City Volvos — modern Mumbai Suburban trains on Indian roads?

I am sure most in Indian metropolitan cities have been fascinated by the “Volvo travel” and most would have read in media / heard the general perception of how comfortable a volvo city ride is. There are groups / transit companies which promote use the public transit (through bus days etc) and all of them cite Volvo travel and its confortness asking personal vehicle owners to switch to public transit. Things on the ground has to change a lot.The greener pastures alone are being projected.

Most people now talk about frequency, time table / GPS updates to gauge the reliability of the service and even transit companies in some way or other try to improve the service around this with GPS info systems at bus stops (MTC started in chennai and BMTC in Bangalore has been running a pilot for quite a while now) and MTC also makes the GPS info public in the site www.alert.net.in/eta (which hardly 10 people know of and works only on Internet Explorer). So at least transit companies are trying to make an minuscule effort in a positive direction though they need to travel a long way in making things passenger friendly.

Ride comfortness :-

Okay, not everybody gets a seat. But overcrowding the bus and charging premium luxury fares is sheer exploitation. I happened to fight with the MTC crew yesterday (588B – TN01-8609) particularly when the driver was stopping at each stop and asking the people standing by to hop in and the bus would be empty in next couple of stops when it was clearly not the case. Unlike the normal buses, Volvo buses are closed door air conditioned buses. Having 100 people in glass case is not a luxury travel(not even average level of comfort) and getting in and out is like experiencing overcrowding in Mumbai Suburban trains. Overcrowding in closed buses will lead to suffocation as there are no windows and no one cares about safety.It would create a stampede if the bus door gets jammed after an accident. Just because people have the money to pay for the ticket doesn’t mean you have to exploit them. The crew in most cases are greedy.Corporations too. We will get back to reasons / solutions later in the post.

What further surprised me was there was no mention of “capacity” inside the bus. Normal city bus has a capacity of 48+25 and have them written on the front on the bus behind the name board. A B7RLE made by Volvo India has a seating capacity of 40. I today got another shock when i saw 40 straps hanging on the 335E Volvo in Bangalore, which indirectly says the corporation wants 40 people to stand and travel. This is the true face of “comfortable Volvo travel” in India. We as straphangers need to make sure that Volvos are not mumbai suburban trains of our cities.

Reaons for overcrowding:-

1. Demand Supply management

Lack of enough fleets is one major cause. Chennai city alone is well short of some 2000 buses and when it comes to Volvo segment, it hardly has 100 fleets which is too less and when distributed across routes(for social reasons) the number of fleets on a particular route is handful and cannot cater the demand.When i argued with the conductor about overcrowding, he thrown me this point. Passengers are waiting for buses for long time, and hence they board even crowded buses.Valid but overcrowding the buses will not improve the face of public transit. Why is it so difficult to operate fleets based on demand, now that reports out of ticketing machines can clearly help visualize the demand.Are the authorities doing anything here? Bangalore through its capacity has some how overcome this reason of lack of buses, but not on all routes. The city needs more buses too.335E is not overcrowded on weekdays since the frequency is around 7 minutes, but during weekends / festive seasons it simply cant handle the load of outstation passengers reaching majestic.

2. Inefficient Route management

Route planning needs to be proper. Lack of depots make the Volvos run more idle trips causing bleeding losses. For instance 335E on mornings run jam packed to ITPL but around 10-11 am one see some 20 Volvos returning back to KBS with 2 or 3 passengers. 588B/588C in Chennai ws also the same. Just to cater the tourist demand in the evenings around 10-15 Volvos travel more or less empty to Mahabalipuram.

3. Greedy Crew / Corporations

Part of the crew’s share of wage comes from the revenue they collect and this makes them over crowd. Again due to idle running trips, crew try to double the revenue on the crowded trip and overcrowd. How many times have you heard “Holagade hogi” / “Thalli Ulla ponga”. Corporations also remain silent on this since half the trips run on loss. Ideal way for corporations is to make money through travel passes instead of selling tickets and delink the collection incentive for the crew and standardize their salary.

I will be doing some more study on this shortly and probably reach out to the corporations. Lets not make our volvos as mumbai suburban trains! As a start there should be display of what is the capacity of the bus inside it.

For Bangalore related city commute please follow http://praja.in

For Chennai related city commute and straphanger issues like these, please follow @straphanger_in http://straphanger.wordpress.com/ and articles by Ajai Sreevatsan on The Hindu

Social Media and Customer Service

Well a lot of has changed about customer service since new age media came into picture. Customers can actually impact potential customers choice just by googling. I just experienced an incident where i was called back for my tweet. Let me explain in detail.

