Friday, August 03, 2007


Probably that was the aim of Travenues, a travel 2.0 technology company, when they started working on their travel portal IXIGO and I think they have done a pretty good job there.

If you didn’t know about IXIGO, it’s a travel portal. How is it different from hordes of travel portals? Like some of the majors in the league like Yatra, MakeMyTrip and some of the lesser known like Indiatimes and Rediff (yeah they too!!). What is refreshingly different is
· They don’t book tickets for you so the initial cynicism of costlier tickets is gone. You have to book the tickets on sites which you choose to book from. They only display the results for you. They even claim themselves as infomediary and not intermediary.
· The search is extremely fast compared to MakyMyTrip, Cleartip and Yatra.
· They show prices including the tax amount, which means no hidden surprises and one stop shop for deciding which flight to choose
· They take all permutation and combinations for flight routes,flight carriers and then display the result. And to my wonder they search for lesser known routes as well. I mean I did a search for BLR-ALLAHABAD and I had 10 results. They were not in my budget though :(
· To top it, they allow you to customize “comfort features” like maximum no. of stops you want in your journey, filter results for combination of carriers or single carrier.
· They filter data from travel portals like Yatra and airline websites like Air Deccan as well so no running around to multiple websites and comparing fares. You can watch the flight details on the same page. So it indeed is one-stop-too-quick-a-shop for flight decisions.
· And they are constantly adding new features, from multiple airline combinations, direct checkout, book-marking results they have sprung forward to launch IXIGO search on mobile in collaboration with ONYOMO.

Infact, if you have heard about it on this blog only, they were chosen as one of the top six
startups in the internet space in India and invited to showcase their product at,
India's premier product startup showcase event. Part 1 and Part 2. (There is no sound in
the presentation when I watched it)

Features I think they should include. I think they should include search for +/- 2 days as is in case of Yatra. When one goes to search for a flight, rarely one is fixed on the days one wants to travel, one just has a rough date in mind and cheaper fare so +/-2 days would really present one with options of quickly looking and deciding to utmost satisfaction that one has got the best deal.

But considering my strategy of looking for the cheapest fare on these sites and then booking on the site of the carrier, I think this portal replicates my strategy very well :D... and I really think its EASY GO!!

Check it out @ and let me know what do you think abt the portal and if you disagree with my review of it

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Answer: My Bollywood Family

As I said in my options there are some obvious and unobvious choices. The most obvious choice would have been Bachchan family, infact as many may argue, Silsila and Abhimaan were closely related to Bachchan seniors’ life. Deol family too has had a very dramatic life with Dharmendra allegedly marrying twice.

But I think the most fitting family to fit the answer would be Dutt family. Yes, the Dutt family and I hope at the end of this blog many of you might see my point. Dutt’s would be a story that would provide ideal masala mix of emotion, tragedy, thrill although may not be the end.

Sunil Dutt, born in 1929, Khurd district (now in Pak), moved to India with his family during partition and settled in Haryana. He faced parents’ death at an early age and struggled to complete graduation at Jai Hind College in Mumbai while working as a radio announcer at Radio Ceylon.

He got introduced as an actor in Railway Platform in 1955. It is believed that Dutt braved the raging fire to save Nargis on Mother India’s sets and thereby won her love. Sunil and Nargis had a son, Sanjay and two daughters Priya and Anju. Sanjay Dutt had from an early age (at around high school) was addicted to drugs which worsened after Nargis’ death owing to pancreatic cancer. She incidentally died a week before Rocky’s release, Sanju’s first movie in a lead role directed and produced by Sunil Dutt himself, was to be released. This worsened Sanjay Dutt’s addiction who took more to it. Finally Sunil Dutt had to send him to a rehab in Texas whence Sanju suffered from a collapsed lung. It took 3-3.5 yrs of treatment when Sanjay could be “purged”. Richa Sharma had nursed him back after this and a year later they had a baby Trishala. Barely 2 months later he learnt that his wife had brain tumor. He lost the bitter custody battle for the baby against his in-laws after Richa succumbed to brain tumor.

