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.

Kolkata Trip – Days 3, 4 and 5

Day 3

Day 3 of the trip was mostly leisurely and uneventful. We traveled to the central city – Park Street, Park Circus et al and visited the Victoria Memorial. The Victoria Memorial is a gigantic, gothic structure with beautiful landscaped gardens and fountains located in the central part of the city. It has huge gardens in which you can chill out or if you are the history buff or a tourist interested in museums, you can check out the museum inside the structure.

The museum did not interest me very much except a couple of original hand-written letters by eminent personalities (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to Nehru) which were on display on the upper floor.

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The rest of the day was spent walking down the famous sari street – Gariahat – with Pritika and my mom going in and out of all the shops and me and dad eating junk food outside.

We had lunch at this extremely awesome south indian joint weirdly called “Chanda Store” located on the main Garihat road run by this Keralite couple. I regret not having taken a picture. It is a small little shop (maybe 150 odd sq feet) – kinda shady and dirty looking and is the only visible food place on that entire stretch. We had masala dosa for 30 bucks and filter coffee for 10 bucks and it was one the best dosas and filter coffees that I have had in quite a while. If you are a guy and stuck at that place, I highly recommend getting a bite to eat there. It has only 2 cramped up tables in the tiny little shop and might look a little shady – but the food was awesome.

Days 4 and 5

Days 4 and 5 were the primary focus of the trip and we went to the my mother’s ancestral houses in the village (both grandmother’s and grandfather’s side). We got the opportunity to eat authentic village food and sweets and also stayed overnight there.

Most houses in the village are built in a rectangular fashion with the courtyard in the middle – something that is ideal for joint families. They will have their own pond and people actually catch their own fish from these ponds. Growing their own food is a given and there are large storage areas built right inside the houses which house grains that have been recently farmed. All houses that we visited have their own small vegetable garden and they grow their own vegetables as well. In addition to this, houses will also have cattle which takes care of their milk needs.

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Grains storage

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People catching their own fish

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On demand, in house milk production

This part of the trip was really the best and my sweet tooth was well rewarded. People actually serve you plates of sweets (consisting of anywhere between 4 – 6 pieces) per head and expect you to finish it. I took this opportunity to actually taste all the different types though my appetite for sugar substantially reduced by the second day.

More than  the awesome food and sweets, what really hit us city folks (especially me) was how warm people can actually be. Everyone was extremely courteous and the best hosts anyone could possibly be.

Another thing which you will surely notice is the ingenuity of the people here. Even though means are limited, people come up with innovative ways to get their stuff done and carry on with their lives. There is tremendous scope for technological innovation in rural areas which can simplify their lives and still leave the entrepreneur with enough cash to make a decent profit.

I had an awesome time on this trip for more reasons than one and something that I’ll always remember.

Nikon Coolpix 4300

The world of Digital Cameras … always fascinating for the have nots. We had been in that league for a long, long time.

So, we decided to move up with the world and purchase a cute little one of our own.

And people, I did a whole lot of research before purchasing this baby, and it has been worth it … believe you me, it has …

The main criterion for the research was the price factor, and the most that I could get within that price.

This was when my folks were at US, when I was furiously studying for my exams here in India and doing tremendous research on which camera to purchase.
After asking a couple of ’learned’ friends and clicking through hundreds of reviews, specs and shopping sights, I decided that the ’’ Nikon Coolpix 4300 ’’ was the camera of choice.

Actually the original price of the camera was $450, but at then after purchasing the camera, we got a $50 rebate, so we sprung for an additional battery and a memory card.

The images that the camera churns out are simply stunning and every time, it makes me happy to see that all the research that I did is paying dividends.
The camera has a mind boggling resolution of 4 mega pixels!!! Enough to get a medium size poster made out of the picture taken. It has a plethora of features to go along with it.
Whether you are an amateur photographer or a person just interested in point and shoot, this camera will satisfy all your needs. ( However if you want just a point and shoot camera, and you don’t want to play with the settings, you should go in for a much cheaper camera as the features in the camera will be useless to you. )

The camera has tonnes of benefits.
Let me start with its features .

