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Saurabh’s Tips and Tricks

How credit cards work in India and why you should use them

I remember applying for my first credit card on Day 2 of my job after college. ICICI bank at the time had a black, platinum credit card that they were offering.
The guy however told me to come back after three months – they needed three salary slips from my current employer as I was not in Infosys or Wipro (guys at these companies got credit cards on the basis of  their offer letters).
I did, and had my first credit card finally. Good decision too — as six months later, I had quit my job and started a start-up (sounds funny now) – and no bank would give me a credit card then.
This was back in 2007.
Almost ten years later, even after the demonetization thingy, there are quite a few folks who are just getting a credit card and even then, are super hesitant to use it.
There are many bits of misleading information doing the rounds due to which people shy away from getting one – or using one if they have it.
I hope that after reading what I have to say, you will be more inclined to get a credit card or start using the one you already have.

Why credit cards make sense

Credit cards are by far, the safest way to make purchases – primarily because the entire channel is validated. The merchant who is accepting credit card payments is approved by a credit card company and also has to maintain a deposit with them.
Here are some reasons why paying via credit cards are a no-brainer.

Buyer Protection

In today’s world, buyers have extremely strong protections.
Even if you buy something from an extremely untrustworthy website (and I have on occasions) and your goods don’t arrive — all you need to do is call your credit card company and file a dispute.
They will open an investigation and if they find your claim to be true, the money is returned back to you.
Depending on the credit card company, you will have somewhere between 30 – 60 days to file this claim.
While the claim is in process, you (mostly) do not have to pay the money to your credit card company.
Which other mode of payment gives you this level of security? If you pay via debit cards, the money is gone from the bank and very often, there is very little the banks can do to help.

Theft Protection

Most of the good credit card companies will have some sort of theft protection which they offer because they have their own insurance.
If you are on a trip abroad and your wallet gets flicked and the thief buys stuff with your credit card, the credit card company will waive this off provided you notify them of the theft within a day or so.
The onus on verifying the card is with the merchant and when this happens, the card company will mostly just pull the money back from the merchant.
So, you are absolutely safe. Imagine this happening with stuff like cash or debit cards.

Reward Points and other offers

Almost every credit card company will offer you some sort of reward points for making transactions on them. They are able to give you reward points because they charge the merchant a transaction fee when you swipe your card. This is generally between 1 – 3%
Personally, using reward points accumulated, we have flown to places free of cost and stayed at 5 star hotels for free.
(Long story short, if you spend around 5L on an American Express Platinum Travel card in a year, you would have flight tickets worth 10K and a Taj Holiday voucher worth 10K in addition to having some more points to spend).
Lots of credit cards will also give you free movie tickets every month and other benefits like hotel and restaurant discounts on top of reward points.
As a customer, you have not spent anything additional – but have reaped benefits. So, why wouldn’t you do it?

The actual credit

If you plan your purchase correctly, you can get upto 50 odd days of credit on something you just bought. (For example, if you buy something on Day 1 on your credit cycle,  you have 30 days of the month and an additional 20 days of the following month to make the payment).
If you have just bought flight tickets worth Rs. 1L, and kept the money even in a fixed deposit (giving you 6.5%) and pay the bill after 50 days, you would have made around Rs. 800 — which is essentially free money.

Keep track of your expenses in one place

The credit card statement at the end of the month lists down all your expenses in one place. You have to maintain this yourself if you use cash.

How credit cards work

Behind the scenes, when a merchant swipes your credit card and you put your PIN number in, the credit card company informs the merchant whether you have enough credit available in your account.
Till this point in time, no money has actually transacted.
The merchant then needs to ‘collect’ the charge at the end of the day (usually).
So, if there is an issue with your product or anything,  the merchant can simply cancel a transaction even after you have put your PIN in and received the payment SMS.
In some cases, the merchant will simply not collect the charge and after 7 days or so, this gets automatically refunded.
You do not pay the amount for an un-collected charge – so you are protected at that point as well – incase the merchant runs out of stock or cannot procure the goods for your order.
Plus, due to the merchant requiring to keep a deposit with the card company, it is much easier to reverse a charge and get your money back.
And in the worst possible situation in which the merchant disappears after taking your money, the credit card company has insurance and you will rarely need to pay anything for a bad transaction.
Still with me? Awesome!
Next section contains tips on picking out a credit card.