Meanwhile in 1984 post Indira Gandhi’s assassination on Rajiv Gandhi invitation, Sunil entered politics. Since then he had been a loyal supported of Congress and worked really hard for national and world peace. Snapshots:
· Walked from Mumbai to Amritsar in wake of militiancy in Punjab for a stretch of 2000 Kms
· Walked from Nagasaki to Hiroshima for world peace and nuclear disarmament.
· Helped Imran Khan raise 1,00,000 pounds for building a cancer hospital in his mother’s name through a fund raising dinner, at Birmingham

Sunil resigned as MP in wake of Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992-93 and did a lot of relief work for muslims. Till then Sanjay had shot to fame and even accorded as successor to Amitabh. Sunil staunchly criticized Shiv Sena for the riots for which his family allegedly received a lot of threats. And months before the Mumbai serial blasts in 1993 Sanjay allegedly purchased one AK-56 from Abu Salem with help of few produced friends for personal and family safety. He had earlier taken 3 AK-56 rifles, 25 hand grenades, one 9 mm pistol and cartridges but later returned everything except one AK-56 rifle.

Following Sanjay’s arrest in serial blast case, Shiv Sena upped the ante against Sanjay and branded him as a terrorist through their mouthpiece Saamna. Sunil Dutt fought a bitter court battle only to hear that his son is not a terrorist. While Sanjay was in jail, he was regularly visited by his brother-in-law Kumar Gaurav, his then g/f Rhea Pillai. Sunil is said to have waited for hours to meet his own Congressmen leaders in Mumbai and Delhi to seek atleast bail for his son who disappointed him. Sharad Pawar was the CM then and PV Narsimharao was the PM. He then went back to Bal Thackrey, who in a small personal meeting at Thackrey’s resident, changed his stand. So did his mouthpiece Saamna, it was only then political support and support from Bollywood fraternity could be mobilized and public opinion could be moulded. Sanju was released from jail on bail and since then it is said he is one of the most humble stars of the industry. Later he married Rhea. Sanjay was later questioned in hawala deals and other cases as well.

He was later absolved from TADA charges but held guilty under Arms Act. But Sunil Dutt didn’t survive so long what he wanted to hear for more than 12-13 years: that his son was not a terrorist. Later Priya Dutt won from the same constituency in Mumbai where his father was a MP of.

And to close the serial blast trials, this day Sanjay Dutt was sentenced to 6 yrs RI. I think Dutt family has lived the most ups and down as a (Bollywood) family. So according to me Dutt's would be the perfect choice for a typical Bollywood script. It would make for perfect mix of several Bollywood movies.

P.S. I was reading the book Black Friday by notable investigative journalist, Hussain Zaidi and found some of the info in the book and some through Wikipedia and other internet links. It is an amazing book. One must read it to relive what we didn’t live through.

P.S.S.: Sources:
1) Sunil Dutt’s Biography as MP here.
2) Sunil Dutt’s interview on Rediff here
3) Sunil and Sanjay- Documentary by BBC Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Do watch these.

Next: My take on a new travel portal. What's different abt this travel portal? First to appear on my Blog!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Question: Bollywood Family

How would you react to the question, “Which bollywood family’s life would be best suited for a (typical) bollywood script”. What would be your choice? Difficult to think?? Lemme give you some choices.

· Bachchan Family- Amitabh, Abhishek, Ashwarya, Jaya
· Dutt Family- Sunil, Sanjay, Priya
· Deol Family- Dharmendra, Sunny, Bobby, Hema, Esha, Ahana
· Oberoi Family- Viveik, Suresh
· Kapoor Family- Raj Kapoor and others
· Kapoor Family- Shahid Kapoor, Pankaj Kapoor.

Let this question wait for sometime when I will post my choice and answer. I was inspired to post this question based on a book that I read recently. There are some obvious and some non-obvious choices here, but the answer would be a good read I hope.

I am waiting to read the answers and their jsutification. Will post mine very soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Big Sister!!

