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Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 2008- Summary & updates

A total of 12 posts this month, excluding this one-few were popular while others were not. Going by the number of comments received, the idea (patent pending) of selling cashew nuts on board Indigo flight seems to be a hit, followed by the new investment strategy of investing in companies that send thick and heavy annual reports.

Kingfisher Experience and Redbus.in review were the other posts which got satisfactory number of comments.

Also ran were “Bad experience at Hotel HoneyMoon Inn, Mussoorie”,  Missing feature in Social networking sites”, "transaction integrity and money transfer in movies" and Kerala/Vizag trip plans (which stands suspended as of now due to multiple reasons)

Launched a photo blog this month and also introduced a widget that reads out the post contents for you. Recent posts at the photo blog includes some nice photos of Impala (a deer like animal), of Jai Gurudev Mandir, Mathura and more.

Post on Startup Saturday @ IIMB didn’t invoke any comments while some miscellaneous updates published at the beginning of the month managed to get few.

Also, Mridula, India’s top travel blogger has opted to contribute at the ad critics blog. This month she’s reviewed HDFC insurance, Naukri and Airtel 'barriers break when we talk' ads. Thanking her for her interest and welcoming her on board.

Other updates: 

Pratham books launched an initiative to convey best wishes t0 16 years old Virdhawal Khade, the swimming champ who will be representing India at the Olympics. They plan to send him a 164 feet long card carrying messages from all of us. I think due date for this over, but still you can leave a message at the Pratham Books blog.

My heart goes out to the victims of terror. Almost everyone have been blogging about it and I don’t have anything unique to add, hence keeping quiet for now on that. In particular, I wish to greet all those members of bomb disposal squad, who have done a great job of disposing live bombs. Knowing that it is a live bomb out there, knowing that it may explode any moment, knowing that one wrong move would make all the difference between life and death, how many of us dare to go near it? Again, sincere thanks to every member of the squad.

Dr. VS Achar’s blog has been aggregating some key news and analysis pertaining to bomb blasts. Couple of posts on Churumuri were also sensible to read.

This blog is about to cross the count of 1 lakh visitors. Just a few more hundreds to go and it'll be a matter of few days. Don't want to write another post on it hence just mentioning in advance.

Also read: May 2008 Summary of posts * June 2008 Summary of posts

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Service Review: Redbus.in online ticket booking [Updated]

December 2015 Update: I booked again on Redbus a ticket from Bengaluru to Goa on Seabird- Didn't face any issues and experience was smooth

May 2012 Update: We should practice before we preach. I booked my first ticket on Redbus recently. It was smooth and no issues were faced. I need to take back most of my original comments.

June 2011 Update: Redbus reportedly booked tickets worth 117 crores during 2010-2011 (about 20 lakh tickets at an average price of Rs 600 per ticket). Company has raised additional funding and is expanding its operations. Contrary to couple of negative issues I had raised in my original post, it seems company has overcome its initial hiccups and has been largely successful in its business. I wish Redbus all the best.


March 2010 update: My friend has travelled twice recently using redbus booked tickets and he had a smooth journey.


---original post----
Redbus.in is an year and a half old startup by few young entrepreneurs (under Pilani Soft Labs Pvt. Ltd) and is funded by Seedfund.in, who call Redbus.in as one of their flagship investments. Bharti Jacob of Seedfund.in said at a Startup Saturday in IIMB that Redbus business volume has reached from 10 tickets a day to nearly 1000 tickets a day. That’s a phenomenal and promising growth for an infant start up. Kudos to Redbus team.

With due respects to everyone involved, I recently read in Mouthshut.com several negative reviews about this service and few of my friends also felt they could have got better services had they avoided RedBus. I’ve not verified how legitimate these complaints are but they appear to be written by irate passengers who didn’t get the expected quality of service from bus operators for the tickets purchased through Redbus.in. Few others had payment and customer care related issues.

Based on my own observation and analysis coupled with information sourced from above, I’m offering in this post a review of Redbus.in-their business model, market conditions, scope for improvements and more.
Redbus.in Logo
In this scenario we have following stake holders: A bus operator and their staff, Passengers and Redbus.in who coordinates between these 2. To me it looks like bus operators are not much dependent on Redbus.in to fill their seats but its passengers who are lazy to go to nearest travel agent and Redbus which has stepped in as a mediatory trying to cash in on this. In any business, it’s always desirable to get rid of middlemen, even if it means a little inconvenience and same goes for Bus ticket booking. Even airlines are planning to adopt a “no commission to travel agents” policy because internet has become so common enabling customers to book direct at airline website so that they don’t find a need to depend on travel agents any more. Soon those willing to avail the services of travel agents for air tickets will have to pay the agents themselves.

Coming back to Redbus.in, here are my observations:
Most of the popular and leading bus operators have their own websites and strong network of agents-these operators are able to fill the seats on their own and have not subscribed to Redbus.in. Even with other operators, there’re serious allegations that those going to the boarding point with a ticket booked through Redbus.in are not treated well. If you’re wondering what problems bus crew have in giving prompt service to redbus customers, you need to understand the way private bus operators function.

