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Why owning a second car doesn’t really make much sense …

The title of my post says it all… Before we start, there are some assumptions to this statement.

The assumptions are as follows:

  1. Your are living in a Tier 1 / Tier 2 city in India which has decent Uber / Radio Cab connectivity (Have heard good things about Meru as well See Update 2 below).
  2. You use your car as much as an average person does – say about an hour or so a day.

Let’s pull out our calculators for this one…

Step 1: Determining the cost of ownership of a car in India

  1. Some used or new car (average make): Rs. 5,30,000.00 (A). This, again, depends on what kind of car you are looking for.
  2. Lifetime of a car: 7 years (pretty decent estimate)
  3. Fuel expenses (considering diesel without inflation): Rs. 2,000 per month (on the lower side)

    Cost over 7 years: Rs. 1,68,000.00 (B)
  4. Car Auto Coverage Insurance (considering Rs. 10k avg per year): Rs. 70,000.00 (C)
  5. Car Maintenance / Servicing: (Rs. 10k avg per year): Rs. 70,000.00 (D)
  6. Change of tyres (twice in 7 years @ Rs. 3,500 per tyre): Rs. 28,000.00 (E)

Let’s add all this up: Rs. 8,66,000.00 (T = A+B+C+D+E)

Cost of owning this car / day over 7 years: T / (365 x 7) = Rs. 338.94 per day.

Please note that these are fairly conservative estimates. The cost here will be somewhat higher due to:

  1. Rise in the cost of fuel over the years.
  2. Not considering the amount you may need to pay for parking in your society (going rate in Pune is 1.5L – 2.5L per spot)
  3. Not considering the loan that you probably need to take to buy a car @ 15% pa. (you will end up paying an additional 2L interest over a 7 year loan period).
  4. You may not want to get an average car but a more expensive one. (Add the difference in costs accordingly.)

(Adding these expenses will take up the cost of your car to about: 8.66L + 1.5L parking + 42K fuel inflation @ Rs. 500 extra pm + 2L for loan = Rs. 12.58L or Rs. 492 per day over 7 years)

What this means is that everyday your car is sitting in your garage, you are wasting Rs. 340.00 – Rs. 492.00 per day.

I am going to consider the case in which you need a second car for your spouse to go to work.

(My office is around 8 km from home and hence my fuel costs are Rs. 2k per month approximately. If it were further, fuel costs would go up accordingly)

Also, most folks I know – use their second car even more sparingly than this particular use case.

Step 2: Let us consider the alternative: Uber / Ola Cabs / Meru / Other Radio Cab Services (See Update 2)



This is what I would pay one way to travel from my house to work.

Uber - Pune 2014-10-08 00-02-17


So: Rs. 120 one way. Rs. 240 both ways per day.

Assuming that I don’t need to use my car to travel on the weekends (Sat, Sun) my expense turns out to be:

  1. Per week: Rs. 240 x 5 = Rs. 1,200.00 (W)
  2. Over 7 years: W x 52 weeks x 7 = Rs. 4,36,800.00
  3. Cost of travel per day (over these 7 years): Rs. 170 per day

    i.e. I will be saving 340 – 170 = Rs. 170 per day just by not buying a car and using Uber instead.

In addition to this, the benefits of Uber / Similar services (over driving your own car are):

  1. You don’t have to drive a car.
  2. You get a nice, air conditioned, chauffeur driven mini-sedan (UberX has Sedans).
  3. No worries of filling up fuel, getting your car insured every year, PUC, serviced and maintenance.
  4. No more driving around for hours – looking for parking.
  5. No worries about someone hitting / denting / scratching your car while driving / parking.
  6. You can use your travel time to catch up on that extra level of Candy Crush instead of cursing those taxi and rickshaw drivers.
  7. With a little pre-planning, you can use your other single car between yourself and your spouse in most occasions. Saving on money and the environment by carpooling.
  8. The extremely satisfying feeling that you get when you press a virtual button on your phone and a car magically appears in front of your door cannot be beat. The magic of technology!
  9. Let someone else worry about getting you through that rush hour traffic – while you sit comfortably behind playing Candy Crush.
  10. Did I mention you don’t have to drive a car anymore?

Isn’t this all worth it? Not only do you save 170 bucks a day (Rs. 62,000.00 per year), you pay only when you travel. So if your travel needs are more infrequent – say for example, you need a second car only 2 – 3 days a week, your costs will come down even further – to about 80 – 100 bucks a day (or 60-70% cheaper than owning a car).

