Loading...
Browsing Category

Me Reasoning

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)

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/

My Art of Living

Recently, I have had a decent amount of time to think about life, universe and everything else. Over the past couple of years, plenty of stuff has happened around me which has finally brought me down to this realisation. Please note that this applies to me and me only (though it may also apply to you – but YMMV)
The two principles on which I plan to live my life are:
1. Believe in Karma
I am not religious at all (by any stretch of imagination) – so this has nothing to do with religion or superstition – but simply along the lines of “do unto others what you want others to do to you“. Recently some jerk at my society started harassing me because he felt that I hit his car while parking mine (which I didn’t – I am an excellent driver).
Next day, I saw some unnatural, ‘key-made’ scratches on my car door and the power to my house was mysteriously turned off from the main switches in the meter room.
I was naturally pissed and while I was planning on how-to-get-back-to-him-nicely, a friend, narrated an incident in which a neighbour who similarly harassed his family – going the lengths of shoving nails in their locks so keys couldn’t go in, conked off soon after (due to natural causes of course).
While I, in no way want this guy to conk off (I swear), I am sure his karma will catch up with him soon and thus didn’t do anything to get back to him.
He eventually stopped troubling me (or so I think).
So in short, if you can let something go (little scratches on your car, bearing the heat without fans, etc) — you should.
No point in increasing tension, negativity around your life and wasting time on assholes. Life is too short anyways.
2. Optimize all decisions that you take to gain maximum ‘happiness’ points.
This one is a little more complex and includes some grey areas – hence I have worded it carefully – happiness points.
Different people get happy by different things in life. It can be as small as getting that firmware upgrade for your phone – to buying that Jaguar XK you have always had your eye on. So how will I decide on what to do?
Example 1:
Will owning a Jaguar make me happy? You bet!
Will paying the 1L+ per month on the loan at this point in time affect my happiness points?
Yes. Actually, in my current state, it will reduce my overall happiness by a LOT.
So, I will let the car pass… (for now)
Example 2:
Will taking that awesome vacation that costs 50K make me happy? You bet!
Will the fact that ‘by taking the vacation, I may not be able to make the advance payment on my home loan – that I was planning on’ affect my happiness?
Hardly.
So, I might take that vacation because it improves my overall happiness points.
(And a good vacation / experience, only gets better with time – so that is a definite yes on the vacation)
Example 3:
Would not having to work, just do my thing (watch movies, read books, etc) make me happy? You bet!
Will the fact that I would have to borrow cash from BOD and not be able to buy cool stuff and DVDs affect my happiness?
Definitely … I will be less happy in fact.
So I will pass this as well… (for now)
I think you might be seeing a pattern here.
And it is simple really …
So there!
If you agree with this post and feel that I should & could start a cult / ashram/ religious group / KKK or the like, put in a comment and if I have enough support, I just might!
Alternatively, I also accept donations in  the form of stuff listed above in the blog towards increasing my happiness points without any downturn to me.

Whats the point of 3D?

I just came back from watching Avatar a second time tonight – the special edition version.
In my opinion, Avatar is an extremely boring film in which Steven Spielberg James Cameron has spent a good 95% of the reel showing off cool, computer rendered, phosphorescent scenes. Watching it a second time has just solidified this opinion.
Anyways, the more I watch 3D films, the more I realise that there is no real point to it.
3D is perfect for gimmicks and it really makes it difficult to concentrate on whats happening in the film.
I was having a casual discussion of 3D film technology with a friend (who also hates 3D) and we tried to figure out – which film would actually require 3D to make a point in the cinematography or the story. We couldn’t think of any.
While watching Avatar, the answer to that question dawned upon me.
“3D will be useful to only films shot in first person view.”
Think about it. Human beings perceive their world in 3D – in first person.
Hence it is extremely distracting when we are forced to see a 3rd person 3-dimensional view of the story progressing. It is like you are the camera guy and don’t really relate to any of the characters. 3D also has a lot happening and hence makes it extremely difficult to concentrate on whats really happening in the scene.
Maybe, this point of view would be restricted to us older guys who have grown up watching most of the stuff on the 2D canvas that we find 3D extremely distracting. Maybe the younger kids who grow up watching stuff in 3D will make no bones about it.
But my contention is the same – 3D has absolutely no point – unless you are shooting a first person roller coaster shot or maybe a plane landing or flying about in first person. Watching a plane fly around in 3D in third person does nothing for me.
The best 3D film I have seen so far would be Despicable Me – which sticks to what 3D does best – gimmicks!
The movie has plenty of those (including a decent roller coaster shot) and is entertaining.
Avatar on the other hand is over-kill. Not only is the 3D annoying, it is so overdone at some places that it makes you nauseous.
Add to the fact that 3D tremendously reduces the brightness of the film – making it much darker and even more annoying.
However, the studios which decide to make a film 3D after it has been shot in 2D are the biggest culprits. (Clash of the Titans was such a disaster and a waste of money!).
Here is me hoping (and praying) for the 3D craziness to wear off soon and let movies be made  the way they are meant to.
Also, looking forward to someone who can re-ally put together a 3D film which makes sense to make it in 3D!