Tips on getting a credit card

Salaried vs Business

I have found that it is much easier to get a credit card if you are salaried versus if you are a business owner. Especially if you are a new business owner – some banks may still offer you a credit card, but with a lower credit limit.
So, if you are in a job and plan to quit soon, make sure you get a couple of credit cards before you do so.

Credit cards attract more credit cards

At one time, I had over 7 credit cards from different banks even when I was doing my startup simply because I had an existing credit card.
Most credit card applications will ask if you already own a credit card and if you do, your chances greatly improve on getting a new credit card.
However, having many credit cards is generally not recommended as it affects your credit rating (CIBIL).

Free versus Paid

I have found that the paid credit cards offer a much higher value.
Sure, you don’t pay anything for a free card — but then you don’t get back much as well.
For example, an ICICI bank Rubyx card which costs 3,500 bucks to get gives much better points conversion than the free card they offer. In addition, you get stuff like airport lounge access (each access costs Rs. 1,000 if you pay for it) and the starting bonus is a pair of Sennheiser headset worth 3K.
So, overall, I would highly recommend getting a paid card if you can afford it as the payback is significantly higher if you move all your purchases to the credit card.

How many cards should I own?

I think you should have 2 credit cards to be really safe. Try to get cards from different providers.
For example, you should try and get an American Express and either a Mastercard or Visa.
Not all stores accept American Express even though it has great benefits – hence you need a supplementary Visa or a Mastercard.

Get supplementary cards for your spouse / family

It makes sense to get supplementary cards for your spouse rather than getting them a separate card as the points add up on the same account for all supplementary cards.
You may have lower limit overall (because the limit is shared between the cards) – so it makes sense to get 2 different cards with 2 supplementary ones for the both of you.

Things to watch out for

Paying bills on time

Most credit cards will want you not to pay the entire amount by the due date.
The balance amount left is shown as a personal loan and the interest rates can be brutal – 2.5 – 4% a month (i.e upto 48% a year) on the remaining amount.
The only way you can use a credit card to your advantage is to always pay the entire amount by the due date.
Never get into credit card debt. Not only will they take you to town with their interest rates, your credit rating will also be hit.
If you can’t afford to pay for something a 100%, you should probably not be buying it.

International transactions – 1

Most international websites will not have an OTP mechanism. So, payments go through just by giving your CC number and CVV + expiry date.
If you do not see yourself buying anything internationally, it might be worthwhile to call the bank and ask them to block all international transactions on your card even if your card is international by default.

International transactions – 2

Remember that your credit card company will charge around 3 – 3.5% as currency conversion fees when you spend on anything in foreign currency. So keep that in mind while doing transactions.

International travel

If you happen to travel out of the country, it makes sense to call your credit card company and inform them on the dates and countries of travel. They generally add a note to your credit card asking their fraud prevention team to allow international transactions.
Once, my credit card was blocked while I was billing at an Apple store in the US leading to an embarrassing situation.
(Ironically my debit card worked and I was able to complete the purchase)

Never withdraw money from the ATM

Most credit cards will allow you to with draw some small amounts of cash from any ATM – around 10 – 20K depending on your limits.
The credit card company will show this as a personal loan and charge between 3 – 4% interest per month on the amount.
So unless you are in a bad situation, always avoid doing this even if convenient.
That is about it! Happy credit card shopping!
I hope this post has been helpful and if you have any questions, please put them in the comments and I will definitely help you out.

How to hack your home loan

Please note: Though this post talks specifically about a home loan, it is applicable to any type of loan. I only speak of a ‘home’ loan as I have experience there.

Please note #2: All the calculations that you see below have been made by the super-awesome Home Loan Schedule calculator that I wrote a few years ago and something you should check out and bookmark.


So, you have gone ahead and taken a home loan and are looking dejectedly at your bank balance which will never see the highs that it had — just before you put the 20% upfront (required in India). Don’t worry – we have all been there.

I have some good news though – things will get better after a while 🙂

I will try to share some insights and tips that I learnt while we tackled our home loan.