Step 3: So what is the hold up?

Sigh… There always is a catch isn’t it?

In this case, there are a couple of them:

  1. Uber isn’t as widely available as I would like it to be – and this will still be in only Tier 1 / 2 cities for sometime.

    Most of the times, it takes me between 10-15 mins on an average to get a cab (after pressing a button on my phone).

    Depending on your address in Pune, it could take you longer (20-25m). So a little pre-planning is required. However for the popular areas (camp / Viman Nagar / Kalyani Nagar / Koregaon Park / Aundh / Station / Airport / etc. – cabs arrive in between 5 – 8 mins which is not bad at all).
  2. You would be dependent on public transport / rickshaws – incase Uber cars are not available tomorrow.

    So you cannot depend on them a 100% yet – but with a little pre-planning, you can get around it.

In the end, I believe it is a lifestyle choice – something that we are very interested in trying. The economies make sense and the convenience makes so much more sense. If only the service grows and has enough drivers – then we’ll be talking.

Step 4: Get your first ride free – on me – worth upto Rs. 300.00

Just because you have read this post so far, your first Uber ride is on me. The coupon for the Rs. 300 off is: ubersaurabhj

Download the App on your phone (search Uber on the App Store, Google Play Store or Windows Phone Store), sign up (most debit cards and all credit cards work), hit Menu > Promotion and enter this coupon.

Update 01 – 08-Oct-2014

Gaurav pointed me to two interesting resources related to my blog post:

  1. An interesting discussion on hacker news.
  2. A blog written by Sam Altman (in SF) with an excel sheet having the same thoughts as me.

Update 02 – 08-Oct-2014

I have added Meru as a viable option in my posts assuming their rates are at par with Uber. But I was quite surprised to see them substantially expensive. In Pune for example, their minimum base fare is 200 bucks compared to UberX’s 90 bucks. Also their price per km is 20 vs UberX’s 12. That won’t hold up to my earlier calculations.

Disclaimer:

This post may seem that it has been sponsored by Uber – but that isn’t the case. The level of service and convenience that these guys offer is giving us the first glimpses of “Transport as a service” – which we haven’t seen so far. A service which allows you to summon a ride at the push of a button gives you the ability to dream about getting rid of that vehicle you rarely use anyways and use your hard earned money smarter.


We are actually very serious about selling our second car and converting to Uber – so if you see any flaw in my plans / calculations, please leave me a comment so that I can rethink! Thanks 🙂

What happens if Flipkart Fails?

(Image courtesy Samrat Mazumdar)
Pritika and I were sitting at Marz O Rin today evening – biting into the delicious vegetable sandwiches and cheese burgers and discussing how a package that I ordered Monday morning from Flipkart, was sitting inside my car by Tuesday afternoon. Even though we have had a weird relationship, I am impressed – even today by the speed at which they deliver stuff – and the ease with which you can shop with them.(Our latest purchase needed to be returned due to a missing accessory. More on that experience in a later post)
The discussion moved onto how Flipkart was doing financially – and it is no surprise that they are literally burning through money.
They have raised a total of $540M till date and have about 5,000 employees. They are still to post a profit (breaking even will happen after a long time).
Online retail is such a business and even Amazon took 6-7 years before they posted a profit.
We started wondering what would happen if Flipkart shuts down…
Can it even happen? Will their investors let it?
I mean, things like this don’t happen immediately. Things slowly stop – categories start disappearing and eventually the news is announced.
Flipkart shutting down will actually be a huge blow to e-commerce in India. In Tier 1 and 2 cities at least, Flipkart is synonymous with online shopping.
They have actually brought online commerce to the masses in India and made people feel safer while typing in their credit card numbers in a website.
When Flipkart was raising its earlier rounds, every Tom, Dick, Harry (and their uncles) were starting e-commerce sites right, left and center.
Most of them have gone under.
It is really heartening to see every other e-commerce site – even the unknown seller on eBay – to come up to Flipkart’s level.
I have bought stuff from a dozen, different e-commerce websites – even sites with bad designs and broken code – but they always delivered.
I, for one, hope that Flipkart hasn’t bitten more than it can chew – which can happen with a company growing this fast.
It would be really sad to see them go as they are probably the closest we have to seeing a major win in the Indian Startup space.
What I think
If Flipkart shuts down, it will be a slight inconvenience to many people – but I feel that Flipkart has already done all the hard work in making us cynical Indians – open to online shopping. With Flipkart gone, people will just turn to other folks in the market – the eBays and Amazons and Infibeams for their online shopping fixes.
I feel, it will be a bigger loss to the Indian startup scene than the Indian eCommerce scene.
What do you think will happen if Flipkart shuts down?
Will it affect future e-commerce in India? Have they done all the hard work (in converting customers) for Amazon to swoop in and pitch their flag?
External Links:

  1. An interesting Forbes India article from a year ago.
  2. Sachin Bansal’s interesting reply to the article.
  3. Flipkart Staff Exodus
  4. The Amazon of India is — Amazon (added on 25-Oct-2014)

Why I am with Tata Sky …

So, I have had a Tata Sky connection for 2 years now.
I have signed up with their Annual Mega pack – which I pay annually for their entire plethora of channels.
The reason why I signed up with the Annual Mega pack (though it is on the higher side) is:

  1. They promise that any new channel they add – will be added to my account for free in that year.
  2. There is no service fee charged for any technician visit.

Recently, Tata Sky announced the launch of a new HD channel – Star World Premier – which broadcasts the latest seasons of the most popular shows from the US.
So, when I surfed to the channel, I got a message asking me to pay Rs. 60 per month to be able to watch it.
I called up their customer service number to complain – but the agent told me that the Annual Mega pack was not eligible for this channel. In frustration, I sent out the following email to their nodal officer for Maharashtra [01]:

Dear madam / sir,
I would formally like to give in writing – my complaint regarding non availability of the StarPremiere HD Channel to Annual Mega Pack subscribers free of cost as promised during the enrollment period.
My account number is: XXXX
I have been an annual Mega Pack HD Subscriber for the last 2 years and also have multiple connections for multiple households (mine and my parents).

When I purchased the expensive Mega Pack for Rs. 6,500, I was assured that any new channels added to Tata Sky (except Topper) will automatically be made available to me free of charge.
However, today – Sep 27, 2013 at 8:40pm when I spoke to the Tata Sky representative over phone, I was informed that I would still have to pay for the Star Premiere HD channel.

I find this extremely unethical and something not expected of a Tata Enterprise.

I am completely fine with the charges of my subscription being revised from next year – but this year – as per the agreement, we should have the channel added to our subscription free of cost.
Awaiting your reply on the same.

Thank you.
Regards,
Saurabh Jain

I received this reply the next morning:

Dear Mr.Jain,

Greetings from Tata Sky!

This is with reference to your email dated 27th September addressed to our Nodal Office, expressing your concern over the Star World HD premiere not being part of Mega pack.

We understand and appreciate your concern. However, please allow us to explain the reason.

Firstly, may i take this opportunity to inform you that Star World Premiere HD is the first channel launched under the category of Tata Sky Specials . This is a first in the industry as well as for Tata Sky customers. With this Channel, you will be able to watch the latest bigger shows at the same time as American Subscribers. As a premium special service, it is the only channel that has 26 new and returning shows. We do plan to add more premium services like this in the near future.

Furthermore, our Annual subscription proposition had recently been revised. Our valued subscribers were accordingly informed that going forward this subscription package will EXCLUDE any Specials . In other words, Premium Special channels like Star World HD premiere will require a separate subscription. This was applicable to all the renewals post February 2013.

At the time of your renewal on 19/02/2013, you would have received the communication from us. I am reproducing the relevant clause here for your reference which is also updated on our website (www.tatasky.com):

** Any new SD channel (non Special ) introduced on Tata Sky will be available as part of your Mega Pack

** Mega packs doesn t include specials* w.e.f 1st Feb 2013

May I also take this opportunity to reiterate that this never- before Special is available to you at a very special Annual price of only Rs.500 pa( Just Rs.60 pm ).

We hope you will enjoy our Specials and look forward to the renewal of your Tata Sky subscription.