Why is the state of the Indian education system depressing?

I was in IIT Powai a couple of months ago for a workshop in marketing which lasted a couple of days. As such, we were put up in the in-campus residential suites for guests – which to say the least, blew my mind!
The hostel (2 people staying in a room) was nothing less than a 3 star place – which spacious and comfortable rooms, air conditioning, in-room phones, awesome food and even a great view. And all this from within the IIT campus!
I was attending the conference with Gaurang and we would stroll out exploring the IIT campus in the evenings when we had nothing else to do. For those who haven’t been to an IIT Campus, let me describe the place. It was beautiful!
A student haven.
Flood light lit grounds and courts open till late night, students painting the cultural center walls with art and preparing for the upcoming Techfest, some kids hanging out at the local juice wala – it was awesome! Something that I will always miss as a student who went to a day college.
During that time, Gaurang and me got into a discussion as to why there wasn’t any ground breaking research happening at the IITs. There is so much public money going to waste! (After all, the IIT fees are highly subsidized by the government)
For the amounts of money and effort spent on educating people by the government, as an outsider, I don’t see much happening in the research area (specially in the public sector / government fields) at the IITs. That in my opinion is a huge waste of talent.
Compared to us, colleges in the US contribute tonnes (as much as 50%) to the research that goes on within the country.
Well, I learnt something today which went a long way in explaining why our education system is the way it is …
I am reading “Imagining India” by Nandan Nilekani (the book is pretty awesome if you ever wondered why things are in India the way they are. It takes you on a journey of how the country has sometimes walked, occassionally run and often hobbled the 60+ years after indpendence along with tremendous insights on what can be done to change the systems. A must read for all our bureaucrats!)
Anyways, getting back to the topic – what happened is this.
Post independence, India was an extremely poor country. Inspite of this, Nehru along with the first governments, allocated a sizable amount to the development of the educational institutes in India. (and thankfully at that).
They even greatly subsidized the fees (at that time it was approximately Rs. 500 which was 1/3rd the actual costs).
However, in addition to this, they went and created special research organisations to research on various aspects instead of sending the research down to the IITs.
In addition to this, the amount of research which could be done in the IITs was grossly curtailed by the government itself.
Due to this, the college could not raise funds by doing research and the fees being highly subsidized, the colleges – became a loss making enterprise for the government from day one.
Which is the reason why nobody from the government cares much about the state of IITs and also which is why we have so few of them today.
Fortunately, what needs to be done is very simple.

  1. Free the IITs and institutes from the shackles of the HRD (which has a history of screwing things up at constant intervals of time).
  2. Let the institutes decide what fee structure they should go with and give them a free hand to implement this.
    (All US universities work on the same principle and it has worked well for them so far)
  3. Allow universities to do research in whatever area they please – so they don’t have to depend upon government grants as much as they do now. Not only will our teachers be better paid (thus raising the standard), our students will be more motivated to take up courses which have research in their key areas. Another way to keep students motivated in studying is by using classdojo toolkit since it offers various ways of a learning system. To learn more information, click here https://www.classdojo.com/studentstories/
  4. Get rid of the stupid reservation system. It has been decades now since the Mandal Commission and its time for us to move on …
  5. Create thousands of more IITs. (Atleast people now are echoing this sentiment)

Anything more that you guys can think of, please add to the comments below. Thanks!
(I had a couple of more things in mind – but Wikipedia just went down and in that shock, I completely forgot what they were)
I hope the present government makes some drastic changes in this department. Starting with the HRD making an exit. (Don’t they have other things to manage anyways?)
Update (1-Aug-09):
Extremely interesting comments popping up  in the Comments section. Be sure to check them out and add to it 🙂

The Value of Life …

After a lot of thought and deliberation and musings, I have concluded that:

“The value of a life is directly proportional to the number of people it touches in a good way and inversely proportional to the number of people it touches in a negative way.”

When you are gone, the summation of the loss which a number of people feel is equivalent to the value of your life.
Any thoughts on this?
[Update 1]
Modified the definition to take care of all the bad guys 🙂
See comment 2 below.

