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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Watching T20 live-A first timer's experience

In a sudden turn of events I found myself heading towards MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai and watch the IPL T20 cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders. This was the first time I ever watched a match live in a stadium and this post shares some experiences of the same.

I am not a cricket fan and am quite ignorant of the happenings in that business (you’ve to agree-Cricket is no more a sports-it is pure business). I don’t watch live matches on TV and my interest is confined to checking the result in next day’s newspaper, if possible, for the purpose of GK.

Yesterday afternoon, 1430 hours IST, yet to have my lunch I reached home, casually asked my roommate, when does the match starts? He replies “I have got a ticket-do you want to go?” He said his friends had bought few tickets but plans got changed and they won’t be going. They managed to sell of all ticket except one. It was bought at cost price of Rs 200.

After an emergency board meeting eNidhi India board of directors approved the purchase of that ticket and entrusted its CBO to explore what it feels like to watch the action live from stadium.

I got ready to leave and invoked Protocol 32 (Precautions to be taken while going to places with unusually high density of human population)-offloaded Credit cards, extra cash and other important things from my wallet, added Rs 100 emergency cash to a safe pocket and left. Decided not to go in bike, fearing possible shortage of parking space and high parking fees, reached there in public transport.

Reached the stadium 45 mins late-There was no frisking at the entrance and no scanning of barcode printed on the ticket. Everyone were busy watching the match-the metal detector didn’t raise any alarm though I had some metal objects on my body (belt buckle). 5th wicket fell as I entered.

I was thinking there will be some reserved seat for me for the ticket I had (like in movie theatres) but there was no such thing. People would have laughed at me if I had asked: where is seat number 002108?
The stadium was jam-packed. I quickly noted nearest exit points, managed to get myself a seat and started observing the gathering.

The view was good, but it was not easy to identify what is going on. Players’ face was impossible to identify from such a distance and there was no running commentary. Most of the time I could locate the ball but that is no fun. Where I sat the sun was directly on me, forcing me (and others) to cover my face. You will have to watch everything from only one angle of view which is quite boring.

Suddenly someone wearing red shirt started dancing in the middle of the ground- kind of balle balle stuff. I was clueless why he is doing that. After few seconds both his hands went up and I realized that he was doing all those circus to tell everyone that it is a six. Watching this umpire dance was the only thing I enjoyed throughout the match. Unfortunately the other umpire wasn’t dancing at all and I missed some possible entertaining moments. If you ask me, IPL should penalize this other umpire for not properly entertaining the crowd.

Few police constables on duty were during an Ukkaro, Ukkaro (tamil for- sit down, sit down) at regular intervals. Spectators in front would act as if they are settling down but would get up next moment...After sometime, these cops abandoned pursuit and repositioned themselves in a slightly elevated position.

A group of spectators started to make some strange sound-everyone around turned to see what that is-These people were trying to get the attention of Kolkata team’s cheerleader girls. How pathetic. The group settled down only after those girls turned towards them, gave a smile and danced a bit.

The music was loud and unbearable. Add to that, several spectators had bought this locally made whistle like noise generating device (I don’t know what to call them- in childhood we used to call it Pee-Pee in Kannada, for the sound it makes. Look at the image.) Blowing that thing every now and then, creating and irritating experience to ears.

The digital score card didn’t work during second half- from their desktop which was displayed on screen at times, it looked like they are using Windows 98.

It was written at the back of the ticket that camera is not allowed, hence I didn’t carry my digicam. But several spectators were carrying their digicams and clicking all around. (Last year, a journalist cum blogger was suspended for live blogging the cricket match on his blog)

I could identify several places where they could have displayed advertisements, but was left untouched.

Had a closer look at some international players but it was more interesting to hear girls in front row yell-Ganguleee.
Thank god it was a T20. The whole match would end within few hours and only 10 min break between the innings. I certainly don’t want to spend whole day watching cricket this way. TV would be more convenient.

About the match I don’t have much to write-you might have already seen in TV or read in newspaper. Chennai team defeated Kolkata team by 9 wickets. Btb no one spotted me on TV? (How sad, I thought I would be a celebrity by now)

Finally I present a true Knight Rider-Everyone else are FAKE.
Btb, don't you think IPL may have some impact on National cricket-dressing room secrets of Indian Cricketers will be shared with international players by fellow team mates, which may backfire later. Any comments?

Similar: Kiruba Shankar writes his observations on MAC * Sandesh writes what he feels about IPL commercial *

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Election Time and Banner Mania

The banner nuisance is not new to us but usualy reachs its peak during election time.
But thanks to strong enforcements of election commissioner, Mr. Gopalaswamy, banner mania is under check in Karnataka currently.

Erecting flex banners with self photo is easiest way to gain publicity and get an identity for yourself as a public personality. You can have some top political leader or some film star in the same banner to support you in case someone objects. Flex banners are pretty cheap.
This post reveals that in Manipal (near Udupi, Karnataka), it costs just Rs 13 per square foot for flex banner. At that rate it takes only few hundred rupees per banner and for less than Rs 10000, you can cover your entire locality with banners exhibiting your photo.

Though election is prime reason for these banners, you don’t really need a reason if you are determined to erect a banner of yourself. If there’s a festival around, you can wish public with your full size photo in the banner, if some events are happening, you can welcome the delegates, if nothing is happening, you can form a fan club of some film star, call yourself its president, chairman (or whatever you please, though I am surprised to see no one calling themselves CEO of a fan club) and erect banners wishing the star happy birthday, success to his current movie or whatever. Any other innovative ideas?