Assuring the best of our services at all times,

Warm Regards,
Nodal Officer

On reading this, I checked their terms of service – and they had indeed updated it. However, I sent the following reply the next day:

Dear Madam / Sir,
Thank you for replying quickly. I appreciate your response.
Thank you for also pointing me to the change in clauses.
However, there are two things which really scare me as a subscriber:
1. You will agree with me when I say that Tata Sky has the least number of HD channels out of all satellite channel services in India. I have waited two years and no new HD channel has been added. On the other hand, you have killed channels like BBC entertainment without giving any prior notice.
2. When you decide to add a new HD channel, what is keeping you from adding it as a special?
I feel that paying the high mega pack is a complete waste and I honestly feel a little foolish now.
Thus, I feel – that like every other major corporation in the country, you are screwing over your most loyal subscribers. (pardon my French)
Next year, when my account comes up for renewal, I’ll be thinking on these issues and really wonder if I need a cable subscription at all.
I anyways pay $14 per month for a Netflix and Hulu subscription for entertainment on demand and any other missing TV shows are easily available via other means.
While I appreciate you having a conversation with me, I am hurt of being mistreated on a technicality.
You have lost yourselves a loyal fan.
I hope you forward this email to the management committee in charge of making decisions on inclusion and exclusion of channels – so that they may have my feedback.
Sincerely,
Saurabh Jain

This was sent on a Sunday.
Today (Thursday), I received a phone call from them which was something like this:

Dear sir,

We generally don’t do this – but as an exception, we would like to offer you the Start World Premier channel free of cost for the remainder of this year’s subscription.

Thank you.

I came home, turned on the TV and it was active.
Faith restored [02][03].
Notes:
01:
I am not generally the one to channel surf on my TV and I’d hardly miss the Premier channel – but I decided to take it up with them as a matter of principle.
02:
Many people will argue that I should have gotten the channel in the first place itself.
I would agree that Tata Sky is within rights – as I must have ticked that checkbox accepting Terms & Conditions while renewing my subscription online. I will also agree – that had this been the US, they would have given me the channel free after the first email / call to the customer rep. However, this is not the US – and it is heartening to see that my email was forwarded and action taken.
03:
A tip of the hat to two people – my dad and Mayank Tripathi for actively influencing me to shoot emails to companies with issues. I have written hundreds of emails and more often than not – have been pleasantly surprised by the response.
Update:
Sai shared the following in the comments: http://www.scribd.com/doc/175044246/Tata-Sky-sued-for-misleading-subscribers-Amount-could-be-1650-Crores
Though I like Tata Sky and feel that they are better than the likes of DishTv and reliance, I still think they deserve this. They had done this once with BBC entertainment and we were very disappointed.

How to get the Kindle Lending Library to work in India

I have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime account – which lets me access their Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.
However, I could never see this – and I have spent quite sometime trying to figure this out and thought I’d share the info here so it can save you sometime.
What is the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library you ask?
Amazon basically opens up more than 400,000 books for you to borrow for free from its library – once a month.
So 12 books in a year. You can return the book after reading to borrow another one in a calendar month.
Currently, the quality of books is a little lacking with most publishers staying out of this – so you are not missing much if you don’t have a Prime account.
However, if you do have a prime account and cannot see the Lending Library on your device, read on.
Note:
To be able to access the library and borrow books, you need to be on a Kindle device.
Apps on phones will not work. A loop-hole by which you can see the library on your browser is listed here. However, to actually borrow the book, you will need your Kindle device.
Step 01 (if you are on your browser):

  1. Go to this link.
  2. Make sure your country is set to the United States.
  3. Go to Step 02.

Step 01 (if you are on your kindle):
I have a Kindle Paper Keyboard – but this should work on other models as well.

  1. From Kindle Home, go to Menu > Shop in Kindle Store
  2. Once in the Store View, go to Menu > Store Settings
  3. You will find an option to change your country to United States.

Step 02 – You need your device for this

  1. From Kindle Home > Go to Menu > Settings
  2. Once in Settings > Go to Menu > Restart Kindle
  3. Wait for the Kindle to Restart

Once the Kindle restarts, the library will be accessible to you.
To Access the Library from your device:

  1. Go to Menu > Shop in Kindle Store
  2. On the top of this page, you will see a link for “All Categories”
  3. Hover over that and click it.
  4. At the bottom, you will notice a link for “Kindle Owner’s Lending Library”
  5. From this page – or any generic search that you perform, if the result has a PRIME logo next to it, that book will be available for borrowing.
  6. Just click on the link and select the second button which says: “Borrow from Lending Library”
  7. You are good to go!

Other links:
Amazon’s help page explaining how to borrow and return books.

Take a Logo Quiz with your Friends

Though this post could be considered to be a shameless plug, truth be told, it is not. 🙂

If you own an android or apple smart phone, you would have definitely played one or another flavour of a Logo Quiz game. You know those games in which you see one logo after another of various brands – altered in some manner, and you have to guess which brand that is?

