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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chennai MTC-Left half for ladies-why not front half?

It is quite common in city buses (and other places) that a portion is reserved for women. Usually, front few rows (almost 50%) are reserved for lady passengers in most of the cities (Bangalore, Hyderabad etc).

But in Chennai city buses (in ordinary buses) left half of the bus is reserved for women. I fail to understand on what logic this decision is taken. (I am NOT questioning why 50% is reserved for ladies. What I mean is reserving left half portion of the bus to ladies will not serve the actual purpose.)

The drawbacks of reserving left half portion of the bus for ladies (as against front half) are as follows:

Ladies do not get a dedicated space. They get mixed up with male passengers and this may not be good for them.

They have to use both front and rear doors, fighting with male commuters (for standing seats, while boarding the bus or getting down etc). (Where front half is reserved for ladies the front door is usually not used by male passengers)
inside a MTC bus in Chennai
Because of 2 doors and a conductor’s seat, number of seats they get is little less than 50%. Also left side seats are usually 2 seaters and right side ones can accommodate 3 passengers. In such cases they loose additional seats.

So far I’m unable to make out what advantage this left half reservation (vis-à-vis front half) delivers to the lady commuters. If you can think of any or if there’s a strong reason/logic behind this please drop a comment.

A photo I’ve taken related to this will be upload soon (may be few days to few weeks)

Related: Chennai Volvo City Buses| Bangalore Volvo City Buses | BMTC Bangalore|

Update: PlaneMad has provided following reasons in his comment for this left half reservation: (Updated the post with comment and my response)

1)the rear door is for entering while the front is for exiting, not that it is followed, but in this case a left-right division makes more sense

2)its easier for the ladies to pass their money to the conductor at the rear this way

3)some mixing between the ladies-gents is good. please, no more polorization between the sexes in Chennai

4) ladies don't need 50% reservation, the region between the two doors is sufficient in most cases. and all seats are 2 seaters in Chennai.

5) it also makes it easier to follow a pattern of getting into the bus using the rear door, buying a ticket and leaving exiting the front.

My observation:
1.- Makes sense in theory but not sure how practical it is. When the bus is leaving a depot conductor moves to each passenger and issues ticket. Once he/she's done with first round he/she establishes himself/herself in the seat dedicated to conductor. Then onwards everyone need to pass money and get ticket. I have never seen anyone boarding through rear door, traveling all the way to front door in heavy rush to get down.

2.- Agreed (Still the whole idea why conductor shouldn't move from his place to issue ticket puzzles me. What if some money is lost while it passes through multiple hands? What if conductor hears a wrong destination than what passenger initially conveyed? What if some passenger keeps the money and gives an old ticket to the requester...)

3.- I agree mixing is required, but should it be inside a crowded bus? One of the primary reason why some seats are reserved for ladies is to prevent incidents of "disturbance from male passengers" by giving some dedicated space to ladies.

4.- Fine with me. No further comments.

5.- As explained in first point.

Tell us what you think-Front Half? Or Left Half?

November 2010: Looks like MTC is attempting to change the plans. As an experiment, in some buses, right side is being reserved for ladies... but this measure hasn't received praises... source: flashnews

Also read: Why BMTC is faring better than its rivals| Bangalore Volvo City Buses|Bangalore-Hyderabad by Bus * Chennai Roadies * MMTS local train ride *

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Random Photos

Some random photos taken in recent past...

Name this Green insect. Got to see couple of little guests near my place of stay.
Insect

and this...
Insect!

Below one came as a forward...Quite interesting...About how BCCI's inbox would look like...
bcci!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Public Toilets can't we make them free for all?

Poor sanitation facilities is one of the reasons why most of our cities look ugly. Most of the population does not have the luxury of proper toilet facilities at their work place (and few do not have one even at their residence). Such people are expected to make use of public toilets (wherever there’s one) but many of them use public places are toilets even when they have access to a public toilet, the reason being, they are expected to pay a rupee or two, to use public toilets.

A kannada banner that advocates use of public toilets

If can make the public toilets free for usage, more and more people will use it and our cities will look more clean and hygienic. In this post, I try to present a business model, which if implemented can not only make public toilets free for all, but can also make them a profitable business.

In one line, the idea is to place advertisements inside public sanitation facilities and recover operating expense, thereby avoid asking users for money.

If you find that crazy and not viable, please read further.

Why people hesitate to pay for public toilets?

Two reasons: First, many people think it is waste of money when they can do it free of cost roadside. (That’s total shortage of civic sense. These same people do not mind spending one fourth of their daily income on Beedies, Cigarrates, Ghutkas and another two fourth on alchohol, but do not want to spend couple of rupees every day on sanitation.) That is a kind of attitude problem- Since I don’t have a mechanism to change their mindset and make them pay; I focus on a business model that doesn’t require them to pay.

Second: We (Municipal Corporation/police/public) neither punish those who do ugly things at road side, nor appreciate someone who spends his hard earned money to use public toilet. This gradually leads to an attitude: Why should I waste my money?

How much it costs to run a public sanitation facility?

Excluding one time expenditure on infrastructure, maintenance expenses would involve mainly water, electricity and salary for cleaner and supervisor. All these together shouldn’t be costing more than Rs. 10000 per public toilet per month. If you wish to recover this, you expect over 333 people to use it every day by paying Re 1 each, which doesn’t always happen. Instead, if we can rope in 10 advertisers who can pay Rs. 1000 per month we can recover this expense. (INR 1000 per month is quite cheap for any business having a turnover of few lakhs per month. A 2 column, 10 cm ad in local newspaper costs almost same)

By placing suitable advertisements, one can recover much more money than the expenditure and eventually can create a win-win-win situation for everyone involved.