Recently, while speaking to some friends regarding their loans, I realised how uncommon this knowledge is – so decided to write a post and share what I know.

Some jargon that will be used in the post

  • ROI – Rate of Interest (the interest rate that you are paying).
  • Principal – The amount of money you require the loan for.
  • EMI – Equated monthly installments – the amount of money that you need to pay back to the bank every month.
  • Part payment – An amount of money that you pay off more than the required EMI.
  • Pre-payment – The amount you pay and the process of closing of the loan by making a final lumpsum amount which equals to the balance principal amount to be paid.

Things to keep in mind BEFORE you take your loan

Everyone will offer you more or less the same interest rates today – but some have better features than others. So always look around and find the institution that has features which will make your life convenient.

During our time, Axis bank had no pre-payment charges and was okay with you moving your loan to another bank at no additional cost.

All other institutions will charge you a 2% penalty when you try and switch your loan to someone else.

ICICI Bank (with whom we ended up going) provides a nifty feature by which you can call them over the phone and make a part-payment every month in under 10 minutes (up to a certain amount).

This saves you the hassle of going to the bank and sitting across a person who will take 30 minutes to do the same if you are lucky.

SBI always has the best rate of interest but I have found dealing with them to be extremely tedious and something I have really avoided since my college days (I had a student loan with them at the time).

So look around and see what features you will require.

Remember that you can always negotiate your terms with the banks even if they are not part of the normal plan as the banks are quite desperate to hand out loans to people with good credit rating.

Banks versus other Financial Institutions

Please keep in mind that there are many places were you can get loans. These generally come under 2 categories – banks and home-loan institutions.

Examples of banks will be ICICI, Axis, SBI, PNB, etc.

Examples of institutions are LIC, India Bulls Home Loan, Reliance Home Finance, HDFC, etc.

As a caveat, remember that even though HDFC has banks, its home loan department is a separate entity and does not come under a bank.

When we were taking a loan back in 2010/11, different rules governed banks and institutions when it came to loans and we decided to focus on banks as the rules seemed more transparent and governed heavily by the RBI.

Please keep this in mind and do your home work. Financial institutions like LIC, HDFC, etc (from experiences shared with me), tend to be less transparent with their interest rates.

Will the Rate of Interest go up or down?

Hmm… When we took our home loan, we were paying 11.5% (which was the standard at the time).

At the time of writing this post, my friends are taking loans at 9.4 – 9.5%

What my loan advisor explained to me was that even though 11.5% was on the higher end at that time, the good news was that it would go only lower.

It all depends on the economy and the growth rate. So, expect your loan to fluctuate between 9% to 12% depending on how we are doing as a country.

There was a time when ICICI was offering loans at 7% and I have heard of rates going as high as 14% – but I feel those days are behind us.

With so many people buying houses now and RBI playing big-brother, things seem to have settled down.

How much does a 2% change in the interest rate affect you?

  • Loan of Rs. 50L over 20 years (240 months) @ 9.5% ROI = Rs. 46,606.56 per month
  • Loan of Rs. 50L over 20 years (240 months) @ 11.5% ROI = Rs. 53,321.48 per month

So you effectively pay Rs. 6,715 every month for a 2% increase

How loans work?

Apart from the simple principle in which you borrow money from the bank and pay that and some more back, home loans work in a peculiar way when you start repaying the monthly installments.

Banks will always try and recover the interest component of their loans first.

To see what is really going on, you need to take a look at your amortization schedule.

Say for example, you are taking a loan as follows:

  • Loan Amount: Rs. 50,00,000 (50 lacs)
  • Rate of Interest: 9.5%
  • Tenure: 20 years (or 240 months) – the standard tenure nowadays
  • Start Date: 1-Jan-2016

This works out to an EMI of Rs. 46,606.56

If you will look at your amortization schedule, it will look like this:

Amortization Schedule


As you can see, the bulk of your installment goes into the interest component.

So after 1 year, you have paid the bank Rs. 5,59,278 but the actual loan amount paid is Rs. 88,046.94 (16% of the amount paid). The rest of the money or Rs. 4,71,231.78 (84% of the amount paid) goes as the interest component to the bank and does not help in reducing the loan amount.