Traditionally, running an inter-city bus service will involve following stake holders-The owners, their staff (driver and conductor) and travel agents. Most of the seats are filled usually by travel agents, who make their money by way of commissions received. With the entry of Redbus.in, the travel agent is sensing a competition which is cutting into his earnings (Till yesterday you were going to his office to book tickets and now you’re directly going to the boarding point in front of his office with a red bus booked ticket in hand. Why will he give the same old service when he is not getting a penny out of you?). These travel agents interact closely with bus drivers and conductors, hence have an upper hand in ensuring quality of services to passengers (or the lack of it), than Redbus.in which doesn’t have a physical presence at the boarding point and deals only with the owners of a Bus Company.

Travel agents, in nexus with bus crew, often cheat bus owners by saying “x number of seats were empty yesterday” while selling those seats in the last minute to desperate travelers without issuing proper tickets. Depending on the demand supply situation these last minute passengers sometime manage to bargain hard and pay as low as 50% of the normal fare and travel without the ticket (or at times forced to pay premium). I’ve personally experienced in Omer travels who put plastic stools in the passage way and accommodate extra people. Money earned through these unaccounted seats is often shared among bus crew and travel agent who brings the passengers. More the number of passengers coming through RedBus.in and other such service providers less will be the chance for these people to unofficially sell off a seat and make money. RedBus.in customers, having paid in full, are at the mercy of the bus crew to reach their destinations and often get worst of the service due to bad attitudes and mentality of some bus crew. Only surprise raids by bus owners can stop this.

Not all customer face above situation, but probability is fairly high if you’re travelling with lesser known bus operators who may neither have proper control on their staff nor have cared to educate their staff on how to treat a customer.

Few Redbus customers complain their bad experience-Redbus routes the complaint to bus owner, who in turn ask the same staff for an explanation. Any cooked up explanation given by these people will be promptly relayed back to the customer. Some readymade excuses are “That bus had a technical issue, so we had to send them in an alternate bus”, “there was some confusion regarding boarding point-we weren’t correctly informed” and such. If Redbus can afford to send some ground staff at popular pickup points (like T Nagar and Koyambedu in Chennai, GandhiNagar in Bangalore, Ameerpet, Lakdi ka pool in Hyderabad and so on) to assist its customer that will be great.

What Redbus should do:

  1. Provide an option where those booking tickets through Redbus can give their feedback and rating for a particular travels on the redbus website. If several customers have given a poor rating to a particular travels, others can avoid that travels
  2. Make bus owners to conduct surprise checks to verify if the bus crew is treating Redbus booked ticket holders at par with others. Also consider sending some ground staff to popular pick up points to verify if your customers are getting good treatment.
  3. You’ve grown from 10 tickets a day to 1000 tickets a day. Obviously quality will suffer when volume grows out of control. Time to expand your call centre, invest in better infrastructures and be selective with the bus operators you sign up, so as to ensure there’s no dip in quality.
  4. Do some basic checks before tying up with a new operator. Or if feedback on a particular operator is consistently bad, stop booking tickets for them
The convenience of not having to go to a travel agent and book online from your home/office is a good experience, but only if that is complemented by a prompt service when you go to board the bus. As redbus is capable of attracting huge number of customers they should voluntarily extend their services beyond just booking a ticket to ensure that customers indeed get a pleasant travel experience. If they are giving good volume of business to bus companies they can easily demand that their customers are not neglected by bus crew and quality of service is not compromised.

I’ve also read that Redbus team takes feedback from its customers and tries its best to address concerns (someone claimed Redbus booked a flight ticket free of charge for the customer when his bus ticket was cancelled but no alternate arrangements could be made-If that is true that’s really worth appreciating) I believe Redbus team will take my post in right spirit and will work towards better customer satisfaction. I wish them all the best.

How was your experience with Redbus.in or other such services (customerneedz.com and such)? Comment and tell us.

April 2009 Update: I see that RedBus has introduced customer reviews feature, one of the suggestions made in this post. Appreciate this feature and hope customers will find it handy.

Disclaimer: Independent observations only. Actual experience may differ from user to user. Use your discretion

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bad experience @ Hotel HoneyMoon Inn Mussoorie

We stayed for 2 days in this Hotel HoneyMoon Inn, Mussoorie through a corporate booking and overall experience was not good. Just sharing what all I observed/experienced. Please note that the term "Honeymoon" is just noun and not verb. If you thought going through your company will get you better service here, time to reconsider.

The people manning the reception counter of this hotel are cheaters who tie up with other service providers such as car rental agencies and cheat unsuspecting guests. In particular one Mr. Sanjay is the person no one should never trust. He and his assistant attempted to cheat us to the tune of Rs. 15000 when we asked them to book a cab to take us to Hrishikesh, Haridwar and finally drop us at Delhi. We survived the cheating attempt but suffered lots of inconvenience because of him and a travel agency called Himalaya Travels in Dehradoon. More about their cheating later in a separate blog post. In your own interest you’re recommended not to deal with this hotel, its staff and that Himalaya Travels
Hotel Honeymoon Inn, Mussoori-we had a bad experience
Few experiences/observations in this hotel a prospective guest should keep in mind:

We reached the hotel by 11 AM and it took nearly 2 hours for them to clean the rooms and handover to us.

Laundry collection only at 8 AM and delivery same night subject to good weather. Their check-in and checkout timing in 12 noon to 12 noon, so if you’re staying just for one day there’s no way you can get your cloths laundered.