Games like these are perfect for battling it out with your friends – short, quick, 30 second bursts to see who amongst you is the most observant when it comes down to brands around you.

And that’s what we have been working on for the past month.

Presenting: Logo Quiz Friends which is now ready for prime time.

Logo Quiz Friends


Would love for you to download the app and try it out and let me know how you like it.

The iOS version can be found here: http://bit.ly/logoquizapp

And the android version here:

http://bit.ly/LogoQuizGame

Challenge me: My username is: saurabhj84

The iPhone vs Windows Phone 8 vs Android Phones

Disclaimer:

I work for a company which primarily makes iOS apps and games – and as such I own and use an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2.

I have owned, used and loved a Windows Phone 7.5 (Samsung Omnia) for some months before I switched to a company issued iPhone 4S.

Note 2:

This is not going to be a technical comparison / flame war kind of a post. The intention of this post is to highlight the ideologies of the three mobile platforms – and how I “feel” the future will shape up. So if you are here looking to see tech and feature specs, you will be disappointed. However, this post may still help you to buy a handset that would suit your personality.

Okay, now with that out of the way, lets get started.

If you would allow me a bit of a leeway and let me compare these three platforms to children, then the behaviour of these kids and their quirks are heavily influenced by their parents – viz. Apple, Microsoft, Android/Google.

If you read about these company and their founders, you will soon realise that the company policies and mission statements are in turn, heavily influenced by the thoughts and beliefs of the people who founded them: viz. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Larry-Sergey respectively.

Hence, eventually, the way these platforms are designed – are in some ways, influenced by the beliefs and principles of the founders of those companies. And if you think about it, it becomes very apparent.

Lets take a look at each of these platforms individually now …

1. The Apple iPhone

To me, the Apple philosophy can be broken down into two statements:

  1. We are artists and we build works of art.

    This is a no-brainer really – with the amount of time and resources spent on making products beautiful – you definitely cannot contest this point.
  2. The common person on the street is dumb does not know what he/she wants and we know better.

    Many things in the iPhone – viz. not able to change batteries, using special screws so that people cannot open their phones, having draconian control over what people install on their devices (via the appstore), etc. all are evidence supporting this thought process.

Interestingly, both these statements are made (in some capacity) by Steve Jobs at one or the other time in his life (according to his autobiography). And if you look at the iPhone, it holds true to both these principles.

  1. It is a beautifully designed electronic device.
  2. It simply works! (except when it doesn’t)
  3. If there is a limitation to feature, etc. – you have to live with it unless you jailbreak your device.
  4. Specs, etc. are never disclosed (because most people don’t / wouldn’t care)
  5. It is a premium product – hence super expensive to own.

So if you are a kind of person who truly appreciates beautifully crafted products and are willing to pay a substantial premium over it, don’t really care about the technicalities as long as the thing works, and importantly have the money to own an iPhone, then the iPhone is for you. Smartphones break when people don’t take good care of them, if you need to repair your smartphone contact iphone repair from I Fix Phones. However, this also puts you in the lot with those people who just have a lot of money and want to buy the most expensive phone on the market without caring about anything else. (I’m sure you know the types!)

It is NOT a power user phone. (hence the very bloody feud between iPhone and Android users).

And like I mentioned, if something doesn’t work – you just have to live with it till Apple fixes it in the next version.

But hey! You get to flaunt an iPhone!

Why is the iPhone so popular?

Statistically speaking, it isn’t. However, the iPhone was one of the first platforms which offered developers a semblance of a decent development environment to develop apps in (even though I feel it is dated by today’s standards). Hence the rich marketplace for iPhone apps today.

They made it easier to build and publish apps on their platform and invested in the entire app store verification process which substantially improved the quality of the apps available. Mind you, this is at a time when we had the horror of developing Symbian apps. There was ofcourse Java also – but J2ME app development was equally painful and distribution was zilch.

In the end, the tone of the following video very clearly defines what the iPhone is all about.

2. The Windows Phone

The Windows Phone 7x OS is the newest operating system on the block, and considered to be the most reliable by up time metrics – compared to both the iOS and Android.

Windows has been a mobile player since a very long time, but frankly, all their previous attempts sucked. They were smart to realise that continuing with the Windows 6x legacy platform would get them nowhere and they went almost back to the drawing board to give us Windows Phone 7 & 8 OS.

