Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taxi For Sure - Customers Beware

I booked a ride with TaxiForSure this evening after a while just to have a very horrible experience. The booking was accepted at 20:28.and the vehicle was expected at 20:37.

Pickup - Starbucks, Citibank HQ - BKC
Drop - Nehru Nagar, Kurla East 

I called up the driver and he was at Kalina and was supposed to pick me up from the Citibank HQ in BKC. He said he would reach in 15~20 minutes and I was waiting for him. When I called him after 15 minutes, he said he was just 5 minutes away and was stuck in traffic. I called him 10 minutes later and he said he had reached the pick up address. I walked around 4 times in pouring rain to locate the cab but he was not to be found. His phone was switched off. I called up the TFS call center to raise an alert. The cab driver called up at the same time and said that there were 2 Citibanks in BKC and he had reached the wrong address. I gave him the directions not less than 7 times – Citibank HQ, Starbucks and Pizza Express BKC as prominent landmarks. He kept on saying that he was trying to locate the address – his GPS was’t working and he could not locate me on the map because of the same reason. He finally arrived at around 21:20 hrs.

The driver apologized several times for being late and said that he was new and did not understand the system properly and could not read the map / GPS wasn’t showing correct location. After the trip ended, I see the billing as below – the trip time was shown and calculated as 52 minutes – the actual trip lasted only 19 minutes. The billed distance was 6 kms – the actual distance is only 4.3 kms.

Effectively, TaxiForSure billed me for incorrect time, incorrect distance and a very horrible service – 52% higher than the correct fare that should have been charged.

I have raised this with their customer care and am awaiting feedback. Just one piece of advice – please check your timings and bills very carefully. It isn’t about the Rs. 70 that was billed excess but the unethical practices that are very evident.

Incidentally, my friends traveled from Starbucks BKC to Borivali at the same time via an Uber sedan and you can see the fares for yourself 

Kms - 29.48

Time: 102 minutes
Charge: Rs. 467

Compare this with TaxiForSure:

Kms: 4.3

Time: 19 minutes
Charge: Rs. 203.81

Addendum: 30/07/2015

Taxi For Sure called up today and explained that the incorrect billing was due to a system issue (I wasn't fully convinced how a system issue causes incorrect start time for the trip and correct end time for the trip). They apologized and refunded the excess charged money promptly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mobile Porting (MNP) Tales

I have always had only one mobile number since the last 12 years or so from Vodafone Mumbai. Apart from the fact that it did not provide data services in Ladakh, I never had major complaints about their service / billing etc. I was a strong advocate of Vodafone services to my friends and colleagues.

However, off late, their data service has deteriorated severely, We barely get a consistent data network in Mumbai - even in prominent business / residential areas. I raised several escalations to them at their store and through twitter. Always got assurances that their team is looking into the matter and that it will be shortly resolved. During my more recent escalations, I was told that the issue would be resolved in 3 months. I put up a request for rebates for services that they are unable to provide - however, I was told that this is not possible. You need to pay for services even if they are not available at all.

I discussed this issue with a few more friends on twitter and they all had the same experience with Vodafone data network across Mumbai. There were also instances when not a single page would open even if the data network signal was shown as strong. Most of the times, we got only 2G network on a 3G plan. 

I was paying Rs. 850 + taxes for 3G data services (apart from a different voice plan) and wasn't getting to utilize almost 50% of my data limits because of non-availability of the service. It came to a point where I had to start carrying my Tata Photon wifi dongle with a battery pack to use data services on my mobile in a reliable manner. This was the end of my patience and I decided to port out of Vodafone. 

There has been positive feedback about Airtel and I had a very professional experience with them so far (my number is yet to be ported). I sent them an inquiry for porting via their website and received a call within 2 hours. They sent across a representative to collect documents and photograph at my residence the same evening and also delivered the SIM card at the same time. They also offered a very competitive plan to me. 

I would have loved to stay on with Vodafone, but they know how to lose loyal customers. The port out request is under process and I will update this post with my Airtel experience once I am ported to the new network.

Addendum (25/11/2014)

My number has been successfully ported to Airtel this morning without a glitch. The 3G performance is similar to Vodafone. I will monitor the connection stability over the next few days and update the experience after a couple of weeks.

Addendum (03/12/2014)

I went off to a trip to Tadoba on the night of 27th November. On route to Chandrapur, I lost all mobile signal on Airtel (voice / data) and was entirely cut off from the world for 3 days during my stay in Mohorli, Chandrapur. I could not even select other provider networks manually. Folks with other SIM cards were able to use voice services and Idea mobile users had a GPRS signal too.

