Airline Tickets Sites in India: Long Way to Go

Online booking of airline tickets in India have started to take off. Arzoo, Makemytrip, Travelguru, Air Deccan being a few of the competitors. Not to mention, Yahoo’s farechase is also in the game. The start-ups companies in this space have raised boatloads of Venture Capital. (wonder why, for a technology that is so common place in the US). These sites are very much in a state of infancy and there is plenty of scope for improvement.

Here are a few observations/tips in case you plan to use these services.

1. These sites are very much in a state of infancy. All the sites uniformly have very poorly designed interfaces. Combined with the slow connectivity (which is common place in India) the user experience is outrageously frustrating to say the least.

2. All the sites are equally buggy. One of the sites gave me an error when I tried to confirm my registration! Another gave me a blank screen after I submitted the registration form. Then, I tried to register again and I was told that that login was taken. Thinking that this was a sign that my registration actually went through I tried logging in. The login/passwd combination did not match. I tried to reset password but was unsuccessful. Argghhh!!!

2. Prices are similar, though I found Arzoo providing lower fare results on quite a few occasions. Farechase rates are in $ and completely out of whack. In other words, Farechase is not worth using for flight deals within India.

3. Performing a credit card transaction online is scary. Thankfully, most of the India based sites provide toll free support numbers. These work well. You are best off exploring the various options online, narrowing down on your choice, and then calling the support line to purchase your ticket. The e-ticket gets emailed out to you after the transaction has been processed.

4. Only Arzoo appears to be Firefox ready. All the other sites went crazy at some point with content on the screen shifting around in bizarre fashion.

5. The good news is that all these sites returned better rates than the travel agents.

Indian Economy Heatin’ Up

There are no shortage of news reports and articles about the overheating of the Indian economy. Meanwhile on main street the prices have sky-rocketed for everything from vegetables to real estate. The common man is struggling for survival and Wal-Mart’s first launch in India in August is still months away (!!). The BJP Govt. was driven out of power supposedly because the benefits of economic growth (remember “India Shinning”) did not “trickle” down to the masses. I guess “Incredible India” or India Poised leaves the man on the street far behind. Oh well…

GPS In Shoes: The New, New “SaaS”

Check out this news report about new shoes that are available with a GPS chip in the sole! Considering that it is new and innovative the high price tag is understandable ($325-$350 plus $19.95 monthly subscription for 24×7 monitoring service). “A plug-and-wear version that allows wearers to remove the electronics module from their old shoes and plug it into another pair” is in the works. Wonder when these shoes are going the cell phone route, sign up for 2 years of service and get a pair of shoes free!
Perhaps, this is the new Shoes As A Service (SaaS)? 🙂

Cricket: Wow, England Won!

Hats off to the Englishmen for winnning the first ODI against the Aussies. Pretty impressive considering what an awful tour England has had so far in Australia. Collingwood continues to impress. Apart from Collingwood only Ian Bell and Flintoff made any worthwhile contributions. In short, it was for all practicall purposes a single-handed effort. The hopelessly out of form Strauss is best at the opening or number 3 slot. At number 4 he is a complete misfit and it reflects in his performance.

It should be interesting to see how the Aussies come back after this defeat. Considering that they are not used to losing (!) it must be psychologically difficult to come to terms with this defeat!

Dravid Shot the Messenger!

For the first time in his career as captain Rahul Dravid goofed when it came to responding to queries from the press. When asked about the team manager’s report referring to the spat between Chappel and Sehwag, the otherwise suave and composed captain lost his cool and verbally shot the messenger, Chetan Desai, instead of responding to the issue at hand. No matter what the qualifications of the team manager might be, he was just performing an operational responsibility. In this capacity he is clearly entitled to his opinions and interpretations of happenings in the dressing room. The truth is that Mr. Desai found some issues and he reported them. One can understand Dravid taking issue with the fact that the report was leaked. But attacking Mr. Desai’s credentials was totally uncalled for. Does it really matter what his cricketing credentials are? If his credentials are an issue, Dravid should take up the issue with the Board rather than attack him in public!

In any case, it is good to know that Dravid stands up for his men. One can only hope that in backing Sehwag to the hilt, India’s most reliable man has not made an unreliable bet.