Those setup with prior permission from municipality fetch some revenue to govt and help in city administration. But most of these banners and hoardings are often illegal. Earlier, cloth was used to prepare the banner, which used to deteriorate over a period of time due to rain, sun etc but these days, the vinyl banners are being extensively used, which are not biodegradable and stay for a long long period. (A
related kannada post on this)

Usually nothing much is done to remove these illegal hoardings and banners, except some rare instances when they are brought down. Recently in Chennai, there was a massive drive to get rid of unauthorized hoardings and thousands of them were pulled down in a span of few days. Related Hindu report
here and here (Scrap dealers literally had a feast because of this). Chennai city is looking much cleaner now and two localities, Harsha Koda and Suresh Menon have launched an initiative to thank the chief minister for this. Their website is http://thankyouchiefminister.com (March 2009 update: This site is appearing messed up and I'm told will be taken offline in sometime) Suresh Menon, a filmmaker got this idea which is implemented by Harsha Koda and his wife Prabha who are graphic designers by profession. The site allows people to log their appreciation towards their politicians ("we always complain, let us also thank them when they do something good", is the core idea behind the site) Site is barely 2 weeks old and Harsha told me he has plans to develop this site further and add extra features and eventually extend it to other states in near future. With this move, “lots of slums will have colorful tarpaulins this monsoon” he says. Harsha also runs Jalakara.com, a web designing company.

June 23 Update: I think this thank you CM website is a kind of stagnant idea. We can thank once or twice-what next? The site should have some provision to keep visitors engaged and make them come back. -Just my suggestions to the site owners.

Similar drive is needed in other states to get rid of excess hoardings and banners.

Hyderabad is famous for its unipole hoardings. Nearly an year ago one of them collapsed in Banjara Hill, killing a person. GHMC has been more cautious with these hoardings since then. They also have even more distracting digital hoardings displaying videos and animation, diverting attention of motorists towards them. I am not sure of current situation there.

Any thoughts and suggestions on this issue are welcome.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Custom designed bottles for recycling

It has never been a secret that hawkers recycle used mineral water bottles, fill it with tap water (ok, a believed to be fit for drinking water, with no visible impurities) and sell it back to thirty passengers who neither have patience to check the purity of the water, nor have an alternate option to quench their thirst.

What surprised me, that some manufacturers of mineral water bottles, knowingly or unknowingly are directly assisting this “sell new water in old bottle” lobby, due a faulty design of bottle caps.

Ideally, a cap of a sealed mineral water bottle will have two parts- the main cap and a circular ring which is factory sealed with the main cap. (I don’t know exact technical term-assume description given gives an idea what I am referring to) When you buy a new original mineral water bottle and twist open its cap, the seal breaks, the cap comes out and circular ring remains in the bottle neck. Since ordinary hawker can’t reseal the bottle easily (without necessary equipment and other facilities), by and large one can believe that water is pure and original if the seal is not tampered with.

Now see the below image. Here, the cap came out, along with the sealing ring. The bond between the sealing ring and main cap is so thick and loose, the seal doesn’t break when you twist open the cap. Instead, cap comes of along with the sealing ring. With this kind of bottle cap design, it is extremely easy to recycle- just fill water and force the cap. This is either carelessness of the manufacturer, or done intentionally to aid the lobby which sells tap water in old bottles. I suspect the later.

 (Unless the manufacturer is hand in glove with the refillers, it is loss for him to facilitate refilling like this)

Be a bit careful next time.

Related: Supermarket Super savings- A word of caution * Indian Railway goes crazy-adds extra berth

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MMSC Manipal 08 - An Experience account

Quick Jump: The journey | Betrayed by my Laptop | Talk on podcasting | My talk on Corporate Blogging | MIT Men's Hostel|

Answer this question: When you were in college, probably you might have hated your hostel and now as a professional are used to travel around the world staying at star hotels at your company's expense. Now tell me, given an opportunity, wouldn't you love to go back to college hostel and spend few days in college campus?

I am currently spending time at Manipal, an educational hub in coastal Karnataka, attending Manipal Media Students' Convention-MMSC 08.
Manipal Institure of Communication, MIC
This is a 2 day event conducted by students of Manipal Institute of Communication, involves unconferences, workshop on podcasting, expert talks and more. I am here as a sponsored delegate and gave a talk on corporate blogging.

The journey-
The west coast express was extremely punctual and arrived at Mangalore at 5.15 AM, but it took nearly 3 hours to reach Manipal from there-I boarded a direct bus to Manipal waiting outside the railway station-despite having bus full of passengers, they (bus crew) waited for 25 minutes near railway station, 20 minutes at Mangalore service bus stand and finally left Mangalore little after 6 AM. Next time I would walk across the town hall and catch a bus which has just left the stand.

Volunteers of the event were extremely professional- They did follow up periodically after I confirmed participation and I was received at Trinity Circle (or is it Tiger Circle?), Manipal and escorted to MIC hostel, IXth block. The room was pretty good. Going back to hostel and living in a campus for few days is like college days revisited. It may not match a hotel in terms of luxury, but the environment of so many students around, is a good experience- I am sure you can imagine those days and I don't have to explain. The energetic students of MIC, headed by Ragamalika (incidently its her birthday today) were quite punctual and professional in handling their responsibilities and event management. This was my first visit to an institute as a delegate (the inter college events I had attended during college day-I was treated as a student, so that was fine) and I was given a respect and significance for which I am not used to. I am not used to being called 'Sir', 'Sir' and other formalities. However the care and warmth these students poured on the delegates was great. I will cherish it for a long long time.