What is the advantage?

Please keep the stigma aside and read further:

1 When you’re driving or traveling in a vehicle, you spare only few seconds at the hoardings or other advertisements on the road side. But ads displayed inside a loo would get couple of minutes of undivided attention of the user. Thus it ensures a deeper penetration into his brain.

2 While using a loo a person will usually be free from any tensions and won’t have hundreds of thoughts running in his mind. If something is displayed in front of him, in all probability he will read it in detail. This simply means higher success rate for the ad.

3 When it is made free, more and more people will come and use it. More readership for the ads.

4 Our cities will look cleaner and hygienic as considerable number of people will head towards free public urinals.

What kind of ads can be displayed in public toilets?
I classify public toilets into two categories for this purpose:

One: Those which are near to bus terminals/railway stations etc which are used primarily by inter city commuters. Here consumers will be interested in services like lodging, hotels, restaurants, travel services and tourist information etc.

Two: Other places: Here users will be construction workers, street side vendors, localities and other people who work/stay around the utility and would use it on a regular basis. Advertisements related to personal loans, discount sales being run at nearby stores, products that might be of interest to work force etc suite best here.

Cost of advertising in a loo will be much cheaper and more effective than other public advertsing options and I’m sure advertisers will be willing to give it a try.

In both places, leftover places can be used to display public awareness messages on HIV/AIDS etc.

Infosys Foundation, several municipalities and NGOs have set up several pay and use “Sulabh Shauchalaya”s across the country. If only they can make it free for usage with little more effort, it will change India’s image to a reasonable extent.

Scope for improvement: (light hearted)

If the model works, we can even think of having touch screen monitors with Credit card swiping machines attached in urinals…We can display google adsense ads on these monitors and user can make on the spot online purchase swiping his credit card…

Give incentive to people for using public toilets (Can be done when profits start pouring in)

Might sound crazy at this point but give it a thought. Please comment your views if it is feasible or not.

Check this: Museum of Toilets! (Sulabh Shouchalay International Toilet Museum-Delhi India)Link courtesy-Deepa Krishnan.

Summary of posts: July-August-September-2007

Giving quick summary of various posts published during July 2007 to September 2007, so that it will serve as quick reference to first time visitors. Those with star mark are the most popular and or highly recommended ones.

Quick in post navigation: Summary of posts: July 07 | August 07 | September 2007| April-June 07

July 2007: 7 Posts [Archive]

Manufacturing vs Services Industry-@ a glance
Quick comparison in a tabular format, how manufacturing and service industry differs


About the ladies who call me every day
A lot of unsolicited commercial calls on your cell? This post narrates this incident in a humorous way.

Why Free Reliance Data card offer makes no sense…
I didn’t opt for Free Reliance Datacard offer that came with HP notebook. This post explains why.

Can't Tatas buy Volvo from Ford?
Without knowing that Volvo trucks and Volvo cars are different entities, I wrote this post suggesting that TATA should buy Volvo instead of Land Rover or jaguar…


Surviving traffic police in India
A bunch of tips to reduce the inconvenience you might face if you happen to encounter traffic police in India.

Publish new post by sending email
This post explains how you can publish new posts at your blog by simply sending an email from any mail box, without having to logging in to blogger, make half a dozen clicks and publish.

Did Napoleon Bonaparte buy a defective dictionary?...
A small joke about Napoleon’s statement “There’s no such word called ‘impossible’ in my dictionary”

August 2007 19 Posts [Archive]Go to TOP
Star Logo small Yaari, Desktopdating and other ill mannered websit...

How does it feel if someone sends unsolicited invitations to your contacts under your identity without your knowledge? Many of the social networking websites are doing just that, to increase their member base. Full details.

· Blog Review and Blog Poll…

RT Cunningham, whose blog is within top 10000 technorati ranking, reviewed my blog and made some serious observations. Some contents related to this, my blog layout and about the poll I ran recently-A quick introspection in this post.

· How to blog in Kannada (and Hindi, Tamil, Telugu a...

For those who are new for blogging and would like to know how they can blog in regional languages…

·SNOOPING

Had written an article on snooping during my engineering days which was published in Silicon Times, a Bangalore based computer magazine, of which I was a member of editorial board. Felt like reproducing that article here.

· Shrinidhi in ETV Show-Recorded video

Way back in 2002, I’d participated in an ETV Kannada debate show. Recorded video clipping of that show and related information in this post.

· Radios are not that cheap

When I’d gone to buy a portable AM radio, I find that radios haven’t become that cheap either. A quick analysis.

Star Logo small Supermarket Super savings-A word of Caution

When you see the extra ordinary discounts at Super and Hyper markets, you expect to take home the discounts when you buy from them. But then, chances are you might have paid more than what you thought. An analysis.

· How to tell if a Tractor wheel is punctured?

Tractor tube is very huge… How to detect if it has suffered a pierce?

· Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Fundamentals

SEO basics and significance explained in most simple language

· Rs. 10 OFF-Lifetime Offer on Samsung TV!!!

I made a quick observation in a newspaper ad-Samsung dealer was giving a grand Rs.10 OFF on a TV and had issued a half page ad for that…Details.