Parking hassles

I have off late started judging businesses depending on their parking policies.
No seriously! If you see some of the extreme arm-twisting techniques and prices some of these malls use, it’s unbelievable.
Firstly, charging for parking is illegal (I think) and yet everyone does it!
But if you think about it, we Indians being the free-loaders that we are – would just abuse free parking and I know tonnes of people who regularly do it.
C’mon – haven’t you gone and parked at a mall – just to go somewhere else nearby.
So, after a lot of thought and consideration, I kinda agree being charged a nominal fee for parking my vehicle.
But at the same time, the price should be justified.
The places and policies that top my list are:
1. Crosswords (at Sohrab Hall)
They have reserved FREE parking for people visiting crosswords. All you need to do is – on your way back, get the ticket stamped which says that you were in the store.
This seems completely justified – considering the amounts they spend on reserving parking slots for their customers – the least people can do is visit the store and see what they have on offer.
2. Inox (Free parking for 30 minutes)
Inox charges 10 bucks for bikes and 20 bucks for cars – completely justified in Pune – and this also seems like the norm.
However, what I really like about them is that they have 30 minutes of free parking. (This was an hour earlier but I could live with 30 minutes)
What this does is – gives you enough time to hop into the theatre and buy some tickets or grab some lunch at McDonalds without paying the equivalent of your Mc Donalds’ meal. If I am watching a movie for a couple of hours, fine – I agree with being charged – but theatres shouldn’t charge people for coming and buying tickets!
3. Pune Central (Parking charges redeemable during purchase)
Pune Central charges you for parking – but you could exchange the ticket inside when you purchase something.
This seems kinda harsh – considering that you may not like something and still be paying just to browse around the store. (Hey! Wait a minute! Shouldn’t stores be making it more conducive for you to browse around?)
Anyways, so yeah! What Pune Central does seems pretty just to me.
Actually Dorabjees in camp does the same thing – but you need to purchase a minimum amount of things (I think 100 bucks) before they will re-imburse you for the parking. Not entirely fair – but still okay sometimes.
Now for the worst offenders!
1. E-Square
Nothing – and I mean nothing beats paying 40 bucks for parking your car. I have noo idea what these guys do to your car. 40 frikkin bucks for parking! I could put a litre of fuel in my car for that amount and drive half way around Pune.
Totally sadistic, arm twisting tactics (and there is no public parking available near E-Square for miles!!!)
This is one of the reasons I really hate E-Square and avoid going there.
(The other being the weird seat arrangements and the crowds – but thats for another post)
2. Ishanya, Nucleas, Gold Adlabs, Lifestyle, etc. etc.
(And every other place which does not re-imburse you even on purchasing)
Ishanya and I however have a special history …
When Ishanya opened sometime ago near my house – I thought it was fabulous!
The mall was gigantic – you could get anything there, spend a good couple of hours just browsing around and even the parking was free. (and they have ample parking believe you me)
However, I was in for a rude shock one day when I drive in and am charged for parking which is not even redeemable.
The worst thing is that Ishanya is literally in the middle of no where and you have no option but to park your vehicle inside. Its like paying 20 bucks for an entry ticket to the museum!!!
Anyways, I came back and shot an email to them complaining about it.
To my surprise, the next day, I received a call from their head of operations (signing the email as President, ThinkingSpace Technologies has an effect sometimes) who assured me that they would start the redeemable policy soon and that they were charging parking because people would park their bikes there and go off someplace else.
(Yeah right! If you’re in the middle of nowhere, where do you think I’ll go?)
Anyways, its been a year and more since, and still nothing has been done.
However, I have stopped visiting Ishanya.
Result? I try and buy whatever I need from local places around my house. Ishanya being the last option.
(I dunno – I just somehow feel cheated going there)
To cut a long story short, I do empathize with businesses and their problem with free-loaders parking in places reserved for customers – but these businesses need to come up with more amicable solutions to this problem.
Charging monstorous amounts for parking is just going to hurt your business.
I love what Crosswords is doing – but I also understand its difficult to implement.
But I’m completely cool with the Pune Central approach too. (Redeem parking when you buy)
I actually have a better idea!
Redeem double the amount of parking when you buy something! (Applicable over a certain limit. For below the limit, just redeem the amount what you paid for).
Here is wishing some sense manages to creep into the heads of people making such idiotic decisions (especially the ones from E-Square) and hoping that ’09 is a brilliant and fun-filled year for everyone!

The thing about life getting back to normal …

This happened the last time – and I bet it will happen again once the dust and smoke settles down.
Last time, people commended – how life went back to normal and the resilient nature of the people of Mumbai India.
It is actually sad that people approve of how life gets back to normal.
It should not! Lessons need to be learnt and things need to be changed …
We Indians are probably one of the most tolerant and laid back group of people in the world.
It’s time to get a little bit angry and a little paranoid …
It’s not too late to have a plan. Terrorism is upon all of us now – not only in J&K.
Time to stop covering our eyes and prepare to deal with these guys as and when the situation arises …