“Big Brother”!! Most of the people would know that the term originated from George Orwell’s novel by the name 1984.

Interestingly in 1984, Apple ran the following ad, which was inspired from 1984. The half-time of the 1984 Super Bowl featured the 45 second ad that would be declared in 1995 the best ad of the last 50 years. The commercial, directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, 1979, and Blade Runner, 1982), announced the imminent arrival of the Macintosh computer. The ad ran only once.

In the end of the ad delivers a punch line

On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984

Probably someone’s imagination got the better of the one and thus came out the following satire / anti- campaign. Portions of ad and Hillary Clinton’s speeches have been merged in a technical brilliance to create this ad where Hillary appears as Big Brother…er I mean Big Sister. (search in youtube with keyword “Vote Different”)

As far as I could get to read about it, fingers immediately pointed towards Obama, who denies the charge, saying that it’s an extraordinary piece of creation and his team lacks technical brilliance to create it. Also read how Clinton has been included as object of Hillary’s speeches. Too Good!!

In the end this ad delivers a punch line

On January 14, the Democratic primary will begin. And you’ll see why 2008 won’t be like "1984

P.S.: In both the ads, notice the frame when this girl turns around to throw the hammer at the screen. She has a i-pod kind of thing around her neck. And this ad was featured in 1984. Is this really an i-pod ??

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sense of Humor

Hmmm some time back I thought of this but took some time to realize the full importance of it.Everyone often appreciates someone who has a good SEnse of Humor (SEH). "The one" keeps everyone smiling and is often very confident.

But I want to point something else in this regard. Some days back I said to my friend (who put it across to me that I have a bad sense of humor because I crack something and start laughing myself at it), "You know most of the time, having a bad sense of humor really helps". After scratching the brain trying to think, she asked me how that was possible. I said that it helps because it helps you laugh out loud on every occasion and not wait for someone with a good SEH and crack a good joke and make you laugh. You can even treat it to be a gift.

Well I think the timing was apt as well: the Budget when FM was announcing the budget. Among the many "disappointing" news he dished out (yes even I fail to understand, who gets benefited by this budget), one had a reference to pets' owners. Although the humor was quite subtle but nearly every channel picked this up to prove the insincerity of the intentions of the budget.Then yesterday as I was watching FM being questioned by an economist and Prannoy Roy, the last question was, "Sir, did you mean to put some SEH in your budget speech when you referred to pets?" FM in his normal cool and to-the-point manner retorted, "I wish that every one has some sense of humor in this life or the after life"

I too wish that everyone has some SEH, good or bad, doesn’t matter. Then, just may be, not everyone will take to streets on release of Da Vinci Code's, M.F. Hussain's paintings, Salman Rushdie's books and so many things.

So isn’t having a “bad SEH” not all that bad??

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Palna - WCD Initiative

In a bid to stop the alarming rate of feticides in India WCD (Women and Child Development) has come out with a scheme- palna. There will be a cradle or palna in every district. If you are expecting a girl child and you don’t want to raise her you can simply leave her at the palna in your district. Later if these people have a change of heart they can take the child back. Full news here (1, 2, 3)

Now there are some positive aspects related to it.

  • It is aimed at correcting the skewed sex- ratio in India. Sex ratio (females per 1000 males) as per 2001 data is 933 with Haryana, Punjab and Delhi far worse in these figures.

  • It has been declared as an extension of ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services Scheme).

  • I am not aware what percentage such children would have made of total orphan children. But such children if at all born and left to fend for themselves in hospitals can’t be brought up in normal orphanages. They need more secured environment which palna may just be able to provide them

But there are some reasons as to why I am a bit ambivalent about it

  • Firstly because how would this palna differently from Rajiv Gandhi Creche Scheme.

  • Now there are already so many ailing orphanages in India. Some districts don’t have any. So wouldn’t obviously the govt. should have first strengthened its network of orphanages.