So at the end of year 1, you have paid the bank close to Rs. 5.6L but your loan has reduced only by Rs. 88K

If you go down further and see how your year 5 looks like, there isn’t much improvement.

Amortization Schedule - 5 years

  • You pay: Rs. 5,59,278
  • Interest: Rs. 4,30,721 (77% of amount paid)
  • Principal: Rs. 1,28,557 (23% of amount paid)

Total paid at the end of 5 years / 60 installments is:

  • You pay: Rs. 27,96,390 (~ 55% of your home loan amount)
  • Interest: Rs. 22,59,662.83 (81% of amount paid)
  • Principal: Rs. 5,36,730.74 (19% of amount paid)
  • Load pending: Rs. 44,63,269.26 (89% of the home loan amount taken)

That means if after 5 years of paying the loan, you win a lottery and decide to pay back your 50L loan, you will still have to pay Rs. 44.6L to the bank.

So how much do you actually end up paying the bank over 20 years?

Loan Paid over 20 years


Rs. 1,11,85,574.25

Or Rs. 1.11 Crores on a Rs. 50L over 20 years!

How do I beat this thing?

There is a very simple way to beat this and unfortunately, this is not very common knowledge.

This is the most important bit – so read carefully.

The biggest damage that you can do to your loan is in the first few years while the interest component percentage is at the highest. As time goes by, this tends to get less and less effective.

Option 1: Increase your EMI

Once you have paid your first monthly installment, head over to the bank and ask them to bump up your EMI to whatever you can afford.

I’ll show you a simple example of how this will have an effect.

From our earlier example of a Rs. 50L loan / 20 years @9.5%, the EMI comes to Rs. 46,606.

If you can even afford to pay Rs. 50,000 – i.e. approximately Rs. 3,400 more from month #2 onwards, this happens:

Change in EMI to 50K


Your tenure is reduced from 240 months -> 200 months

That is, 40 months are shaved off your home loan and you are now paying the bank a total of Rs. 99.6L (approx) versus Rs. 1.11 Crores earlier.

A saving of Rs. 12.26L overall or 11%

If you say you can afford to pay a little more – say Rs. 55K (instead of Rs. 50K), this is what happens:

Change in EMI to 55K


Your tenure is reduced from 240 months -> 162 months and you pay the bank Rs. 88L instead of 1.11 Crore and save a whopping Rs. 22.9L in the process (20.50%)

How does this work?

If you compare the original payment schedule and the new one, can you spot the difference?

Amortization Schedules Compared
(click for a larger image)

Basically any excess that you pay over your existing EMI, goes directly to your principal.

So where earlier, you were paying only Rs. 7,000 odd per month against your principal,  you are now paying Rs. 15,000 which really eats up your principal and reduces the interest and hence the tenure.

This is the magic of compounding interest and how you can use it to your advantage.

Option 2: Make part-payments

Some banks allow you to make part-payments which are equivalent to one month’s EMI or more while others have no such restriction. (You should find out what your bank’s policy is.)

So whenever you are able to save up some money, put it in the loan. It REALLY helps killing that loan off.

Say you are able to save up Rs. 1L at the end of the year and you make a part-payment. What happens?

Part Payment of 1L


As you can see, making a part-payment of Rs. 1L in month #13, cuts down your tenure from 240 months to 228 months. A saving of 12 months of paying EMIs or basically Rs. 4.72L by paying 1L earlier.

Hence, in addition to increasing your EMI, if you make part-payments, that really helps in killing your loan.

Should I save up for part-payments or increase my EMI?

Say for example, you can save 1L additional every year. Does it make sense to part-pay 1L at the end of the year or increase your EMI by Rs. 5K?

It definitely helps to increase your EMI as the extra money you pay cuts into the principal every month and the compounding principal helps you pay lesser every month compared to waiting for 12 months and then making a lumpsum payment.

However, the goal is to do either or both. Whatever you can afford. It does not matter as long as you are making some kind of additional payments.

Reduction in tenure versus EMI?

Whenever you make a part-payment, the bank will ask you whether you want a reduction in EMI or in tenure.

It is ALWAYS better to ask for a reduction in tenure. Reduction in EMI will keep giving the bank interest for extended periods of time and is not beneficial to your cause at all.