Bollywood vs Youtube?

Youtube has been asked to remove Viacom video clips.

…According to Viacom, which owns more than 120 networks around the world, YouTube has shown clips of its television shows, music videos, movies and documentaries more than 1.2 billion times.

“We are asking to get paid,” said Mike Fricklas, Viacom’s general counsel, in an interview with the Mercury News. “Our content is very valuable and we think that has obviously contributed to YouTube’s growth and to Google.”

Viacom is not the only one who can claim to have contributed to Youtube’s growth. What about all the scores of Bollywood movie clips? Given the size of the audience for Bollywood clips, ts very likely that they have made a sizable contribution to Youtube rise and success.

A search on Shahrukh Khan on Youtube returned 3177 results while Jon Stewart returned 2087. Go figure!

Maybe its time the Bollywood production houses came together to battle Youtube?

Team India for World Cup Finalized?

Virendra Sehwag and Munaf Patel are back as widely speculated. Team India is slowly but surely converging on its final 15 for the World Cup. Mohammed Kaif has reason to feel left out especially given that Suresh Raina has been given an opportunity to prove himself. Barring some failures in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka, its unlikely that Kaif will get another shot to prove himself. Even if he does it will be too late because the World Cup team will be announced at the same time that the team is announced for the last two ODIs against SL!

It also sounds like Sehwag will bat in the middle order. This is a smart move considering that his “hit and miss” batting style has been one of the main reasons for many of India’s recent failures. It also means that he could well be competing for the all rounder spot with Irfan Pathan! To play Sehwag at the expense of Dinesh Karthick would further weaken India’s fielding and with Munaf likely to play India’s fielding degradation is complete!

There have been some reports about not needing two keepers in the 15. Karthick should be in the team for his batting and brilliant fielding and not just as the second keeper. He has grabbed the spot which has in past been occupied by Raina or Kaif. Karthick’s recent performances have shown that he has what it takes to be a very useful ODI player. His fighting spirit and his ability to be a clean striker of ball, combined with his ability to pitch in as a keeper if need be, gives him a clear edge over Kaif and Raina.

Romesh Powar is likely to miss out on the World Cup spot barring some serious injuries. With Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh sure to make the team and the return of Sehwag as the other spin option, Powar’s chances are very remote. The other spot in question is that of Sri Sreesanth. With Munaf proving to be “flaky” the team management is unlikely to drop Sreesanth. Besides, the 15 for the next two deciding ODIs does not include any other seamers (other than Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar who are sure certainties) who could compete for this spot. In short, it appears that India’s 15 for the World Cup is more or less decided. Two failures from Viru or Uthappa would mean Gautam Gambhir gets this spot. Two failures from Dinesh Karthick could mean Suresh Raina grabs his spot. The rest of the team appears to be a done deal. After a lot of controversies, a series of victories, followed by a string of loses, Team India seems to have arrived at the best it has to offer.

Indian Consulate in SF Dumps Visa Papers!

The Indian Consulate in SF landed itself in a needless controversy which could have been avoided with the purchase and use of a paper shredder! (A friend of mine who happens to be an obsessive advocate of privacy sent this to me. So I won’t reveal his name here 🙂

The Consul General does have a point when he says that this is a “cultural” issue but this is no excuse for not using a paper shredder!

Feelin’ Old?

Do you feel you are growing old and losing your creative instincts? Not to worry.

“….We often presume creativity is the domain of youth, that great artists are young geniuses, brash and brilliant iconoclasts. Arthur Rimbaud, Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jasper Johns all revolutionized their artistic disciplines in their teens or 20s. Picasso created the first cubist paintings at 25, and Welles made “Citizen Kane” at 25. These artists made dramatic, inspired discoveries based on important new ideas, which they often encapsulated in individual masterpieces.

But there’s another path to artistic success, one that doesn’t rely on sudden flashes of insight but on the trial-and-error accumulation of knowledge that ultimately leads to novel manifestations of wisdom and judgment…”

This is an excerpt from an interesting article from the Mercury News. It makes the case with scores of examples of those who have produced their best work in their later years.