Pleasant & traumatic experiences with Ola money

ola_autos_1

Given the precarious cash position, I added money to my Ola wallet prior to my travel to Delhi

  1. My trip to the central station from home was very smooth.  Neither the driver nor I had to fish out the change in a busy intersection.
  2. Likewise my trips in Delhi using the Ola wallet were very seamless

But I also had a share of painful experiences.

  1. This morning, I had taken an auto and because it was a short distance i was more than willing to pay by cash for the auto driver but the moment the trip was closed, the payment was made from my ola wallet.  The driver was visibly upset because it will be many days before he gets the money, if at all, for this trip.  I felt sorry for the driver. (Is there a way to pay in cash for a trip when there is sufficient balance in the ola wallet?  I have asked this question to Ola customer support as well)
  2. For my return , I had booked another auto and when I got into it, I told him about the ola money and he asked my mother & myself to  alight because he wants cash.  I could understand his predicament and so I booked a cab.  While we were travelling by the cab, I got a sms from Ola that an amount of Rs.174 has been debited from my Ola wallet for the above auto ride that I did not take.  Clearly, the auto driver had done some mischief.  At this moment, I have written to Ola reporting the issue and hopefully it will get resolved and the erroneous debit will be reversed.

So its been a mixed bag.  I have written this blog highlighting both sides of the coin.

So, if  you are planning to load your Ola wallet (I’m not sure how it works with Uber), please watch the debits carefully and report any abuses to the customer care immediately.

Caveat emptor – Buyer beware

 

How to exchange your 500 & 1000 notes

By this time, all of us are aware of the blitzkrieg move of the Modi Sarkar to demonetise the 500 & 1000 rupee notes and so I am not going to elaborate on that.  Enough has been said and written.  So let’s get down to business

I will share a step-by step process to get your 500 & 1000 notes exchanged in a bank. Currently, you can get upto Rs4000 exchanged in a day by this process.

  1. Please carry the original and photocopy of your id proof.  the accepted proof are Aadhar, Driving license, Voter ID, Passport, NREGA card, PAN Card or any identity card issued by govt dept psu to its staff.  (I am not sure if ration card is an accepted proof because it is not mentioned)
  2. At the bank, you will be given a form like this 5001000form
  3. Fill up this form in full. Collect this form at the entrance.  This is only for exchange and not for deposit.
  4. Also add the serial numbers of the notes you are surrendering in the form.
  5. Give this form with the photocopy of the id proof & show the original id to the staff.  On  the photocopy also write the amount, the purpose and sign before giving id card xerox to banks. This way you can avoid unscrupulous managers/staff using your id for someone else’s exchange. (updated)
  6. If you have an account in that branch/bank, write down the account number and also your mobile number in this form. (At the ICICI Bank branch where I got my money exchanged, there was a separate counter for account holders and non-account holders. the process however is the same)
  7. Once the staff has authenticated the form, the proof and the numbers of the notes, the form is stamped and signed and then given back to you
  8. You can then take the form and the notes to the teller counter where they will give you the amount in 100’s or 50’s depending upon their stock.  This particular branch had only 50’s and so I got a fistful of 50 rupee notes when i came out.  My wallet was so fat and I felt so happy

Overall, the process was smooth and I got my money in about 10 minutes.

Some disclaimers:

a. I am not sure if the same process is applicable in a post office, though

b.  I’m not sure if the tenderer has to come in person or if they will accept it from someone else.

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A Multi-faceted Genius

Paraphrasing what Lata Mangeshkar said about Kishore Kumar in the Album Shradanjali “Kya nahi the?” meaning What was he not?, I would like to start with the question “What was she not?”, the she referring to amma, my maternal grandmother Thiruvengadavalli alias Jayalakshmi Sudarsan who was born this day, 5th October in 1923.

