asia. She has sold approximately 3 million copies of records worldwide and  her success has spread throughout Europe as well as several parts of Asia. 


Anggun says, 

I dreamed of an international career, but the American and English record companies weren’t going to come to Indonesia looking for a new talent, when there is so much available in their own countries. So, I had to bring my talent to the West. 

Anggun Cipta Sasmi is an Indonesian singer/songwriter with French citizenship. Having already had tremendous success in her homeland Indonesia since she was 12, she decided to pursue an international career and left Indonesia in 1994.  After a year in London, she settled in Paris, France and met producer Erick Benzi, who later helped her sign a record deal with Sony Music France and recorded her first French album, Au Nom de la Lune, in 1996. Her name means “A grace born out of a dream” which is definitely a true statement about this remarkable singer.

Anggun left Indonesia in 1995 and started her singing career in France, where she recorded her first french album, in 1996 ,called Au Nom de la Lune. In 2005 she released her new last album Luminescence. Her first single from the French album is Etre Une Femme and the second single Cesse La Pluie (translated asSaviour) was featured in the film “Transporter II”

Today, Anggun has sold about 3 million copies of records worldwide and has become the most successful Asian artist outside Asia; she is particularly well known in Europe .
Anggun has been involved with several charities and received several awards such as “Best International Artist” at 2006 Indonesian Music Awards.

Recent news:
As I heard from my sources, Anggun is working her way over to make it big in America so keep a look out!

Official Website