Theory of the week

If two Tamil speaking persons start conversing, there is a 99% possibility that within 90 seconds the conversation would hover around Kannada Prasad.

Corollary:

If at least one of the above two persons happen to be readers of Kumudam Reporter, the conversation would further cover the interview of Kannada Prasad (Kumudam Reporter dtd. 01/03/2007 – available online) where the business guru (?!) has discussed his success story, business model, pricing plan, confidentiality issues, resource hiring strategies and have left elaborate hints about his key staff members/contractors and clientele.

Sense of Fear

There was something that kept bothering me while reading through this book while preparing for PMP examination. Every 2 pages the author of the book keeps mentioning something like ‘If you don’t do it this way, you will fail the exam’, ‘If you don’t get this right, you’ll find it real tough’, ‘You thought this will be a cakewalk?’ etc. I am not sure who she is trying to scare. Agreed that it is a tough examination and the author is a well recognised expert in the subject, but the way she tries to instill the sense of fear, it gives a feeling that she had thought that she was writing the book for Class X students and not for Managers with some experience. These days whenever I open the book, automatically I scan for these ‘poochaandi’ messages. Doesn’t speak well about the success of the author’s approach, does it?

T for Tiger

Recently I had the good fortune of talking with a call centre staff based at Hyderabad in India. Find below some excerpts from the conversation.

He: Thank you for calling *****.

….

He: Can you spell your last name please, sir?

Me: S for Sugar, A for Alpha, ….. T for Tiger

He: Pardon me sir.. What was the last letter?

Me: It is T. T for Tiger.

He: I am sorry. I don’t get that at all.

Me: It is T – the letter after S – S as in Sugar.

He: Is it L for Laser, sir?

Me: Can’t you get the letter T? T as in Tiger.

He: Sorry.. what?

Me: Do you know Tiger? The animal that will roar like “urrrrrr. urrrrr” (roaring sound)

He: Oh.. it is T? Got it sir. How can I help you?

Umbrella Vending Machines

Only recently I heard about Umbrollys – the compay that owns and operates Umbrella Vending Machine at prominent places in London. Though I haven’t seen or used one, I heard that it is getting more and more popular. Priced at £2 per umbrella, these machines would be really handy if they get installed at many places especially when you never know when the sky would cry in UK. While Umbrollys seem to operate in UK, US and Canadian markets, one Uport seems to have launched the same product in Singapore.

Though the product (umbrella) is quite old, the way it is sold is quite novel and I think this model will be replicated in other markets as well, if not already. Thinking about the Indian market, how many products are being sold through vending machines there? As far as I could remember, I don’t recall seeing that many automatic vending machines at public places in India. But then, I have been away from home for quite a while now and things might have undergone a sea change during this time.

Consumer Issue – Mobile Phone Cashback Schemes

Couple of years back, this blog was quite well known for my tirades against Citibank in particular and consumer related issues in general. After a long time, I have one such story to offer.

The cash back schemes associated with the mobile phone contracts started getting popular in UK about 2-3 years back. Sometime in October 2005, I signed up for a 12 month mobile contract with a company called Simply3G. The deal is that I will be provided with a Motorola C975 instrument connected on 3 network for 500 anytime any network minutes for which I will pay £15 a month for 3 months and £30 a month for 9 months. At the end of 1 year, I will have to send the top sheet of the last 6 bills and within 45 days Simply 3G would pay me £300. So, in effect I would have paid £315 and get back £300. Though it sounds too good to be true, since the cash back scheme was already tried and tested by all and sundry by that time, I got into that.

In October 2006, after I made the 12th payment, I promptly sent the top sheets of the last 6 bills to Simply 3G. As I didn’t get any cheque after 45 days, I called them up only to be told by a customer unfriendly advisor that my claim has been invalidated. I was not given any reason whatsoever. To know why / how my claim was invalidated, I had to send an e-mail to them, for which they replied in Jan 2007 after persistent follow up. The reply was that the cash back had to be claimed in 2 parts. The first one was to be claimed after 6 months and the next one at the end of 12 months. According to them, since I didn’t claim anything after the first 6 months, I had forfeited my claim. On the second claim, they told me that I had sent the bill a month later. The e-mail pointed me to the terms and conditions on their website, which confirmed the same.

My first point of contention is that while taking out the contract, they told that the cash back should be claimed as lump sum after 12 months. Now, they are changing tune and telling me some stories. I am sure that I read the T & Cs when I signed up for the contract, but it appears that they have made lots of changes to that page in the website. It didn’t strike at that time to save that page for future reference. The second point is, even by their new terms I had made the claim for the second instalment properly. I sent them the top sheet of the required bills through recorded delivery a day after I received the 12th bill and they acknowledge that. Then, how could I be late. But, it is impossible to get an answer from them as the entire scheme has been designed to cheat.

I took up the matter to Consumer Direct – a government funded body to give advice to the consumers (Interestingly, I had blogged about this forum way back in June 2005). After moving several levels, the issue is now at the hands of Trading Standards Officer of Surrey County Council. He sent me a letter asking for some clarifications about the deal and asked me whether I am ready to testify my statements in the court. I have replied to him answering in affirmative. I am not very optimistic that I will get my 300 quid, but I am determined to go as far as possible and see what happens. I could foresee some interesting days ahead. Will keep you all posted.