We headed to chaitya hall in Hotel Valley View in MIT's college bus, which reminded me of the yellow maxicab we had in JNVC, with Udayanna as its pilot.

Betrayed by my laptop
Once we settled in the venue, I realized that my laptop's wi-fi is not working. Last time I had connected my lappy to internet via wi-fi was in August at Hyderabad-now when I wanted it, it was just not there...Probably a hardware problem have to get this fixed. Without net connectivity, it is almost useless to carry it-doesn't serve much of the purpose. I wanted to live blog the event (as a preparation to next month's WebInnnovation.In which I will be attending and live blogging) but this idea was spoiled by my laptop and I got a feeling of betrayal.

Good thing is, I could shut-down my laptop and focus on the session, while many others were busy checking mails and chatting while someone was speaking on stage.

But then, it is also good to stay off-line for few days once a while, by force, if not by choice. Let me accept it- world is NOT going to turn upside down, if I don't check and respond to my mails for few days. I did check my mails once through someone else's laptop but obviously I can't borrow it for hours to live blog or for other purposes.

A session on podcasting by Aditya Mhatre of theindicast.com was useful and gave us a good idea of what podcasting is and how to go about it. For the uninitiated, podcasting is recording audio (interviews, discussions, talks) around a topic and allowing your readers across the globe to download and read it from the convenience of their phone/ipod/computer etc. The idea is good, but I am of the opinion that while anyone can start blogging, podcasting is not for common man, at least not yet-the time and effort that goes in may not be worth it, unless you manage to get really exciting stuff to air on. We also did a workshop n podcasting-recording our audio conversation and uploading it. During this, we got a chance to check out the TV studio and audio room of MIC.

Was expecting to see Kiruba Shankar conducting a workshop on podcasting but he had to pull out of this as he had to attend Club Mahindra's Cerebrate.In in Goa.
speaker list
Annie Zaidi spoke about blogging and journalism-as I am interested in both, her talk was very interesting to hear.

The interior of Chaitya Hall in Hotel Valley View where the event was conducted was poorly lit and my entry level digicam was quite ineffective in taking good pics (unless it was a close shot). So I haven't taken much photos. Some photos uploaded by other are available here 

Shrinidhi speaks on corporate blogging
My turn came at around 3.30 in the afternoon to speak. The synopsis which I had submitted and accepted by MMSC was on corporate blogging hence I kept the same topic for the talk. Luckily, the remote control of my laptop did work properly and didn't put me in another embarrassment. I had conducted a session on blogging internal to my company but this was my first public talk after I started working. A bit of excitement, a sense of guilty feeling that I could have prepared better, but the presentation went on smooth-without any disturbances-technical or otherwise. I talked about the need and advantages of corporate blog, both internal and external, what it takes for a corporate blog to be successful, how one can measure ROI on corporate blog and so on. I got an honest feedback later that the topic of corporate blogging was more suitable at a business event than a gathering of media students. I should have thought of that-but since my synopsis was on same topic which was accepted, I didn't think of a second topic. Also I should have focused on making it more interactive-few points to take home for me. (Please note that I was just one of the 40 odd speakers during the event, though I was lucky to get a timing in second half of first day.)

I could meet many interesting people during the event- Siva of Internet Society, Chennai Chapter, Kenny Jacob of Mobme.in, Nithya Dayal of Muziboo.com and many more.

The MIT men's hostel:
9th block MIT men's hostel
I woke up early morning and went for a walk-It is a vast campus indeed. There is a big running track (looks like a 800 mt one, not sure) While university has thousands of students, I hardly saw anyone using that for a morning jog. Probably these professionals will spend few thousands a month later on GYM when they start earning, something they can save if they do some exercise right from student days.

Also noted that shops near hostel are selling goods for few rupees above MRP. Probably everyone is comfortable with that (else they need to walk a KM to reach Manipal Town)

Field in MIT hostel
The new block under construction is preparing manipal for future demands.
MIT hostel new block
I sought permission to go to terrace and click some photos but it was denied, saying I need permission from supervisor who will come at 9 AM. But as a curious journalist I chose to explore things on my own, went to see if there's any work around. Know what? Its true that rules are meant to be broken. I found the terrace doors open, with someone hanging their cloths there...(not sure if that person had permission).

Beautiful valley view of Manipal, from top of MIT Men's Hostel.

View from top of MIT Men's Hostel, ManipalPlanning to publish one more post covering events of Day 2 and other things I might have missed. Go to top

Update: Read Part II for some more updates

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An idea being implemented-Need your help

Around 6 months ago, I had written a post that public toilets in Indian cities can be made free, so that public won’t be required to pay Rs 1 every time and we can have a cleaner city (As these people will be discouraged from using public place as loo and make use of well maintained and free public toilets). I’d suggested in the post that operating expenses can be recovered from placing advertisements. (Please Read that post here)

It was a good idea indeed and if implemented will contribute to overall beauty and hygiene of the city. Many of you have commented to commend the idea and that it should indeed be implemented. Thanks to all of you for that.

