Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ola Money - Menace Or Delight?

Ola Cabs is currently a very popular cab/taxi aggregator service in India that provides match making services between those looking for taxis and those providing taxis. They have become popular due to the way they have adopted technology to make the taxis available to people, overturning companies like Fasttrack taxi and Wings Radio Cabs. These other companies still continue to exist and operate, but a large chunk of the taxi driver population has shifted loyalties to Ola cabs and Uber as well. Uber does exactly what Ola does, only difference being it is an american company that has started operations in India now.

Now, in their endeavour to keep up with superior competition like Uber, Ola has adopted a technology aided approach to make your taxi ride a smoother process. Going by this approach, and also believing that cash is a messy mode of payment, for the past one and half years, they have been offering a within-app wallet service called Ola Money, where you prepay and store some money in your name in their account, and that is digitally disbursed to the taxi driver you want to pay at the end of your ride. No need to run around for change. The driver gets a settlement on a per-day or per-week basis. In theory, this sounds very rosy. But implementation is a different beast altogether.




In my observation of using the Ola service coupled with the digital wallet feature, and also in my interactions with some of the taxi drivers who ferry me around the city, I have come to realise that in the name of having agility in business decisions, Ola has become a company whose payment policies can be as fickle as the human mind. Taxi drivers regularly mention ever changing payment settlement policies, what with Ola trying to factor in user feebback into payment disbursal and penalizing drivers with lower ratings. While users are getting accustomed to the convenience of not having to worry about exact change, or running short of money to pay the taxi, the taxi drivers are increasingly wary of taking digital payments because they are not clear exactly how much money will come to their hands inspite of running the taxi for the entire day. The average driver's expectation is I get a customer, I ferry them around, I ought to get paid in full for that. And when that fundamental logic in their mind doesnt match up with reality due to constant churn of policy decisions, it puts them in a spot. Result – A good number of drivers regularly ask for cash payments, and some of them go to the extent of turning down taxi bookings where customer may not pay in hard cash. And lacking a practical view of real life scenarios, the Ola app doesnt give the customer an option to choose the mode of payment when you keep money in your Ola wallet.

You can read this thread of tweets by blogger and techie Krish Ashok, and the many responses to his tweet that will give you an idea of how the digital wallet implementation of Ola lacks the angle of practicality to it. - https://twitter.com/krishashok/status/740450772459130881

In August of 2015, There have also been news reports about how the Ola APIs have been built in a less than robust way, and about how some hackers have been able to pilfer out personal information of various users. The company subsequently claims to have plugged these loopholes and fixed potential vulnerabilities.


As they say, it takes a lot of vision, commitment and foresight to build a robust business that creates a lifetime of value for itself and also for people that depend on it. Hoping that Ola does the same, and not get trapped in the cocoon of lopsided technology addiction and compulsive need to sway to the commands of their fund masters.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kalakriti - A mega photo exhibition in Pune, June 10-12

I would like to share some very exciting news with the august readers of this blog. Two of my photographs have been selected to be displayed at a photography exhibition cum sale organized by a local photography group here in Pune. They had invited submissions from group members and non-members alike. In all, 500 images were submitted, out of which 250 have been selected for the display.  These photos will be reviewed and adjudged further in the next round.  
The exhibition is to be held at Raja Ravi Verma Gallery at Pune from the 10th to 12th of June this year. 

I am totally pumped up to even think that someone might actually end up purchasing a photograph that I clicked, in addition to the fact that these two photos will be reviewed and adjudged further in the next round.

Here are the photos that got selected!

I am excited!! 

I am also attaching a poster image giving the details of the event.

If any of you are in Pune this weekend, please do drop in at the venue!! 

And as I always say, this is #achievementunlocked :D

B(Fl)oating In Water



'Lost' - Each one lost in their own slice of this world
Here are the details of the exhibition

Friday, May 27, 2016

Star Trails - Take 1

Last month, I had got the opportunity to try out Star Trails photography for the first time. As part of PPL(Pune Photography Lovers) group's monthly photowalk, I had travelled to Tikona Fort just on the outskirts of Pune. Our entire photography group had camped atop the Tikona Fort. While the experts went about capturing the star trails, first timers (like me and few others) to this genre setup our equipment, and attempted our photo captures after a good amout of quizzing people about all the steps to be followed.