Because tourist season here is just 3 months (May to July) most of the hotels won’t hire full time staff and most of the work is outsourced. Even the in house staff go home to sleep. So if you need something during late night, no one will be around to help, except may be one watchman who will be sleeping near the reception. I guess these things are common to all hotels here in Mussoorie. (haven’t stayed in other hotels to compare)

The restaurant is very small and usually no one will be there-we had to go into kitchen and pull the guys out to remind them of our order. Food is not good. There was an item called ‘plain raita’ on the menu-when we ordered that what we got was plain curd. When questioned, the servant says “isi ko hum plain raita bolte hain”. To fir menu main ‘curd’ chapne ka thana…

The hot water is not available when we wanted to take bath. They don’t have a dedicated heaters in room. The central geyser will be switched on during a specific time only. Rest of the day-no way. It will be a great feeling to pour hot water on the body in that cold weather-if one person uses little more than normal quantity, next person won’t have hot water. Even after prior request to ensure hot water supply by 6 AM, water wasn’t even warm when we wanted to take a bath and checkout.

Hotel is nearly 2 kms from Gandhi Chowk, the last point till which commercial vehicles are allowed. So if you’re travelling by a yellow board vehicle you’ll have to travel last 2 kms by walk/cycle rikshaw/horse to reach this hotel (extra expenditure)

View of the valley from the hotel is pretty good. Room is spacious, but not sound proof. You hear almost everything that goes on in adjacent rooms-from TV sound to sound of someone flushing the toilets. Irritating, to say the least.

For the whole room there was only 2 sockets. One was used for TV and other was not working. In order to charge our mobile/camera etc we had to pull out the TV cable and insert chargers. These days every individual carries min 2-3 gadgets (ipods, mobiles, cameras, laptops etc) Hotels should provide multiple charging points. (This is applicable to almost all hotels)

The hotel website doesn’t have a provision to give feedback/complaint. So we’ll be routing our complaint about their staff Sanjay through the corporate contact of my uncle.

Haven’t stayed in any other hotel in Mussoorie to compare this hotel with. But my experience with them was not good, considering that we stayed there through corporate booking. I do not recommend this hotel. Apparently Honeymoon Inn is a chain of hotels-wish they could give a better service.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Launching a photo blog

I’ve decided to launch a photo blog and would be looking for your support and encouragement as usual.

The URL is:
http://photos.enidhi.net/
The site is already up and running, with few posts containing some pretty good (so I think) photos. Have a look, I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. Already available posts are: “Cute Squirrels of Agra Fort”, Assembled vehicles of North India, Photos of Agra Fort, photos of our pet cat and photos of Kondapur weekly bazaar. (the last 2 have been moved from this blog) As I’m sitting on hundreds of photos, I aim to spend 10-15 minutes and publish new photos everyday (if not possible, new photos every alternate day, if the response from readers is good)

Even before the formal launch of my blog, few readers, Ranjana, Sujata and UTP have written their comments already at this new blog. Probably they saw it through my blogger profile. Thanks to them.

Please consider linking to this blog. I’ll be happy to reciprocate.

The logic and motive behind a new blog:
  • I’ve been clicking too many photos of late-hundreds of them. Though as much as 50% of those clicks are eventually discarded, few are really good and will be worth sharing. Felt a dedicated blog would be of more value.
  • In near past I did dedicate some posts to photos in this blog. Most of the other cases I published slideshows. But the response was not encouraging-maybe it’s not a good idea to have a jack of all blog. Let me move photos elsewhere…
  • I don’t want to flood this main blog with photos. As I try to restrict the number of posts to max 15 per month, stuffing too much photos may seem odd and may dilute the quality of the blog.
  • I don’t want to lose traffic to flikr and other photo hosting sites. Also would like a better control over my photos. Blog seems best.
  • Maintaining a photo blog is relatively easy. Publishing a new post takes only few seconds to a minute of two, if internet connection is good. No time spent on typing long posts. Someone rightly said, a picture is worth thousand words.
  • Those readers who don’t have time/interest in reading my regular blog posts can subscribe to this photo blog and visit once in a while to have a look at some new and refreshing photos.
My other initiatives-Moneytalk India finance forum and Ad Critics blog aren’t going great, but not that bad either.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My new investment strategy!

This one is supposed to be a joke and you’re expected to laugh at the end. Implementation of this strategy at your own risk.

I’ve invested in some 40 odd companies (just a thousand or so each-no big amount, and my portfolio is in deep red now). As the financial year ended recently, few of these companies have sent dividend warrants to their esteemed customers like me. While I am wondering why other companies haven’t sent any dividend, most of them have sent me their annual reports, which are thick and heavy books explaining company's operations, profit and loses, assets and liabilities and so on…

I picked up couple of annual reports and searched for one specific information-“why no dividends have been sent?” Nowhere in that deep ocean of numbers and letters was this basic information to be found. With disappointment I looked at the pile of annual reports…and a damage control idea hit me. Tried to lift all those annual reports together and found the combined weight heavy enough. Next day when I heard old paper wala passing in front of my house, I called him and handed over all these annual reports. He looked at them with contempt and gracefully weighed them in his balance. When he gave me cash in exchange of these ‘old paper’ I realized that I have made more money by selling these annual reports than by means of dividends received.

