Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Seal Show at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Seal show is one of the many staged animal shows at Taronga Zoo, Sydney. I witnessed it during my visit and thoroughly enjoyed it. Besides entertaining the audience, show also makes an effort to educate audience on various specialties of seals and dangers faced by them in the ocean.

During the show, each seal is guided by its trainer. First to appear in front of us was Pepper, a Californian sea lion who was relocated from a zoo in Europe (Holand). Pepper is relatively young, full of energy and quick to learn.

Above: Seal standing on its fin carrying entire body weight, and saying 'hi' with a fin!

Below- A seal demonstrates getting entangled in an abandoned net- the show urges people not to throw waste stuff into ocean, as they can take life of marine animals.

 Seals swimming around, performing stunts, splashing water on audience on command.
 Seal with its mouth wide open.

 The main attraction of the show was seals jumping up in air and kissing the pots hung from ceiling.
 A volunteer was sought and this little girl stepped forward- she got an opportunity to pet the seal.
 The stage
Audience were urged to by sea food carrying MSC label. MSC stands for Marine Stewardship Council and it works with fisheries, restaurants etc to ensure that sea food has come from sustainable means
Overall, it was an entertaining+educational show to watch at Taronga. I also made a short video, but I couldn't focus on both photos and videos simultaneously, standing among the crowd. Watch it below.

More posts on Taronga coming soon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Coming Soon-10 different taxes on Bloggers!

Looks like the government is all set to tax the online users-particularly bloggers. Read news here and here. While details of this new tax is yet to be disclosed fully, eNidhi India spies in the government have unearthed secret files listing all potential taxes that will be unleashed on the bloggers in near future. Read it and embrace yourself… (Warning- for now it is pure work of fiction, but soon these may be a reality, don't tell me I didn't warn you!)
1. Visitor tax
Traffic is money baby… if you are getting lots of visitors, then you must be super rich and you will be taxed. Depending on number of visitors your bloggers get, a part will be taken away by the government. 
  • If you have up to 3 lakh visitors per year, you should redirect 10% of visitors to various government websites
  • If you have between 3 lakh to 10 lakh visitors, you should redirect 20% of them to government websites that nobody wants to visit
  • If you have more than 10 lakh visitors per year, you need to force 30% of them away to government websites
Note that above traffic diversion must be done at source- i.e. first you should divert visitors to govt websites and once tax % is met, then you can have visitors stay at your page. Half way through next financial year, if you can prove that you have sent more visitors to govt sites than you are required to, then you can file for a refund, which govt will consider, if possible… (If at all their sites get some traffic, few might be sent to your blog)

Standard deduction applicable on posts written for social causes, pension fund investments and other government approved topics.

2. Flipkart voucher tax
If you ever get a flipkart voucher, remember it is taxable. Say you get a voucher of value 1500 Rs, you need to buy something for Rs 150 for a government office near you, rest you can buy something for yourself.

3. Product review tax
If you get a product for review- like a mobile phone, you should give it to a government babu first for a few days before you can use it yourself and review.

4. Hyperlink tax
For every link you are giving to external sites, one link should be given to government websites

5. Comment tax
For every 10 comment you get, you should go and write one comment on government blogs- positive comments only-else it won't count.

6. FAM tax
If you are going on FAM trips, you should ensure that 20% each is reserved for SC/ST/OBC/Jatt/Patels etc, else you should take them at your own expense. (Don't ask me what % will be left for General- I didn't make these rules)

7. Sponsored post tax
For each sponsored post you take up, you will publish one post hailing one of the government schemes and its advantages, begin with a post on this new “tax-the-hell-out-of-bloggers” scheme!

8. Travel-in-India Tax
Each time you go out to an exotic foreign location and write about it, you should find closest Indian city/attraction similar to it and write about it, to encourage Travel-Within-India scheme. For example, if you visit and blog about Grand Canyon in US, you should also write about Gandikota in AP, if you visit Great Ocean Road in Australia, you should also write about East Coast Road in TN, if you write about mountains in Switzerland, you should mandatorily write about Himalayas and so on...

9. Influencer tax
You can’t change TV channel at home but you walk around online claiming yourself an influencer? Achtung!- taxman is watching you: You should be able to exercise your influence and enroll more and more bloggers to Give-it-all-up – where 100% of your blogging revenue will be taken by the government, 50% will be retained as tax and rest will be paid to you after 2 months. You will be forced to lead by example! (P.S. This scheme is voluntary in the beginning, if not enough bloggers give up their income, then this will be made mandatory soon)

10. Top Blogger tax
Each time some random, unknown website lists you as top blogger, Additional 10% top blogger cess is applicable to you on all above taxes. Read eNidhi India list of top sites listing top blogger.