It was a memorable experience to sleep under the millions of stars in the sky, the last time I did that was at my aunt's place when I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old.  The actual time duration when I was clicking pictures was about 2 hours in the middle of the night, I slept pre and post photoshoot, as I had a long day the following day. We had left from our respective homes by 2.30 PM-3.00PM, and reached the base of Tikona fort by 4.15 PM. After a quick snack break, we started the climb up to the fort. This fort is one of the smaller forts among all the forts of Maharashtra, and is said to be easier to climb than the others. Me being the lazy city dweller, I found even the climb to this fort to be a good enough challenge. Huffing and panting, by the time I reached up the summit, it was nearly 6PM and sunset photography enthusiasts were already clicking away to glory.  As we settled down, I was going about clicking some test shots, and by 7.15 PM dusk was over, and sky started turning dark. The good part about PPL group is the mix of photographers who land up at the photowalks, and you will always find people who are at your level. Using the confounded expressions on some the faces, I found some fellow shutterbugs who were new to this genre. 

As you climb up the small hillock, you would be blind if you did not notice the way the location for the fort has been selected, and the way in which the natural hill formation has been taken advantage of for security purposes. Along with me, my admiration for the Maratha warriors, especially for Shivaji Maharaj, also climbed up a few notches. There is a natural spring atop the fort which has clean potable water. I could observe that this fort as well had been built to provide all basic necessities to its residents, even in case of an enemy attack. 

This fort is a good overnight camping and picnic spot. I saw two other families bring snacks, bedsheets and tents and set up camp in the fort. It is a very small fort, so there is not much to see of the fort. But it is an excellent place to spend a good few hours while you empty your pent up thoughts and confusions to the skies and return back recharged.

On the whole, a new place, a new genre of photography, something new learnt, some good words exchange, some introspection done, some old memories refreshed, soon it was time to return back to realities. 

Here is my star trails picture, processed one month late - 


It is not much, this click doesn't have a circular start trail. But nevertheless, it is a reasonable start considering I am ZERO in post processing(necessity for star trails) and I am stubborn not to pay money or pirate a copy of photoshop.

So that's what I have been pottering around with. What have you been up to?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Honda Navi - Playing Dress Up?


So, I got a chance to check out this new odd looking bike from Honda. The looks of it got me
instantly excited. Upon enquiry, I learnt that it is a regular gear less scooter engine with a bike-y build. So reshape the activa, take away the closed boot space, and add a bike like headlight to it, and leave a gaping hole to accomodate some luggage, and you will get the Navi. They haven't even given it better wheels!! The TVS Wego has better alloy wheels (which makes a difference in the overall ride quality) than the Navi.

In the current version, I am disappointed and not tempted to go for a test ride. The only reason I would think of buying this vehicle would be to save about 5K-7K ruppees, and give myself a false impression of zooming about in a motorcycle.

That's the Honda Navi as of now. But I am hoping Honda has some interesting variations lined up in the pipeline for this platform. I remember seeing a video of a concept bike having a similar shape, somewhere on the social web. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Missing FriFotos and Photocontests - On the lookout

I have been missing #frifotos - the weekly photographic forum - it was shutdown in October last year.

I have been too pre-occupied with an upcoming wedding in the family, that my mind is just not able to focus on whipping up a blog post.

Nevertheless, I thought I will share a photo that best reflects my sentiment right now - Always be on the lookout for that one ideal opportunity, to be the best that you can be, to break free, to show the world who you really are!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Motivation and Goal Setting

This article is the next in the series of articles that record my notes and observations from the Valmiki Ramayana, as part of my participation in the “Read Ramayana” project.