So here’s my new renewed investment strategy for this financial year-Invest in companies which send big, thick and heavy annual reports. That way you’re returns increase. So along with crucial parameters like PE Ratio, 52 weeks high/low, profits and so on, I request companies to furnish one more parameter- the weight of their annual report. The way market is crashing, you can’t ask for a better strategy than this.

Now don’t laugh. Legend has it that it took a Dhirubai Ambani to realize that the value of silver used to mint the coin was far more than the face value of the coins. He started collecting coins, melt it and sell the silver. Rest is history.

An advice to companies: Why waste 30-40 Rs per copy to print annual reports and another 10-20 Rs on postage? Send pdf copies to those ok with it and share with investors the money saved.

Similar (investment related): My Early investment experiences * Me and SBI

Similar (ideas and advises): Selling cashew nuts on indigo planes

Monday, July 14, 2008

Startup Saturday @ IIM Bangalore

Met Prateek Dayal and Nithya Dayal last Saturday (12th July 2008). They have been successfully running Muziboo.com, a community website for those associated with music industry (singers, composers and such who would get an audience for their creation as well as feedback and growth potentials). Their site has completed one year recently and is doing well.

Went to IIMB with them where Startup Saturday meet was going on. It’s a whole new world out there. Most of them in the age band of 20-30, but their visiting cards read CEO/Director/Vice President/Managing Partner/Chairman of their respective companies-the fancy titles of which regular employees spend their entire career dreaming about. The conversations predominantly consisted of phrases like “When are you expecting to break even?”, “Know what? These guys just got a huge funding”, “I don’t think their revenue model is sustainable” “When are you planning to move out of beta?” “We’ve got a decent user base now” “yeah I did quit my job last month”, “no-we’re not looking for another round of funding” “how did your presentation to VCs go?” “attending proto this time?”, “imagine handling x million transactions every week!” “so you need someone as interns right?” “how are you planning to market it?”, “this startup was recently acquired by that MNC” and so on…

I felt like totally out of place in this community so kept my mouth shut for most of the time…

The TringMe.com team was giving demo when we entered the hall. Next Bharti Jacob, Managing Partner, Seedfund.in (the people who have funded RedBus.in, carwaale.com and few more India focused startups. RedBus.in has grown from just 10 tickets a day to 1000 tickets a day within 18 months) gave a talk as to what they look for in startups approaching them for funding. What she spoke was somewhat in sync with what Bikas Birai, CEO of iViz had spoken at webinnovation.in about “how to raise money from VCs

Here’re some key excerpts from Bharthi Jacob’s talk
  • Don’t boast about your technology-Just explain how you’re making life easier for your end user.
  • "We don’t like people having plan B and expect 100% commitment and involvement. Those who say “I’ll quit my job once I get the funds” are a NO NO."
  • Even we don’t keep plan B. If startups fail, we lose our money-we don’t have any way of recovering it.
  • "Team is our first consideration. We scrutinize the people involved for their credibility, commitment, enthu and other parameters."
  • "If we don’t see a practical exit from the investment we may have to turn you down"
  • "We don’t control the startups we invest in. Interfering in day to day business is not our task, but we do keep monitoring"
  • "We receive one or two funding requests every day"
  • "There’re cases where we rejected initially but entrepreneurs came to us after few months with improved plans and we’ve accepted"
  • "Our ideal expectation is about 10x return over a span of 5-7 years"
  • "Most of the decisions are taken on a case to case basis, hence it is difficult to outline generic guidelines"
(Note: Above points may not be 100% accurate-written based on whatever I could remember and recall)

IIMB also has an incubation centre for new startups and IIMB students offered their free consultancy services for startups requiring assistance in marketing, strategy and other high-funda terminologies. “they only give what they call “marketing plan” we only need to go to the field and get the work done” someone quipped.

Ankur Jain was circulating his plans of making a movie to highlight challenges faced by entrepreneurs. If you are one and have a story to tell, may be you should check his blog and get in touch with him: http://entrepreneurblues.blogspot.com/

I don’t have enough exposure and experience in the field of start-ups hence not able to add anything here. Lunch, served on Banana leaf at Krishna Café opposite IIMB campus was great, though slightly expensive at Rs.88
The Muziboo Radio
Muziboo.com: Get An Audience
Now don’t ask me if I am planning to start a company. No. At least, not in near foreseeable future.

Transaction Integrity & Money transfer scenes in movies

If you’re in the field of IT you must be familiar with the term Transaction Integrity, which is basically ensuring that an online activity is either 100% successful or completely declined. If that sounds confusing, here’s a simple example-you might have tried online money transfer-Supposed you are transferring Rs 10000 to a friend-have you ever faced a situation that only 5000 is transferred and rest 5000 is not? That can’t be. Its either entire 10000 is moved successfully or the transaction is declined and all 10k remains in your account. (Well, there’ll be cases where money is debited from one account but not credited to another account-such money gets moved to suspense account and will be returned to rightful owner after manual intervention)

Having said that, our banking systems are capable of transferring millions of rupees in fraction of a second. Whether it is Rs 100 or Rs 100 Crores, transaction happens at once, in one go, within a second.

So what?

