Rajiv's BlogPost

Me, Life & the world as I see…
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The Bangalore airport (officially called Kempegowda International Airport, named after the founder of Bangalore) opened in 2005 and located about 40kms from the city centre. It is the only commercial airport of Bangalore. The old city airport is only used for testing & defense purposes (probably also for private planes. When I own one, I will confirm that :)

Reaching the airport by road is the only option. The plan of running an airport-express style train seems practically shelved.

For an airport that handles over 12 million passengers, plenty of operators and aggregators offer transfer services. Following are those with differentiating offers:

1. Airport Buses

Started with much fanfare (online bookings, seat selection, many routes), the service has been normalized based on passenger response. As of now, 9 routes are operational and details of routes, fares & timings are available here.

Fares range from Rs 150 to 270

Pros:

  • Most economical option for groups of 2/3
  • Air-conditioned Volvo buses
  • Designated space for baggage storage (may not exist in some routes)

Cons:

  • No advance booking
  • No way to track the buses
  • No official mobile apps (Many apps by private developers but the risk of outdated information)

2. TaxiForSure

Started in the end of 2011, TaxiForSure has been a much-talked about startup. TaxiForSure is an aggregator i.e. they partner with traditional taxi operators. This has been my preferred option in recent times primarily for the quality of service & fixed fare structure.

To airport: Fare start from Rs 550 for 30kms OR Rs 680 flat fare
From airport: Fare start from Rs 400 for 30kms OR Rs 600 flat fare

Pros:

  • Advancing booking through phone (080 60601010), web and mobile app
  • Good quality cars and well-mannered drivers (in my experience)
  • Receipts by email

Cons:

  • Cannot flag down at airport for return since not designated as official airport taxi by airport
  • Requires coordination with driver & walking up to the airport parking lot

Signup for TaxiForSure using this link for some not-so-valuable vouchers worth Rs 650 (Easemytrip: Rs.400/- on return flight | Rs.200/- on oneway, Zovi.com: Rs.200 off, Freecharge.in: Rs.50 talktime)

3. Uber

Travel in style & powered by modern technology. As much as I love Uber & use it extensively, it an unviable option for airport transfers for 2 reasons – Risk of no cabs being available just-in-time & flat fare of Rs 2000

Flat fare of Rs 2000

Pros:

  • Luxurious AC cars (Toyota Corolla, Innova)
  • Directly billed to credit card
  • Receipts by email

Cons:

  • No advance booking
  • Exorbitantly priced at Rs 2000
  • No phone or web support (Book only through the mobile app)

Signup for Uber using this link for start up credit for Rs 300. Additionally, use the promo code LiveFromALounge (Courtesy) for 2 free rides up to Rs 500 before 20th April, 2014.

4. MegaCabs, KSTDC, MeruCabs

These are the officially designated as airport taxis by the airport hence the easiest to hop on when returning from airport. For this one reason, I still use them to return from the airport. I have used Meru to reach the airport in the past. Service was satisfactory but moved to TaxiForSure since Meru is expensive and offer no added advantage.

Fares start at Rs 19.50/km (night fare 10% extra i.e Rs 21.45/km!)

Pros:

  • Easiest to access from airport
  • Electronic meters

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Inconsistent experience (At times, dust & bad odour, explicitly need to ask driver to put on air conditioning)
  • Odd-priced bills, hence issue of change (Trivial but very frustrating after a long flight & at late nights)

Click here for details of website & contact numbers of the individual providers

PROMO: MegaCabs is running an interesting anniversary offer. Rs 650 flat fare (possibly + Rs 30 for toll) to airport in a sedan. This is compared to the usual fare of Rs 830 by TaxiForSure. Hope to trial it this weekend.

5. Kickstart Cabs

Launched in late 2013, a unique service for the disabled. The fleet of cars are designed for smooth entry/exit & trained drivers to escort passenger with mobility constraints. Further details of the modifications are described here. Vidhya Ramasubban, director of KickStart Cabs is glad to discuss specifics. Contact: +91 8105600445

Flat fares range from Rs 730 to Rs 830

Do you see any interesting & unique services for commutes to & from the airport missing from the above list?