However, there may be some special circumstances under which you would want to reduce your EMI for some temporary relief. In those cases, after making a part-payment, you can ask your bank for a reduction in EMI. However, this should be the exception rather than the norm.

Some final notes

Every bank is different and they have their own weird clauses.

So if you want to follow any advice from this blog, I would highly recommend checking up with your bank first.

There could be a clause that you cannot reduce your EMI once you increase it to some level or that you cannot make part-payments for the first year, etc.

You have to do your homework and spend sometime with customer care to get your doubts cleared.

Some Examples

The following Google Sheet contains examples of the following:

  1. Schedule for 20 years with no part-payments
  2. Schedule for 20 years with increase in EMI to realistic levels (depending on job promotions, etc)
  3. Schedule for 20 years with part-payments
  4. Schedule for a non-aggressive, realistic home loan payment (increase in EMI and part-payment)

Spreadsheet: https://goo.gl/qcyPLn

The Calculator

After learning about the amortization schedules and the way this works, I wrote a calculator to help myself with this. You can find it here:

http://calculatehomeloaninterest.com/

I would highly recommend you play with it and find your own sweet spot. If you stumble upon any errors, please do let me know (though I have verified the calculations with my banks schedule and they match up).

The table generated can easily be COPY-PASTED into excel for further analysis, etc.

Hoping this post has been useful to you. Happy home-loan-hacking!

How to disable the data usage flash messages on the Idea Network

If you are on an IDEA network and have a post paid number, you’ll notice these highly annoying data usage flash messages everytime your phone disconnects an active connection.
To get rid of this, simply dial:

*121*46#

To activate this again, dial:

*121*45#

If you simply want to check your data usage, you can dial:

*121*44#

This will show you your current limits but will not enable the messages again.
Hopefully this information is useful to some folks.

CFLs vs LEDs vs Incandescent Bulbs

If you have noticed, LED bulbs are all the rage suddenly. They are all over the place – the Philip bulb ads on TV, the Syska LED ads on radio and everywhere else. They have been around for quite sometime – but suddenly have burst into the scene.

So, with incandescent bulbs blowing up around my house, I decided to do a full review and bought a bunch of lights to see which ones stack up.

Here are the contestants:

All types of lights tested

My Setup

So, in my house, we have all yellow lights – which are mostly bulbs and few CFLS. Hence, my test involves LED bulbs and CFLs in the “Warm White” colour – which gives off a nice yellowish, intimate light. But before we go ahead, I present to you a little information researched on various types of bulbs.

This will help you understand why CFLs are more efficient than bulbs and why LEDs are more efficient than CFLs.

It all starts with Lumen

Lumen is a unit to measure the amount of light. If you are interested in the textbook definition, please see here.

In India, we tend to estimate the amount of light given by the wattage of a particular bulb. Hence, most of us probably have a fair bit of an idea on the light given out by 40W bulbs (incandescent) – useful for lamps, etc., 60W bulbs for regular, home lighting and 100W bulbs for outdoor / brighter lighting.

“Watts” or (W) is the unit of electricity consumed.

Incandescent bulbs give us light by passing electricity through a filament which heats up and emits light. In fact, 95% of the energy in these bulbs is lost to heat and only 5% is what produces light (ref). Hence, incandescent bulbs produce only 16 lumens / watt.

CFLs in the way they are built are more efficient and can give us between 50-70 lumens / watt (atleast 3 times more than incandescent bulbs)

LED bulbs on the other hand, can output upto 100 lumens / watt – which make them one of the most efficient sources of lighting. I drew up some numbers to compare these which are in the table below.

How do these compare?

[table id=1 /]

Quality of Light

Artificial lighting sources like bulbs, tubes, etc. are also rated on their ability to reproduce colour. The standard light against which these sources are compared is sunlight and companies like Phillips claim 90 – 95% colour reproduction for even their base models. Because most of us (especially yours truly) cannot make out this difference, I have decided to skip this and instead focus on how the light “looks” to me.

As I have already mentioned, all light fixtures in my house are lamps or wall mounts of some sort. We do not have naked tube lights or bulbs anywhere.

As such, I found the LED bulbs to be quite directional. They are known to not offer the omni-directional light that incandescent bulbs offer – but it was quite apparent to me without making much effort. The light was quite ‘harsh’ for our needs and we decided to not use the bulbs for our lamps.

