Photographs of Lansdowne

Apologies for the delay in posting these but i misplaced my camera to comp cable.  A few snaps of the property and the place.

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Airtel Changes Broadband Plans – Slyly.

I had been noticing a steady decline in my overall download speed during the last few days. I attributed it to the overall Torrent / Download seed-peer equation but last night at 1 AM i noticed that the speed remianed constant at around 20kbps.

A small history – I have the 999 home plan from Airtel which i got over 1 year ago. As per the plan i was going to get 256 kbps during the day and  512 between 10 30 PM – 6 AM or so.   A pretty good plan which gets one about 1.5 GB worth of downloading every day. Avg speed during the day used to be in the region of 24-26Kbps and between 40 -45 during the night.

Decided to get in touch with Airtel. Airtel’s online live chat executives were not even aware that such a plan existed and kept harping that i had got it wrong. I called the call center which was more clued on and i was right.. Airtel had gone ahead and made amendments without any announcement or information being passed on to us consumers.

I was told that the “double speed” at night had been revoked and the constant speed would now be at 256. Upon asking as to why no information had been provide i was told “Airtel is under no compulsion to give such updates”  !!

One can take a top up of 299 and get back to the original plan. This however would mean that the total fixed cost for the plan goes to 1299 + taxes…pretty expensive in my opinion. None of the other plans come close to this. I am contemplating taking up a billing dispute with them as well now considering i was charged for a plan which i am not interested in and is no longer the one i had chosen.

Rather bad on Airtel’s part to do this in a such a manner. I might just switch to a different ISP as well now. I have the excuse to try someone new out.

Online Bus Reservation

I have always maintained that despite the travel industry being one of the most “active” with regard to players and products it’s also a space where “differentiation” is necessary but hard to come by. Every possible sector within Travel now has been covered with respect to website offerings , its going to get harder and harder.

I have been wanting to write a couple of thoughts on Online Bus reservation and specifically Redbus.in for a while now and whether the model , while unique, is really sustainable in the long run.  I strongly believe that there is a distinct opportunity here to stand out if they play their cards right. The argument that millions of people in India use buses and hence the potential is great is not valid. The TG is actually more niche than that and will essentially be inter state and city travelers. Within this it will only be people above a certain income strata – if anyone is under the impression that a site like redbus will be able to compete with the likes of local buses , its not going to happen.

State transport buses (the biggest fleet) will not play a big role in this model. I see a site like Redbus essentially targeting or showcasing options from private operators only. If they can crack cities and states which are proactive on tourism , such as Kerala , Himachal it would be a big boost for the site. Pro active states in my opinion would want to reach out to as many travelers as possible , and being one of the only sites in the domain they should be looking at this.

I believe the biggest flow will come from short distance inter city /state travelers who

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Lansdowne – Part 2 – The town.

Further to my earlier post where i discussed way and means of getting to Lansdowne , i shall write a bit about our general experience in the town itself.

Lansdowne is essentially a cantonment and you get that vibe as soon as one drives into town. On one side its the number of army personnel , military police and vehicles, and on the other a certain level of cleanliness and order which can only be found , atleast in my experience, in cantonment towns. Add the normal qualities of a hillstation i.e weather , greenery, freindly people and you end up having a very delightful and attractive destination.

Upon driving into the town you are confronted with a round about from where one can go either straight or take a left. Going straight for 3 Kms would take you to the museum , 5 Kms would get you to tip n top. Taking a left would take you to the local market beyond which is the Hotel Fairydale and then the lake.

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Lansdowne – Part 1 – Getting there

My wife and i decided to finally take a weekend break. 2 months of hectic work timings and pressures got me to a bursting point… in addition i needed a break from technology – no computers, processors, mobiles, laptops, emails …! Lansdowne was a name which kept cropping up frequently whenever we have planned a weekend getaway over the last year or so and we decided to take this destination up finally , added advantage that its very close to Delhi – 2 nights 3 days was the length of the trip and we got back yesterday.

Getting There

People who know me know what my prime recommendation is here – yep! Driving! There are of course the usual options as well but other than driving or taking a bus the best option , from all perspectives, is talking a Train to Kotdwar which is about 45 Kms short of Lansdowne. 2 trains which run regularly are :-

Mussoorie Express – Leaves Delhi at 1015 PM and arrives at Kotdwat at 0500 AM – all days. Fare upwards of 135 INR.

Garhwal Express -Leaves at 7 AM and arrives at 1420 PM – All days. Fare upwards of 250 INR.