The articles written so far in this series have barely scratched the surface of this epic. But like a modern day cricket match innings that starts with crackling sixes and fours, there is so much to infer and absorb even in the initial Sargas(Chapters) of this epic, that I can’t help but appreciate and write about even the punctuation marks used in these sections. Also, learning about the details of the enormous background of this epic story excites me a lot. So here is one more item that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading and re-reading Sarga 2 of the Bala Kaanda. And it is here that I couldn’t but help make a note of the conversation between Lord Brahma and Rishi Valmiki. There are three slokas, in particular, that caught my attention -
Na Tey Vaaganruta Kaavye Kaachidatra Bhavishyati |
Ramakathaa Punyaam Shlokbadhdhaam Manoramaam|| (1.2.35)
Yaavat Sthasyanti Girayassaritashcha mahitale |
Tavadraamaayanakatha Lokeshu Pracharishyati || (1.2.36)

YaavadRaamayanakatha TvatKruta Pracharishyati |
TaavadOOrdhvamadhashcha Tvam Mallokeshu Nivatsyasi || (1.2.37)

In this Sarga, these slokas come at a juncture when Valmiki is ruminating on the spontaneous poetic Sloka verse that came to him, and Brahma has come to meet Valmiki. The slokas quoted above are Brahma’s words.
For a moment, lets forget the names Brahma and Valmiki. The person in charge of creating and establishing this Universe, the SrishtiKarta is speaking to a hunter turned Rishi. He tells the Rishi to pen the life story of Rama.
So what is happening here? The assignment is clear - Rama’s life story, all the known and unknown parts of it need to be recorded. And Valmiki has been identified as the candidate fit & worthy of this task, and this is where Brahma shows, by example, how to set goals and motivations for the the person who you have identified as the right fit for the task at hand.
All said and done, when executed, this work will become Valmiki’s first literary work. For a scholarly writer about to pen his first major piece, SrishtiKarta Brahma sets incentives, while at the same time instilling confidence about his capability about the task at hand. And the sequence of these is to be appreciated as well -
First verse says “Nothing that is away from the truth will be a part of your writing”. Now, this is a literal translation from Sanskrit to English, which is how things are expressed in that language, but what really is being said here is (paraphrased in active voice) - “Valmiki, whatever you need to know (in terms of facts and data) to complete this work, you will get all of it, starting with the brief you got from Rishi Narad.  Please use your newly learnt skill of writing ‘sloka’ verses to put all of this in an enjoyable readable format.”
Second verse says “As long as mountains & rivers exist on this planet, the story of Ramayana will exist.” To paraphrase this in modern day language, “There is a guaranteed uptake for such a work. I can foresee this uptake will last for as long as mountains & rivers shall exist, i.e. till the human race (as we know it) will exist, and along with it, your name will be remembered for generations to come. 
And the final third verse(quoted above) says “ And as long as the Ramayana(written by you) prevails, you will reside in all the three worlds(Upper world, Nether world and Bramhaloka)”. This would paraphrase to “Yours will be an established name among all kinds of living beings in this universe.” Ramayana was written at at time when name and reputation was valued the way we value money today.
So essentially, starting from assuring his commitment for all requisite inputs for the assignment at hand to discussing the future of the assignment’s output to discussing the assignee’s personal growth in accomplishing the project, Brahma not only gets the point across to Valmiki, he also teaches us how to discuss projects and project goals with people that we want to work with. 
Motivation is one of the oft-quoted and oft-misused terms in today’s corporatized world. Everyone is looking to instill this in peers and sub-ordinates, when they themselves suffer from its deficiency. In such times, it helps to know that motivation will come in abundance from within an individual automatically when she is presented with appropriate inputs and relevant goals and outcomes to pursue, both at the task level and on a personal level.

Image Credit - http://leaderchat.org/2012/09/17/whats-your-motivation-at-work-3-questions-to-ask-yourself/

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Children, Happiness and Imagination

Only children can come up with some unique expressions, in the process of letting their imagination and creativity govern their thoughts.

Captured during a recent photowalk -