You forgot something, Sir!

Many of us would have been forgetful at times. We would have left behind keys, wallet, watch, pens and so many things, which we were meant to carry. But, ever seen a person who forgot his trousers when he went to office? Yes. Trousers. You heard it right.

A high ranking manager who is the boss of my friend, used to pedal all the way to work from home wearing cycling shorts covering about 15 miles. Arriving at work, he would have a good shower, switch to his formals before heading to his desk. This has been his routine for several years until one fine day when he opened up his bag only to find that he forgot to bring his trousers. He could have returned home with his wet shorts on, but as Murphy’s Law would strike, he had a very important meeting that morning which he can’t afford to skip. That shocked man stood in the shower room for several minutes before finding someone whom he beseeched to drive to the nearest shop and buy him a pair of trousers. That was the last day he cycled to work.

Book Shelf & Reading

In our office, there is a book shelf commonly known as ‘Charity Shelf’. The concept behind that is – if you have got any used book that you no longer need you may put it in the shelf. At the same time, if you find any book in the shelf that you want, pick up the book and drop some money – whatever you feel that is worth – into a box nearby. The amount collected in the box will go towards charity. Cool idea, huh?

While it is interesting to observe the reading habits of your colleagues, I have found several wonderful books on varied topics, whose condition would be as good as new. In the last 1.5 years, I have bought so many of them that my unread collection is growing like anything as it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to find time to read those books. Added to the already huge collection, I asked my folks to buy some Tamil books in the recent Book Fair at Chennai and that will be arriving soon. Now, I really miss my train journeys to work.

‘Pay-as-you-go’ road charge

About two years back, when the UK government talked about introducing the ‘Pay as you go’ road tax, I wasn’t bothered as I wasn’t driving then. Now that I am, quite obviously I am bothered.

The funda is that each driver would be charged for every mile of his/her journey. The price would depend on the kind of road you use and the time at which you drive. Driving on the quiet country roads during off-peak hours will cost less than driving in motorways during peak hours. The trouble is every car will have to be fitted with a satellite navigation system, using which the government will be able to track where we are/were at any point in time. While the cost part of the above scheme irks lot of people, some others are annoyed that their privacy will be lost as someone somewhere would always know where he or she is.

A petition was made to the Prime Minister at this site and it seems that there should at least be 750,000 e-signatures on the petition for the PM to consider this. About 10 days back, there were few mails appealing people to sign the petition. At that time, there were hardly 250,000 signatures. In a matter of days, the number has swelled up to 1,243,000. If you are a UK resident and agree with the cause, do pitch in. It would be interesting to see how this turns out.

Kumar Shirts

As I was ironing a shirt (Made in Bangladesh) given to me by our company, the shirt’s brand logo got me nostalgic as it was strikingly similar to a brand that was reasonably famous at a point in time back home.

About 12 years ago, there used to be a shop named ‘Kumar Shirts’ in Chennai and many other places in TN. Their USP – if I can call so, was the low price. Shirts used to be priced at around 75 rupees in mid-90s and that used to draw crowds, unmindful of the quality. Those were the days well before the IT boom, sky-high pay checks. So, price was a major factor in shopping and Kumar Shirts capitalised on that quite successfully that time. I am not sure whether Kumar Shirts is still around in Chennai (I googled in vain) and if so, whether it has still got that halo in these days when Van Heusen and Louise Phillipe has become affordable to all and sundry (well, to so many).

Talking about low priced shirts, when I was in college, a shop opened up at Singarathope in Trichy selling shirts for 25 rupees. Twenty five rupees for a shirt sounded unbelievable even in 1995. We promptly bunked the last hour at college and went to the shop only to find that they were allowing only 10 people inside the shop at any one time. The rest had to queue outside the shop, which went up to 2 kms. Some ‘lucky’ (?) ones got their hands on that shirt, which shrunk to half its original size on the first wash. I don’t recall seeing that shop after that day. hmmm.. interesting days!

Snow Report

When I stepped out of home yesterday morning, my car and everything else in front of me were fully draped in white. Snow was falling thick and as I tried to clear the snow from one corner of the windscreen, the other side was getting thicker with white flakes. This was the first time I am driving on snow and indeed it was quite a bit challenging as one had to drive at around 15 mph on all the roads. It was such a beautiful sight to travel through the woods and finding them in white. Children were thoroughly enjoying the day creating snowman every few metres on the way. The water in the pond (shamelessly, some people call it a lake) was frozen and ducks were trying to walk on the surface and falling down. Even some children were trying that. In all, it was a good white day.

Next morning, it was pathetic – thanks to the people & the tyres that made the snow black. Though the gritters were out on the roads, some of the country lanes which had not been treated had black ice, which is even more dangerous as it makes one think that the road is all clear. Just waiting for the sun to come out in full shine so that the white sh*t is off the roads.

Hopefully, this would be my last post on snow. At least for this year.
The above pic was taken by my wife soon after I had left for work yesterday.

Note: Photo hosted in Flickr.