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Saturday, March 25, 2017

One night at Hyatt Andaz New Delhi Aerocity!

We spent a night at Hyatt Andaz Aerocity, New Delhi for the new Tata Tigor media event. This post shares my quick note about the hotel. I won’t call it detailed review, because my stay was too short and thus the experience is limited.


Most of us got the cheaper rooms with Pool view. I guess premium rooms are on the opposite side, with runway view.

Good things
1. Great attempt to create unique experiences within limited space and resources. Modern facilities but with some attempt to harmonize with culture. The pens look great but are not very practical. Bath fittings are of unique design.

2. Modern coffee making machines are great to have but Indian guests are usually not used to it and will take time to understand (or may totally avoid using it).If you've been to luxury hotels abroad you can easily operate it.
3.Bathroom had a bench to sit. Very different experience to sit and shower
4. Eco friendly- no plastic water bottles
5. Lots of charging points in the room
6. Extensive breakfast options. I liked the cycle cart with fruits and tender coconut on them. Though coconuts were little overripe, better to have it than not having it at all. Since it is unlimited breakfast,I was entitled to empty all of them, but I resisted myself.

Spacious lobby, ballroom and common areas:
Hyatt Andaz has lots of open space, sitting facilities and live tea counters near the ball room. Even when you don't have a room, you can relax comfortably in these common areas for a few hours, till it is time for your flight, or in case you arrive much earlier than your check-in time or if you're here purely to attend an event. Bookshelf is well stocked, interiors are very photogenic.

Possible Improvements
1. Many were uncomfortable with pure western style toilets
2. The weighing scale in the bathroom didn’t seem to be calibrated- It showed my weight between 155-175 kg on multiple attempts, which is twice my real weight.  The scale was a pure digital and relatively expensive model but I couldn’t locate the reset button. (I spent only a minute or two)

3.I had to call housekeeping at the middle of the night as one of my memory card adapter slid under the bed. I could neither reach under the bed, nor move it around.
4.The TV in my room was not customized with my name (in other rooms it was)
5. The static view of the pool is not much fun. Runway view will be much nicer in my opinion.

Unfortunately we spent very little time in the campus- check in was at 6 PM, check out at 5.30 AM and we had few more hours in the afternoon in common area. Hope to explore more in future.

Andaz is very close to both T3 and T1 and competes for customers with few other high profile hotels in the same area- JW Marriot, Pullman etc. Target customers seem to be business executives transiting via Delhi looking for some rest.

Similar: Park Hyatt Resort and Spa, Goa * Radisson Blu Greater Noida

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Upgrade to New Tigor Styleback from Tata Motors!

It was in the news for a while that a compact sedan version of Tiago is on the cards. Originally code named as Kite, the suspense that lasted for over an year recently ended, with Tata Motors displaying Tigor at Geneva Motor show 2017. I had the privilege of being part of an exclusive media drive and preview offered by Tata Motors to select bloggers and journalists. This post shares my finding about the new Tata Tigor and feedback after driving it for half a day.

More than just “Tiago with a boot”
Tigor is more than just Tiago with a boot. Most manufacturers when launching compact sedans do not make any mechanical changes other than adding a boot to the hatchback. The wheelbase, suspension, engine options are often left unchanged. W.r.t Tigor, there’s more than what meets the eye.

What Tigor gets over and above Tiago?
  • Interiors: Tigor gets a climate control, rear seat middle armrest and touchscreen system inside.
  • Exteriors: Boot with 390 litres space (150 litres more than Tiago), New headlamp assembly, Stylish LED lamps in the rear, chrome inserts, bigger diamond cut alloy wheels. 
  • Structural: Longer wheel base (2450 mm, 50 more than Tiago), body 30 mm wider than Tiago, better dual path suspension. Minor enhancements in Petrol variant to reduce noise levels. 
Of course lots of body panels are shared with Tiago, so is the engine options. This is obviously to achieve economy of scale.
Tigor’s target customers
As per Vivek B Srivatsa, Tigor is targeted at owners of an existing small car who are looking to upgrade. These customers are well aware of the shortcomings in their current cars and will be keen to have some premium features, without having to shell out lots of money. Customers in this segment have lots of expectation from their cars- they want their machines to be an all-rounders- be good in city and highway, stylish, economic to run and maintain and the car that can represent their personality. But they are also budget constrained.