 

Driving time is between 5-6 hours. While going one was not too sure of the road surface and was a bit slow in general which put the total time at 6 hours. On the way back it was faster with the us being back in Delhi in about 5 hours. The trip, on a peppy enough car can be done in 4 hours or so. The toal distance is 260kms. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise. I did a lot of research especially on mapmyindia.com and they were off by about 40 kms. The driving can be broken into the following segments :-

1. Delhi to Ghaziabad to Meerut – The slowest segment. Both these places are very crowded, and traffic discipline is non – existent. Approx distance is about 80 kms. Driving time between 1.3-2 Hrs.

2. Meerut to Mawana to Bijnor – Once out of Meerut you can go up to 80-100 Kmph and cruise on that endlessly. The road is not as big as some of the other highways but has to be one of the best i have ever been on. Next to no traffic, excellent quality…one almost feels like it’s yours alone. Peppy stretch. Approx distance 60 kms. Max 1 hour. The Ganges is crossed shortly before Bijnor. Snaps at end of the post. Continue reading

Online Grocery Shopping – Storrz.com

This is a bit late in the day i.e the site has been around for a while but i have been putting this off hoping that the site would see some more development.

Everything seems to be going onto the net , and i guess thats good in a way , but not everything can work on the net , and this is something which i dont think too many people have managed to grasp. Its difficult to really stand out in this space and i understand the need for something unique, risky, radical, controversial,  to be used as drivers but some things are just not meant for the net.

storrz.com offers online grocery shopping. In reality what it offers is convenience.  Not having to take out time to shop, not having to get out office or home and so on. The service is currently restricted to Bangalore only, and i am glad that they are using Bangalore as a testing ground for this instead of having gone all out because i quite frankly do not see this working out at all. There are just one too many factors going against it.

The way i see it, the primary TG for a service like this would be DINK’s (Double income no kids) families. People who simply do not have the time. I belog to such a setup as well…but i have not felt the need or the attraction for such a site..and i am sure there are many like me who would fall under some of the reasons below.

1. Prices – The ability to haggle , a way of life with Indians, with your local retailer esp for vegetables and fruits is absent.  The prices are, obviously, fixed and there will always be a doubt whether it would be cheaper in the market place.

2. Quality – You wont know what you are getting till you have got it..

3. Physical Contact – This i think will be a prime factor and is an extension of point 2. There has always been a high degree of physical interaction in this kind of purchase. Wanting to do it yourself to ensure you dont get the worst apples, to take them from the bottom rather than the top of the basket, feel, squeeze, examine to ensure they are ripe and acceptable, no rat bites, bugs etc. All this is not possible on the net, and even if someone who has gone for this has one incident where the quality has not lived upto expectations …it will be bye bye!

Home delivery – One of the “conveniences” offered but to be honest , more often than not, this is more of an inconvenience than otherwise. My wife and i are the only ones at home, with a maid who comes in 3-4 times a week , 2 -3 hours to cleanup. Now what control do i have over the delivery from Storrz.com? None , if it happens to come at a time when no one is in the house then what? With my local colony retailer i can simply call him when i am at home or better yet tell him what time to come.

Credit – Agreed, this might be a small reason. I mean one must really be weird to not have the money to pick up day to day groceries but once in a while you might not. Blame it on work..you forget to go to the ATM …and the delivery guy’s standing right there, you can hardly tell him to go away and that you will stop at the shop later on and pay… but thats possible with your local retailer, in fact depending on the rapport one can establish , you could open a monthly account. No more day to day transactions, having to remember to carry money, carry change.

Final verdict – yep the concept is unique, dont think anyone in India has tried it… but that might not be because no one has thought of it…but more because they have thought of the reasons above.

Blue Line Buses – Not their fault alone.

Updated at 4 PM , 8th Oct – The Delhi hig court has asked the government to take action. One – Find out how many politicans own Blue Lines. Second, though i just hear a bit, is that the plan to phase out Blue Lines to be sent in by Thursday this week. Let’s see what develops.

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It turned out to be one of those rare Sundays where i actually managed to get some news time in and right from the morning all the way till i went off to sleep at 1 AM , everyone was talking about Blue Line Buses in Delhi.

The enthusiastic coverage had been generated by another accident near Faridabad which resulted in 6 people being killed. The bus was speeding ( 60 kmph in a 40) and ran into people who were getting off another bus. Total death this year , by these buses , is at 93. In typical Indian style the mob beat up the driver, destroyed the bus, police did not do anything and news media started the age old discussion of whether they should be banned and how everyone in Delhi is afraid of them.

After listening for a while i finally got fed up and had to pen this down. The way i see it is that 50% of that 93 probably deserved to die. Most Delhiites  have no manners- be it driving or walking. I drive only 2 kms’s to work everyday and 4 out of 7 days i almost end up hitting someone..not because i drive too fast , or dont concentrate but people here tend to spring out onto the road like rabbits, one would almost imagine that they wanted to get hit..maybe its a new suicidal technique…

Last month at 9 PM near the Interstate Bus Terminal 7 cars got involved in a pile up in front of me..why…

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