Jayalakshmi Sudarsan

She was
a composer (aasu kavi) having composed hundreds of songs on many deities with the tune and the tala
a violinist,
a vocalist,
a person with a phenomenal memory for dates, names, events, slokas, paasurams and the like,
an excellent cook,
a brilliant administrator and organizer,
a stickler for discipline as well as an embodiment of love and affection,
a willing teacher and even more intense student,
a store house of knowledge about traditions,
a wizard in money management,
an engaging conversationalist,
an avid reader,
a genius critic of movies,
a tireless worker,
a shrewd assessor of people,
a person with a high threshold for pain and a penchant for subtle humour, skilled in card games like literature,
a person capable of forgiving those who had wronged her,
someone who wouldn’t think twice before extending a helping hand to others ….. I can go on and on but let me start with a few examples of some of the few qualities as above.

My earliest recollection of her in late 1960s was her attending classes in cookery including jams and squashes and doll making. Very quickly, her stuffed dolls of different shapes, nationalities and hues were adorning the walls and the huge glass case in the hall. I particularly remember the Japanese ladies that she made. I have relished her various dishes that she had learnt including the juices. In fact, she used to make grape juices and sold them in the neighbourhood as well. When she was in her mid sixties, she would walk to Triplicane in the late afternoons to learn a composition or two from Dr S Ramanathan and quickly teach me the same. A paralytic stroke that struck her put paid to her efforts to continue to learn.

This is just a beginning and I will attempt to bring to light the genius I was privileged to call “Amma”.

This is neither health(y) nor care

We have always thought of hospitals as places where there is always activity and excessive attention! when my mom was recently admitted into a neighbourhood hospital, much against our willingness, i saw this place as an anti-thesis of my notion of hospitals.

Since she had a nasty fall at her place of work, she was rushed to this hospital (I wouldn’t name) for some first aid and for some comfort.  Strangely, they did neither.  on the contrary, they were trying to make the visit as uncomfortable as possible.

on reaching the place, I was aghast when the chief doctor suggested that she be admitted in the ICU. When I asked why, he pointed out to the high BP and blood sugar levels.  I told him that she was given some coffee with sugar immediately after she fell down and that might have contributed to the spike and suggested that BP taken after a few minutes to establish.  But he persisted with the line that she be admitted and I gave in after a while.  Didn’t know what was in store for us subsequently.

It took a while for me to complete the admission formalities and advance payment but by the time I came back to the casualty room, I was informed that she was already taken to her room.  the staff on the third floor where her room was located were either too tired or were plain incompetent.  we had to remind the duty nurses several times to attend to every small issue and still were rebuffed, albeit politely.  Doctors were taking forever to come and take a look at an inpatient and patients were being needlessly ferried to x-ray rooms multiple times.

because her knee was swollen, I had to ask them to check it out.  I heaved a sigh of relief when they finally took her to the x-ray room only to get the chest x-ray done.  when i protested that what was more important was the knee, they just plain over-ruled me on the grounds that chest x-ray was standard and required for the physician who would be taking a look.  they even disregarded my suggestion to get the knee x-rayed at the same time to avoid the need for her to come again.

soon the bp and the sugar levels came under control but still the physician was nowhere to be seen.  and when i went out to get the dinner, he had apparently called on my mother and asked her to stay for a while.  and when i went to get some medicines from the in-house pharmacy, she was again ferried to the x-ray room (this time mercifully for the shoulder and knee), had the ortho doctor look at it and declare that all was fine and brought back to the room.

As her knees, shoulders and the head were aching, we had been requesting for some pain relief and that came almost late in the night in the form of an injection and some tablets.

Finally, at around 9 am the next morning, I convinced the chief doctor to start the discharge process and it was an amazing 3 1/2 hour ordeal during which I had to make multiple visits to the billing, accounts, nursing station in the 3rd floor.  We eventually left at 12:30 pm and reached home.

I’m not sure if this is the standard ordeal that most people go through but I could clearly see 3 patterns:

a.  There is a real conflict of interest when they force a person who has come to the casualty to get admitted rather than alleviate the pain for which the person had come in the first place.

b.  This hospital was trying to do with fresh and inexperienced nurses

c.  There was not even a sign of interest amongst the physicians and the staff to even listen to the patient and the attenders, let alone redress them, even though there wasn’t many patients clamouring for their attention.  Just plain casual approach!

I went in for healthcare but experienced neither care nor a healthy attitude and came out with a much depleted wallet!