Now I am glad to inform you, that an attempt is being made to implement this idea and if all goes well as expected, this idea may soon turn into reality. A Delhi based group of enthusiastic youngsters, operating under the banner Dream India Project (not yet but soon to be registered NGO), has decided to give this idea a try and they have made some progress already into this. The overall idea is to adopt a municipal toilet, invest on it to better the amenities, solicit advertisers to pay money to put their advertisements on the inside and outside walls of the public toilet, run it successfully, recover the investment and handover back to municipality. Business proposals, risk analysis and action plans have been outlined, a California based NGO is likely to join hands with DIP and talks are on with concerned government agencies to finalize the action plan.

Once the idea works in Delhi we can think of similar plans for other cities.

I request you to pay a visit to this orkut community where most of the discussions can be found.

Through this post, I solicit any possible help from you in this regard, so that the project execution will proceed smooth.

If you like the idea and wish to help us out you can do one or more of the following:

1 If you know any businessman in Delhi who can consider advertising in this medium and encourage the initiative, please tell them about this and please inform us.

2 If you know any official in government agencies like NDMC who can appreciate this idea and help is in government clearances, please tell them about this and please let us know.

3 If you know any journalist in Delhi who can propagate this idea in the media please share this post and related information with him/her.

4 If you have any idea/suggestion/tip towards execution of this idea or can help us in some specific way please let us know.

5 If you wish to join Dream India team, you’re welcome. Please join us in Orkut group or register at
www.dreamindiaproject.com or email to mail@dreamindiaproject.com

Abhiskek Pandey is the person who is handling most of the tasks in this regard. You can contact me or mail to mail@dreamindiaproject.com for any information.

An Old Lady - தாய் மண்ணே வணக்கம்

Spotted this old lady last week while heading towards nearest Andhra Mess for lunch.
Apparently, she was carrying a plant in a vase and due to some reason unknown to me, the vase fell down and crashed into pieces. (Probably it slipped off her hands or some motorist hit her gently forcing the vase off her hands). I found her collecting the nutrient soil (which was inside the pot) in a plastic bag.

An old ladyDon’t have much to write but felt bad seeing her condition. Hot sun of Chennai and no one around to help her, I felt very sorry for her. Wanted to help her but nothing did strike my mind that moment as to how I could have helped her (probably I would have brought her a new pot or dropped her off at her home in an auto?) My Tamil is not yet efficient enough to be able to converse with her to explain her that I want to help her out. I had to walk away watching her moving ahead with her things.
Though I didn’t notice initially Anu Menon pointed out that she has got only 4 fingers in her leg। (click on the photo to enlarge)
Nothing more to say। Just felt like writing this.
broken potLeft: mangled remains of the pot in which she was carrying the plant sibling
(தாய் மண்ணே வணக்கம் - -मा तुज्ञे सलाम् -
- ತಾಯೇ ನಿನಗೆ ವ೦ದನೆ -Tamil, Hindi and kannada for : Mother I salute you.)
There is a kannada saying - ಕು೦ಬಾರನಿಗೆ ವರುಷ, ದೊಣ್ಣೆಗೆ ನಿಮಿಷ(it takes lots of time and effort for pot maker to make a pot, but only a second for someone to destroy it)

Tamil script help- Hari

What do you feel seeing the photo? drop a comment.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Delhi Chats Thiruvanmiyur- Inflation Free?

Major update (15 May 2008): This post stands null and void now, as Delhi Chats have effected a hike of about 25% on all their items.
-------------Original Post----------------------
Almost every eatery in Chennai has effected a price hike recently citing hike in prices of essential commodities. But one eatery in Chennai, Delhi Chats in Thiruvamniyur area, hasn’t increased its rates (with exception of few selected items) since past 2 yearsDelhi Chats, an north indian eatery in Thiruvanmiyur Chennai

Delhi chats serves north Indian dishes and is quite popular in the locality among north Indians who reside in nearby areas. I noticed recently, the prices of most of the items have remained same since past two years, while almost every other hotel/restaurant has increased the price by few rupees for most of their items.

Is Delhi chats taking a dip in profits? Or do they have an efficient supply chain and inventory management to mitigate the effect of inflation?(May be their own farm nearby which supplies vegetables?) I don’t know. They also door deliver free even for a small order of 30 Rs.

If you’re aware of any other restaurant in your locality which hasn’t increased the prices in past few years drop a comment.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Club Mahindra to host Cerebrate.In

Was speaking to Arun Nair of Club Mahindra the other day and he was all upbeat about an event called Cerebrate.in that he is coordinating (his company, MHRIL is hosting it).
Conferences and seminars are things of past. Current trend is un-conference and bloggers meet… An un-conference is an informal meet where people meet and discuss various topics of interest without any formal agenda or rigid formats. It is easy to open up and brainstorm in an informal environment.


Cerebrate.in will be a gathering of 15 elite professionals handpicked from several industries who would sit across the table in Club Mahindra’s prestigious Verca Beach resort in Goa and discuss about digital medium, holiday and travel. Check Cerebrate.in website for the list of participants. With the powerful and creative brains of  all those eminent personalities, backed with the beautiful atmosphere of Club Mahindra’s Goa resort, it is guaranteed to bring out some great thoughts. Arun has said the key takeaways will be made public and not treated as Club Mahindra proprietary. I am eager to see the outcome.