Upgrade options for such customers are typically either a compact sedan or a premium hatch. The compact sedan market (a segment pioneered by Tata Motors with Indigo) is highly crowded with at least half a dozen contenders- Dzire, Ameo, Amaze, Aspire, Xcent and so on. They all look like a boot force fitted on to the corresponding hatchbacks and fail to stand out on their own. Buying them won't turn heads. Premium hatchbacks (i20, Baleno, Polo cross etc) on the other hand usually offer some more interior features, fancy exteriors and may be bit more power but do not add much advantages over the hatch in terms of space and practicality. While customers are spoilt for choice, there is good chance of winning more hearts if the product is stylish, reliable, feature rich and yet affordable. That is what Tata Motors is looking to achieve from the new Tigor Styleback.

The Styleback
Tata Motors is presenting Tigor as a stylish car, which is apparent from its byline- Styleback. It is stylish indeed. While front is same as Tiago, on the rear the view is stunning. The boot doesn’t protrude much from the C pillar but don’t let that deceive your eyes. The Tigor’s wheel base is longer than Tiagos by 50mm and it creates more roominess in second row as well as in the boot. Rear tail lamps smoothly curve into side profile, extending the appeal to the side. On top of the rear windshield, the red LED lamps add to style statement. Tigor is the 3rd car from Tata's new IMPACT design philosophy- the other 2 being Tiago and Hexa.

Notice how the display car was positioned at the 1AQ in New Delhi- focus is on the rear, which offers a seamlessly integrating boot.
Key features of Tata Tigor
Interior: Climate Control, Touchscreen with navigation and rear camera, Juke app (lets all passengers queue their songs instead of fighting for control). 24 smart utility storages- to keep toll receipts, coins, water bottles and so on, rear seat middle arm rest, driver seat height adjustment, tilt adjustment for steering. Steering unit is EPAS (Electric Power Adjusted Steering). Interior is dual tone colour with body colour inserts on air vents, patterned seats with bolsters, premium knitted roofliner and more. Second row seat extends door to door- offering maximum support and enabling easy ingress and egress (entry and exit).

Harman made 8 speaker units (4 speakers + 4 tweeters) is perfect for music freaks. Instrument cluster tells you which exact door is open, has all the info you need- avg fuel economy, instantaneous fuel economy and a dozen more.


Tigor is 30 mm wider than Tiago. Doesn't sound like a big number, but when the car is loaded with passengers, every mm makes the difference in comfort.

Exterior: New headlamp assembly with projector lamps, chrome insert on the side,

Stylish rear boot with 390 litre space is the highlight of Tigor- best in class and fully usable. (Most sedans are fitted with goose-neck hinges that occupy their own space when folded- you need to keep the bag in centre only, keeping space free for the hinge to operate. In Tigor, a 4 bar mechanical + pneumatic hinge is positioned on the extreme side of the boot, without coming in the way of your bags. You will get entire 420 litres of space at your disposal. Very clever thinking and implementation. Even 10 lakh+ sedans have the same old goose-neck hinge.
420 litres or 390 litres? I read and heard the space as 420 litres, but official product spec shared with us mention bootspace as 390 litres, hence I am going with that number.

A beautifully sculpted rear profile is sure to turn heads. Rear lamps are visible from the side as well. Chrome stripe from left to right feels like an inspiration from Jaguar XF. (It was there on Zest also, but lot more prominent in Tigor)

The Wheels
Diamond cut alloy wheels look stunning- standard offering on XZ petrol. Diesel top-end had traditional white alloy wheels. An inch bigger than Tiago (175/60 R15 for Tigor vs R14 in Tiago). Surprisingly ground clearance number remains same for both Tiago and Tigor at 170mm.
The Drive and Handling of new Tata Tigor:


We had the unique opportunity to drive this car for about half a day, 100 kms around Delhi. Tigor has same engines from Tiago- the 1.2 litre Revotron Petrol and a 1.05 litre Revotorq diesel producing 85PS and 70 PS respectively from their 3 cylinders. We began with diesel and then switched to petrol for the return trip. Petrol version is reportedly improved a bit to reduce NVH levels, diesel is largely unchanged. Now the car comes with better suspension, giving more confidence during the drive- particularly sharp turns and bad roads.

I had two nice ladies in my team- Divyakshi Gupta and Stuti. While I focused on the drive, they explored all the features the Tigor had to offer. We tried the navigation, music systems, touchscreen and more. I drove straight to the destination- Heritage Transport Museum. I feel I should have stopped at more places for photos. Do check their blogs for their review of the Tigor Experience.

Above picture from Divsi's camera, below 3 photos courtesy Stuti Shrimali

During the limited time and opportunities I had, I checked out the car as much as possible. Tried sharp turns on the U turns at high speed, tried acceleration and braking, drove on a rocky parking lot. I couldn't find anything to complain about. This is keeping in mind car's category and peers.