In almost all movies which involve money transfers, what they show is something strangely different. They show a flash animation which shows a countdown of Money. Suppose the bad guy is looting $ 1 billion from a bank account, the animation starts with $ 1000,000,000 and counts downward all the way to $ 0 after few minutes(may be within which the hero is supposed to do something to stop this robbery) , followed by a big blinking text that transfer complete.

That looks funny to me.

Similar: Corporate Movie Review * Multiple Movie Reviews * Sevanti-sevanti Kannada movie review * watching news inside movies

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Kingfisher Experience!

For a moment, I froze.

I was watching the screen in front of me onboard Kingfisher flight from Chennai to Delhi on the evening of 4th of July. To my horror it indicated that the plane has crossed Delhi and was heading straight towards the Himalayas. “Oh My God, pilots must be sleeping” was my first thought. (The news of Air India Pilots sleeping while flying from Jaipur to Mumbai and heading towards GOA was still fresh in my mind)

Next moment, the screen showed the statistics- Altitude, speed, distance and more. I realized that the aircraft is not at a cruising altitude and speed is pretty low. So it couldn’t be auto pilot. Still, something is wrong…Mount Everest is some 29000 feet in height. Current altitude is too low-Himalaya is nearing-should I storm into the cockpit and pull that lever up? (I love driving remember? An aircraft is no exception. I’ve seen in movies how they pull that lever up just seconds before a possible head-on collision with mountains ahead). That lady told there’s a life jacket beneath the seat, which could be used in case of water evacuation-will it save me if I have to jump on a mountain covered with snow? Why are they not keeping parachutes? Even skiing accessories would have helped…

Nearest emergency exit is 2 rows ahead of me-when should I start initial approach of jumping out? No one else seem to be worried about the impending disaster. May be they’re just not aware. May be I should use the remaining time to make a quick video of me explaining what’s happened and send it to National Geographic-they can use it for their “Seconds before disaster” or “Air crash investigations” programs. Wait-how do I send the video to them? Damn, I don’t have GPRS on my cell-even if I had, not sure if we get signal at this altitude-I should have taken Reliance connection-no air, no water, no land, nowhere to escape, but total network… Unless I send across the video, it will be a futile exercise-it’s likely that my mobile will never be discovered…Wait-what’s that thing which stores all crucial information about aircraft? Yes-black box- maybe I can open the black box and keep my cell phone inside it, so that investigators will understand what happened…

It took 6 minutes to type above lines, but all the above thoughts crossed my mind in less than 6 seconds. Then came the cabin announcement-“Due to congestion in Delhi airport we’ve been asked to circle around and our landing will be delayed-we regret for the inconvenience”

Oops! To yeh baath hain, pehle kyo nahin bataya? My brain immediately shifted gears-From Survival instincts and business continuity to Process optimization.

The screen now showed that the aircraft has now turned right and flying above Meerut. I felt like telling the pilot this-"-“
आप फालतू मैं चक्कर काट रहे हो मैं यहाँ उत्तर भारत देखने ही तो आया हूँ आप ज़ारा ऐसा कीजिए, हवाई जहाज़ को झरा नीचे लेके जाइए -दिल्ली का कुतुब मीनार, पार्लीमेंट, लाल किला, आगरा का ताज महल जैसे देखने लायक चीझोन्को आसमान से ही दिखा दीजिए, इन सबको देखने के वास्ते मुझे नीचे उतारकर ट्राफ़िक मैं फसना ना पड़े हाँ, अपुन को मालूम हैं, आप ज़्यादा नीचे नहीं जा सकते, इसी लिए तो मैं १५x आप्टिकल झूम वाला केमेरा जो लाया हूँ दिल्ली, आगरा, जेपुर सब घूम के आराम से नीचे उतरेंगे -तब तक दिल्ली का हवाई अड्डा बिल्कुल खाली हो जाएगा" (Hindi for: Why are you wasting time and fuel unnecessarily circling around? I’ve come all the way to see north India only-why don’t you go to a lesser altitude and show us the places like Kutub Minar, Red fort, parliament and other significant places from air itself? I’ll be happy if you save me from the trouble of having to survive Delhi traffic jam to visit these places. I know you can’t get too close, but that is fine, I’ve a 15x optical zoom camera with me. Let’s see Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Mussoorie, hrishikesh, haridwar from up above and then leisurely land-Absolutely no problem)
Well, unfortunately my dream didn’t come true. Aircraft took half a circle and landed with a 30 min delay.

If this sounds as exaggeration, the Mussoorie express we travelled the same night (4th July) got derailed in Dehradoon station next morning, after we got out. (Some 5 bogies got derailed while the train was being moved to shed from station-there weren’t any passengers inside and no one was hurt-but that was pretty close)

Coming back to Kingfisher, Vijay Mallya has decided to discontinue the legendary Kingfisher Pouches and now they give the pen and earphones loose. That would have saved few rupees per passenger, amounting to few crores every year, but it is a bit disappointing to see that price pressure has led even King of Good times Vijay Mallya to compromise.

Also, all aircrafts give the mandatory demo of how to wear seatbelt and oxygen mask, besides other security measures. In my opinion, they should also give a demo of how to use various accessories and controls in and around the passenger. Lots of first time flyers these days who won’t have an idea as to how to push the seat back, how to turn on the overhead lamp, where to plug in that earphone or how to change channels (No one became frequent flyer without becoming first timer-so we can’t criticize first timers for not knowing things). Usually we don’t want to reveal that we don’t know anything and prefer to struggle with the controls ourselves, instead of asking a fellow passenger or cabin crew. If a demo is given for these activities, it would be really useful.