Star Logo small MoserBaer cheap CD/DVDs-Kill Piracy

Moserbaer India is selling several original movie VCDs and DVDs at rock bottom prices. This post provides all related details -availability, pricing, collection, problems, business background etc.

· Attention! A.P.Tourism

One of the AP tourism sign boards was a bit misleading due to incorrect information therein. Details in this post.

· Best of 2006-Quick recap of Posts

Some 53 odd good posts published last year (2006) and around 25 of them are identified as good ones: Short listed here with quick summary.

· Brand building tips for Club Mahindra

Club Mahindra appears to have a very poor attitude towards its members and most of its life members are unhappy as they are not getting confirmed bookings and customer relationship is apparently non existent. This post lists some simple actions for Club Mahindra executives to take up which may increase member satisfaction and thereby grows business.

· Ramoji Film City-Photo Slideshow

A bunch of photos taken at Ramoji Film City…Presented in the form of a slide show…

· Search Engine musings

Lists some odd combination of search strings through which readers came to this blog…

· Do NOT COPY PASTE-Try this instead (tips to avoid ...

Tells you how you can quote an external post, add your inputs and views to it and publish by giving due credit to original writer…This ensures you wont be blamed for violation of intellectual property rights.

· MS discontinues Office Assistants from Office 2007...

No more office assistants once you migrate to Office 2007. A narrative account.

· Club Mahindra Article tops search Engine

I found that my earlier article on Club Mahindra is topping search engine queries related to Club Mahindra. This post gives related details.

September 2007 8 posts [Archive]Go to TOP

Star Logo smallFree sanitation for all...
Why can't we make public toilets free of cost for end users by showing advertisements inside? That will make the city clean place to live in. Full proposal...

Chennai gets volvo CIty buses...
Chennai MTC launches Volvo City buses...Quick report

Book Review: IT HAPPENED in INDIA-Kishore Biyani
Kishore Biyani is the man behind most of today’s retail outlets we see in India including Big Bazaar, Central, Bang Factory, Pantaloons etc. He published his semi autobiography (as it is co authored by Dipayan Baisha). I did a book review of this post at the above post (this review got identified as Review of the Day at Mouthshut.com )

Star Logo smallHow Google can make Orkut a better place on net (A suggestion)
A small idea wherein I said Google should verify physical authenticity of each orkut member. Many feel it is not feasible. Read and let me know what you think

Cyber Begging-Ask Money for anything and everything...
An article I’d written during my engineering days about Cyber Begging (A phenomenon where people ask for free money online under various pretexts.

Star Logo smallBig Bazaar-Things you would like to Know
A set of facts related to Big bazaar, which you might be interested in Knowing, as a consumer…

Your blog can make or break your career! Achtung!
Your next employer might be reading your blog to decide if he/she should hire you or not…

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chennai MTC Volvo City Buses-Photos, Timetable and Route Info

This post gives you all available information related to newly introduced Volvo City Buses by MTC Chennai. Since my earlier post on Bangalore Volvo City buses was extremely popular I thought I'll write a similar post on Chennai Volvo. So here we go. [Quick jump to Routes|time-table section ]
Chennai MTC Volvo city bus front view
It’s the same B7RLE variant of Volvo transit bus which is rocking Bangalore roads that has hit Chennai roads. If you ask me, the dashing red coloured Volvo in Bangalore, covered further with advertisements, looks a bit more attractive than the pale white colour Chennai Metropolitan has chosen. Nevertheless, it should be a good experience to Chennai commuters. (Even Singapore and several other countries use this same model...)

MTC has purchased 10 Volvo B7RLEs as of now(Rs 78 lakh each, expensive than B7R inter city coaches). Only 5 are operational as of now-2 on 21G (Tambaram to Broadway), 2 on E-18 route (Broadway to Guduvancheri) and one on Route number 19 (Broadway to Kelambakkam). No official time table has been released. They keep plying on the designated routes. Ticket prices are at par with Bangalore (though diesel is cheaper in Chennai) starting Rs 10. (Makes more economical than unruly overpriced meter less autos in Chennai)

Image of MTC CHennai VOlvo Bus rear side view
APSRTC: Are you watching?

Timetable: MTC Chennai has not issued any consolidated Time Table for Volvo Services, but I noticed that they have placed some boards displaying departure timing of the Volvo buses at each bus terminal where a Volvo service originates/ends. Two such boards, found at Central and Broadway station can be seen in the images below. But please note, these Volvo buses are under no obligation to honor these timings. When I took these photos at Broadway at 1120 hours I was thinking I have to wait for another 45 minutes for next bus. But surprisingly at 1130 a Volvo bus of route number 21G came in and it left the station at 1140. I’m not sure if the 1105 bus came in late or 1215 bus came in early, but verdict is that timetable is not reliable. Also I could see no mention of E-18 route time table (Broadway to Guduvancheri)

Timetable at Central
Bangalore has a SMS based location identification service for Volvo city buses. Hope Chennaities can expect similar service (details here). Right: Timetable found at Central. (Excuse me for bad photography, image was taken in a hurry), Below: Timetable at Broadway.