Fuel Economy: Not announced yet, we couldn't test it properly during our drive, except relying on what onboard computer says. But largely expect it to be at par with Tiago (Surprisingly, Tigor is only 12 kg more heavier than Tiago)

The concerns/Points to be noted:
The main concern I have with the car is non availability of safety features in cheaper variants. In Tiago, ABS and Airbags are available only in most expensive XZ variant. Based on my conversation with Tata Motors staff, same is likely to continue for Tigor. if NCAP crash test gives poor rating to Tigor, it will be a PR nightmare. Cheaper variants- even mid variants are not likely to get ABS + ESP and Airbag. I was told that most customers often ask for cheaper car without these safety feature, which is the main reason for not offering them on most variants. Many of the competition- such as Xcent, Aspire, Ameo offer ABS as standard across all variants. Many even have driver air bag as standard or at least optional.  If there is a demand or if regulation mandates it, Tata Motors is fully prepared to respond immediately. [Note: Variant wise specifications are not available yet- above is a prediction, we'll know for sure on 29th]

Tigor Petrol is almost at par with its competition in terms of power. But diesel is not the most powerful car among its peers. But then Tigor is aimed more that cost conscious customers. Expect Tigor's pricing to be a lakh or two cheaper than corresponding competition variants- this would make up for any shortfalls.

No AMT version is planned at launch time. Expect it to be offered few months later.

Tata Tigor Price:
Not known yet, will be announced on 29th March. Expect Tigor to be about 50k more expensive than corresponding Tiago variant and undercut most of the competition. (Approx 4.4 lakhs to 6.5 lakhs ex-showroom Delhi)

Summary:
Tata Tigor Key strengths: Stylish rear and spacious boot, interior features (Climate control, navigation, rear camera, Juke App etc), likely aggressive pricing.
Limitations: Missing safety features such as ABS in cheaper variants (Only XZ gets them), diesel has slightly less power than its peers.

Overall it is a nice package by Tata Motors, offering right combination of style, features, space and driving experience, at affordable price. I wish all the success for the new Tigor Styleback. Do not miss to check it out at the Tata Motors showroom near you.

Coming up next: Tata Tigor's comparison with competition and my guesswork on Tigor's pricing.

Similar: Tiago Review
Indian Bloggers

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Book: 'A Glance at the Unknown' by Sangeeta Sumesh

A glance at the unknown” is a new book by Sangeeta Shankaran Sumesh. I had met the author only once before, during Budget Travel Unconference and known her as an avid traveler and a high profile corporate executive. Recently I noticed the announcement of her first book online and was keen to read it. My curiosity grew even further when I learnt that this book is an outcome of the book writing workshop held by Kiruba Shankar. Usually attending workshops do not result in immediate outcomes or benefits-not because the workshop was bad, mainly because participants get busy with their daily life and never get time to adapt the learning from the workshop or put their plan into action. But after Kiruba’s workshop, many participants did complete their book and publish it- speaks a volume about the effectiveness of the workshop and its curator.

Back to the book, from its title (A glance at the unknown) its genre was not very clear, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With blank expectations, I started reading the book.

First thing I liked about the narration is its usage of simple English. Occasionally authors try to show off using complex words and sentences, trying to demonstrate their command over language. This book is written in very simple language. Throughout the 165+ pages, I found just about 2-3 words that I didn’t understand. As I started reading, first 4 chapters had four different tracks, so for a moment I wondered if it is heading into a super complex plot. But from chapter 4 onwards the dots begin to connect and story comes together.
The plot begins in cities but soon moves to the forest and tribal people. Core of the story seems to be about spirituality, finding answer to life’s problem and the right step forward. It is interesting to see how every situation can have totally different point of view or another side of the story. I have only given some pointers to help you decide if the genre is to your liking. You may please buy and read the book for full story.

Personally I didn’t like the idea of crimes of one birth getting punished in next birth or the idea that we shouldn’t bother punishing the culprits as god will take care of it in their future births or that you are suffering in this birth because you did something bad in your previous birth. A girl who was raped and killed in the first chapter- in the end it was explained the she was son of village chief in previous birth and had raped many women in previous birth. As a punishment she was raped in current birth, by guys who were her victims in previous birth. This is indirect way of saying all the idea of law and order, courts etc are not required. It would have been lot simpler if each birth and death begins and ends with a clean slate. But then, while it feels like unfair, in some remote probability it could be true also- given that many culprits never get punished in their lifetime, we can only hope that they rot in hell and get punished in next birth. Also this was a smart way to take the story to a conclusion.