I used to be almost always connected (except in Ladakh) with my Vodafone mobile, so Vodafone network scores in that sense. Even in Mumbai, Airtel 3G network is below standard compared to the Vodafone 3G network. 

I am also facing an issue with receiving OTP for PayTM on my Airtel mobile - PayTM tells me that their system is sending out an OTP but my carrier Airtel isn't letting it through. This matter is being troubleshooted by both PayTM and Airtel for the last week or so.

Looks like the decision to port from Vodafone to Airtel wasn't warranted. I might port back to Vodafone after giving some more time to Airtel.

Addendum (04/01/2015)

It has been over a month since I ported to Airtel from Vodafone. I must say that they have a very very pathetic voice / data network as compared to Vodafone. Porting out from Vodafone to Airtel was my biggest mistake of 2014. I have zero data network at my residence (billing address) AND at my office, the Airtel network often goes into 'No service' mode.

Essentially, I have voice and data signal only on the road. That too, if you see 3G signal on Airtel, it is not necessary that your internet is working fine. 

My colleagues in office have all ported out from Airtel to Vodafone due to such issue. However, there is a period of 90 days that I need to stay with Airtel before I can port out of their network again. 

It looks like there is no hope for mobile consumers to get stable voice / data services in Mumbai. Pay through your nose and we have no-where to complain for such shabby service levels.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tough choices - reasons to worry

I am sleepless tonight (so is my family). There are tough choices to make in life and there are reasons to worry - Decisions 

We work in very small teams at work and have families and basic social obligations to take care of too. 

Last night, there was sad news about demise in the near extended family. Almost the same time, a colleague texted that he won't be able to make it to work today due to ill health. 

Today, work is critical to a level that I cannot expect just one team member to handle support for the whole branch office. Having said that, I will not be able to visit my relatives who are dealing with the most tragic moment of losing someone close. The only solace that I find is that I could visit him during my days off from work recently and I will visit the family 'after work hours', while my parents will continue to fulfill their social responsibility because the modern generation has sold themselves to corporate lives.

With nuclear families and heavily concentrated work-loads, we seem to be left with little choices in such tough situations in personal lives.

May his soul RIP.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Barsaane ki Holi

Holi, the festival of colours has a very special celebration in the Braj Bhoomi of Uttar Pradesh. 

Braj bhoomi encompasses the region of Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Nandgaon and Barsana, all of those having played an important role in Hindu mythology, where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Amorous songs, devotional and religious fervor and sprinkled colors present a delightful scene. 

At Barsana, the 'latthmaar holi' is famous. The men of Nandgaon known as 'gops' raid Barsana and try to mark their victory over the temple of Radhika by furling flag over it while the women of Barsana try to fend them off with long bamboo sticks. The men are well padded because they cannot retaliate to the women and can only try to keep them off by sprinkling colors on them. In case they get trapped, they are dressed as a lady in a sari and cosmetics are applied and they are made to dance like a lady. It is said that even Lord Krishna was made to dance like this by the gopis of Barsana. Next day, the same scene is repeated in Nandgaon as men of Barsana raid the village to win over temple of Shriji and women of Nandgaon beat them with sticks to keep them off. Holi songs known as 'Hori' are sung by the men and women and are mostly based on the dialogues exchanged between Krishna and Radhika.

Barsana ki Holi by iamShishir
Barsana ki Holi, a photo by iamShishir on Flickr.
While the facilities at these villages are very basic and it may be inconvenient for most of us to spend a night there, this festival of Holi can be experienced in its most interesting form in these two villages.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Uttarayan in Ahmedabad

30th December 2012 - lazying at home in the evening, watching TV and chatting up with Chetan and Mohit on BBM - we suddenly felt an urge to go to Ahmedabad to see the Uttarayan celebrations. This is supposedly a very big festival in the whole of Gujarat. Within a couple of hours, Chetan and me had our travel and stay booked - so as to confirm the trip.

On 12th January, both of us landed up in Ahmedabad at around 09.30 AM, checked into our hotel within an hour and went out to the Lal Darwaja before lunch.Ahmedabad is distinctly divided into two parts by the Sabarmati river. One side is old Ahmedabad with many heritage structures, old markets and Pols. The other side of Ahmedabad is fairly urbanised - business centers, hotels, offices etc.

We had discussed this trip with a few friends from MWS during a shoot at Mandwa. Since it was almost a last minute plan, most couldn't make it. However, Maulik was in Ahmedabad on the same weekend. We caught up with him at the IIMA campus after a lovely lunch at Agashiye (this one is a must visit for a meal during your trip to Ahmedabad), and proceeded to Thol.

Thol is a bird sanctuary that is reachable in around 30-45 minutes from Ahmedabad. It is a paradise for bird watchers and bird photographers. We stopped several times on the way to see birds perched on wires. 