Ticket Fare: From Broadway to Chamiers Road did cost me Rs. 23 (Rs 5 in ordinary bus), Thiruvanmiyur to Chennai Central costs Rs 25 (Rs 10 in a Deluxe bus). While Bangalore BMTC Volvo conductors speak fluent English, Chennai MTC Volvo conductor with whom I spoke managed to utter few English words. The bus was running with less than 25% occupancy with which MTC might just be breaking even.
Image of MTC Chennai Volvo Service Time Table
Other observations:

Emergency Exit door is positioned at an unusual place-the ventilator on roof top. Not sure how practical it will be to use that door for emergency exit because if it is very inconvenient to exit through that tiny door. (It is more practical to break those gigantic windows and escape in case of emergency, assuming one manages to break them!)

Cameras and Fire alarms have been provided. The central floor is extremely spacious to accommodate luggage, people with wheel chair or even a stretcher. Journey is smooth and comfortable. The driver steers the Volvo as if he's driving a car!!
Emergency Exit in Chennai Volvo bus
Spacious interiors
Almost everyone on the roadside-Other drivers, traffic police, general public, everyone turn their head and stare at Volvo as it passes by. If you sit near Window you can hope to gain some popularity.

Chennai MTC (Metropolitan Transport Corporation) Official website:(The website is not yet updated with Volvo related information)

Full list of all Chennai route numbers can be found here: (not yet updated with Volvo routes)
Inside photo of MTC Chennai Volvo Bus
No Volvos yet on Chennai's IT superhighway (Madhya Kailash to Sholingnallur). This sector can get good commuters for Volvo.
inside photo of Chennai Volvo
Some more photos for you.
Note the automatic transmission-the D, N and R buttons-driving volvo is as easy as driving a scooty, except for the estimation skill you need while turning, owing to huge dimensions of the vehicle. But if you ask me, I love the manual transmission better-The sheer fun of changing gears manually-I feel like a handicapped while driving automatic-your left leg and hand has almost no use... What is your take on that? Let me know.


As of now no advertising is to be found on these Volvos while BMTC is caching in on that front too.
A cheap travel insurance is superfluous for a one time vacation. Rather, try saving on the airline tickets as well as go for cheap hotels. You will be able to spare more that way. Also only if you are getting cheap cruises, should you pursue the package.

Related posts: Why BMTC is faring better than its rivals| Bangalore Volvo City Buses|Bangalore-Hyderabad by Bus

November 2010 updates: Did learn recently that BMTC in Bangalore has introduced free internet service in its select Volvo fleet (Vayu Vajra Service that caters to airport passengers and ITPL route that services to IT employees. Need to see if Chennai catches up fast. Other posts: Chennai Roadies * MMTS local train ride *
Driver seat
front side view of Volvo

Friday, September 14, 2007

Book Review: IT HAPPENED in INDIA-Kishore Biyani

Facts:
Title: It Happened in India by Kishore Biyani
Published by: Rupa Co
Total Pages: 268
Price: INR 99

About the author: Kishore Biyani (KB) is the man behind Pentaloon Retail, Big Bazaar, Central etc and heads the Future Group (under which these stores operate). He is identified as retail Guru of India.

About the contents:
First four sections (till page 108) give introduction to KB’s early days, his family business, challenges faced, setting up of Pantaloon, struggles undergone etc. To sum up, KB faced similar problems what Narayan Murthy faced while starting Infosys or Kiran Majumdar Shaw started Biocon etc. All these people had a vision far ahead of their times and community around them were not in a position to understand and appreciate their vision. Despite severe problems in terms of funding, co operation etc, all these entrepreneurs pursued their dreams, worked day and night on it, and over a period of time have built empires every one is proud of now.
IT Happened in India by Kishore Biyani

The next part about big bazaar, I find it very interesting. All facts collected about big bazaar are available in a separate post here

Next Section is about KB’s attempt as Bollywood movie maker. He tried to replicate the success of Kaho Na pyaar hein with the movie “Naa Tum Jaano Na Hum” which failed drastically. I haven’t bothered to watch that movie till date, but now knowing that KB is the man behind that, I will watch it whenever possible, just to see how he has used the movie to promote the Pantaloon stores in it.

The other (and the last one) movie produced by KB is Chura Liya Hain Tumne, which also proved to be a flop. If you don’t know, it is Kishore Biyani who introduced Rakhi Sawant and Himesh Reshamiya to the bollywood with this movie … (No further comments!!!)

Other sections of the book provide some vital insights into the retail business. By and large looks like a self appreciation through out with inputs from so many friends, business contacts, relatives writing their opinion about KB and KB himself dedicating lots of paragraphs to explain “why I’m so great”. But then, what he has achieved within a short span is out there for every one to see, so he has every right to boast about it.

What I find missing:

1. The city of Bengalooru (formerly Bangalore) is wrongly spelt in the beginning of the book as “Bangalooru” (in the page left to the dedication page). Small error indeed, but since through out the book KB claims his strength lies in understanding of local consumers and with wrong spelling of a city name, that statement can be questioned.

2. Throughout the book, “value proposition” is quoted hundreds of times, but I don’t see any consideration given to quality. Most of the goods sold in Big Bazaar are supplied from consolidators (Suppliers) and with wafer thin margin and focus on volume, I seriously doubt the commitment of these suppliers towards quality. Big bazaar is expected to conduct quality checks on third party products, so that its customers won’t feel cheated. There’s no mention of what quality assurance measures Big Bazaar has in place.

3. There’re lots of billing issues at Big Bazaar. Latest prices quoted in promos are not promptly updated in the billing system and most of the customers (unless they detect the mistake and complain immediately) end up paying more than what they thought they were paying. What measures BB has to address customer grievances etc are not explained.