'A Glance at the unknown' offers lots of adventure and suspense along with a fair bit of spiritual gyan, little bit of romance and other things. Even if you don't believe in god/spirituality, do read the book- it gives some rationale explanation to life crisis we often undergo (tough marriages, failure in business/work etc). You may connect with the author through her FB page. I wish all the success to the book.

Key details:
  • Title: A Glance at the unknown
  • Author: Sangeeta Shankaran Sumesh
  • Publisher: NotionPress Chennai
  • Pages: 169
  • MRP: 199 (Available on Amazon- paperback and kindle- link)
  • ISBN13: 9781946822024
  • Release: March 2017
Read my other book reviews here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tender Coconut around the world: My findings!

This post was long overdue. To share my findings about tender coconut in various countries I visited

Of the 22 countries I have visited so far, about 10 of them had availability of tender coconut for sale. Quick summary in below table, detailed notes after that.
  • Cheapest country abroad for tender coconut (in prorated INR terms): Srilanka (INR 25 onwards)
  • Most innovative country selling tender coconut and its variants: The Philippines (Flavored, toppings etc- Details in the bottom)
  • Country that seem to be exporting coconuts extensively- Thailand (Found them in Macau, Australia, Singapore)
  • Countries where Tender coconut is available but very hard to find: Australia
  • Countries where finding tender coconut is extremely easy: Thailand, Srilanka
#
Country
Cities
Ease of finding
Cost (Local currency
Cost (INR)
Remarks
1
Australia
Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney
Difficult
6.5 AUD
325
Select super markets only. They won’t cut it open to let us eat the meat inside
2
India
Several
Easy in South, Difficult in North
Rs 5 to 50
5 to 50
Available for Rs 5 in Kolkata (very small ones). Good ones cost between INR 30 to 50 in most South Indian cities

Available online, powder and tetrapacks
3
Indonesia
Bali
Easy
7000 to 25000 IDR
42 to 150
Expensive near tourist places, cheaper elsewhere. Huge in size, lots of water.

Tetrapacks available for 11-15000 IDR
4
Macau
Macau
Difficult
25 to 45 MOP
250 t0 450
Available in supermarkets for about 25 MOP, take away only. Available in some grocery shops for 20-25 MOP, availble in Galaxy Macau for 45 MOP
5
Malaysia
KL, Melaca
Very easy
3 to 5 MYR
60 to 100
Check snowball version here
6
Maldives
Male
Easy
6 to 7 MVR
25 to 30

7
Philippines
Manila, Cebu, Palawan
Medium
25-30 PHP
50 INR
Easy to find in islands. Coconut milkshake, flavoured variants available
8
Singapore
Singapore
Medium
2.5 SGD to 4 SGD
120-200 INR
Cheapest around Mustafa centre, available mainly in Little India area, hard to find elsewhere
9
Srilanka
Colombo, Male, Kandy
Very easy
50 LKR
25 INR

10
Thailand
Several
Very easy
40 baht onwards
70-80 INR
160 baht in 5 star resort
At following countries I couldn't find tender coconut during my visit
Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden,
Switzerland and USA

Hong Kong and USA I feel I didn't search enough. It is possible that they have but I couldn't locate the right shop. Other countries- All of them in northern Europe, didn't have any availability of tender coconuts in supermarkets, malls or on the street.

Some special mentions
1 The Philippines
Philippines seem to have lots to offer w.r.t to tender coconut. They are known locally as Bukos. Besides selling them by the roadside like in India, I found that they sell it as milkshake and also offer flavored versions and toppings. Price is reasonable, finding one is easier in islands of Palawan, Cebu but difficult in Manila

Below are photos an exclusive coconut shop inside a mall in Cebu, Philippines. Tender coconut is served in several flavors, sizes and with toppings, for reasonable price (35 PHP onwards)



2 India
I don't have to explain much. Tender coconut is available throughout the year in most south Indian cities, price ranges between Rs 30 to 50 in most cases. I have seen roadside vendors selling super small size coconuts for Rs 5 and 7 in Kolkata. Few vendors in Pondy were selling decent size one for Rs 15. Cheaper in Karnataka but expensive in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Past few years have been great for coconut. People are realizing side effects of aerated drinks and slowly moving away from colas. Read news that Coca Cola is planning to launch its tender coconut drink in India. Here’s a news about Coconut cafes (dedicated shops selling coconut in flavors and associated products) coming up adjacent to highway in Karnataka

Now tender coconut is available online as well (Read detailed experience here). Tender coconut is also available in powder form- just add water and consume. Many startups have been focusing on tender coconut door delivery etc. Best wishes to them.