They have taken quite a radical approach and have gone tangential to what both the iOS and Android are attempting with their Metro based UI. Whether this will work for them, only time will tell – but its a brave new approach.

 

If you look at most Microsoft software objectively, you will find that:

  1. Though bloated, most of them are intuitive and fairly easy to use.
  2. Microsoft draws a fine line between being the big brother (Apple) and opening up completely (Android).
  3. They might not make the most beautiful software / hardware – or the most advanced of devices, but most of the times, you can get your stuff done using their products.
  4. They are extremely developer friendly and go out of their way to make it easier for devs to develop on their platform.

    (Win Phone 8 supports apps made using HTML5 + JS natively compared to Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android).

Having said all this, their UI does take sometime to get used to (it took me a whole day) – but once you understand how it works, it is super productive and for me, I felt like someone designed a phone just for me! Your mileage may vary though …

If you are the type of person who likes the platform & apps to be flexible to her own needs (instead of the other way around) – without going to the other extreme of being completely open and transparent (you don’t care about that) – then you’ll love a Windows Phone.

This ad, I feel, captures the essence of A Windows phone perfectly and in the time that I used the phone, I found the ad to be 100% true.

3. Android Phones

Finally, we come to the most popular platform of them all (currently). Understanding the Android platform requires an understanding of Google’s philosophy (even though Android was bought and not created at Google). Don’t be evil.

If you take a look at Google’s history, they have always been staunch supporters of the “open” philosophy and having as few restrictions as possible in everything (to put it abstractly). This clearly reflects in the Android platform.

What are some of the quirks of the Android platform you ask?

  1. The operating system is given for free with the code to all manufacturers who want it.
  2. Google has no restriction on the specifications of the device or the screen size of the device. Hence, Android phones are available on the cheap end as well as the most expensive end of the spectrum.
  3. Manufacturers can modify the code anyway they feel fit.
  4. The primary store for Android Apps – Google Play – does not do any verification on the app submissions (as far as I know).

As there are very few restrictions on developing apps, developers have the maximum freedom in developing for this platform. They can write apps which can do cool system level stuff which other platforms restrict.

However, this comes with a price:

  1. As every manufacturer can do whatever they please, the Android experience is not consistent between handsets. A Sony handset may look completely different compared to a Samsung one.
  2. As there is no verification and checking, the App Store has tonnes of crappy apps and apps that you’d better avoid.

    Google displays all permissions that the app requires clearly to the user (which Apple doesn’t) – but then users need to understand the technical jargon which comes with it. Caveat Emptor.
  3. As manufacturers modify the operating system, updates to the Android operating system does not percolate to all devices as soon as Google releases it. Every manufacturer needs to update their own revision. Some models from small manufacturers might not even get updates.
  4. There is substantial more piracy on the Android platform as well – as it is trivial to copy apps from one device to another. Hence, the entire app eco-system suffers and many companies develop and release quality apps on the platform only after having first built it on iOS.

To cut a long story short, you are an Android person if you like to tinker with stuff, strongly support value-for-money products, understand technology better than most and can live with slower updates and a not-so-standard experience between handsets.

How the future might shape up?

I feel the war based on design and hardware is over. All platforms will come with all types of hardware – so the decision when you buy a phone will no longer be based on just the hardware. I feel it will depend on the price to value ratio greatly and the app eco system.

Of the three, Windows has the best tools to write apps in. If they take good care of their app eco-system and deliver a good app store experience (their appstore sucks big time at the moment) – they can eat into iPhone and Android’s share a bit.

Android will continue to do brisk business as their phones support a spectrum of price ranges – and will continue to stay on #1.

With Apple becoming the giant that they are now (ironically, they have turned into the IBM that they were fighting in  the ’80s) with innovation on the slower end, their market share is bound to dwindle. Especially after ios6pocalypse and the Samsung lawsuit, americans are beginning to figure out that Samsung and Apple are one and the same – so why pay more for Apple?

With Windows being new and still unfinished, expect tonnes of updates and innovation at their end. They are the underdogs now – so this will make for a very interesting battle. None of the Win8 phones have announced their prices as yet – but as long as the premium ones are priced around the Samsung S3 (35K) and NOT the iPhone 5 (45K), they should be good.