 

It is a funny world out there. Besides earning loyalty program points for staying in hotels, it is also possible to earn airline miles, bitcoins or a cash back for just booking a hotel. Here’s how…

Both are like any other hotel booking services, just that additionally you can earn miles in one of the listed airline frequent flyer programs. PointsHound seems to have larger list of hotels. For instance, PointsHound shows a long list for Bangalore while RocketMiles shows just 3. PointsHound even lists hotels in tier 2 cities like Mysore. If you are a geek and not a miles junkie then choose to earn bitcoins with PointsHound. JetAirways JPMiles is also an available option in PointsHound

Use these referral links to signup for some extra credits-

PointsHound: Additional 250 miles (+ possibly another 1000 more) on your first hotel booking. For bookings made by April 1, 2014, grab an extra 1000 miles under the spring promo

RocketMiles: Additional 1000 miles referral bonus on the first hotel booking

This is simple and straightforward. Search your preferred hotel chain (or any of the listed retailers) & click through from Quidco/TopCashBack. Your booking is tracked and cash back is credited a few weeks after the stay. You can request a transfer to your Paypal account. Be sure to check both of them and select the one that has a higher cash back. I have used both of them & they works equally well.

In all the above, stay in the hotel is mandatory. If not, we all could be like the smart guy who enjoyed the first class lounge of China Eastern airlines for an year by booking & re-booking a first class ticket without flying once!

UPDATE- 2nd Apr 2014: 
RocketMiles has added Qatar Airways to the list of airline programs.

As an introductory offer, first time bookings will earn a bonus of 5,000 miles in the Qatar Airways Priviledge Club program. To be booked by 31st May 2014 and stay completed by 31st Dec 2014. Sign up with RocketMiles using this link for an additional 1000 miles.

On 28th August 2013, the Sensex closed below 18000 and the Nifty at 5285. Headlines in popular media went something like this:

- Sensex recovers after morning crash, ends 28 points higher, The Hindu

– Sensex drops over 500 points, Nifty slips below 5,150, The Economic Times

As always, when markets are down, most of media & analysts were painting red.

Keeping away from emotional reactions and staying put to the choosen model of investing, I was glad to buying that month. I wrote a few words of wisdom from legendary investors as a reminder and to an extent a confidence booster to stick with my plan. With years of practice it still takes some (ok, lots of!) guts to go against the flow.

Today is 24th March 2014. 6 months & 26 days later, the headlines are:

- Sensex up 300 pts to end at life high of 22055, Moneycontrol

- Sensex ends at record closing high of 22,055.48, The Hindu

missedopportunity

This is not another reminder to buy or sell! It is a reminder to

  • Do not react to that day, that moment. A day is 24 hours but over a period it is just a dot!
  • Do not be swayed by emotions
  • Do not take advice on TV seriously

 

Summer vacation is just about arriving for the kids. I went about planning a short getaway to Ooty (from Bangalore) for a fairly large group. We shortlisted 2 resorts, around the pristine Avalanche & Emerald lake area of Ooty- Red Hill Nature Resort & Destiny Farmstay. I was intrigued how the pricing could be simple & straightforward OR so complex that one goes nuts trying to zero down! (Both of them are lovely properties though)

This is how they look:

ooty-redhill

 

 

ooty-destiny

In the past, I have cribbed about the other beast of pricing- the fight for the Re 1 for products priced at at Rs 99, Rs 109, Rs 199 etc

 

 

 

Long distance air travel is a mixed bag experience. As much as it confuses the body clock and tires the muscles, it also brings along a few unique thrills, memorable experiences and new ideas

  • An empty next seat :D
  • Free upgrades :O (Those booked in first class have no such hope, sorry guys ;)
  • A peep into the cockpit!
  • Movie marathons
  • Reading international newspapers (One is for international news, another is for international perspective on Indian news)
  • Counting the # of languages the crew in Emirates can collectively speak(Usually 15-18, this time it was 21!)
  • Looking out for UFO sightings :#

And at times funny things like this condolence message in Khaleej Times dated 27th Jan 2014!

newspaper

cactusbarOne of the positives of solo travel- one has no choice but to watch others! Especially in vibrant cities like the one am in now, Barcelona. It is a insightful and fun experience.

Last evening at La Pizza Del Born (If one thinks the best pizzas are always thin crust, this place will change that opinion. Thick can be just as good when made at this place!), I watched an enthusiastic team of 2 men and a lady serve drinks and pizzas at the buzzing place. Amidst the busy servings, the lady made 3 shots of some drink, went to the men and they cheered with a smile. The next moment they were back to work. One taking orders of pizza, another making tables and the lady pulling vessels from the dish washer. Now, I have no clue if it was an occasion or a daily affair. Nevertheless, the spirit of happiness in the team was warming to watch.

