Travel Diaries

  •  Last week, we travelled from Bangalore to Trichy by road. From there on, we drove up to temple of our family diety located at a tiny hamlet called ‘Annan Perumal Kovil’, about 10 kms from Sirkazhi. All through the way the roads were brilliant, the only stretch that sticks out like a sore thumb is the one between Thanjavur and Kumbakonam.
  • The Thanjavur – Kumbakonam stretch is very narrow lined with paddy fields and houses on the way. The trouble is not only that it has got lot of bends, but the quality of the road leaves a lot to be desired.
  • When we were driving past Salem, Narendra Modi was present at the town addressing an election rally and so was Vijayakanth. We didn’t get any idea of his presence. No visible presence of cops, no hoardings or posters or what not.
  • If one were to travel by car, it costs approximately 300 quid on tolls between Bangalore and Trichy. Given the quality of roads, I would say every penny is well worth it.
  • Between Chennai and Bangalore, one can spot several shops / shacks selling ‘Kumbakonam Degree Coffee’. This time around, such shops have sprung around in the TPJ – BLR route.
  • It is very painful to see Kollidam without a drop of water. Cauvery has a trickle flowing though.
  • The best local drink to taste in Tamil Nadu after ‘filter coffee’ would be Bovonto. It is a shame that it is not available in Bangalore (to my knowledge).
  • All along the long stretch of highway, why isn’t there a concept of lay-bys? Wouldn’t it be convenient for long distance drivers to pull over, stretch and drive on? I think it might work if the petrol stations on the highways are mandated to provide few amenities for the moving population.

 

 

Hygiene

*Travelling in a mofusil bus from Bangalore to Trichy. Perhaps, this is the first time in 15 years that I am travelling in such a mode (mean to say that all my previous road trips have either been on a car or long distance bus). Interesting to see places like Hosur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem etc.

More than anything else, this country needs hygienic urinals and toilets at every possible place. Plus a law to shoot the ba$tards who poo and defecate in public. So much of filth that the entire population must be immersed in phenyl and dettol.

* Blogging from the bus.

Reynolds

After so many years, I got to use a Reynolds ball point pen, while visiting a vendor’s office today. Some 20+ years ago, it was the most common writing instrument in India. The pen used to cost a princely sum of 10 rupees then and one can get a refill for 3 rupees. There was a premium version of the pen sold at 25 rupees, which I have never used. I don’t know what it costs now, but was told by someone that it is lot less than what it was in mid-1990s. If that is so, here is one product that withstood the inflation tall and square.

I vividly remember that a point in time during my college days, I had to buy multiple refills in a short span of time because the refills would leak the ink causing it to smudge on the paper. One fine day, I was filling an important application form when the ink leaked and created a mess. A very furious me wrote a long letter enclosing all the faulty refills and sent it to GM Pens Ltd. Two days later, I had a representative from GM Pens at our door apologising for the poor quality of their products and offered a bagful of goodies (half a dozen Reynolds pens).

Never imagined that a pen would trigger these many memories.

low fare airlines

Spice Jet was offering air tickets starting from Re 1 + taxes and the offer lasted for three days from April 1. I picked an arbitrary day in October and checked the return fare for 2 adults and 2 kids between Bangalore and Delhi. While tickets are available for the base fare of 41 rupees, the total for 4 after adding all the taxes works out to 38,000 and odd rupees. Each trip works out to approximately 5000 quid, not very less than what one would pay in normal circumstances. Considering the fact that the base fare is only 41 rupees and also that I am booking the tickets several months in advance, I would expect the average per trip per passenger fare to be around circa 2500 – 3000 rupees.

Talking about low fares airline, the very first time I heard about such a concept was in the year 2000. I was living in London at that time and bumped on a promotional material offering return tickets to Pisa in Italy for 50 pence + taxes (yeah, you read it right!). I thought it must be a fake advert of some sort, but decided to call them up anyway. To my surprise, it was true and when I told my friends, we quickly hatched a plan to visit Italy. None of us could believe that the air fare, whatever might be the distance could be as low as 50 pence. The taxes worked out to 7 or 8 pounds then, marginally more than the cost of a meal in McDonalds in London during that time. We would have made two dozen calls to ensure what we heard was true and there is no detrimental stuff in the small print. Eventually, we did make it to Pisa and by the time we booked the tickets the fare had gone up by a pound, still a steal. It was from an airline called Ryanair, pioneer of low fare airline in Europe.

The concept of low cost airline was a great discovery for us. Not just Ryanair, there were few other options like Easy Jet, Go etc. With friends and family, we had several happy trips with these carriers. Coming back to India, do the low fare airlines in India really live up to their tag? Well, that is for another post.

Entrepreneurship

A week ago, I was buying tender coconuts from a street vendor. I asked him for his mobile number, so that I can call him if I need more and ask him to deliver them home. As I was trying to make note of his number in my mobile, he quickly thrust his flashy new business card that contained all his coordinates. “If you are from one of the nearby apartments, you can also email me if you want it home delivered. I check my mails at least once an hour”, pointing to his Micromax phone.

 
My jaw dropped and that bloke made sure it stayed there by saying “In 2 or 3 weeks, our Android app will be ready. You can order from your app as well”.
 
 
On speaking to that guy, I learnt that he has studied until Class 8 and has been doing lot of seasonal jobs. Apparently, he had sold tender coconuts last summer as well and figured out that there is a good demand for the home delivery of the above. A shrewd guy that he is, it didn’t take long for him to work out that the neighbourhood is dominated by those who work for IT companies – the kind of lazy bums with tablets and smart phones, who wouldn’t bother moving their posterior unless there is a very real need. To serve the above kind of clientele, he decided to make himself reachable over email, as that sets him apart from the competition. How about the smart phone app? How is he developing one? One of his regular customers is a smart phone developer. Impressed by his service, he decided to help him by developing the app.
 
 
I was mighty impressed by his entrepreneurial efforts. Although his product is something that is sold by every Kuppan, Suppan and Subramani – he clearly differentiated himself with his services. An infectious enthusiasm has lead him to offer and market his services through a smart phone. This is innovation. I doubt if this would be taught at any of the B Schools out there.