Also one more serious thought. 
Assume an aircraft is supposed to land at 5 PM. Don’t we have enough technology to predict the possible congestion at 5PM based on the details of other flights which are expected to land at the same time? If the airport is expected to be clogged at 5PM and a particular incoming aircraft will be expected to hover around for some time, is it not possible to predict it 30 min advance and convey the same to the specific aircraft? If we can tell the pilots at say 4.30PM that they may not able to land at 5PM but only by 5.20 PM, the speed of the aircraft can be reduced. They can fly slower and reach only by 5.20 PM. Flying slower will be more fuel efficient than flying few hundred kms extra. Wondering why can’t we do that.

Disclaimer: True incidents, narrated with slight exaggeration.

That’s it for now. Sing: Ulalalala ulle-o, Ulalalalla le-o
Similar: Selling cashew nuts on board Indigo * For cheapest air tickets book direct with airline *

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Can I sell cashew nuts inside Indigo Flight?

Disclaimer: This post explains a theoretical scenario wherein you can earn back the money you spent buying Indigo air ticket. Practical feasibility not known and reader discretion advised.

This thought was conceived when I was on Chennai-Mumbai Indigo flight 2 months ago, and perfected during Delhi-Chennai Indigo flight today. Like most of the low cost airlines, Indigo also sells food items to its passengers on board. I am only wishing that I be allowed to sell one particular item on their flight, so that I can you can earn more than what you spent on air ticket.

Ok. Without any further delay, let me come to the point. Of so many items they sell on board, ‘flavored’ cashew nut seems to be the most popular and tasty one. They sell a small packet of cashewnut for Rs 50. When I saw the packet, I was hoping it will be at least 50 gms. Only after I got one in my hands I realized that it is just 20 gms-I ended up paying 50 Rs for just 4-5 cashewnuts.

Last remembered, 100 gms of cashew nut was being sold at Rs 29 in my hometown in a kirana shop. (Some super markets in Chennai sell 50 gms for Rs 35). Now, my proposition is that I can sell better quality cashew nut, for lesser price, in higher quantity than what Indigo currently does. While Indigo sells 20 gms for Rs 50, I propose to sell 25 gms for Rs 40. Now, assuming I get a bulk purchase rate of Rs 250 per kg and other expenses of Rs 50 per kg, I can prepare 40 packets of 25gms out of 1kg at a cost of Rs 7.5 each. If I can sell them for Rs 40, I can earn Rs 32.5 per packet. Keeping a provision of Rs 2.5 for taxes, airhostess commission etc, I can earn Rs 30 per packet easily.

If I am allowed to sell them on board, on an average at least 100 passengers would buy one packet each, and I can earn a profit of Rs 3000 in one round, which is almost at par with the ticket fare for short haul destinations (Chennai-Mumbai/Bangalore-Hyderabad and such) For longer flights like Chennai-Delhi that lasts over 2.5 hours, maybe I can go for second round and sell 200 packets, earning 6000 Rs which is a decent profit above the current Indigo airfare of 5400 Rs for the journey.

Now that I’ve given the business idea, go ahead and give it a try. Let me know if you succeed.

Hello Indigo…Are you listening? I want to sell cashew nut on board your flights-please permit! (I've dropped the URL of this post as a feedback at their website-waiting to see what happens!)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Kerala/Vizag trip plans-Open Invitation


----Note: This post is redundant now----------------


After reading my Mysore Self drive post, few readers expressed interest that they would like to consider joining me in future trips, if found feasible. In this post I am sharing some plans, let me know if you’re interested.

What are your plans for Aug 15, 16 and 17? 3 days of leave. (iDay followed by weekend) I have drafted some plans but am doubtful if they will materialize as some participants are showing signs of pulling out. In this post, I’m presenting an outline of those plans and would like to know if you wish to consider joining.


Plan A: Munnar and Alleppey, Kerala

Munnar is 600 kms from Chennai and Alleppey is another 200 kms from Munnar. There is a blogcamp happening in Alleppey (Alappuzha) on 16th August, sponsored by Kerala Tourism.(Details on this blogcamp)) God's Own Country is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in India and the Blogcamp being held there inspired me to make serious considerations of using this as an excuse to visit Kerala. (I'd travelled through Kerala several time to go to my hometown near Mangalore and I've visited few places like Guruvayur, Bekal fort etc. But haven't visited the best ones-Munnar and Alleppey yet)

Trip Plan A1: Rent a car on self drive
Tentative Itinerary:
14th August evening: Start from Chennai towards Munnar, Reach Munnar by 15th Morning, refresh in an economic hotel/homestay.
15th Aug: Visit places around Munnar, leave for Alleppey by late evening (say 11 PM), Reach Alleppey on 16th Aug morning-refreshments.
16th Aug: Attend blogcamp in the houseboat, travelling in backwaters of kerala
17th Aug: Visit other places (like Kumarakom) around and leave towards Chennai

Approx expense: Rent: Rs 10000, Fuel Rs 5000, Hotel, Food others: Rs 3000= Rs 18000, Rs 4000-5000 per person
(Related: Shrinidhi's complete guide to self drive car rentals in India)

Trip Plan A2: Travel to Alleppey by train and back
All trains are already booked full and we’ll have to rely heavily on Tatkal tickets for this. Leave Chennai 14th night, reach alleppey on 15th Morning 11 AM, Return on 17th. Expense will be around 2000-2500 per person or even less.

