Why are petrol stations in close proximity to one another?

Why are petrol stations in close proximity to one another?

As we had plenty of free time during last year’s lockdown period, we did a quick analysis of petrol station clustering in Malaysia. Methodology was simple; consider the stations are in a cluster if they are within 500 meters of each other. Data was scrapped from map providers.

We discovered that Shell and Petronas (the two largest O&G companies) is the most popular pair of petrol stations in close proximity with one another.

If you are at a Shell station, you will have a 30% chance of seeing a Petronas station. If you are at a Caltex station, there’s only 17% chance of seeing a Petronas station.

So why do competitors tend to cluster together?

Well this boils down a theory called Hotelling’s Model of Spatial Competition (Google it to find an excellent video on TedEd):

  • A commercial area with many competing businesses attracts more customers than an area with a single business.
  • If competing businesses are spread evenly across a large area, customers need to visit each business to get what they are searching for. This would be inconvenient to the customers because they may or may not find the item in the first one or two providers. The customer might even get frustrated/exhausted and decided not to purchase at all.
  • Having competing businesses in close proximity allows customers to ‘shop around’ and ensures customers will at least buy something.
  • Naturally new competing business will open nearby because the crowd is there. The business wont have to spend much for marketing for customer discovery because it could just ride on existing marketing and customer base of their competitors.

Now you would argue that this scenario is moot for petrol stations as they are selling regulated products (fuel price is capped). Well, do you know that petrol stations value foot-fall into their retail stores? This also explains why stations nowadays are mini-malls; they sell anything from chicken rice, to fast food and car wash.

So dont be mad on having competitors. They help the market to grow.


Two interns reported for duty today.

One is Zhen Yang, a UTAR student and an aspiring data scientist. Hailing from Ipoh, he rented a house near to our office for the next few months as he goes through our rather rigorous, industry-driven internship.

Zheng Yang will be looking at massive vehicle-sensor data available on the KATSANA Platform under the guidance of Engineering Head. We don’t allocate enough manpower to data science due to other priorities, thus having new talents in this area is very much welcomed.

Another intern is Aiman, a tall 18-year old post-high school student, whose drive and conviction to be a software engineer led me to write a rather popular LinkedIn post last week.

Aiman has no formal education in Software Engineering, yet has the drive to soak up knowledge that I haven’t seen in graduates much older than him. He made the calculated risky decision to let go of university education for a few years to be trained in an actual tech company much early on. This young man is brave.

This means we carry a huge responsibility to make sure they become good scientists & engineers. Beyond technical competency, we aim to imbue in them, good communication skills and managerial capabilities.

Wish us luck.

Valuing the independence of thought

I have been trying my darndest to reduce exposure to Facebook. I’m doing this because I find myself slowly becoming part of an echo chamber.

If you have not known this by now, Facebook designs its algorithm to encourage higher engagement & higher retention on the platform. More time on Facebook = more eyeballs for its advertisements.

A direct result of this behavioral engineering is the polarisation of your news feed. You will likely be more engaged with those who share the same opinions, or on the other spectrum, you will be stalking those who don’t.

You will end up preaching to the choir and might start alienating others.

You will develop narcissistic tendencies. You are groomed to be one.

I feel that this is dangerous to my well-being.

We do not have to be reactive to every news or posting on the platform.

We should not need to have an opinion for everything.

I want to be free. To be able to understand different narratives, to be able to put myself in a different pair of shoes, and to be able to develop empathy.

Looking back, I have written and shared things in the past that I’m now regretting. I don’t want to delete those posts, for it was my past; they’ll serve as a reminder. If you were in any way feel slighted by me, I ask for your forgiveness.

Lets put effort into bringing knowledge and joy to people around us.


Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram are secretly listening to your conversations

Its a devilish feature that hides in plain sight. A feature so flagrant and egregious in its abuses of privacy. A feature that is used to actively push advertisement content based on your daily conversations in the public, and private.

Im talking about ‘Access to Microphone’ permission requests whenever you install a social app. A request most apparent in Facebook-related suite of apps, which are Facebook app itself, Whatsapp, and Instagram.

People would just succumb to provide this permission without second thoughts. We would never have thought that these apps might record us while we are not using them.

Have you noticed that somehow Facebook cunningly push Ads about things that you have spoken just moments ago?

It happened so many times that I hate this will become a new normal in advertising. Brilliant? Yes. Creepy? Indeed.

I once mentioned in other FB post of a peculiar incident. I was dissing Trump (pretty verbose) and impact of his reckless tariff war, and to my surprise, ads for Harley-Davidson appeared soon in my social timelines. I have no interest in Harley, would never search for Harley, and had only spoken about Harley when I talked about Trump.

It happened again today. I was on the lookout for landed properties. I went to a property exhibition, and conversed with sales agents. Guess what? Advertisements on properties appeared on my timelines soon after. My Insta feed and FB feeds are now littered with property ads.

A couple of my close friends shared the same experience that I doubt this is a mere coincidence.

I already uninstalled FB app about a year ago, and relying only on its web app.