Coordinating a high level delegation such as this and extracting the best of them within 2 days is a challenging task. But Arun is extremely good at event management (I know by experience after attending their Coorg trip which went precisely as planned) and with active help from Kiruba I am sure Cerebrate.in will add another feather to his cap. (He recently came back from Goa after attending Club Mahindra’s annual sales summit-I am sure they might have devised several new strategies to enroll more and more members this year ;) )

Cerebrate logo is well conceptualized. The light bulb shaped a clearly indicates thought process that will be involved in the meet.

Waiting to see the outcome of this.

March 2012 update: removed link to cerebrate.in as it was not working

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Buy/Sell used Club Mahindra timeshare membership for Free

June 2016 Update:
This is to inform readers of this post that Club Mahindra has sent me a legal notice claiming that this post is illegal and Club Mahindra doesn't authorize third party transactions. The notice was legally responded to and there's not been any further response from Club Mahindra in this regard, thus we are forced to understand that they are happy with our response. However please note the following

1. This post is only a discovery platform for buyers and sellers. No commercial transactions take place here.
2. Buyers and sellers need to approach time share company for actual transaction. All controls rest with respective timeshare company to allow/reject ownership transfer request as per the rules that govern the timeshare membership agreements. I am NOT a party to any of the transactions or disputes arising from use of information shared by buyers/sellers in this post. Please use adequate caution and ensure to comply with rules applicable from time to time.

----------------------------------------------    Original Post                -------------------------------------
Planning to put your timeshare membership for sale? Or looking to buy a second-hand timeshare membership instead of new one? This post aims to provide a platform for those who are willing to BUY/SELL used timeshare memberships, with companies such as Club Mahindra, Zest, Sterlings and others. [Aug 2009 update: Use this post to buy/sell specific days at a particular resort]


Bhupesh came up with this idea and since we don’t have enough time and patience to launch a full scale website for this purpose, we're introducing a simple utility here, making use of Google Docs. If you wish to sell of your membership enter the details here and in case you are looking forward to buy a used membership you can contact any members who have listed their membership for sale here or make a new entry stating your requirements.

June 2015 update: Previous form had got thousands of entries and many were obselete. It was getting difficult to manage and also not that easy for prospects to find a suitable buyer/seller. So I have created a new form. If you'd already made an entry recently, please make fresh entry here. Sorry for the inconvenience.
-------------------------
Please fill the form by clicking here
New entries will take some time before they appear in below table. Usually 10-15mins. ----------------------


Most of the timeshare companies do not give a provision in their website where members can put their membership for sale. Most of the classified sections are also ineffective in this regard. Since this site was attracting lots of visitors searching for Club Mahindra related info, we felt it will be a good idea to provide a platform for prospective buyers and sellers to interact.


Disclaimers: 1. We're only providing a platform where you can express your desire to sell your membership or intention to buy one. 2. We're not involved in any way and do not guarantee a sale. 3. We do not charge anything for this. 4. All deals are to be done at the mutual consent of buyer and seller and in coordination with respective timeshare companies. 5. We do not verify the credibility of information entered by seller/buyer and that will be sole responsibility of buyer/seller before parting his/her money/membership. 6. Ideally, seller is expected to clear all pending dues and get No Due Certificate from concerned timeshare company and buyer is expected to take care of all future payment. 7. Timeshare companies may charge a nominal fee for ownership transfer or at their discretion change/enforce rules related to this.

Below are the current Club Mahindra rates for actual membership (click to enlarge) (Don't miss the ASF part). Those willing to buy new membership can buy from Club Mahindra website. Be sure to read this and this post on Club mahindra before buying. (Prices as on Augsut 2008 and 1st Jan 2008-For latest prices and offers please check with ClubMahindra executives)


View Club Mahindra Old Price lists: August 2008 rate card * January 2008 price chart * CM 2006-2007 prices * You'll get an idea how membership costs and ASF are increasing every year.

Upon successful deal if you wish your details to be removed from here you're required to drop a comment/mail us. Any other suggestion/feedback please feel free to drop a comment.

Kindly drop a comment if any of you closed a deal...(There have been quite a few. I'm glad we're able to bring in some real life benefits to my readers.

Club Mahindra Escalation Points:

Level 1 : feedback@clubmahindra.com

Level 2 : qrc@clubmahindra.com

Level 3 : headmemberelations@clubmahindra.com



August 2009 update: Use this post to buy/sell specific days at a particular resort.

Jan 2011 update: The post has crossed 200 comments and now April 2010 rate card is also included. New year wishes to all

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Box temple expands itself to encroach public land

There was a small projection to a compound wall in front of one of the houses wherein a Ganesha Idol was kept and few local people worshipping it. Quite a harmless thing.

But I happened to notice recently that a small makeshift fence has been set up around this box temple, occupying public land.

No wonder, if this box temple will expand itself to occupy 50% of the road in next 6-12 months. Building places of religious worship is an easy way to make money and occupy precious real estate. Due to sensitive nature of the issue politicians and administration often hesitate to take stern action.
 
Just keeping on record current scenario here, we’ll revisit this post after an year or so to see if the temple has occupied more space by expanding itself. Probably a bigger temple will be built around it with stories cooked up to highlight the historical significance of this place or how powerful this particular god is.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Club Mahindra Holidays IPO -Some Questions & Answers

This post offers some insights into Club Mahindra’s timeshare business by bringing out some key concerns related to their operations and gets a response from Club Mahindra as to how investors, members and prospects need not have to worry about those drawbacks and risk factors.