There is one awesome mobile app ngpay which is simply too good and gives you a direct access to bank literally in addition to lot of other key m-commerce options. I have been using this app for more than a year and have always been impressed with how they provide value on your finger tips. But last saturday i was slightly let down by it and i was more pissed off by their social media team.

I was on dire need of cash for personal emergency on last saturday and bank being holiday for bakrid, the only option was just to take out of ATM. I exhausted my 10k limit on other bank ATM(Our town had only one ATM functional at that moment) and was thinking how i can get as much as i can. That was the time to check out HDFC Fund transfer on ngpay. I tried to transfer 10 k to another HDFC account and it failed. Then i did a 5k, it succeeded. When i called up HDFC customer care why it was not allowing and whether it was problem at HDFC or ngpay, i was told HDFC allows till 10k, So i called up ngpay customer care to get a clarification why i was not allowed to transact when i have funds and HDFC says the limit is 10k per day. The call was not attended for ~5 long minutes and i got pissed off. To vent out my frustration i wrote this tweet. Left it then and made ways to get money.

Monday morning rush hour to office i get a call from ngpay asking what was my issue. I explained the problem i faced and got a clarification saying RBI limits fund transfers to 5k per day and merchant transactions can be up to 10k per day. Fair enough, HDFC is not aware of this, ngpay being in core m-commerce domain may be best persons on RBI’s m-commerce policy. I thanked him and left to my office. Again after an hour i got a call from another person asking if am satisfied with response to my query. Obviously the person wasnt happy with my tweet and was insisting that i update it. I was also told about other mechanisms of contacting like customer support like emailing , using the “Contact” option in the application etc indirectly to imply  that ‘I need not tweet if i dont get support, there are other ways of getting it too’ .Once again i was reminded that “it would be great if i updated my twitter status”. Probably what they expected was  a tweet like “ngpay customer care rocks! they promptly called me seeing my tweet”, but i wrote this “Okay.@ngpay seems to have ‘rot learned’ customer service through social media.I will write more on it soon.at least tweets get some response”.

Let me explain that tweet. While i completely appreciate ngpay for embracing new media like twitter and responding to customers, I find very few Indian companies actually learn the art of customer service and making the customer more comfortable using these new media.ngpay too has areas to improve along with others like tatadocomo,redbus_in many others.

I might be wrong in all fronts, but am just writing my thoughts below. The brands which adopt new media use them to do a better brand management. So they have to learn that there will always be detractors for the brand as well as attractors. So when they get the free branding from customers who are satisfied, they should understand that they will also get detractors automatically when the customers are dissatisfied. So instead of asking the ‘dissatisfied’ customer to change their views and propagate them, they must provide more value to get the positive sentiment back on new media possibly from the same person and others.

What ngpay did wrongly?

1. While they saw my tweet and called back, am damn sure their process hasnt changed you may still get call waiting for 5 minutes and may not be called back until you tweet something like i did. They didnt take my critical feedback in complete sense and act on it, they just asked if my query was resolved. It is critical that you improve your voice support since its all related to money. I will not be transacting if i know that your customer support is pita and i may not get attended after a possible failed transaction worth 10k.

2. The person who spoke second time, actually did more damage (So much that it has given me energy to write such a long post when my blog is nearing death). The person spoke about contacting through email, Contact us instead of tweeting a critical feedback.Now among call centre,email,contact us, twitter, only call centre and twitter are real-time communication tools. If i had ability to email [access to computer], i would never used ngpay firstly, have used net banking and everything would have been peaceful. “Contact us”(basically will again email you) is again a passive option and am not sure to get a response soon. I thought twitter was a real-time tool, perhaps i should have realised your twitter account is just there for sake of it when i tweeted nice things about ngpay and found you retweeted after days. So lesson is if you are on twitter, make sure you check the account twice a day(at least) and not only monitor it on 9 – 5 during weekdays. I would also suggest you to read this article to get a sense of why i called customer care and then tweeted instead of emailing.

Related read :- Cleartrip-Kiruba Incident

Am alive

Been months since i logged into wordpress.So what was keeping me busy? Well a lot of things. Work got tighter on and off, forcing to stretch for project deliveries.But a lot of other activities also took my time. Playing TT at office in the evenings was a great exercise and stress buster.