The money is no longer in the device. It’s in the apps. As long as the companies realise this and mine this properly, they could probably sell handsets on a subsidy. On this point, Apple already does a great job. It has a bustling app eco system and also your credit card.

I feel it is too late for Google to start doing this even if they want to (which I don’t think they do). Microsoft being the new kids on the block need to balance this well – avoid crappy apps without being too restrictive on the app store.

The battles are heating up – so we are in extremely interesting times. The tablet wars are going to be even more interesting.

The #1 spot is pretty much sealed at the moment – I think it is game on for spot #2.

So what phone are you and why?

Why the Poets of the Fall concert in Pune, India wasn't so fun for me!

For those who didn’t know, Poets of the Fall are doing an India tour.

They were performing mostly at the Hard Rock Cafe branches and were in Pune yesterday (25th Aug, 2012).

To be honest, I am not a “crazy, T-Shirt ripping, head-banging, OMG-they-are-the-best-band-ever” type of fan – but I have heard their first two albums (Poets of the Fall and Carnival of Rust) and thought they were pretty decent to go ahead and book the VIP tickets that HRC was selling for 3K a pop (includes unlimited starters & IMFL).

So, this is how my entire experience was. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the entire setup.

Before this, I have been to only the Bryan Adams concert in Pune – which was twice the price for admission – but they put up an awesome show and I enjoyed every second of it.

Here goes:

The show as supposed to start at 8 – so we reached at 8:30 because these things generally start late. The place was already crowded.

If you had the non VIP pass (for 1K), you would have to stand in a hot, suffocating and sweaty sea of humanity for the entire duration. So, I was glad that I spent the extra money as I would have been even more uncomfortable.

So, we got in at 8:30 and loud music was already blaring – typical of any HRC – but they were playing really good rock music.

We expected the band to start atleast by 9 – as they need to close down by 11. But we had no such luck.

The band turned up at 9:50pm and started playing only around 10.

They played for an hour and stopped at 11. My fault in this entire thing was that I did not listen to their latest album (Temple of Thought) and missed the part that this was the “Temple of Thought” tour. Hence, most of the songs were alien to me and I did not relate to them.

However, the other major disappointments with the entire event were:

  1. The Acoustics

    I am not an audiophile or a prude – but I could barely make out what the band was saying / singing because the acoustics were probably not tested with that large of a crowd. (It was packed! And when I say packed, I mean people squishing each other trying to just stand on their two feet).It was just loud and very illegible. When I compare this to the Bryan Adams concert – they were phenomenal to the point that I could not believe that they can have a setup over such a large area and still sound excellent. All my other friends experienced the same thing with the Poets of the Fall thing.

    So that was a downer.
  2. The Temperature

    It was HOT. The concert was indoors and there were SO MANY PEOPLE, that the HRC waiters said that their AC unit had given up.

    EVERYBODY was sweating. As there was no seating, we had to stand which made it more painful for the 3 hours.

    If they could have fixed this one issue as well, it would have been a pleasant-er experience.
  3. The Food

    HRC food generally sucks – but I thought the starters would be ok. But they were not.

    There were only 2 starters that I was able to try – one Veg Manchurian and one Potato starter and both sucked (to the point that I wouldn’t pay for them). So yeah, no music, no food.

Overall, I felt that HRC and the organisers were a total sell-out (which is sad). Firstly for selling so many tickets which they were clearly not prepared for and then skimping on the food. I was made to believe (while purchasing the passes) that the band would play for atleast 2 hours (Bryan Adams played for 3) – but they didn’t. (which could also be a blessing in a sense considering the circumstances).

The music experience sucked overall – and it was uncomfortable to add to it.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Make sure you know all the newest songs of the band.
  2. Don’t go to anymore concerts at HRC and avoid indoor concerts cause the acoustics are difficult to fix.
  3. It always makes sense to spend a little more money at such things and be a little more comfortable.

Update:

Just found that my friend Akshay who was with me during the show also put up his experience. He had a better time than me.

Here is his side of the story:

http://akshayunplugged.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/watching-bands-live-in-india/

Cancellation Policies and Charges of Airlines in India

This post attempts to compare the change and cancellation policies of airlines in India. The airlines compared were: Air India, Spicejet, Kingfisher, Jet Airways, Indigo and Go Air.



I recently was to travel to Delhi and had to cancel my tickets two days ago due to some personal reasons and was shocked to see the latest cancellation charges.

They are literally daylight robbery!

