Mecca bound

August 13, 2019

Hustle Logo The Black Tux

Today, synthetic leather booms and Amazon’s publishing industry croons, but first…

The Hustle Daily Email

Saudi Arabia turns to tech to make the hajj — a $12B pilgrimage — even bigger

The hajj — an annual religious pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by all Muslims with healthy bodies and healthy wallets — is underway right now in Saudi Arabia.

In the past, the volume of pilgrims has strained local infrastructure and even led to death (2.2k people died in a 2015 crowd stampede).

So, with more than 2m people expected this year, Saudi Arabia has invested in high tech solutions to facilitate the trek — and, in the process, built a $12B industry.

For Muslims, the hajj can be a huge expense…

Since traveling to Islam’s holiest city at least once in a lifetime is a religious obligation, Hajj-ers shell out big bucks to make the trip. 

According to Quartz, Muslims in India routinely pay ⅓ of their annual salary to make the trip, and Muslims in America often end up paying at least $10k.

But the number of current pilgrims to the hajj is capped by geography: Not all Muslims who want to participate in hajj can safely journey together…

So the Kingdom has a financial interest in expanding the hajj

In some countries, Muslims enter lotteries for a chance to take their holy pilgrimage. But at the current rate, it would take 580 years for every Muslim to take their hajj.

The Saudi Arabian government, however, plans to expand the hajj from its current attendance of 2m to 30m by 2030.

Which will require increasing the current volume of of hajj-ers by 15x, by making the whole process more convenient for the trekkers.

The Kingdom’s getting smart to handle more hajj-ers

In order to handle the growing volume of people, the Kingdom plans to build new infrastructure and systems to help manage the crowds.

Already, the Saudi government has built a high-speed rail link between Mecca and Medina, launched a pilot program that equips pilgrims with wearable tech to help service providers manage transportation, and set up 350 sensors across 6 stations to monitor crowd movements.

The hajj is hugggge
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The smuggling of US turtles to China has become a shell of a problem

Last week, California authorities arrested Nai Chun Vincent Cheung — an alleged international reptile smuggler who orchestrated shipments of hundreds of protected freshwater turtles from Florida to Hong Kong over the course of at least 18 months.

According to official court documents obtained by Quartz, the case is primarily centered around 3 vulnerable American turtle species, and the lucrative industry of Asian turtle trafficking that has helped make freshwater turtles among the world’s most endangered species. 

American turtles are big biz in China

For centuries the turtle has been a symbol of universal order in Chinese culture, and owning one as a pet today is considered great luck. But there are darker forces behind the illegal Chinese turtle trade.

Some vulnerable US species are sold as collector’s items and culinary delicacies in the Asian black markets. They often sell for $1k apiece or even more.

The Cheung case further illustrates that illegal turtle tucking is often tied to US poachers willing to swap American wildlife to China in exchange for a little chedd.

A logistical nightmare

In the last few years, the feds have tracked multiple turtle smuggling operations in the US back to Hong Kong. According to experts, the problem lies with the logistics. 

Millions of freshwater turtles are also exported from the US legally each year, making it extremely difficult for customs officials to tell which is which. As always, the topsy-turvy turtle trade is no exception to having a negative impact on animal ecosystems.

» What’s the opposite of cowabunga?
the hustle says…

If you’re looking to get extremely outdoorsy, pick up the On Cloudrock Waterproof hiking boots. They can tackle any terrain, and look damn good doing it.

It’s triathlon season, so get a hat that can handle those long and winding runs. This Ciele GOCap is our pick.

We firmly believe back to school isn’t just for the kids, which means it’s okay to treat yourself to a new bag. We like the Aer X-Pac collection: durable, sleek, and dare we say, sexy?

Amazon wants to become a book publishing powerhouse to hook more Prime members

Yes, Amazon sells a lot of books. But, increasingly, the e-commerce giant also publishes many of the books that it sells.

In fact, Amazon Publishing puts out 1,100 titles a year, and then uses its massive Prime membership base to sell those books, reports The Atlantic.

This isn’t a new strategy for Amazon…

In fact, the “why-can’t-we-be-wholesaler-and-retailer?” formula is the exact strategy that Amazon used for videos. 

When Amazon began developing video content, it used original TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and original movies like Beautiful Boy to attract new members to its lucrative Prime program.

The popular TV show The Man in the High Castle attracted 8m viewers and, more importantly, hooked 1.15m new Prime users.

Now, Amazon wants to do the same thing for book publishing 

Amazon uses its dominant position as a bookseller — it sold 25% of the 25.5m books bought by Americans last month — to push its own titles, which often come from lesser-known authors but still appear near the top of Amazon’s charts.

Lesser-known authors were a proof of concept for Amazon. But now the company is hiring well-known authors like Dean Koontz and Mindy Kaling to win over even more readers — and, of course, more Prime members.

» Hooked on books

The vegan-leather industry is growing, but is it actually better for the environment?

As a growing number of consumers ditch traditional leather in favor of buying synthetic leather alternatives, a number of faux leather producers have emerged to satisfy demand.

According to Bloomberg, these alt-options to leather are often cheaper. But, when it comes to the environment, it’s worth it to do your research. 

*Googles ‘how to make pleather’?*

Vegan products, which are expected to be a $45B by 2025, are everywhere: Tesla describes its new Model 3 and Model Y as “fully vegan,” and vegan leather is popular in the US footwear industry.

The majority of imitation leather is made from plastic-based polyurethane. But, as the market grows, a variety of companies have developed nature-based products derived from cork, bark, apple peel, and pineapple leaves.

The online availability of vegan leather products has more than doubled in the UK and rose 54% in America between the first half of 2018 and the same period this year.

But is it actually better for the environment?

It depends on the type of synthetic: Plastic-based synthetics aren’t exactly being endorsed by Captain Planet, but plant-based leathers — like those from pineapple leaves and apple peels — can be converted into fertilizer or bio-gas.

» The future is plant-based

The Black Tux has more options than The Bachelorette

(And based on that finale, better taste, too.)

If you had to guess what The Black Tux sells, you’d probably say “black tuxes.” Good try, but not entirely accurate

Sure, they got their start making high-quality (we’re talkin’ 100% genuine Italian merino wool) suits and tuxes more convenient and affordable, but the people wanted more — so The Black Tux gave it to them. 

They’ve recently expanded their offerings to include more styles than Paris Fashion Week. We’re talking suits, shirts, and shoes for every conceivable occasion.

That Hampton’s Summer soiree? Go Gingham suit.

Your one weird friend’s safari-themed wedding? Leopard Print dinner coat.   

The annual winter Tinder Gala? Two words: Velvet jacket. 

With colors and patterns ranging from Plum and Emerald to checkered Tartan, they’ve got your back (and front) for whatever your social life chucks at you. 

The Skinny (Tie): Don’t judge a look by its cover. The Black Tux now offers everything and delivers it to your doorstep — perfect fit guaranteed. Oh, and Hustle readers get $20 off with code HUSTLE20.

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