Today, sitting outside the Cactus Bar, watched the lady at the counter walk out to meet a bunch of friends, click a few fun photos, bid goodbye with the customary kisses and getting back to work.

I have no clue if they are really happy but I am happy they offered me food for thought and blog!

 

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This was written on July 2013!!!
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The world was seen in just 2 – India and Foreign! It does seem lame and dumb but this was the belief as a young boy. That was an era of postal letters, telegram, (that died recently in India) and newspapers. No internet, no mobiles, one channel b&w TV that broadcasted a few hours in the day! I do not recall any close family relatives aboard those days, so it was just this two dimension view.

Over time the world view started broadening. The geography in school & the atlas (the biggest among all the school books that stood out in the shelf). Pranab Roy’s “the world this week” on TV. Conversations with dad and mom. Memorizing of country capitals (“by heart”) for a school quiz.

With the advent of internet, Wikipedia, maps, knowing and not knowing is a “switch”. Off- I don’t know. On- Yes, I know it now! (Watch this awesome talk by Sugata Mitra on why “knowing is obsolete”). One has to identify what is not known and then play the “switch” act.

Around the time, a golden goose and healthy “cash” cow called IT outsourcing took birth. Why scramble in dusty mines and noisy factories? Air-conditioned swanky offices, annual increments andddddd “foreign travel”. Somebody pays for the travel and accommodation. International laws governing minimal pay and favorable currency movements means excess cash even after paying the bank interest aka EMIs for the overrated real estate back home. I think a heart rate check survey will probably confirm that the word “onsite” excites majority of Indian IT professionals!

So now “everybody loves travel”. Why not? We can use the opportunity to experience cultures, food, people, lifestyles and nature. We become broad-minded & appreciate the clichés.

- This was written to kill time during a train journey from Rennes to Paris with the wife watching a movie and no opportunity for conversations. I love travel too!

Dubai: A few hours in the desert city

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This was written on 26th April 2012!!!
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Flying by Emirates, it is hard not to plan a stop over in Dubai, a showcase of how big money coupled with a grand vision could create a mystique that man would yearn to experience discounting the odds of nature. If not for the creation of an economy, there is no reason for such large scale human settlement in the desert. Dubai is a open challenge to nature that says “who says beauty has to be natural and cannot be created”.

Thanks to an aircraft engineering fault, our 24 hours in Dubai shorted to 18 hours minus 6 hours of sleep! 12 hours isn’t enough to experience any place. Nevertheless, a glimpse was all in agenda to plan a longer outing.

The newly developed metro made the day all the more easier and thanks to Emirates’ baggage storage service (20dhs for 12hrs). There are no coin-based local mobile calling phone booths! The only way is to purchase a 25dhs calling card. Local calls to land phones are free.

We started with a walk through the tradition spice and gold souk, followed with a short ride through the Dubai creek. Burj Khalifa, the 800+ mt tall building is crazy and literally looks to be connecting land to the sky! 100dhs takes one to the viewing deck at the top. It is not a view to die for since its similar to the view from a plane. We missed the Dubai fountain by a whisker.

Soon it was time to leave and as expected, it did seem incomplete.

My take on Dubai:

  • For the super rich, its all-that-money-can-do in one place.
  • For the rich, its an indication you-are-not-so-rich!
  • For the commons, dont-even-try-just-enjoy-life.

 

Free Reminder! If not now, when?

All the “learned” market analysts, brokers, media is telling us not to invest in equity now! If not now, when?

“The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.”
- John Templeton

“The most common cause of low prices is pessimism. We want to do business in such an environment, not because we like pessimism, but because we like the prices it produces. It’s optimism that is the enemy of the rational buyer.”
- Warren Buffet

“What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history.”
- Warren Buffet

“The key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.”
- Peter Lynch

For those who say “Oh, I don’t have the capital NOW to invest”, think past! Think of the time when you carved money out to invest when markets were zooming high! If it was possible then, it must be possible now. Try harder.

Recall the last time one said “Oh, I should have bought it that time”. “That” time is now.

 

Rain, Rain come our way

Rain, Rain come our way
Don’t play a game of sway

India needs the pouring shower
To keep up the minimum power

Rain, Rain come our way