My itinerary was as follows:

Pune to Delhi via Spicejet (2 people)

Rs. 9,374 (booked via GoIbibo)

Delhi to Pune via Indian Airlines (2 people)

Rs. 10,126 (booked via the Air India website)

I ended up paying the following (insane) cancellation charges:

  1. Spicejet: Rs. 950 x 2 = Rs. 1,900
  2. GoIbibo (I booked the Spicejet ticket with them): Rs. 250 x 2 (their cancellation charges) + Rs. 100 (credit card transaction charges) = Rs. 600
  3. Indian Airlines: Rs. 1,575 x 2 = Rs. 3,150 (the complete base fare)

A couple of years ago, we had cancelled some Spicejet tickets and they were Rs. 750 per ticket.

What really irks me is the way these guys are doing business. I think the bulk of their revenue comes from people cancelling their tickets.

  1. They haven’t flown me!
  2. They have 100% sold the ticket to someone else at a super high rate (PNQ – DEL is a very popular route) and made a profit on it. (Last minute tickets are super expensive)
  3. They have made Rs. 5,650 from me without providing any service.

If this is not day-light robbery, I don’t know what is!

As a result, I did some research and have put up a sheet of airline cancellation charges of all airlines in India – which you should take a look at before making your bookings in case there is a possibility of you changing your plans. This is a google spreadsheet and editable by all – so feel free to make changes incase you find new charges (these change regularly).



Table created on: 26th Aug, 2012 09:31 hours.

These rates might not be the same on the day you are viewing this. For (a possibly updated) excel sheet, see this:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AuIgUE5wEdcRdHhZdFhTTVVfQ2g1cTZDZnU4UEliWmc&pli=1#gid=0

The following airlines had information on their website which I could easily come across (I have over 13 years of web experience and I did web design and usability for a living)

  1. Spicejet
  2. GoAir
  3. Jet Airways
  4. Jet Konnect
  5. Air India (had to use a google in:site search)
  6. Air India Express

Following airlines had to be called to learn about the rates:

  1. Kingfisher (no surprises here)
  2. KingfisheR Red
  3. Indigo

Important Tip

Also, what you must definitely do is – NEVER book from these travel websites. Because cancellation is a 50% more expensive affair with these guys having their additional charges. What you should do is use http://ixigo.com which does a fare comparison on the direct airline website and book the tickets from there.

In my experience, 95% of the times, the lowest fares are on the Airline website anyways.

Hey Flipkart! I thought we were friends …

Hey Flipkart,

I have loved and liked you since a very long time.

When you were only so little – and just opening your eyes to the world in Sep 2008, I trusted you and bought my first book from  you – all of Rs. 750 and was so pleasantly surprised when it arrived all neatly packed in a couple of days.

I was so happy that I wrote about my experience at so many places, gave you 5 stars and told everyone I met – what an awesome service I had found.

Since then, you have grown by leaps and bounds and I have been so happy and proud that I was one of your early adopters.

My order list has grown and looks something like this – since we first met:



 

I have purchased 45+ items and spent an approximate of Rs. 36,000 on your site since – so I naturally thought that we were friends.

I wrote you an email yesterday:

Order ID: OD20606100278

1.) The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (3 Volume Set) – Bill Watterson ( 9780740748479 )

Hello,

I know this is late – but could you send me some extra Flipkart bookmarks along with this order? I know 1 bookmark is generally sent with a book – but I have many books without bookmarks and the Flipkart ones are awesome.

So, if you could send me around 20 bookmarks with this order, I would be very grateful. (If you send more, I have many reader friends with whom I’d love to share them – plus my company has a large library without bookmarks)

Thanks!

Regards,

Saurabh Jain

And received this reply:

Dear Saurabh,

Greetings from Flipkart!

Order ID: OD20606100278

1.) The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (3 Volume Set) – Bill Watterson ( 9780740748479 )

We regret to inform you that we do not accept special request for orders placed in our website.

 

I understand that sometimes these things might be difficult and might not be possible.

But can’t you do better than a short, curt reply?

I am really sad – not because you didn’t send me the bookmarks – but that you didn’t take any effort to reply back.

Did you even read my email or did you use one of your auto-reply bots to just send a cookie cutter response?

Maybe you have grown so big that you don’t have time for me – or maybe I am not giving you enough business?

I was thinking that you were the Zappos from India – but you turned out to be another yebhi / fashionandyou /.

I thought we were friends – but I guess we aren’t…