While in principle it is fine to impose a tax on cash income generated through blogging, that should be imposed on the net income after deducting all expenses related to blogging- such as domain and hosting expenses, internet and mobile bills, travel expense to blogger meets, money spent on camera, travel, food etc (depending on each blogger’s area of specialization etc). This way blog can be treated as a SME (Small and Medium Enterprise). Else taxing is unjustified.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Menara Taming Sari-View World heritage site Melaka from top!

Menara Taming Sari is a revolving tower at Melaka (also referred to as Malacca) city, Malaysia. Myself and friend Sivakanth decided to try it out.

Menara Taming Sari had an entry ticket of MYR 20 per person, includes a small goodie bag containing water bottles and light snacks. Had to wait in queue for about 15 minutes for our turn.

I was hoping the ride would last 20-30 min, but it got over in about 7-8 minutes flat. I took one round of pics with Nikon kit lens, one more round with 300mm, another with GoPro and wanted to take few more with mobile but we were down already :(  ... There were binoculars next to each seat but no time to use them... What to do! Anyway some good pictures of Melaka town, a UNESCO world heritage city, is shared below...

And Some GoPro views

The views were certainly worth the ride. Do NOT miss the snowball tender coconut near the entrance of Menara Taming Sari.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Real Discounts at Viveks Great WareHouse Sale, Chennai

Indian Bloggers
Viveks is a reputed chain of consumer durable goods in South India- Tamil Nadu to be precise. Vivek's was started in 1965 by B A Lakshminarayana Setty with a capital of Rs 10000, selling electrical goods and chairs. The name Viveks is inspired by Swami Vivekananda. From a small store in Chennai's Mylapore back then, today Viveks group has a revenue of 500 Crores annually,  from 50+ stores in TN and Karnataka. This phenomenal growth has happened organically over time, with internal accruals and occasional bank loans and with regular profits, unlike today's startups which expand rapidly burning investor's money and running on a flawed model where profits are ignored in favor of valuations.
Viveks' is currently running a mega discount sale,called Viveks Giant Warehouse Sale, where customers can walk into Vivek's large warehouse in Manapakkam and pickup goods at a much larger discount.  Myself and a dozen other bloggers and influencers from Chennai were invited to be part of this event and we got a chance to interact with the top management of Viveks. While primary objective was to get visibility for the giant warehouse sale, we got an opportunity to ask questions to Vivek's management and learn lots of valuable insights about the consumer goods and retail business. 
Core team member Vishal and CEO Srinivasan interacted with us and shared lots of interesting stuff. Srinivasan appeared to be traditional home bred entreprenur who was very accomodative to our questions and gave clear honest answers without any business jargons. He shared customer response to Vivek's new year sale, how a night of bad sleep convinces customers to buy an AC, how consumer electronics are now a necessity, not a luxury and have become very affordable. Below are the questions I asked Vivek's CEO Mr. Srinivasan and his answers

Q1: How was your growth funded? Do you have external investors?
A: We have expanded through internal accruals and bank loans. No external investors

Q2: How is online e-tailers affecting your business? Do you have customers demanding that you match online rates?
A: Yes, they (online) are affecting the business. Online shopping is convenient, 24x7 and cheaper, so yes, it affects offline stores. However, their model is fundamentally flawed- a huge part of funding is used to discount the items to be sold below cost price for a loss, in the name of customer acquisition- this model can't go on forever and certainly we can't operate like that. We (physical stores) offer better touch and feel, personal attention to customer's need and can ensure better overall experience than online. We do get smartphone trotting customers who expect us to match online rates, we often try to explain why we can't sell at that rate. We are able to give value to our customers and survive and grow.

Viveks does have a presence on online market place and is selling online as well. Srinivasan joked that he can probably put up his goods for sale on e-commerce sites and buy back at much lower price!

Q3: Branded retail stores like yours have high overhead, thus higher rates. There're many small scale mom and pop shops selling consumer goods for a lower price than branded chains. Should you not be able to match their rates because you buy in larger volumes?
A: I hope you have compared exact model. Yes, small shops have less overhead and occasionally they might be able to sell for lower at times, probably because they have to meet some immediate payment needs to banks/suppliers etc and out of compulsion might sell for less profit or no profit if you can pay in cash instantly. We will not be able operate like that.