4. No mention of ICICI BB co branded credit card

5. In the early pages he states all his innovations were first launched in Kolkata and then tried elsewhere in the country. However Central Mall was first launched in Bangalore and later at other places.

6. It’s not clear which part of the book is authored by Dipayan Baisha, a business writer and co author for this book. I assume he is involved in properly wording the inputs given by KB so that the contents appear in a proper sequence and logic.

Verdict: Worth reading once for those who want to know little more about Indian Retail industry.

Image sourced from http://www.mehtanirav.com/

Related: Big Bazaar: Facts you should know|
* Book Review- Not a penny more not a penny less- Jeffrey Archur
* Book Review-Merchants of Deception- Eric Scheibler
|The 3 Mistakes of my life-Chetan Bhagat * Book Review- Raga Chintamani
2011 Book reviews: Topgear magazine * Comical Saga Fate, Fraud and Friday Wedding *

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Google can make Orkut a better place on net (A suggestion)

Google (NYSE:GOOG) run community and social networking site Orkut.com has of late become a lawless jungle aiding all criminal and illegal activities. While several bloggers and media have written a lot either supporting or blaming orkut, in this post I try to find a solution for this, a suggestion which appears expensive but if implemented will make Orkut a much much better and safer place on internet.

Current concerns with orkut:

1.Allows anonymity,
2. No counter check mechanism to prevent creation of fake profiles,
3. One individual may have multiple online identities with different user names,
4. Physical identity of a member is difficult to trace,
5. Profiles are twisted with malicious intentions.

What is the solution?
Verify physical identity of each member by collecting a physical copy of their identity proof (Passport, Driving License etc).

How to go about it?
Verifying identity of millions of members will be a time consuming and expensive process, but this will give lots of benefits as explained later in this post. In essence, Google should insist that all members should send (by snail mail/fax/email) a copy of their identity proof to the nearest Google office (or to a trusted agency’s office to which this work is outsourced).

Once the proof is received, it needs to verified and mapped to corresponding Orkut user ID, with one field called full name and one profile photo replaced with the photo and name in the identity proof and these 2 are to be made non editable. While user may change his/her nick name, add/delete other photos, these two primary information remain unchanged serving as online identity proof.

Next Google should send a new PIN number/passcode by post to the residential address (as in address proof) given by the member which he/she shall be required to enter online once. This verifies the physical address of the member

Why this solution would work?

Because almost all members who get involved in unlawful and bad activities often use false identity. If we can ensure that no one can come online with a fake identity, most of the problems should get resolved, because usually people do not dare do such activities under their real identity which they otherwise would have done without hesitation under a false name.

Advantages:
1. Those who have fake profiles will fail to provide an identity proof (chances of some one being capable of fake identity proof as well is relatively rare), hence all fake profiles can be identified and removed over a period of time.

2. One will not be able to impersonate someone else or have dozens of identities.
Orkut will contain only those individuals whose identity is verified, which brings down online crime rate since a member can be easily traced if he/she indulges in illegal activities online.

3. Net worth of each member will increase and advertisers will also be happy to pay more, since only genuine members are left.

4. Google will have ready identity and credentials of millions of users which is an asset in itself.

5. Prevents Google’s image from getting tarnished on the event of cyber crime.
Google verified online identity may also serve as identity proof for other online activities outside orkut.

orkut demographics
Disadvantages:

1. Advertising revenue may drop for Google in initial days since majority of usage is by fake profile users than genuine ones.

2. Collecting physical identity proofs and processing it would require considerable amount of money and effort which Google should be willing to spend

3. Google should be able to take responsibility that the physical identity proofs submitted by members wont land in wrong hands (who may wish to use that data for marketing purpose etc)

4. Many users who use Orkut to explore their fantasies under false identity will be discouraged from using orkut altogether (Reduced advertising revenue)

While it looks like a cumbersome process to check each member credentials, I feel it is very much feasible and worth investing in. Google has a similar mechanism for Adsense publishers wherein a valid physical contact address is a must. Some expense can be recovered by sending relevant advertisements by post. That can be extended to Orkut users as well.

Let me know what you think of this idea... Good? Not Feasible? Please drop a comment.

Related: Yaari Desktopdating and other ill mannered websites| Orkut and Employee productivity|Orkut as Marketing Tool * A missing feature in our social networking sites

More: Orkut Login page| Hari’s post on Orkut|Why hate hate communities?

Cyber Begging-Ask Money for anything and everything

Giving below an article I wrote during my engineering days, published in Silicon Times, a Bangalore based low profile computer and technology monthly, of which I was a member of editorial board. (This magazine is out of publication now) This is a 4 page long article and might take some time to read. Some of the sites I have mentioned in the article are non existent now, have added quick updates wherever possible.

If you wish to make a copy or take a printout to read it later, .pdf version of the article is available here.
http://shrinidhi.20m.com/articles/CyberBegging.pdf

Cyber Begging
Ask money for anything and everything

It’s a common practice worldwide to ask for financial assistance for various purposes by different means ranging from street side begging to appealing in media like newspapers.
With the advance in technology, we have a new dimension of hitherto known forms of asking for alms-Cyber begging.

The causes may be different, but the objective is the same-Money. The tales of woe vary. But the request is the same: They want people to send money via home pages that are becoming a cottage industry on the Web. Skeptical Internet experts have even coined a term for the trend; they call it "cyber begging."