Maulik could identify almost all the birds that we spotted that afternoon. 

It was a fairly long walk within Thol - we left as soon as the sun set. Had kadak masala chai at a road-side stall, chatting over birds, photography, life and passions. We also met Maulik's friends who were very passionate about wild-life & travel.

On day 2, we went to the Sabarmati Riverfront to check out the International Kite Festival. The preparations were still in progress and we saw no point in hanging around, so we proceeded to the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati. This is a very serene and peaceful place for some introspection. we walked through the ashram and saw several squirrels and birds chirping away merrily.

Squirrel at Sabarmati Ashram
After spending some time there, we went to the Akshardham Temple - this one place is magnificient. It is a beautiful piece of architecture, very well mantained. It was in international attention when two heavily armed terrorists attacked it in September 2002. After this incident, the temple is very heavily guarded and visitors are required to deposit their mobiles and cameras at the entrance. Videography or photograpy is strictly prohibited inside the premises. The place has very decent amenities and is a good place to spend a day with the family. There is an exhibition throughout the day and a water-show in the evening.

We then went to the Vibrant Gujarat celebrations in Gandhinagar, but it was too crowded and we were fairly disappointed. Caught up with Sneha Trivedi (MWS friend who is studying photography at the National Institute of Design, & her friends and left for Ahmedabad. Sneha took us to Adaalaj ni Vav (stepwell) which is an amazing piece of architecture with fine carvings. It was built in 1499 A.D.

It was around 14.30 by that time and we were very hungry. Sneha suggested a Kathiawadi Dhaba for lunch and we had some amazing food out there. We went to the Raipur Kite Market near Raipur Darwaja after lunch. This market was buzzing with activity on the eve of Makar Sankranti. People were very enthusiastic about purchasing dozens of kites, dori, pipudis and cheap goggles for the next day. Some locals told us that the kite market is even more active in the night and people are out shopping for these items till late night.


We went back to the Sabarmati River front again in the evening to check out the International Kite Festival, but weren't very impressed, so called it off from there. Sneha had to return back to Gandhinagar before it was too dark, so she departed. Chetan and me went back to the hotel for a quick shower and some rest after a hectic day out. We went to the Delhi Darwaja kite market at around 21.30 and it was buzzing with activity too. However, we were already in love with the Raipur Darwaja market, so went back to the same place in an hour.

We had skipped dinner due to the heavy Kathiawadi lunch late afternoon. There is a famous Bhajiawala at Raipur Darwaja and we couldn't resist feasting on some sinful fried bhajias, bateka vada, methi na gota and pyaaz ki kachori. The scene in the Raipur kite market was nothing less than a riot. People were buying kites and accessories in dozens and it was difficult to even move through the street. It took us over an hour to walk through a stretch of 1/2 a kilometer.

We did not want to miss main kite festival action on the 14th of January, to decided to return back to the hotel after mid-night to catchup with some much needed sleep. Sneha was to join us for the shoot at Lal Darwaja next morning. However, she dropped out due to some sudden assignment that came up that day. Chetan and me decided to go back to the Raipur Darwaja since it was a known place after 2 visits on the previous day. The street wasn't as busy as the previous day, though it was still buzzing with activity. Movement was easy. A few steps into the street and we were tapped on shoulders by a gentleman. He said the he had seen us clicking photographs the previous day. We told him that we were amateur hobbyists who were traveling to see the vibrant kite festival in Ahmedabad. He was very enthusiastic and invited us to see the action on the roof-tops from his terrace. We were on the tinned roof in a few minutes and saw a skyline full of colourful kites everywhere. we were soon introduced to the whole family of Mr. Nainesh Pandya who was a Chartered Accountant by profession. I have never seen strangers on the street being greeted and welcomed so warmly before. We were treated to a whole bunch of home made delicacies - Khichda, Sweets, Ladoos etc. We actually had to skip our lunch after this hogging session. Mr. Pandya also took us around to a couple of more relatives who were enjoying every bit of the festival on their terraces. We were over-whelmed by the hospitality shown by the families in the pol.

Around noon, we decided to continue shooting the streets, went to Kankaria (which was closed since it was a Monday). We went out to the Riverfront again to see if there was some action in there. To my view, the government celebrations of the festivals were no-where near to the traditional celebrations in the pols of Ahmedabad. Vibrant Gujarat - yes, but festivals are best celebrated in the traditional manner. We headed back to the hotel and left Ahmedabad with some amazing memories - good food, fantastically hospitable people who treat strangers with so much respect and a few good moments captured in our cameras.

Overall, it was a weekend very well spent - gave us an insight into the colourful celebrations of Uttarayan / Makar Sankranti in Ahmedabad.