As a matter of fact, I found the Tornado CFLs to give the best light distribution.

40W Incandescent bulb vs 8W CFL vs 5 LED

40W Incandescent bulb vs 8W CFL vs 5 LED (click for larger image)

As you can see, the incandescent bulb gives the best light distribution – but if you had to compare the CFL vs LED, the CFL (Tornado in this case), creates a much more distributed environment and is not as harsh as the LED.

Which LED bulb should I buy?

There are a couple of bulbs available in the market. I bought and tried the Phillips LED ones and the Alva LED which is an Indian company – and it costs half of what Phillips cost. In my opinion, LED bulbs are quite overpriced at the moment.

However, if you MUST get LEDs, I would recommend Phillips over Alva as I was quite disappointed with the Alva offering.

I bought candle lights from them and this is the light that I got from them:

Comparison of the Alva 4W LED to 40W Incandescent Bulb

The light that the Alva bulbs were casting was quite disappointing – even for use as spotlights (which I did not intend to use them as) – they look quite dirty.

In Conclusion

For me, I have decided to replace all the incandescent lights in my house with CFLs at the moment. There are some fixtures which the CFL form factors do not support (especially the small fixtures with the E14 sockets) – which I am going to continue using bulbs on.

LED bulbs – though exciting – don’t offer the kind of light that I am looking for. Plus the super expensive price point puts me off.

What do you guys think? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Further Reading / Links

  1. Different types of sockets. Don’t get the wrong type of bulb for your fixture.
  2. Phillips LED bulbs on Amazon
  3. Cheaper LED Bulbs on Snapdeal
  4. Myths vs Facts on LED and CFL lighting (especially about mercury content in CFL bulbs)

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 🙂

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.

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.

Transaction failed on IRCTC website?

If you are in India and have tried booking your train tickets on the Indian Railway website through IRCTC, there is a good chance that your transaction has failed while booking the tickets.

I generally use netbanking (ICICI) as it is more affordable (Rs. 10 per transaction) as compared to using credit cards (3.5% per transaction) and have had my transaction fail recently.

Which means that they deducted my money from my  bank account and before the site could redirect me back to IRCTC from the payment gateway, it timed out.

What do you do in this scenario?

  1. Login back to IRCTC
  2. Go to “Booked History” by clicking on the link from your dashboard.
  3. If it is showing your ticket there, then great! It has been booked and you can now take a print out!
  4. If your ticket is not shown there, you should quickly book the ticket again as tickets run out quickly on popular routes.
  5. The money already debited from your account will turn up automatically in your account within the next 48 – 72 hours – so don’t worry about it.
  6. If your money hasn’t come back in 3 days – you should contact IRCTC with the exact transaction ID and they should hopefully be able to resolve your issue – though this has never happened to me.

 



This same holds true for instances in which you book a ticket but select an option such as “Confirm ticket only if all seats are present in same berth” or “Book tickets only if I get my choice of seating”.

In such cases, your account is debited – the site will inform you that the booking could not be made – and your money will come back to you after a couple of days. So if you don’t have a lot of cash in your bank account, this might not be the best option to use as you may be left with very little cash for a few days while they refund your account.

At one time, 4 of my tickets could not be booked as I needed a particular seating for my grandparents and close to Rs. 8,000 was stuck with IRCTC.

IRCTC contact details are as follows: (as of 25th May 2012 – this may not be the latest)

Customer Care No. 011 39340000

Fax no.011-23345400

Chennai Customer Care No. 044-25300000

For Railway tickets booked through IRCTC

General Information

I-tickets/e-tickets: care@irctc.co.in

For Cancellation E-tickets: etickets@irctc.co.in

For Shubhyatra users: shubhyatra@irctc.co.in

For Mumbai Suburban Season tickets: seasontickets@irctc.co.in

Hope this post helps someone who has just had a bad transaction and is apprehensive of whether they will ever see their money again 🙂

How to install Windows 8 or Windows 7 drivers for Boot Camp 4 on Mac OS X Lion

UPDATE: Though this post was written for Windows 7, I recently installed Windows 8 on my Macbook Air using the same steps and it worked effortlessly.