As the word implies, Cyber begging is an online phenomenon where one asks for alms
from people browsing internet. The necessity to beg may not be as primitive as shortage of food, cloth or shelter as in the case of conventional begging. The objectives of online begging may vary from not being able to clear certain debts to fund shortage for one’s proposed world tour!

Cyber-begging, as defined by the Web site cyberbeggar.org, is a mode of fund raising that is carried out through donations over the Internet. The cyber-beggar creates a Web site (or joins a website meant for such a purpose) detailing his or her financial plight in the hopes of attracting donations for his or her cause. Yahoo! started calling such a process e panhandling and is all set to launch a category on the same in its portal Yahoo.com. The frustrating situation of being in debt can be caused by credit cards, car payments or college loans. Trying to pay off that debt can be even worse. Cyber- begging has proven to be easy and convenient form of raising money to overcome such financial crisis.

One will never feel he or she will be at the mercy of people giving donations. Anonymity can be very well maintained on the net and probability of donors’ counter verification of the cause is minimal. It doesn’t matter you like taking money from people or not, as you’ve nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Cyber-beggars do not ask money to buy a piece of bread; they need money for goods and
services. A lot of them need to pay their debts. They beg to clear a credit card debt, to make a breast enlargement operation, to pay for medical care or education, to help a woman to divorce her husband, to make a movie or an album, or to buy a hummer jeep.

Beggars ask for various sums of money: from several cents to a million dollars
Wired magazine wrote that the first person to launch a cyber-begging site was a woman
named Karyn Bosnak. Her website was called Save Karyn. It is possible to cast doubts on her championship, although her success was obvious. She had a credit card debt of over 20 thousand on June 23, 2002. Karyn Bosnak decided the following for herself: all I need is to get one dollar from 20 thousand people, or two dollars from ten thousand people, or five dollars from four thousand people. As a result, people transferred thirteen thousand dollars to the woman; she added some of her money and paid her debt on November 10th, 2002. As you can see, it took her less than six months to do away with her problem.

Karyn has been saved. Now she patronizes other beggars, claiming copyright for her idea. New York Times confirms that the e-panhandling epidemic was launched together with Save Karyn website. Therefore, the date of June 23, 2002 can be considered the cyberbegging birthday.

To begin with:
It’s obvious that creating your own site for begging will have extra advantage, but all beggars may not be privileged enough to own one, since maintaining a site requires considerable technical skills and of course money. Many sites exist on net such as Cyberbeg.com, cyberbegger.org or donantemoney2me.com etc with the exclusive
objective of begging or assisting online beggers. A prospective beggar registers himself here; he’ll be allocated a sub domain where he describes his crisis in most appealing manner. The host site provides all assistance to optimize returns- such as tips to draft a more appealing request, submission to search engines etc. Host sites do charge a nominal amount for their service and/or earn money by advertising.
The prospective donors browsing through the net who visit such pages and feel like
giving away few dollars may make their contribution either by conventional snail mail in form of cash or cheque or draft, or by electronic fund transfer facilitated by online payment processors line Paypal (owned by ebay.com)

The subtitle of DonateMoney2Me.com is quite impressive! “It's absolutely legal, ethical, honorable and popular!” it says. This is a "accumulate money slowly and surely" program, not a "get rich quick" program. A quick glance through FAQs of such sites is very much likely to influence most people to attempt making few bucks by signing up. If a webmaster of a begging site provides his or her full name, as well as the detailed description of a trouble, this site will enjoy great popularity amid benefactors. It goes without saying that if a benefactor-s problem has something in common with the one of a cyber-beggar; a webpage will be even more popular.
Most of the cyber-begging websites are of the "give me a few bucks to help me pay off
my credit card" ilk, but there are a few that are more creative, bizarre and sometimes even worthy. More impressive your site is, more will be the amount pouring in.

Some Live examples of the way they beg:
Ed Mayhall, a 29-year-old web developer in Dallas, Texas, needs a Hummer. A Hummer
- or Humvee, to use its proper name - is a pig-ugly, off-road vehicle developed for the US army. They cost about $120,000. If you're feeling frivolous, you can give Mayhall a couple of bucks at www.edneedsahummer.com

Interested few may visit www.saveshela.com. A musical artist known as Shela, who lives in Toronto is the owner of this site. She is currently asking for donations on her Web site to help pay off debt incurred from writing and recording her music. The Web site also offers an outlet where people can promote their music. She says it was a mixture of frustration and her experience working with the Internet that led her to the idea of starting her personal fundraising site. As a computer hardware instructor she was "aware of how powerful a tool the Web could be." A tool she hopes will help her music career off the ground. “I have not listed myself as a charity," she says, “an action that would require certain registration and guidelines.” It is a simple gift. Anyone can give a stranger a gift right?" Her instructions are clear-“if you’re sending cash wrap it to ensure that it’s not see through” and “Do not write Save Shela on envelop as post office would think I’m running business”. years old Kent is looking for $9,858 for a hair transplant, and he gives 10 "good" reasons why you should give him money, one of them being because "I'm a really nice guy".

Penny wants you to help her leave her husband (www.helpmeleavemyhusband.com). She needs $12,000 to train as a nurse. This will give her the financial independence to help her start on her own.

Jennifer Glasser from Canada has Lyme disease and wants you to help her pay her
medical bills. Glasser has made more than $8,000 (Canadian) since she created her
website www.helpjennifer.com. Most of the money has come from a friend of a friend
whom she's never met.