  • “The govt. will take care of the girl child” is a very ambiguous phrase, since if the govt. means that govt. will make these girl children self-reliant and self-sufficient then I think its old wine in new bottle. The govt. has been aiming the same in orphanages but the success rate of such schemes is quite less.

  • While ICDS is a very innovative idea that aims to empower the mother by making her aware and self-reliant, since this is a new idea of its own dealing with children who can be empowered only after careful bringing up, it becomes very imperative that an NGO will good track records takes this up. Else it will just be another torn feather for govt.’s cap.

  • Would it not promote the culture wherein parents may simply not want to take responsibilities of their children? It shouldn’t be a precursor to opening up of palna for another child.

While it is quite clear that the intentions are noble but the execution part is always the most difficult one and in countries like India where govts’ small follies are highlighted more than its huge success, it is very essential that govt. is very clear what they wish to achieve and how are they going to.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not Such a 'Hard Talk'!!

The Interview:

I was eagerly looking out for this interview (termed as Hard Talk) on The Devil’s Advocate. It could well have been termed as a good watch, with Mr. Murthy a person of impeccably clean image and Karan Thapar not letting go of any opportunity to challenge, provoke and accuse on any front. One led his business very well and another does his research with sheer brilliance unearthing reports and facts. I expected it to be different.

However the interview was as interesting as to predict in what digits are Sehwag and Sachin are going to score these days in a match. When I read the whole transcript, I found that Karan mainly talked about the following points

  • Capitalism and entrepreneurship

  • Governance Issues

  • Public-Private partnership

  • Importance of privatization

  • Lack of political will and vision

  • Why does NRM not want to join politics?

Now I think the media as a whole need to do a better job at interviewing when it comes to NRM. Abhishek and Ash wouldn’t have been thrown as many questions on their relationship as Mr. Murthy has oft reiterated:
  • Success story of Infosys with particular mention of seed capital of 10000 Rs borrowed from Mrs. Murthy.

  • “Those days”, with Infy as just a start-up.

  • The whole saga of transformation from Marxism to capitalism following an arrest

  • “Breaking-up” with GE Money, one of the biggest customers of Infosys.

  • ………

Soft Grounds:

There are so many troubling issues which Karan didn’t even come close to.
  • One of them as pointed out on Reality Check, the issue of seemingly perpetual tax-holidays for IT sector.

  • Issues like haphazard expansion of SEZs and STPIs, for example.

  • Some probing questions like blind hiring rate which seems to mask otherwise high attrition rate of Infosys would have been a food for thought for audience.

  • If he sees that current Infosys model is efficient enough to insulate it from the growing threat because of the shift that Google is bringing in.

  • Some questions related to socio-corporate issues as to how is Infy going to take initiative on reservation issues, skewed ratio of women in top management etc.

These questions are not what I want to ask but I feel Karan would have done a good job by watching the Quarterly Town Hall (event in which Infy declares its results and CEO addresses employees) and heard what questions are generally asked there(Here is the Nandan’s interview aired on the day Infy declared the Q3’07 results). Not all of them are very relevant to general Indian audience but some of them do make a compelling case.

From the transcript available, it seemed Karan either seemed intimidated to challenge or just chose oft-repeated questions to put forward to. In another interview of Ratan Tata (the only link I could find was this. NDTV, it seems doesn’t publish the transcripts of interviews; something which they should) taken by Barkha Dutt, she was forthcoming in challenging his position on Singur, his position on Corus deal and realizing that Ratan Tata is far more reserved than this wonderful orator, DA didn’t do justice to the task at hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Whose Govt. Is It Anyway??

This question popped into my mind today. I’ll tell you the reason but let me first ask you to guess the first answer that came to your mind: UPA’s, ministers’, bureaucrats’? Well I don’t think so I think it’s the Supreme Court’s govt.

Well this thing became evident and the extremely controversial debates judicial activism would be revived with increased fervor. In some landmark judgments today Supreme Court revoked the “sanctity” of 9th schedule, set stage for police reforms.