Perhaps more important than the FreeChargewallet

I noticed a flurry of tweets about the impending launch of the FreeChargeWallet by Snapdeal and FreeCharge.  It made me wonder if we are on the cusp of a revolution and realized we are not.  But it served the purpose of writing this post which has been pending for quite some time now.

As a regular and happy user of FreeCharge, I am observing the evolution of their service from only pre-paids to cover post-paids, DTH and now certain utility bills as well and I must really compliment the team for a smooth and gradual increase in coverage.  I have also noticed their emphasis on the user experience and the constant efforts to minimize the friction. I must also compliment the social media team, especially the customer care unit on twitter which is very responsive and active.

I have gone on record on twitter that I would continue to use freecharge even if there were no coupons.  In fact, skip coupons has become a default setting for me.  I enjoy the convenience and the hassle-free experience.

Given that the freecharge team is trying to get its existing user base to use the service repeatedly, I have experienced a clear chasm as a frequent user and i have shared the same with the key people a few times.

when i effect my post-paid payment, i go through the process of selecting the card or payment mode, enter the amount and authenticate via otp.  And when I want to recharge my wife’s mobile immediately thereafter, I am forced to repeat the process much to my chagrin.  Given that I am most likely to use the same credit card, for both the transactions, I would prefer to check out after all my bills are ready for payment and do it at one stroke.

Imagine the situation at a e-commerce site like Snapdeal where after you have selected your shirt, you cannot add a pair of pants but must pay for your shirt first!!

I am confident that the key folks at FreeCharge would make the overall experience of customers smoother by making these subtle changes rather than focus on big bang announcements.

Arvind Kejriwal! You made history but don’t become one

Arvind Kejriwal (AK) has done the pheonix by rising from nowhere to virtually owning the Delhi assembly!

arvind kejriwal

It is not my intention to analyze how he managed to do it and what were the factors that led to this remarkable victory because that is already done ad nauseam. I am more concerned about going forward and this is where AK will do well to learn from history.

Circa 1982: NT Rama Rao started his Telugu Desam party in Andhra and within a year he won a landslide victory by securing 201 seats out of 270 against Indira Gandhi, then PM.

ntr

Circa 1984 Dec: Rajiv Gandhi swept the Lok Sabha polls by winning a massive mandate of 404 seats (a feat that his illustrious grand father or mother could not even come close). Incidentally, there were only 2 BJP members in that lok sabha viz AB Vajpayee and LK Advani

rajiv

1991:Jayalalitha’s ADMK with Congress won 225 out of 234 seats in Tamilnadu and the then incumbent party DMK managed to get only 2 seats.

jayalalitha

The common theme amongst these examples is that all of them wasted the huge mandate possibly because they weren’t ready for that! Or possibly the results got into their heads!! You may be already aware about what happened to them and more importantly how the nation/states lost out despite giving them such clear and massive mandates.

Now let us look at the other extreme.

At the same time as Jayalalitha, PV Narasimha Rao took over the mantle of PM leading the INC which won only 244 seats (less than the minimum 272 for a majority) but then transformed the nation.

pvn

So Mr Kejriwal, you have a choice of fulfilling the aspirations of the Delhi voters who have given a never-before drubbing to everybody else in your party’s favour or letting the verdict get into your head.  You have got a second chance but you may not get a third one.  More importantly, Delhi and perhaps the Nation will go back to the cynical mindset.

Wish you (and Delhi) all the best!! Jai Hind

Is WhatsApp serious about being the complete messaging platform?

whatsapp

As someone who has recently started using WA on the web after a few months on the mobile, I have become a convert to the WA experience. I was extremely keen to try the WA on the web not because of the novelty factor but going solely by the utility.

What do I mean by that?

a. All said and done, typing is easier on the desktop or laptop as compared to the mobile.  And we can truly leverage this ease by using WA on the web.

b. Further, it is now extremely easy to share something that we have discovered on the web thro WA on the web than on the mobile.

c. Yes, it is a pain to have the phone connected to internet for us to use the WA on the web but for the benefit of instant sync that we get, it is a small price to pay.

d. If you have not tried using WA on the Web yet, here is the way to do it.  Incidentally, it is only available for Android and Chrome browser as of now.