Club Mahindra Logo
I hate to write yet another seemingly negative post about Mahindra Holidays,[Read first one] more so after enjoying their Coorg trip. Recently Bhupesh, a Club Mahindra member wrote couple of comments mentioning key facts extracted from the DRHP and I decided to spend some time going through 342 page Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DHRP) which Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Limited (MHRIL) has filed with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), for the upcoming Mahindra Holidays IPO. After going through this DHRP I am left with far more questions about Club Mahindra that I had before. So made an attempt to list those concerns and get them answered by Club Mahindra.

I happened to read an interview of Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, MHRIL by
Kiruba Shankar, an avid blogger and entrepreneur by himself. This interview is available here on CLAY, Club Mahindra’s newly launched official blog. The interview was good-covered Ramesh as a person and gave some highlights on early days of Mahindra’s operation. But unfortunately, the interview fails to address several burning issues timeshare industry is facing. A comment I wrote for that post appears to be deleted.

I listed all questions related to CM’s business, backed with facts extracted from DRHP, I would have asked Ramesh Ramanathan, had I ever got a chance of interviewing him. Bhupesh Gupta reviewed them and approached Ramesh to check if he can respond to these questions. In a prompt response Ramesh requested Mr. Anirudh Haldar, MHRIL’s Marketing head to respond to our concerns. MHRIL was under no obligation to respond to my questions but they have responded in good spirit within a reasonable time. Mr. Arun Nair, Sr. Manager, Web Initiatives, MHRIL (whom I’d already met and interviewed earlier-read that here) was instrumental in coordinating with Club Mahindra Management to get these answers.

As a result now we have around 23 questions and Club Mahindra’s answers to them, providing strategic information any customer/investor/prospect would be interested in knowing. Since these 23 questions and their answers are running into 13 odd pages on a word document, I feel it will be too long to publish as a text in this post. So I have given below questions and answers to 3 questions believed to be critical while rest of the Q&As are being made available as a pdf for any serious reader who may wish to go through completely. Click here to view pdf

LEGEND:
Red: Question
Blue: Club Mahindra’s answer
Brown: Shrinidhi’s Interpretation/Response (Shrinidhi is not a CM member and is an independent blogger giving third party perspective)
Green: Bhupesh’s Interpretation/Response (Bhupesh is a Club Mahindra member and has offered an inside perspective)

4 A Do you agree that as of now Club Mahindra has member base far beyond the cumulative capacity of its resorts? (As on October 2007 you had 707 rooms (in 19 resorts, excluding 2 Zest resorts)-since each room can accommodate max 52 customers a year, max member base you can serve is 36764. But as on October 2007 you have 63375 members (page 63, 71 and 171 of DRHP), which is 172% of your inventory, meaning around 26611 members are guaranteed NOT to get reservation every year, under ideal conditions, never mind how early they plan. Actual denial rate is far higher, since some rooms are superior rooms sold to non members, few weeks are purple season and not open to members and some units will be used by corporate clients under Fundayz)

NO. While your quoted figures are true they do not reflect an accurate picture of the scenario. Allow me to explain. In order to make Club Mahindra easier to access we run many consumer financing schemes which range from 6 months to 48 months in duration. In each of these financing schemes we have a threshold time period post which a member becomes eligible to holiday (this is called the Holiday Start Date, from which the tenure of the membership is calculated). This could be 12 months from date of enrollment depending on the payment plan chosen by the member. Thus, we need to provide for capacity on the basis of the number of members eligible to holiday. You would also appreciate that, members in default of payment of dues are also not eligible to holiday. We have based on our experience over the last 10 years, built a fairly robust method for assessing the member base that would be eligible to holiday at any given point in time i.e. those who have crossed their holiday start date and are not in payment default. Our capacity caters to this eligible base. You would also be happy to note that we have added since the filing of the DRHP a new resort at Kumbhalgarh which will have 56 rooms (i.e. the capability to service almost another 3000 members.

S: I accept the reasoning. But does this mean nearly 40% members are not eligible? Some comments I received go like this “We paid all charges promptly for 2 years but couldn’t avail any of their services as there was no availability. Now they want us to pay ASF again, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to take holiday or this money also will go waste” Some kind of relaxation for such members would be nice.

B: ClubMahindra require 25% payment before a member can start holidaying. Lengthiest EMI scheme available to member is of 4 years. So in maximum about 12 months a new member will start holidaying. So again as Shrinidhi said, why this difference is 40%? Are there to many default on EMI scheme. When Club Mahindra considers a membership as defunct and reduces it from membership count?

They are very prompt to bring out the fact that “You would also be happy to note that we have added since the filing of the DRHP a new resort at Kumbhalgarh which will have 56 rooms (i.e. the capability to service almost another 3000 members.” They should have also told that how many new members they have added in last 5 month? Extra plotting last years’ number this figure will not be less then 5000 members.

3. Don’t you think it is an obligation of timeshare company to ensure guaranteed accommodation to all its members (or at least compensate them when they fail to get confirmed booking despite planning in advance)? How can you justify the rule that member needs to keep paying “irrespective of usage” while holidaying is “subject to availability”?