This post concerns a very small niche – people who have Mac machines (Mac Air) in my case and would like to install Windows 7 on it.
I was able to do this successfully using the boot camp assistant – but got stuck up majorly while trying to install the Windows 7 support drivers for Display, sound, wireless etc.
After a lot of digging, I finally found it – so wanted to share it here – so that others searching could benefit from it.
As far as installing Windows 7 goes, it is fairly easy and has been covered at many places.
for eg:
http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/boot_camp_install-setup_10.6.pdf
and
http://www.simplehelp.net/2009/01/15/using-boot-camp-to-install-windows-7-on-your-mac-the-complete-walkthrough/

However, what has happened with Boot Camp 4 (found on Lion) is that the drivers for Windows 7 have to be downloaded and it takes forever to do it.
Most of the times the download gets stuck or fails – and you need to start all over again. (It is an extremely frustrating experience this).
The download is actually a 700 Meg file – which is why it takes so much time.
The direct link is not available anywhere and you need to use the Boot Camp wizard only to do so.
Until now …

How to download Boot Camp 4 Windows 7 drivers without using Boot Camp Assistant

  1. Head over to:
    http://swscan.apple.com/content/catalogs/others/index-lion.merged-1.sucatalog
  2. You will see an XML file with a lot of stuff that you do not understand. Ignore this.
  3. Using the Search functionality on your browser (CMD + F or CTRL + F), search for this: BootCampESD.pkg
  4. You may get more than one entry – when I searched, I got 2 entries.
  5. I got the following 2 entries on searching:
    <string>http://swcdn.apple.com/content/downloads/54/00/041-0694/sq2RLp7XVNQzRG8qdpsq9sj4pHsgXkgPYg/BootCampESD.pkg</string>
    and
    http://swcdn.apple.com/content/downloads/54/25/041-0707/2VPHmdxTTJW2yYdy3qHCChmQPH5dn74pbR/BootCampESD.pkg
  6. What you need to do is to copy paste the URL between the tags and download that pkg file.
    I downloaded the latter one because it seemed to me to be more recent.Notice the (041-0707):

    http://swcdn.apple.com/content/downloads/54/25/041-0707/2VPHmdxTTJW2yYdy3qHCChmQPH5dn74pbR/BootCampESD.pkg
  7. Ok. So download it – its about 700 Megs and if you are in India (like me) – it will take about 20 – 30 mins for it to complete.
  8. Double click on the pkg file and it will install (basically unzip) files at a place of your choosing.
  9. Once this has been done,  you need to go to that folder using Finder and go into: Library\Application Support\BootCamp
    and then double click on the: WindowsSupport.dmg file.
  10. This will the mount a virtual drive on your system.
    Open Finder and click on: Boot Camp under the DEVICES section.
  11. Copy paste all the files on a USB pen drive.
  12. Reboot into Windows 7 (if you have already installed it)
  13. Double click on Setup.exe
  14. Wait for a couple of minutes – and you’re done!

Hopefully this helps someone else save time.
Let me know in the comments below if this helped you!
PS: Credit to this workaround goes to this post:
https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3257424?start=0&tstart=0
Which I was able to come across after days of searching.
Update:
Thanks to Chris in the comments below, the latest package (as of 23-July-2012) is available at:
http://swcdn.apple.com/content/downloads/55/51/041-3891/se4uhpqng48t842cdsosqh28lft54fmswl/BootCampESD.pkg

How to disable 3G on your Samsung Omnia W

This is another tip which I dug around for hours to get.
Posting it here so that it saves some people time.
So in my Samsung Omnia W Windows phone, it defaults to 3G out of the box and there is no visible setting to change it.
If you like me, don’t really want to switch to 3G and would rather prolong the life of your battery, here is what you need to do:

  1. Go into the phone dial mode.
  2. Type: ##3282#
  3. If the screen does not change to “field test”, tap the dial button.
  4. On the next screen which opens up, pop up the settings options from the bottom of the screen via the … button.
  5. Tap settings
  6. In the Network type, select 2G only
  7. Hit the back arrow and go to your home screen.
  8. Your phone will now work on the 2G network and consume lesser battery.

Hope this helps someone.