If you're an opera buff, you may take pity on Elaine. She racked up $40,000 in student debt and she wants you to help her pay it off and fund her opera-singing lessons - a snip at $50 per hour (see www.saveelaine.com).

"Princess" Natalie's spoof cyber-begging website is also good for a laugh
(http://egomania.nu/causes/indexsoc.html ). "When I am purchasing overpriced lingerie
or firearms I might think of you," she says. That's more than enough inducement for most would-be benefactors.

Ramon Stoppelenburg, a journalism student at the Windesheim University in Zwolle,
Netherlands, decided to finance his trip by setting up a Web site asking people around the globe to put him up for a day. He launched www.letmestayforaday.com , offering to write about people's hospitality in exchange for bed and board.
The response has been spectacular. In 12 days, over 11,000 invitations came in from
around the world, more than 600 of which have been accepted, and still, the offers come pouring in. Some of them like a response from India offering him a roof for as long as he likes as well as an offer to show him around the entire subcontinent, have overwhelmed him. "What hospitality," he wondered aloud, "what hospitality."
For his part, Stoppelenburg has offered all his hosts a roof should they visit the
Netherlands.

For all its apparent ridiculousness, cyber-begging is becoming a well-entrenched
industry. There is a website, www.savemesites.com, (created by Steve Donohue) which
offers e-panhandlers tips for selling banner advertisements and getting listed on search engines. And cyber-begging has now become so common there's even a directory to help you navigate them. Some are even tax deductible like www.shelter.org.uk and www.oxfam.org/eng .

Last but not least, we’ve got a successful Indian example too. Check out
www.rajatkapoor.com , the website of Rajat Kapoor, the director-actor who made his presence felt in films like Dil Chahta Hai and Monsoon Wedding, who is canning his new film titled Raghu. The big news about this small film is that Kapoor has managed to get it rolling as per schedule, with a considerable amount of finance for the movie coming in from friends and strangers, thanks to the power of the internet. His site read. “I am starting my new film Raghu… I have been trying to raise money for this film for the last two years…I invite you to be a part-producer in the film…You can contribute anything over Rs 10,000 and you will have a pro-rata share in the profit of the film…I need 120 such partners who would buy a minimum of one share.” The idea clicked and amount to the tune of few lakhs were collected, registering first ever successful cyber begging case in India. (Update: Currently above site is serving as his official site and blog showcasing details about his latest movies etc. Mixed Doubles is his latest movie.)

All these sites claim to be true and serious. By the way, cyber-beggars donate money to each other sometimes. This is something like a mutually beneficial promotion. Of course, there are people, who wish to promote and advertise e-panhandling sites. And there’s lot of fun in it too- you may find a man, who asks people to make him richer than Bill Gates.

Hitherto people used to donate their funds to orphanages, schools, salvation camps and other charitable organizations. Now those people are ready to give away their money to someone that they have never seen before. Experts believe that cyber-beggars get more and more talented every day, making their websites more technical, making their stories touchier. On the whole, the e-panhandling business prospers and flourishes before your very eyes. Cyber-beggars evoke compassion and sympathy with professional sincerity, so to speak.

The event of cyber begging appears to be left unnoticed by the makers of IT laws, as
there’s no reference to such a practice in Cyber Laws. Thus the practice may be treated legal as long as no fraud is involved. If payment is made in physical mode it may be easy to trace it. But it’s difficult to check how genuine the cause is and in what way funds were utilized, when transactions are done electronically.

As long as there’ll be generous people who are willing to give away few dollars, there’ll be takers. As for the beggar, as idiom has it, tiny drops make mighty ocean.
If a person is facing serious trouble, that can’t be sorted out by conventional practices, asking for assistance online may be justified. But with every tom dick and harry going online with his own grievances and pleading aggressively with an intention of making few quick bucks, we’re heading towards a situation where a donor would loose faith in the system and a genuine beggar will be deprived of his chances of overcoming his woes. Such a situation can (and should) be avoided if we use the internet resource sensibly and ethically.

Published in Silicon Times, November 2004
Related: SNOOPING


Not all vacation packages are fine by all. Most of the vacation deals are made to suit a certain consumer group. You will have to state your preferences like a car rental or a cruise deal you are looking for.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Big Bazaar-Things you would like to Know

Recently I read the book “IT HAPPENED IN INDIA” by Kishore Biyani, the man who triggered retail revolution in India with shopping destinations like Pantaloon, Big Bazaar, Central etc. In this post I’m listing some key information extracted from this book, related to Big Bazaar in particular and retail industry in general that we as customers should know. [Book Review of IT Happened in India]
IT Happened in India by Kishore Biyani
Factors you should know about Big Bazaar:

1. The biggest customer for big bazaar till date is a farmer in Sangli whose bill amount was Rs. 1,37,367

2. If you use shopping malls as hang out places and do not buy anything there, you’re known as “mall rat” in retail parlance (pretty insulting uhh!)
3. “We ordered one lakh shirts at Rs 105 and sell them at Rs 149” this should give you an idea of operating margin they keep. (FYI: Later when these shirts were not getting sold the prices were brought down to Rs 129 and finally KB asks store manager to dispose them off at Rs 49!)