All companies need to deliver on their proposition. Our proposition is Family Holidays with great amount of flexibility, in choice of destination, Season and Apartment, apart from payments plans etc. Now to deliver on flexibility which research and consumer feedback has shown to be the highest requirement we need to allow consumer choice wherein consumer who exercise their choice in advance ahead of others stand to gain. In addition we keep taking rooms and resorts on lease from time to time to provide our members greater choice and options.

As for guarantee of accommodation in the timeshare model applies only with the fixed week model, which is also a very rigid model. We have consciously moved to the floating week floating resorts model because it allows for flexibility which as I mentioned before is highly desirable. This method is also today considered the best practice in the industry in terms for customer centricity. The Annual Subscription Fee, which is payable by the member irrespective of usage is towards the maintenance and upkeep of the resorts and was mentioned to you in my last reply “In terms of the membership fee you pay at today’s pricing and enjoy holidaying for 25 years, the only factor that is increased is the ASF which is also indexed to the Consumer price index as published by the RBI. There are no arbitrary changes done. This ASF is also towards only the upkeep and maintenance of our resorts. Our resorts at Munnar and Goa are 10 years old but are in impeccable state of maintenance. We intend to ensure that for all our resorts going forward as well. I am sure there are umpteen examples of Timeshare resorts which have steadily declined in upkeep and that will not happen to a Club Mahindra member.” As for Holidaying subject to availability I refer again to your earlier query on the same subject”

B: “… Consumer who exercises their choice in advance ahead of others stands to gain.”
In one of round table meeting with our lab director we complained that when we come in morning to office at 10.00 we do not get parking for our scooter or car. He suggested us coming early in morning so that you can get parking.

How much early 8:45 AM? if people who used to come around 10:00 AM start coming at 8:45, definitely they will start getting parking. But what about those who were coming at 9:00 AM, now they will face parking problem. So if they also shift their timing and stared coming at 8:15 AM. You know what I am saying.. if capacity is not enough however early people come their will be people who will not get parking. Coming office early is not going to generate extra parking slots.


In addition we keep taking rooms and resorts on lease from time to time to provide our members greater choice and options.

B: Except few, all these leased resort of only three star qualities.

Q “The major concerns most of the members face is that they're not able to get reservations despite planning well in advance. Why so?
We would disagree with the fact that most members face this issue. We have a metric we track internally of Unique member holidayed which essentially is to ensure that our efforts are geared towards getting more and more and more members to holiday.. However, in an effort to help our members plan their holidays we open bookings 6 months prior to the date of the holiday. Now, there are certain periods which have increased demand in comparison to the rest of the year, like New Years Eve in Goa. I am sure you will appreciate that we cannot build capacity in a location for a small period when that demand is not sustained through the rest of the year. Hence there are cases when some members would call in later in the day and find that period in question is fully booked up. We however have a practice of tracking a waitlist and whenever there is a booking cancellation we are able to confirm the booking for a waitlisted member. “

S: This exactly same paragraph was given as answer by Arun Nair few months earlier (link) he added that the internal metric you are referring to stood at 75% for last year. No further comments.

5 D Can we do something to bring in more accountability in our sales staff? Let us consider insurance agent vs a CM sales rep. My insurance agent will never make false promises to me because though he may manage to sell a policy by making unrealistic promises, he will suffer a loss if I don’t keep my policy in force by paying premiums and do not buy any more policies from him. In other words, an insurance agent is interested in building a long term relationship with his customers. Coming to timeshare sales rep, their sole objective seem to be meeting their targets for enrolling new members which they often achieve by making unrealistic promises and not disclosing various limitations. They are not concerned about the woes of customer later since they gain nothing if customer is happy and lose nothing if he is not. I believe this can be fixed if we can restructure their remuneration in a way similar to insurance agents-pay in stages over few years and link it to member satisfaction. What do you think?

CM: Since we are not in the insurance business, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on that. As far as we are concerned, sales remuneration is linked more to a membership perpetuating over time and less to enrollment, in the event of cancellation of membership they stand to lose their entire remuneration for the same – I would also mention that in Insurance this measure is a statutory mandate and in our case a self regulation. Your statement regarding the motives of our holiday consultants is hence ill founded.

S: Ok. Good to know their enumeration is well designed. But like any sales force CM sales reps are also known for exaggerating benefits and suppressing limitations. In some cases when this goes beyond an acceptable limit that severely hampers the credibility of the organization. Let us hope such incidents do not occur in future.

B: If one want to learn how many false promises or exerated figures a CM sales representative can make/present to a prospective buyer, Listen to this:
http://www.zshare.net/audio/98258956a30543/

11. What is your opinion about the fixed week timeshare model? (Where in a member owns a
particular resort unit between two specific dates every year till his membership ends, allowing him to exchange/sell/gift his units without having to depend on resort company for reservations) Will that not be more beneficial to customers?

This practice is falling in to disuse across the world as it is extremely restrictive from a consumer standpoint. Imagine having to go to the same destination every year at the same time, it would be very monotonous. Instead the floating week floating resort model brought to India by Club Mahindra is emerging as the international best practice. It provides far greater flexibility for the consumer to choose from a range of destinations across a range of dates and not be limited with no options.

S: Fixed Week Model failed earlier due to lack of an effective communication medium among members, using which resort units could be traded. Currently, with the advance of internet, I believe that hurdle is totally eliminated. A member can easily exchange his room with some other member owning a room at some other resort/season, or sell it in open market, thanks to power of internet (auction it on ebay or put a classified in Sulekha or advertise in personal blog or Club Mahindra itself can provide a forum wherein members can trade/exchange their holidays. This post highlights the advantages of fixed week model over floating week.