I found coconut in North India too- Jodhpur in particular- but in general very hard to find in most of north India.
3 Indonesia (Bali)
Found one even before I reached my hotel from airport. Stopped on the way at a local and drank a big coconut for 10000 Rupaiah. Next day, near Tanha Lot when I was quoted 15000 to 25000 IDR, I instantly knew they were trying to charge a premium because of tourist location. Managed to find smaller stores away from tourist spots and drink lots of tender coconut at reasonable prices. Taste was not as good as India ones-Few were tasting very bland but that’s the risk one has to take. No sure shot way to predict the taste.

4 Thailand
Thailand has plenty of coconut supply- sold by the roadside like in India. They also export it to several countries around the world, partially chopped and wrapped well in plastic. I found Thai tender coconuts for sale in Macau, Australia and Singapore, price increased by 2-3 times. Thai vendors use spoon in most cases- I showed few vendors that they can chop a side of the coconut and use it as spoon. Taste is usually good. My 2012 post has more details on Thai tender coconuts.

5 Srilanka
The tiny island nation has great source of coconut trees. Many villagers sell tender coconut at very reasonable price- about 50 LKR in most cases. What I liked about them is that they don’t quote higher price just because you got down from a car. Multiple variants- red, green, brown etc are available, size and taste very similar to India

6 Maldives
Found few shops during my early morning walk. Locally grown, very similar to India

No, that Scoopy is not rented by me.

7 Macau
I wasn't expecting to find coconut in Macau, but I did. A supermarket in Taipa was selling coconuts, but only as a takeaway, for around 22 MOP (INR 200 approx). I didn't have any sickle to cut it open so couldn't buy that. These coconuts were imported from Thailand.

Later found a grocery shop that sold tender coconut-after drinking the water took it to the guy for cutting- he wasn't prepared for that. With my gestures explained him that I really really want him to cut it open- finally he obliged. Few other customers who were waiting at the billing counter were cooperative to my request that took extra time from the staff
Resorts like Galaxy Macau do sell tender coconuts in their restaurants, but for twice the price (42 MOP) and with branding (see photo below)
8. Malaysia
Malaysia like Thailand has good supply of tender coconut. Little difficult to find one in heart of KL city, but available easily near most tourist spots like Batu caves, Melaka etc. I was smitten by this snowball version. Watch video below, details here.
9. Australia- available in some supermarkets/malls, not on streets

10 Singapore- available in little India area, around Mustafa centre. Cheapest around Mustafa centre

Europe- I have been to 10 countries in Europe so far and haven’t managed to find coconut anywhere. There are media reports of Indian coconuts getting exported to Europe- may be It was to UK. It is also possible that I didn't search enough. Most of my trips were short ones over the weekend

Additional notes:
There're lots of things to observe in tender coconut than just drinking it
1 How it is cut open
In Thailand and in some part of Philippines standard practice is to make four incision in square shape to gain entry to the core and drink using a straw.

In India, Srilanka, Malaysia, Maldives standard practice is to chop off the top portion till water is accessible. If the vendor is not careful enough, some water spills out in this process.

However I also saw in Palawan that few vendors quickly drill a hole good enough to insert a straw and serve it. We also have devices that can drill a hole into tender coconut- read my 9 year old post on that- but it usually works on really really tender coconuts and not ripe ones.

2 Eating the inside meat
Only roadside vendors are very comfortable to cut the coconut in half and let you eat the inside meat. Most malls and supermarkets that sell coconut are not equipped to serve you the inside. After paying massive 6.5 AUD (INR 350) in a Melbourne mall, I had to discard the coconut shell without eating the inside contents.

3 Inside volume: 
External size doesn't always hint at volume inside. Tender coconuts in Philippines and Bali are both huge in size and also have lots of water inside. The wall is fairly thin like you see in photo below
In many other parts of the world a large size coconut may have really small shell inside and a smaller looking one may have much more water. Very hard to predict.

4 Parcel:
Indian vendors have good way of attaching two coconuts together. I haven't tried taking coconut as parcel abroad, so not very familiar how clever they are in tying a knot between two coconuts and enabling easy transport.

5 Presentation
Most roadside vendors just dump them on the ground. In Bali, many shops have this customized stands on which they present a few coconuts and maintain rest of the stock inside. In supermarkets usually well dressed versions are maintained (top portion chopped off, wrapped in plastic and some branding)

Many shops in Thailand and Malaysia maintain a few inside refrigerator/cooler.

Worldwide people are realizing health benefits of coconut and it is gaining its due importance. Its advantages are many and undisputed. Do share your thoughts and comments.
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