Btw, this post is not about WA on the Web.

I am quite perturbed by the recent updates from this company (possibly on account of it being bought by FB) because it displays confusion and lack of clarity of purpose. Rather than make the messaging experience more compelling and useful, WA is going in a totally different direction ie calling!! Perhaps it has been compelled to do so because of the other players.  So the giant has become a follower!  There are already free options to call like Viber.  So what’s next? Video Calling?

On the contrary, I would have loved WA to focus its energies towards making the messaging experience more fulfilling.

For example, it is a real pain to share a message with a number of individuals on WA.  It doesn’t make any sense to create groups for a one-off communication and if the group members don’t find value in being part of a group, then they will leave it.  There is also a problem of the limitation on the number of members in a group.   WA may argue that we can use the broadcast option but that also is irrelevant when I want to do a one-off share.

A much easier to use option is having a simple interface where I can choose multiple contacts when I click on the forward button as compared to the single contact selection that is available now.

By the way, the same solution would work beautifully as well when I want to copy and paste because currently I can do that for only one contact at a time.

Are Jan Koum and Brian Acton listening?  Or should I pose this question to Zuck?

5 Serious Questions to Banks on their new practice of charging for ATM Transactions

Yesterday at an ATM of Union Bank of India, I saw a poster (see below) that was revealing and self-explanatory in the context of charging for ATM usage beyond the ‘free’ transactions.  The poster had clearly differentiated between Financial and non- Financial transactions.

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Background:  For many years, Banks have been campaigning to get their customers away from the branches to reduce the cost of transactions.  They started with the ATM culture where a customer can withdraw cash only from the ATMs of that particular bank and then as adoption increased they made it possible for customers of any Visa card to withdraw from any bank that supported the network.  And just like the mobile revolution, customers started using ATMS and more or less stopped going to the counters to withdraw cash except in situations where the withdrawal amount was more than the limit for withdrawal by ATMs.

And now when ATMs have become a habit, they have chosen to limit the transactions and charge for anything more than the limit.  So what was created as a service to help customers enjoy convenience has now become a ‘Revenue Model’.

When I first came to know about this ‘free and then fee’ model, I thought it was fair on the grounds that if a customer can do 5 Free Transactions on the Banks’s own ATMs and 3 more in other ATMs in a month, he/she can actually transact 8 times using an ATM in a month.  It seemed inconceivable to me that anyone would require more than this until I started reading the small print.

It was not just withdrawals but anything that you do in an ATM.  See the above image once again and you will notice that Free Transactions would include Financial and Non-Financial and they have clearly listed out what would constitute a transaction. (I am happy that they have not included (as yet) “asking for a receipt for the transaction” as another Transaction)

I see that different banks offer different limits for the ‘Free’ but I am going to consider them as a single entity for the 5 questions (on the lines of daily 5 questions that BJP is posing to the AAP) that follow.

1. So do the banks want more people to come to the branches now and use the ATMs sparingly?  This defeats the original purpose of offering this service because the cost of say ‘cash withdrawal’ at the branch was significantly higher than at the ATM.

2.  Will there be a warning to the customers at the ATM or via sms when they exhaust the number of Free Transactions for the month and that they will be charged for further transactions during the month?  I suppose Banks don’t expect their customers to keep track of their transactions on the own Bank ATMs and the network ATMs.

3. If the bank’s intention is that customers should pay for the services they enjoy, will it also extend to the number of debit card transactions and going forward Internet Banking? There is a high push from Banks to encourage the customers to use the debit cards instead of cash and I suspect that they will charge for debit card usage once it takes off.  Likewise for the other services like sms banking, internet banking, app banking to just name a few.

4.  Will banks allow carry forward of unused transactions for a period of 6 months? As a customer, I can plan my usage on a larger time window than just a month.  If the Banks have the wherewithal to track the number of financial and non-financial transactions, surely they can offer this facility.

5.  Is this a ploy to create new products like a premium account where the number of transactions on ATMs (or any other channels) will be unlimited to attract more customers?

Bonus question:  Are the charges levied for the extra transactions inclusive of Service tax? I know that this is trivial but since there is no * in the poster above, I want a clarification.