Acknowledgements:
Ramesh Ramanathan, MD, MHRIL
Anirudha Haldar, Head, Marketing, MHRIL
Arun Nair, Sr. Manager, Web Initiatives, MHRIL
Bhupesh Gupta, an esteemed customer, Club Mahindra Holidays.

Club Mahindra logo is sourced from internet and is a property of MHRIL

Disclaimer: Prepared in public interest. Questions are based on DRHP filed by MHRIL with SEBI and answers as given by Club Mahindra executives. Author has no vested interests in the operations of MHRIL and views offered here are independent and personal to author. His employers, family members and others are not related with this in any way. Readers are encouraged to verify the facts on their own and rely on their judgment and discretion.

Looking to BUY/SELL a used Club Mahindra Membership? Visit here

October 2008 updates: MHRIL has put IPO on hold due to bad market condition and in the meanwhile planning to double its inventory, by acquisition of more properties. Data gathered in this post (from DRHP) are over an year old now and I assume we can expect an updated Red Herring Prospectus once market condition improves and Club Mahindra gains confidence to introduce IPO

June 2009 Update: The IPO finally happened and received a wonderful response-oversubscribed by about 10 times. Let us see how this helps MHRIL transform its business in near future.

Subscribe to ClubMahindra Member' Yahoo Group

Thursday, April 03, 2008

QuestNet reopens as Lotus Marketing in Sri Lanka?

Quest Net (aka Gold Quest) is yet another network marketing company which sells overpriced products to members and encourages these members to bring more members to buy its products and gives commission to member when new member signs up under him and buys the product. A binary pyramid kind of compensation plan where in one gets his money back only if he makes around a dozen of his friends/relatives sign up under him, a system wherein only few percentage of people at the very top of the pyramid reap huge benefits while almost everyone else (around 98%) lose their money to their up liners while pursuing a nonexistent dream of financial freedom and instant richness.

Simply put, this is akin to MLM scams and Quest net is banned in several countries- US, Srilanka, Afghanistan, Iran and many more because this kind of scheme loots people of their hard earned money and drains millions of dollars of money out of the country. They are operational in India, Singapore and several other countries, for the sole reason that there’re no stringent laws under which their operation can be declared illegal.

We can go on discussing pros and cons of network marketing and keep arguing if QuestNet is legal or illegal. Internet is full of anti Questnet reviews explaining how almost everyone lose money in Questnet and you can find lots of such posts with a simple search. Let me not reinvent the wheel and focus on a special issue here.

Questnet was banned in Sri Lanka recently after it drained millions of dollars of foreign exchange out of the country, severely affecting nation’s economy.[News] If QuestNet feel they were banned for no reason, they should have convinced Srilankan Government that they are innocent and genuine and try to get the ban lifted. But, it is evident that they have silently opened another company in Sri Lanka, under the name lotus marketing and have started the business as usual, hunting for new prospects and abandoning millions of their earlier IRs (of Quest.Net).

Details of Lotus Marketing launch function can be found here. Their website is supposed to be http://lotus-mktg.com/ which is booked under a discrete domain (so is quest.net, meaning identity of domain owner not disclosed) and is under construction as of now. The conclusion that this company is directly related to earlier QuestNet is drawn from the fact that Lotus Marketing is selling the same products which QN was selling. (BioDisc, Pendants etc, only missing thing is gold coin, which might have been excluded because Gold Coin will draw immediate relation with Questnet which sold huge number of gold coins and is known more for gold coins than any other product). Elakiri, a Sri Lankan community forum has a detailed discussion going on in one of their threads here on this topic.

Quest Net’s Amezcua BioDisc (An useless piece of glass priced at INR 22000 which its promoters claim will cure so many diseases including cancer- More on this product in a separate post soon) presentation says QuestNet has exclusive marketing rights to sell it. So if Lotus Marketing is selling this disc, it has to have backing of QuestNet.

I have already written in my earlier post that network marketing/MLM companies keep their physical assets and presence to minimum so that it will be very easy for them to pack up overnight and re appear later in a totally new disguise.

Questnet Kingpin Vijay Eswaran did nothing to protect the interests of millions of IRs in the countries where Questnet was banned. Those IRs were neigher compensated, nor any visible attempt was made to prove to governments that their business is legitimate and ban deserves to be lifted. What Quest.net has done clearly indicates its intentions are not good and this development (Questnet abandoning its IRs post ban and re appearing in a new name all afresh) should be an alarm for company’s IRs in India and other countries- If QuestNet is banned in India tomorrow, all these members (Independent Representatives) will be left unaware without any compensation for the money they pumped in but haven’t yet recovered. After few months the same promoters of QuestNet, who made billions sucking hard earned money of new members, will re appear to launch a new company and start their fooling business afresh. The blind faith and belief of the IRs may not allow them to believe in all these, but this is the ground reality and its in their own interest that they stay prepared.

Update: As predicted, several thousand IRs have registered complaint against QuestNet India in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and AP. Chennai Police are currently investigating the operations of this company.

Disclaimer: Information in this post are based on the information available with the author at the time of composing this post, sourced from multiple reliable sources and subsequent analysis. Please use your discretion.

Also read: An analysis of network Marketing companies * Amway Inside story-Merchants of Deception * 12 Reasons why MLM companies go bad

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