Trip Plan A3: Fly to Cochin, Rent a vehicle for other movements
This will be most expensive option. Rs 4500 per person on airfare alone, Rs 1500 other expenses. 


Plan B: Vizag
Vizag is a beautiful place in coastal AP and is famous for ship building. Araku valley, Bora caves, Submarine Museum, Ramakrishna Beach, Hrishikonda are few of the popular tourist places in Vizag (Vishakapattanam). Vizag is some 820 kms from Chennai, 1000 kms from Bangalore and 650 kms from Hyderabad. 2-3 days will be ideal time to cover most of the places in and around Vizag

Trip Plan: B1 (Chennai Vizag and back by train, hotel stay and local site seeing by rented cab)
Tentative Itinerary:
Departure: 14th August night from Chennai by Howra Mail, Reach Vizag by 1 PM, 15th Aug, Check in, cover Museum, Hrishikonda, parasailing, Ramakrishna Beach etc on day 1
Day 2, 16th Aug: Araku Valley and Bora caves
Day 3: 17th Aug: Dolphin Nose, Simhachalam and other places, departure by 2 PM Howra Chennai Mail


Approx expense: Train: Rs 800 per person , Hotel: Rs 1500 per person for 2 days, Cab & others: Rs 1200 per person: total: Rs 3500 per person

Status: We’ve confirmed tickets for 3 passengers. One is likely to pull out. To ensure minimum fun and be economical, trip will be executed subject to min 3 people.

Benefits: Train journey is more comfortable and economical than road journey.

Risk factors: Train tickets may not be available for those who show interest late. (Tatkal is there though)

Trip Plan B2 (Rent a car on self drive-drive all the way to Vizag)
This would be very expensive than option A1 and 820 kms will be bit too high to cover on road at one stretch. We’ll be spending 2 days on driving alone and participants will have to apply leave on 18th Aug. Still can be considered.

Tentative Itinerary:
15th August, early morning: Start journey, Reach Vizag by late evening (13-14 hours of journey under ideal conditions)
16th, 17th: Local site seeing covering places listed above
18th Aug: Return Journey

Benefits: Greater flexibility on timing, planning and execution. Extra fun for those who enjoy driving
Risks: Vehicle breakdown, getting lost and other risk factors.

Approx expense: Ford Fiesta/Honda City on self drive from Avis would cost about Rs 10000 for 4 days. Expected fuel expense for 2000 kms: Rs 5000, Food, hotel and other expenses Rs 5000: Total: Rs 20000. Rs 4000 per person if it is 5 member team or Rs 5000 per person if it is only 4 members.

Trip Plan B3: Fly to Vizag, local site seeing by rented cab
There is a morning flight to Vizag and airfare may cost upto Rs 4500 one way. Total expense may come upto 12000 per person

Please note:
  • If you’re from a city other than Chennai-say Bangalore or Hyderabad, you may either chose to come to destination directly or come to Chennai and join us
  • We can have combination of A2 and A3 or B1 and B3-i.e few travelling by train and few who are willing to spend can fly and join others at the destination.
  • We’re looking for min. of one more person and max of 3 more (Taking total to min 3, max 5, for A2,A3, B1 and B3. For A1 and B2, min passengers would be 4). Trip will be confirmed subject to min reqd participants . In an unlikely event of more than 5 people showing interest, we’ll have to rework on logistics.
  • If you’re confirming your participation, you might be asked to make some advance payments towards reservations and other preparations. Depending on cancellation policies of respective hotels/rental agencies and other parameters, this amount may or may not be returned in full if you decide to pull out later. So don’t confirm unless you’re sure about joining.
  • This is being planned on a no profit no loss basis. Costs indicated are indicative only and actual expense incurred may vary. All expenses (excluding personal ones) will be shared equally among participants. Excluding for options A3 and B3, every attempt will be made to ensure that per head expenditure doesn’t exceed Rs 5000 but possibility of it exceeding that amount is not ruled out.
  • Feel free to spread the word or invite your friends
  • Right of admission reserved.
  • Self drive will be more economical than chauffer drive for 4-5 passengers-A TATA Sumo would cost Rs 9 per km=Rs 18000 + driver batta for a 2000 kms drive
  • Feel free to give your suggestions. We’re flexible enough to consider changes in itinerary/plans if found beneficial
If you’re interested or have some questions, pls send a mail to admin at enidhi.net giving following details: Name, Contact Number, Email, City and your preferred option (A1/A2/A3/B1/B2/B3) I'll get back to by 12th July. Thanks in advance.

Related posts: Club Mahindra's Coorg Trip for Travel Bloggers * Trekking at Anantagiri * Skandagiri Betta, Bengalooru * 

Lazy 2 read?-Just listen-Let me read out my posts 4 u

If you’re lazy to read my posts, I can read out my posts for you.

The new widget you see below (or on top right sidebar) will readout the contents of the post, so that you can turn on the speakers, listen to my posts while doing some other activity-say working out or ironing or cooking or just lying on the bed.