Next, I am disabling Microphone access to all FB-owned apps (Whatsapp, and Instagram). These apps will not be able to use the phone mic without my expressed permission and only when I need them.

If you are on iOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone.

If you are on Android, go to Settings > Apps > (select each app) > turn off Microphone access.

Dont let this invasion of privacy become a new normal.

Apple iPhone X and Samsung Note 8 – A review after two weeks of use

After using iPhone X and Note 8 for about two weeks:

iPhone X wins in these areas:
– FaceID. Faster unlock and more reliable than Note 8’s Facial Recognition. Note 8 Facial Recognition tend to fail at night or when conditions are not optimum for capturing your face. I can feel the split-second delay to unlock Note 8 using Facial Recognition compared to iPhone X’s FaceID. That could potentially be caused by different type of implementations (iPhone X is using hardware, while Note 8 is using software for Facial ID). At the end, I had to rely on Note 8’s fingerprint more than its Facial Recognition.
– Ease of use. I would think that having no Home button is going to make me gone bonkers. Nope, after a day of use, the flow is pretty natural and easy to adapt.
– The notch at the top of the phone is not much as an issue that people bitch about.

Samsung Note 8 wins in these areas:
– Stylus. The stylus/pen that defined Samsung Note is a god-send if you value productivity. I find myself using it more and more to do work on-the-go. I once filled up a 60+ page tender document (PDF) in mere 5 mins without opening it on laptop, or printing it at all. Talk about efficiency. Top of my head; iPhone is a toy, Note 8 is a workhorse.
– Pictures. Photos taken using Note 8 tend to be more dramatic and consistently more impressive than iPhone X. This is subjective because some people tend to prefer iPhone’s natural tone.
– Android in general is cloud friendly, with machine learning and AI behind it leaving iOS in the dust. I can feel Google’s integration of its services is more wholesome which can be a bit scary at times. Apple’s cloud services are plain rubbish.

They are draw in these areas:
– Build quality.
– Screen. Although Note 8 has a slight edge due to its always-on capability.
– Battery. Both phones can easily go through a day of use, and can last 2 days for regular use.

I have no comments on these:
– Voice assistants (Apple Siri vs Samsung Bixby vs Google Assistant). I dont like these services, thus Ive turned off on all my phones.

USA and China, in the eye of the developing world

It has become apparent that USA and China switch places nowadays in all kind of areas:

a. Political – USA is now the laughing stock of the developed world, fallen from grace while China is picking up admiration for its push for global recognition. Democracy is now a popularity contest on who has the loudest voice for the lowest common denominator, while the harsh communist ideology seemed a perfect fit for capitalism.

b. Innovation – USA being a country that was built by migrants is now closing its doors for fear of job-stealing Mexicans and Indians (or bluntly, any non-whites), while China is steaming ahead with innovative products and services, churning out startups and companies that beat those in Silicon Valley.

c. Internal turmoil – Who could have expected that the victor of WWII now has budding Nazis in its own turf, championing white purity. This is simply madness. China on the other hand, has grown by leaps and bounds. Not so many years ago, she openly murdered hundreds of students in an open square, yet nowadays seem to put the people above all else (quality education, growing middle income, stronger government that put harsh penalty on corruption with emphasis on merit for political positions).

d. Green energy – China has already surpassed its 2020 renewable energy target while USA withdrew itself from Paris accord for ‘being unfair to the citizens of USA’, while conveniently forgetting that for the last 100 years, USA is the worst polluter in the world.

I believe China is at an inflection point in its civilization. Once they were perceived to be the barbaric far-east country that lacked norms and etiquettes that makes a civilization well, civil. Recent advances in technology, political will for global domination, its affection for renewable energy have helped China to jump a few steps forward.

One day, in the same way Japan leapfrogged the western world soon after WWII, I am expecting and sincerely hoping to see China and its population to be the beacon of civilized world.

13 October 2017

Project Management Basics: What is a project?

It has been a long while since I last wrote on this blog.

Project management is one of the most critical elements in running a business. I have decided to put effort into mastering this subject. As I go along, I will be sharing tidbits here for all to benefit from.

I decided to write this down in a blog simply because writing helps me firm up understanding of the subject. If I cant summarise Project Management in writing, then probably the subject hasnt been mastered yet.

What is a project, really?

In my own definition, a project is simply tasks that need to be completed within a certain duration of time. Thus by definition, a project has

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End

Examples of projects can be development of a new application, new sales/marketing campaign, integration with new vendors, to building a new house (or demolishing it), or construction of highways.

Continue reading “Project Management Basics: What is a project?”

2016 – a Post-mortem of KATSANA™ Advanced Telematics


After weekly sharing session, team Katsana Advanced Telematics had the chance to go through a post-mortem of 2016.

We simply ask everyone present to jot down:
– What sucks in 2016
– The best thing in 2016
– What can be improved in 2017

Simple as that. Being a transparent company, everyone can just write anything that cross their mind. I then categorise input into:
– Product & Engineering
– Customer experience
– Office culture

Continue reading “2016 – a Post-mortem of KATSANA™ Advanced Telematics”