Max Image Resolution : 2272 x 1704 Zoom
Range : 3x optical and 4x digital zoom ( i.e. 12x effective zoom )
Lens Focal Length(s) : 8-24mm (35mm equivalent 38-114mm)
Shutter Speeds : 8 – 1/1000 sec., bulb up to 60 sec.
Aperture Range : f/2.8 – f/4.9 ISO Equivalent : Auto, 100, 200, 400
File Formats : JPEG, TIFF, DPOF

It’s got many more features, which are too many to elaborate in this review.
The camera comes with a 1.5’’ viewfinder and also an optical viewfinder if you plan to not use the digital one.
It has a dial on top which lets you select the many different modes depending upon the scene you are capturing.
It has an auto focus mode, in which you can only point and shoot.
A Manual mode, in which you can set the many many settings such as white balance setting, exposure setting, image sharpness, image contrast, exposure, quality, resolution, etc. etc.
There is a ’Scene mode’ in which 12 scenes such as portrait, indoor, landscape, night landscape, beach/snow, etc. are available. You just select the right scene and click away.
Also has a ’movie mode ’ which allows you to record upto 40 sec movies ( silent ) in the Quick time format.

You can also browse and then digitally zoom the images from within the viewfinder ( a feature present in almost all cameras )

The two features that I found the most amazing are the Macro Mode, and the 256 Segment White Balance Metering

In the Macro mode ( needed to read the manual for this one ), you can focus and take snaps of objects that are kept as close as 1.6 cm from the camera, thus making you a pro !
The 256 white balance metering is an automatic setting in which to check the white balance of the scene, the camera divides the shot into 256 squares and then calculates the white balance, thus to give you the Perfect Picture.
It also has a 10 sec and 3 sec Auto Timer ( A feature astonishingly absent in quite a few cameras ).

It also has 4 flash modes ( Auto, Flash – Fill, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Flash ) and you can also decide to turn the flash off.

A quick preview feature allows you to quickly preview the snap previously taken.
The navigation is very, very easy to learn and use and you can get to use the camera ( basic features ) without having to go through the manual. The Camera uses the Compact Flash I memory card and comes pre-installed with a 16 MB card.

It is recommended that you purchase at least a 32 or 64 MB card because the 16 MB is just a starter’s kit and can store upto 64 pictures in good quality and only 18 in the best.

A bigger boon is the ’’ Rechargeable Lithium Ion’’ battery pack that the camera uses as this lasts very, very long .
Many other cameras use the Rechargeable Nickel Cadmium batteries or worse 2-4 AA Dry Cells which exhaust very fast. Keep a look out for these batteries while purchasing your digi cam.

The camera connects to the computer using a USB port and thus transferring of pictures is very fast. It can also connect to your TV using a composite video cable ( all included ) and you can see the pictures instantly.

The Camera ships with 3 CDs. One Driver CD, one contains the manual and the third contains a Photo Editing Software ’’Arc Soft Photo Suite’’ The camera thankfully comes with its battery charger and USB and A/V cables.

You can also connect Nikon lenses to the camera if you are a professional and want more out of the camera.
The firmware of the camera is also easily available and updateable and easy instructions are posted on the Nikon Website.

Now, let be honest with you. As with all things, this camera is not perfect. It has its own short comings, but the image quality and features more than make up for them.

Here are a few ( and all of them ) …

Some part of the image gets cut when viewed through the optical view finder.
The digital ( 1.5’’ LCD screen ) gives the complete scene, but the optical view finder cuts out some part of the picture from both the sides ( left and right )

Sometimes dark indoor pictures.
The outdoor pictures taken in sunlight come out astonishingly brilliant. But rarely ( only sometimes ) the indoor pictures come out a bit darker than they seem to be if there isn’t enough light or the flash mode isn’t selected properly. However, with some settings tweaking and getting the hang of the camera, this flaw can be completely eliminated.

No manual control of shutter speed.
I really don’t know whether this is possible, but I’d love to have a Manual Shutter speed control ( Nikon are you listening ? ). Virtually every other setting can be set up except this.

So, this shall be the end of my long and exhaustive review. I’d like to tell you more, but I’m a bit tired after typing this long. If you like photography and thoroughly believe that a picture says a thousand words, just go get this camera.

Before I leave, I’d like to leave a few links behind so you can see for yourself. You’ll need to copy and paste them in the browser window :

1. http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1051826080460&skuId=4790104&type=product
The site from where we purchased our camera.

2. http://www.nikon-image.com/eng/PDF/coolpix4300.htm
The Cool pix 4300 section on the Nikon Site.