I typed the above sometime in July and i stopped it and didnt publish that time.So what else is keeping me going? Justifying that i was busy at work all along the year will be a lie, though it can attribute to 50%. So what are the other acitivities that i did? Apart from work, been doing quite few things that bring in some satisfaction. Be it hanging around with busroutes.in guys and making some tiny contribution in python/php/testing or literally roaming around the streets for mapping e-city / hosur or attending the Wikipedia Meetup 3 and getting hooked into it or making my first article appear on the DYK section of the main page or participating in Wikipedia takes Chennai, it was all pure fun and learning. Came across a bunch of awesome people in the process of doing these things. Been to college couple of times during the alumni meet and then for software freedom day, it was just refreshing to breathe the “old air”. So stressed office schedules + Parallel activities like above + travelling home twice a month leaves no time for blogging. I have been tweeting heavily though for quite sometime now. Follow me there. Hope i will update this blog soon and will not keep it idle for a year.

Cycling

I always missed the cab to office and waited for 20 minutes for next cab. If i walk it will take 25 minutes(5 minutes for crossing the road included). Autowalahs do a daylight roberry and come for nothing less than Rs.35 on the mention of word EGL / behind ‘DELL’ for a distance of 2.4 km. Worse is that most refuse to come at all.The walk for 25 minutes at the night after good amount of TT with tummy crying was also another reason.

Last week i decided to get a bike.I was looking at gear cycles alone prior to looking at the prices.I went to a wrong shop where the guy said “we have cycles from 7000 to 1 lakh Sir”. I said Ok thanks. Finally got into right store and was in diliema to get a whether to get a Photon or a geared cycle as i loved Photon in school days and it was saving my pockets too but finally settled for geared “Hercules AXN 6SP” on Sunday

Hercules AXN 6SP

Hercules AXN 6SP

Cycled 3 km from Ulsoor to Domlur and then last monday started to office and had a bad start.Morning was fine and at 10 pm hoping to pedal back, it couldnt have been worse. Flat tyre on first day.Thanks to my friend, i kept in hand and came home in bike.Then fixed the puncture and Saturday morning i decided to have some cycling excercise. I went to Shantinagar BMTC bus stand to book tickets for home. I took the main road for most part along this way . Sloppy terrain helps in some places and is a show stopper in others. I covered a total of 13 km in just under an hour.Cycling at the morning was too good in the climate.

Time up.. gotto cycle to office

Back from hibernation

Yes, i know its been looong time since i blogged or even logged into wordpress.Now am back and taking a resolution(? lets see how long it lasts) to update my blog ‘regularly’.So a quick update on what i was doing all these days.I must admit work was not that hectic though there were occasional long streches.On the travelling front i was frequenting more to home (3, even 4 times a month) from August till now.When i go home, i enjoy the few minutes i spend with my 1 month old yet-to-be-named niece. Suggestions for name welcome as i gotto be naming her officially given the status of ‘mama’ :)

On otherside of life been involved with several things i relish. Premanand and me took a Ubuntu Installation ‘hands on’ workshop  @ SSNLUG in an effort to retrive the sleeping club.Presenting something for the first time to a complete set of new audience was a thrilling experience that too with 0 preparation.Pics are here. Post about that coming soon! . As part of extended work been looking into CCNET and just being amazed the way it does everything and the way its written. At home been looking into Google data Contacts API for doing something. Last week went to barcamp chennai (Yes will post one on that seperately) and to sum up in a word its ‘awesome!!!’. Again going to diwali for this weekend for a 3 day holiday.

Reminding myself on what am supposed to write after this post sometime soon.

  1.  SFD @ SSNLUG — Experiences of last minute things
  2. Barcamp Post
  3. Travellogues and rant

Skandagiri Trek

Yes, you read it right, unusual things happening today.Like am posting more than a post on same day in an otherwise very much inactive blog, i also did a trek to Skandagiri.(Kalavaarahalli betta)

It was all decided on a conf call on thursday night.