I’m surprised and shocked that RBI has allowed Banks to get away with such customer-unfriendly practices.

Mr Raghuram Rajan, are you listening?

Continuing ‘Economist’ malice towards Modi

economist

In April 2014, the Economist wrote a cover story titled ‘Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?’.  It created a furore.

modi

The recent print edition of the same Economist dated 24th May 2014 carries another article titled ‘India’s Strong Man’ again featuring Narendra Modi (who else!!!).

Just like most of the TV shows and the print media in India who are unable to digest the clarity of the electoral verdict in favour of BJP and Modi, this recent article of the Economist also has played mischief.  In the guise of congratulating Modi, which it does reluctantly, the article spews venom and vitriol.

Let’s see some excerpts of this article now.

Although we did not endorse him, because we believe that he has not atoned sufficiently for the massacre of Muslims that took place in Gujarat while he was chief minister, we wish him every success: 

First of all, who is Economist to endorse an Indian politician, especially the one  who has carried people across the country? That audacity aside, look at the reason for not having endorsed him!  ‘He has not atoned sufficiently’! Now Economist has acquired the moral authority and the standing to decide who is atone and what level of atonement is sufficient!!  Further, look at the language “massacre of muslims’! That Hindus also lost their lives in the riots is immaterial!  It clearly shows that the Economist has outsourced, unwisely, the generation of false content to the Indian media!

Next look at this:

Mr Modi has a mandate for economic reform. Although his core supporters are religious nationalists, steeped in the glories of a Hindu past, it was the votes of the young, urban and educated that won him the election

Notice the slant?  And the lies?  Despite the fact that he has won 71 seats out of 80 in UP and 22 seats in Bihar, he is painted as though only the young, urban and the educated have supported him.  No doubt they did but they were not the only folks.  The poor, the rural and those so-called ‘uneducated’ too gave him the mandate.  And look at the branding of the core supporters as ‘religious nationalists’, that too steeped in the glories of a Hindu past! Typical of a British media that has played truant with our history and heritage! But then what else can we expect?

And that is not all!

But while he has already worshipped at the Ganges since his victory, promising to clean up the river sacred to Hindus, he has not brought himself to mention Muslims, who make up 15% of the population.

The author sounds like Sagarika Ghose of CNN IBN who asked Modi if he will visit a Dargah too after offering prayers at the Kasi Viswanathar temple!  All of them have conveniently forgotten the fact that Modi is a Hindu and is practising his faith! Just because he is a PM designate, does it mean that he gives up his religion or should pander to every faith!  This is the ugly version of the psuedo-Secularism rightly called as Sickularism.  Modi has not mentioned Christians or Sikhs either! When he mentions and he has done it countless times of ‘Everyone’, it obviously includes all faiths, religions and denominations.  If the Indian Media and the liberals behave as if they will accept Modi as Secular only if he wears a skull cap or visits a mosque or dargah, he has clearly told them that he does not want their certificate.  Certainly, he does not need the ‘endorsement’ from The Economist.

Some of the possible predictions of his tenure outlined by this article are fascinating.  Read this

Mr Modi’s strength will go to his head, and he will rule as an autocrat. Mr Modi has authoritarian tendencies.

I did not know that the author of this article has closely observed Modi for a long time, going by the declaration that Modi has authoritarian tendencies. Conclusions are already drawn and the verdict has been written even before the case comes before the court! Some journalism!

If this is the quality of a reputed international magazine, then we can imagine the state of affairs of the others!

Wow! Indian Main Stream Media (MSM) has truly gone global! 

No wonder we are in this mess!!

Yesterday, a good friend of ours came home and quickly our conversation veered to the elections.  

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He said he will vote for the DMK candidate of his constituency because that person has worked in a bank, is educated (CAIIB) and speaks English.

And in the same breath, he said that he had arranged for a meeting to help the BJP Candidate because they are from the same caste.

So much so for the parameters of the ‘so-called’ educated middle class to choose our representatives!! And he had the audacity to blame  those in the slums for the political situation!!

With these kind of electorate, I am not surprised about the depths to which our political system has fallen.

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