If you're unable to see anything below, flash player (or the lack of it) might be the culprit



Basically it is a text to speech conversion utility. The accent is decent enough and the utility works just fine, with over 95% accuracy. It skips Indian language texts and struggles a bit while pronouncing Indian names. (It calls me Shrinidhi 'Hand' not 'Hande') Also you won't know if there's an image/hyperlink. Otherwise it is just too good.

Saw this in Nikhil's blog and instantly realized that this was what I was hunting for all these days. This utility is from blogbard.com. (Founded by Manoj B) You can create one for your blog or just login with Google credential and it can readout any feed in your Google reader.

It doesn't allow saving the speech as mp3. If that was provided one could copy the file into ipod or other mp3 players and listen at their conveinence. Right now you'll need an iTunes account for that.

So now on, no more complaining "too busy to visit your blog". Don't strain your eyes anymore. Let your ears takeover.

Give your feedback: Is this useful to you? Or too busy to listen as well?

Similar: Mobile version of this blog: http://m.enidhi.net/

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Onewebday, bloggers meet and other updates

This post shares information about some events and other miscellaneous updates

Direct Jump:
Onewebday * Enguru Kannada bloggers' Meet * BlogCamp kerala * Other Updates

One web day

Has internet changed your life? Did being active online made you achieve/secure/experience something which you couldn’t have accomplished offline? In case you have some strong story to tell explaining how internet made a difference in your life (or your community or someone you know closely), try sending your entry to
OnewebDay.org. They have a contest (contest details) running wherein entries are solicited from people around the world on the topic just mentioned and top 100 entries will be featured during Sep 22, 2008, when the organizers are organizing “One web day” and also in One Web Day Journal. This one web day is a recently started concept- more about it in Wikipedia

ಬಾ ಗುರು! ಕಾಫಿ ಕುಡಿಯೋಣ!!
Enguru Banavasi Balaga, A kannada community is holding a coffee meet for its readers, this Sunday, 6th July. Attend it if possible.
ಎಲ್ಲಿ?: ಬಿ.ಎಂ.ಶ್ರೀ ಕಲಾ ಭವನ, 3ನೇ ಮುಖ್ಯರಸ್ತೆ, ನರಸಿಂಹರಾಜ ಬಡಾವಣೆ, ಬಸವನ ಗುಡಿ, ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು 560019

ಯಾವತ್ತು? : 2008ರ ಜುಲೈ 6ನೇ ತಾರೀಕಿನ ಭಾನುವಾರದಂದು

ಯಾವಾಗ? : ಬೆಳಗ್ಗೆ 10.00ರಿಂದ 12.00ರ ವರೆಗೆ

more details:
http://enguru.blogspot.com/2008/06/blog-post_22.html


Bloggers’ meet on a house boat.
I guess it is first of its kind in the world. Bloggers’ meet on a moving houseboat. Kerala tourism is sponsoring a unique barcamp in God’s own Country. A set of 100 odd invited bloggers would spend a day in a big houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala. Kenney Jacob and other volunteers are coordinating the event. If you’re interested, register here :
http://www.contactvirus.com/blogcampkerala. (shared key: Godsowncountry) 

The date is Aug 16th (Saturday) and location is Alleppey (Alappuzzha) Kerala. (Participation and lunch free, courtesy Kerala tourism, but no sponsors for travel and stay expenses of outstation visitors yet) Photos of the houseboat and other details here

I’m missing several meets of late. There was a meet in Bangalore this June 8th hosted by Kannadasahitya.com, but I was away held up in Mysore watching Yakshagana by Saligrama Makkala Mela in Infosys Campus. The same day evening Chennai Bloggers meet was held at a hotel in T Nagar, Chennai, but I was few hundred kms away, driving back home in a Skoda Octavia. A Wicamp was scheduled in Wipro Campus Chennai, but this was held on a Friday afternoon and I had other priorities at work. Have to see if I can make it to this Houseboat meet. Will be missing the enguru meet as well, as I’ll be somewhere in North India at that time. Manipal bloggers’ meet and a Kannada bloggers’ meet arranged by Pranati were the one I could attend during recent past.

Other updates:
Received a mail wherein someone thought I am really Chief Blogging Officer of my company and asked me for a job! Wish I was an entrepreneur and could hire that person…Had to say sorry, but forwarded to few contacts for possible considerations

Receiving several mails of late, asking me to link/visit certain blogs/sites or requesting me to blog about certain things-Gives a feeling that you’ve grown a bit popular…Will do justice to such requests to the extent I can, but some had to be rejected. Sorry folks.

Few fellow bloggers,
Raveesh and Shande celebrated their blog anniversary recently. Best wishes to them. Some of my readers- Manoj Bhat (who is also a contributor at my Adcritics Blog), JOJO, Rohit, Alok B have launched their own blog recently. Welcoming them to the world of blogging and wishing them all the best.

Also have a look at my Blogroll/Link Love section. Have added lots of links in near past. Have a missed anyone else? Bring to my notice-will try to cover in next round up. Some more people have said they will start writing their thoughts down or sending their writings to me for a review etc-yet to see them in action. 

There’s a major update to my iMint cards post-please spend a moment and read it.

That’s all folks.