Friday night 9 pm :- Dinesh picked me and we were heading to Praveen place at nagawara and went to Praveen’s place.Raj joined as around 1030. We were chatting till 1230 at his place and then started. The road going towards airport was awesome. Dinesh frequently touched 87 and occasionally 90+. Then we had a break just before Airport flyover and had tea. Started around 2:45 from there and started towards ChikBallapur. The road wasnt that great as it was from Hebbal flyover till Airport Flyover.Steadily went in 40-50 and reached the town of ChikBallapur around 330.[We were assisted by Google Maps to reach ChikBallapur, For those who dont have, just go straight on NH7 and after Devenahalli untill you cross 3rd level crossing,you reach ChikBallapur] We struggled which way to go to reach the downhill from there. Different people had different answers and we dont know whom to believe.Worse is more than half of them dont know that such a place exist. Finally we reached the downhill at 4. There we need to register for forest entry and optionally take a guide(200 Rs). From then on its walk walk walk. Initial enthusiasm lasted till 530 am and after that i was like tired. We sat and had snacks we had taken, glucose and continued. Finally reached the peak at 615 am looking for sunrise. But sun was late and didnt come till even 740. We had nice photo sessions and were chatting.Photos to be uploaded soon to my picasaweb. It was a well needed rest i must say and the climate was awesome.Wind was very strong.Completed all that we had bought and were reluctantly started moving down. Moving down was little bit of tough task as the fog had settled in and made the rocks slippery. Yours truly slipped at lot of places and at one place was saved by dinesh who had slipped just before me and was in a position to reach me easily. Then we moved down slowly and finally reached at 915.
Then started back and started straight to Hebbal. We thought of having some cool drinks but some how came till Yelahanka were me and dinesh had some rest and some cool drinks. Traffic started from this point.The BIAL volvo services most of which run empty in night were now filled with people. Again it was a long journey for us from Nagawara to Domlur. Finally reached around 1115. A memorable trip.

For people willing to go, please take

  1. Toolbox for bikes and firstaid kit for emergency. We almost felt the need of them
  2. Enough water. Make sure each one has atleast 1 Litre of water for self.
  3. Emergency lamp helped us though torches will be suffice for individuals.
  4. Try to have a drawing of route you are gonna travel. Though on highways we had google maps, but we almost wasted 45 minutes finding the road to downhill.

Nicely taking rest as i walked looong way. Was a good weekend stress buster after a tight week.

My 1 month old Nokia E51

  • Nokia E51
Nokia E51

When all the buzz is on iPhone, its really a cool mobile from Nokia having all the equivalent features and a more simplistic form factor and ‘more like a cell phone’ makes it feel the owner ‘being home’ instead of carrying a big jumbo without compramising on the feature set. You can read the specs by clicking above pic.

7 daysA month into it, what am i upto. Well firstly its been a hectic week since i got this phone, so really not much of time to get used to it. Just uploaded few mp3s, activated GPRS and downloaded few apps.Lot more can be done. One striking feature this mobile with which i was very much impressed was (No its not aGPS, not WiFi, not 3G). Its a very good feature supporting accessibility for visual impaired. Yes text to speech / Voice Aid.If this feature gets into basic mobiles technology will truely empower those people and transform thier lives.Also this features helps us too when it announces the caller name at the start of ring tone, so that we can know who the caller is even when the phone is inside our pockets. Just checked that this feature is also present in Nokia N73(which share a lot of things in common).

Coming to the features, 3G is absolutely useless as of now in india unless spectrum allocation is done for which atleast it may take a year or 2 hopefully. Sooner the better for me :)

WiFi is good, but havent tested as all the signals i recieved so far are encrypted corporate networks.Will try out soon in some CCDay.Also planning to get got a Wireless router and using WiFi at home.Seems good EDGE / GPRS is fine but airtels rate is costly for 140 per week.(Though cheaper option if am roaming for a week without a computer, i get a complete substitute for 20 per day which anyway i will spend for cafe).

Built in radio,music player,real player(though havent tried a single video yet) tries to satisfy entertainment needs.Integerated Email with push mail support, office docs,pdf viewer/editor,WiFi it has all thats needed for a miniature substitute for a laptop for a person who always needs to be upto date.

Applications currently installed :-

  1. GMail – Obvious
  2. GMaps – aGPS works great, maps even remote places like ‘Vengambakkam’ near Kalpakkam.I was surprised.
  3. Google search
  4. Fring — Skype + Gtalk voice calls free :D decent chat interface.
  5. Watrpad — Supposed to be a book reader.
  6. Teashark — browser based on the same engine used by safari.(Yes you got it. No Opera)
  7. mChek, ngPay — mcommerce.
  8. mundu Radio. Finally i get to listen some free tamil radio in bangalore for free.
  9. Others arent worth mentioning after trying.

Photo clarity is fine.

Overall totally using it.(One more long time draft coming out :P)

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