4. The inspiration to set up big bazaar came not from any foreign super market, but from a relatively small family run shop in Chennai, called “Saravana Stores”. This store is located very near to T Nagar bus depot. Pantaloon executives used to fly down to Chennai, spend lots of time in this store to understand its operation. The book also mentions a low cost eatery run by Saravana Stores which is very close to West Mambalam railway station in T Nagar. (I’ve visited both of these Saravana stores during January 2006-to give you an idea how cheap they are, these were: Noodles: Rs 12, Pizza: Rs 10, Chocobar: Rs 5, Poori (2): Rs. 6 etc. A jacket I bought for Rs. 312 and helmet for Rs 580 from Saravana stores are serving me excellently till date without any problem)

5. The first big bazaar store was set up in Kolkata and second and third were at Koramangala, Bangalore and Abids, Hyderabad (I’ve visited second and third one)

6. If you thought big bazaar outlets are crowded, they are intentionally designed to look that way. Target customer for Big bazaar are middle class people who find comfort in herd and tend to follow the crowd. (If everyone is buying here, it must be really good since so many people can’t be wrong. Let me also buy something). Ordinary people shy away from entering shops that look exclusive with expensive decoration with very few people around, thinking that such shops are very overpriced and not meant for them.

7. Soon you can expect sales people inside big bazaar outlets trying to sell you insurance, personal loan and other products and services, because Future Group (under which big bazaar operates) will be venturing out to launch several services in near future and they’ll be using their retail customer base as primary target to sell them.

8. Only apparels and clothing related items are sourced primarily from Pantaloon’s manufacturing units. Other products like plastics, groceries etc are either sourced from suppliers (called consolidators…Big bazaar primarily focuses on customer interface- the front end of the store while back end, sourcing supplies etc are managed by and large by consolidators) or certain vendors (say those who sell watches or spectacles) are rented a small space inside the malls. The book doesn’t state anything about quality control for these external products.

9. Big bazaar runs SAP(SAP AG (NYSE:SAP) is one of the leading ERP solution provider. ERP means enterprise resource planning- a software solution for various activities like inventory management, billing, supply chain management etc)
Related News: Satyam has the strongest SAP practice

10. How much an item gets sold depends also on how items are displayed within the store and lots of considerations go into it. From where the customer gets down from the vehicle, what items/offers he/she sees first, from which hand he picks up an item to take a closer look…all these factors influence the decision.

11. Big Bazaar store managers have considerable authority to take most of the decisions on the spot. If you have any issues, in all probability you should be able to get them resolved on the shop floor without having to escalate higher up.

12. Kishore Biyani has taken for rent retail space much more than what he originally needed. Because of this, they have enough floor space to accommodate their growth plans till 2011, saving on rent. Their competitors are fighting for space and paying a premium in terms of rent. Since rental forms significant part of operating expense, Big Bazaar is able to save considerably on this and pass the benefit to consumers.

As a retailer, their objective is to eat deeper into our wallet. As a consumer, we should be able to protect ourselves from over spending and stay within limits. Money saved is money earned.

Hope above information helps you.

Image sourced from www.mehtanirav.com | Big Bazaar on wikipedia |Locate Big Bazaar near to you|
Related post: Supermarket Supersavings-A word of Caution| TN Cooptex launched perfumed shirts | Rice Price Rise |

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Your blog can make or break your career! Achtung!

The cover article in today’s (5th Sep '07) TOI Accent supplement is about employers reading the blogs of prospective employees to decide if they should hire a particular candidate or not. Reading one’s blog usually gives an insight into individual’s stand on various issues, attitude, writing skills, thinking pattern etc and provides lots of information which may not be noted from a resume or during a conventional interview.

Read article here.

Some tips in this regard:

1. Avoid revealing personal information (You might have happily written somewhere “I hate to get up before 11 AM in the morning”-any manager who reads this will think “My office starts at 8.30 AM what is the probability that he/she will report to work on time?”)

2. Do not use bad words, slangs and such cheap lingo, which create a very bad image of you. Use decent terms to express your emotion/anger whatever.

3. Do not get involved in plagiarism (publishing someone else’s content as your own). It is very easy to detect it and puts a severe dent on your credibility when you don’t acknowledge the source of your content.

4. Search for your full name within “” on Google and see what top 5-10 results are. Analyze what impression these pages may create about you and apply necessary corrective action.

5. If you waste 6 hours a week watching couple of movies no one will ever know. But same time if spent in blogging, it gives a physical evidence that you have spent some time on blogging and few may reach a conclusion that you have no other work…Always ensure that your primary activities/responsibilities are always fulfilled with higher priority than blogging.

6. Ask your close friend or relative to have a fresh look at your blog and ask him/her what image this blog will create about you. Once you get prompt feedback, apply corrective actions as appropriate.

7. Avoid living in dual identity. Some people use blog to explore their fantasies and try to create an image about themselves which they are not, in their real life. If your virtual identity totally contradicts your real personality it may backfire.

8. Check with your company policy on blogging. There may be specific guidelines as to what all information you can release to public domain and what you should not. In most of the cases you’re not supposed to reveal internal information which are critical to your company business such as but not limited to, information related to customers, projects, technologies, patents, processes etc. Comply with such guidelines without fail.

Any more tips/opinion? Please share.

Note:Blogging is all about freedom of expression. I do not say that bloggers should always write under the fear "what some one will think if I write this", but one should be able to take ownership of what he/she writes and the contents of blog should not have a negative effect in one's real life.

P.S. Achtung: German word meaning "Watch Out"