Q4: Tell us about your private labels
A: Private Lables make sense when we can offer same quality of a reputed brand at lower price points. We started with few lower value goods like electric ions and now have TVs and other high end goods. They are doing pretty well. (TV Panels are sourced from LG)

Q5: Tell us about your home service
While most electronic goods are plug and play, few like Air Conditioner, Washing machine need additional plumbing/carpentry or other maintenance activity. It is very difficult to get hold of a reliable carpenter/electrician/plumber these days and get some coordinated quality work done from them. Vivek home serve unit brings various maintenance services required to run a house- plumbing, carpenter etc under one roof and gives our customers a reliable and quality service when our customers need it.

Other bloggers also asked lots of questions
Q6: Are these flood affected goods?
A: No. We were indeed affected by floods. But we had insurance cover, so we could recover the loss- the process is still on. We had proposals that we sell flood affected goods for a discount, but such a sale could have compromised the trust bestowed in our brand, so we opted out of it. All goods sold now are fresh stock.

Q7: Do we get same kind of delivery, warranty and other services like in regular store when we buy at warehouse sale? What is delivery time?
Yes, all goods bought at warehouse sale gets free delivery, installation etc as one would get in store. Usually we deliver 95%+ orders within 24 hours, only a small % might take few more days depending on stock, delivery location and other aspects. Every night a dedicated team works to sort out the orders received that day and their delivery to different parts of the city.

After a round of Q&A we went on a walking tour of the warehouse where we could see the sale in action. Warehouse is a huge area and showcases over a lakh units from 1000+ brands and 100 + models/items under each category/brand. No individual showroom will be able to showcase this much options and consumers can see most versatile range and options to chose from.

Televisions- some models are discounted as much as 50%

CEO in Action
Air Conditioners: I could notice an average 10% discount compared to retail shop prices
We next moved to neighboring warehouse, each one the size of an aircraft hanger. Here washing machines and refrigerators were on display. 

We took a group photo here. Srinivasan also explained how consumer sentiments have changed- earlier buying on loan/credit was an event of shame- customers felt ashamed if a post card reminding of payment due or a collection guys cycle is to be spotted near their homes. Today buying on credit has become a norm- if one doesn't have a credit card he/she feels he/she is not worth enough.
Discounts on refrigerators and washing machines were about 3-9%

Next we moved to the other building that housed less expensive items- fans, water filters, coolers, induction cookers and so on.

The Great Warehouse sale by Viveks is ON for public till tomorrow. On Monday, 28th it will be open for B2B customers.

Back in conference room, we had some refreshments and some more Q&A
I asked what happens to units displayed (demo units)- we are told that depending on the arrangement between the brand and retailer they will be taken care of (usually refurbished)

I asked if it will be worth buying the extended warranty- quick answer was Yes.

Asked if they plan to run this kind of sale frequently, answer was that they can't afford to do this more than once an year.

On being asked about Metro Cash and Carry, Srinivasan said it might work out for small shop owner who buys say 10-20 fans, but doesn't work out for him as he can buy 1000s of fans directly from manufacturer.

On being asked about Portable AC, Srinivasan echoed my earlier findings (details in this post)

I asked if Viveks showrooms are franchisees- Srinivasan told that most stores are COCO- Company Owned and Company Operated. They do get inquiries from prospects for franchisee model, but that is not immediate focus for the company.

Also learnt that Viveks has an experience centre in T-Nagar where customers can experience cooling and features of various AC models (all showrooms usually only display non-functional indoor unit- you can't experience its cooling effort or other features)

With their proven track record, assets and revenues, Viveks can easily raise several millions and expand its network with hundreds of outlets, but management is not looking for such aggressive growth. They would grow but in slow and steady way, without compromising on profitability and quality of service. Best wishes to Viveks for their long term success.

Key details about the Viveks Great Warehouse sale:
Date: March 25th to 27th for public, March 28th for B2B (Schools, colleges, offices, corporates etc)
Venue: Viveks Manapakkam Warehouse, 2/850, Mugulivakkam Main Road, Manapakkam, Chennai 600125. (Behind DLF)
Timing: 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Contact: 044-42131616

Points to note: 
  • Free delivery is usually only for high value/large size goods like AC, Refrigerator, Washing Machine etc. If you are planning buy medium size items like water purifier, small size TVs and other goods, you should be able to arrange your own transportation (will be difficult to carry them on two wheeler- car will be required), else a delivery charge may apply.
  • Do not get distracted by signage near Chennai Trade Centre. Viveks warehouse is further ahead
  • Discounts range from few rupees to as high as 50% for some select brands/items.
Was nice meeting other bloggers during the event. Overall saturday morning was well spent. Viveks is active on facebook and twitter as Vivek India. Do follow them. Their online website is

Also read- Air Conditioner purchase experience