Definitely some of them are compelling examples of judicial activism although with a grain of salt. The Parliament is entitled to make laws by a vote of chose representatives of India but it seems that Supreme Court is out quashing them if they seem to be violating fundamental rights of any party thus granting it a level above Parliament. SC can hardly be said to be running a parallel govt.

This also makes the Indian Supreme Court the most powerful govt. as it has now powers to repeal any law (of course, which violates basic structure of Constitution) which is in the 9th schedule which was designed by Constitution as a safe area which so far could not be reviewed by the courts. Nearly every state has contributed to 9th Schedule by framing its own sets of labor laws, govt. contract policies and the most contentious TN’s reservation policy. So SC suddenly has a magic wand which if it wields may bring about a political, social and perhaps economic turmoil in the country

Now the grain of salt is here: How would it be received by the public at large. As far as the 9th Schedule is concerned, it may depend on case to case basis depending on the size of the parties affected in each law but the second would be welcomed by almost everyone. But I can safely assume that there won’t be much organized resistance from the aam junta, which clearly is indicative of the balance of democracy inclining away from the executive arm. Although the above two judgments are cases of judicial activism but the recent decisions (read Jessica Lal murder trial, upholding tainted MP’s expulsion, convicting bureaucrats’ for murders)of courts in taking govt at task have ignited in people high quantum of hope and respect for judiciary.

Just a week back Rajdeep Sardesai wrote about the same, equilibrium shifting against the govt Barkha Dutt puts a different angle on those sitting in judgment asking who would judge the judges!! Read more about 9th Schedule here.

P.S.: Update 1: Some different views but nonetheless a landmark decision accd to me.

Update 2: Probably above video is not loading... will fix it up asap

Friday, January 05, 2007

VCism '06 From My Eyes

I was just seeing ContentSutra for updates on what companies are getting funded by Venture Capitalists (VCs) and angel investors. Check out this article on companies getting funding in 2006. I am sure you might have heard of many of these start-ups. Nearly 98% of these start-ups are dot-coms serving on retail or wholesale basis.

The amount of funding that these companies get versus the idea that they are pursuing, made me take a few observations:

  1. Ideas in most of the services are not very creative/original or hitherto unheard of but infact such services have already been provided by some other provider across the globe in well-of countries eg: Burrp, Seventymm, Carwale.

  2. They don’t provide unique service but instead most often they are directed at the general psyche/inclinations of the people. TutorVista hits at the psyche of every parent to get the best education for their wards at cheapest prices available; Carwale, solves the problem of asking agents, car mechanics to look for a second hand car.

  3. These companies haven’t sprung overnight and claimed success. They have been around for at least 2-3 years. Like any other businesses these ventures too have challenges; if not competition then dynamics of predicting the trend a fickle consumer group will take. Because most of the businesses are aimed in areas which are still in nascent stages (such as IPTV, selling second hand cars on portals etc) or very limited in few areas.

  4. The one big advantage (according to me) is that this business, although run by professional companies elsewhere, is still unorganized in the sense that not all such discrete services are provided by one giant service provider. This is a great comfort to any investor since the risk of stronger competitor/hostile-takeover is greatly mitigated.

Some of the ideas may seem too farfetched to be successful and may be dismissed with a wave of cynicism such as saying Indians ka koi bharosa nahin- jab dukaan ki CD nahin waapas karte to online waali to nahin hi karenge (for But it’s the eye-popping figures which are noteworthy.

When we talk of globalization I think that not only all the companies are shifting their operations to India but the increasing polarized social status, probably increasing tendency of people to have one-stop-shop for most of the chores and easily accessible (hmm, internet) avenues of service is the reason people are taking cues from outside and implementing them locally. May be it’s this part makes the effect of globalization more complete and complement win-win argument.

P.S.: While I write this, I view these from the aspect of a user/ virtual partner and probably with a naïve sense too since I have no expertise in any of these areas. I am not even sure about the business models for these portals. Most of the portals are just fun to hang out (Mauj) or are just search portals (such as Burrp), so is the revenue model just advertising (Ad-sense, eh?)?