Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Marketing, ICICI style

My recent experience with India’s largest private bank has taught me one thing – that there is a lot of simple things that you could do and still take the customer’s breath away.

I recently applied for a credit card – one of a lesser denomination than what was entitled to me since I was a little finicky about owning a bombshell of a card with thousands of features AND hundreds of hidden costs. But what I received surprised me alright.

I was handed over not one but two cards, and from their Gold category. I would’ve obviously discounted the hand-over-two-cards as a marketing strategy that tries to satisfy the human craving for owning as many cards as possible (mostly serving the purpose of being a little more than an eye candy), but what was a little startling was the features of the card they gave me as compliment. The card – Kingfisher Airlines card – has some long glitzy list set of features alright. This is what an article has to say about the card.
It allows access to almost 180 golf clubs in India through special tie-ups and has exclusive packages for golf holidays across the world.

You will also be invited for ‘premium lifestyle shows, fashion shows, movie premieres... so who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself on page 3, or Hi-Blitz, as the case may be! There’s also a 24x7 concierge service that gives the card holder personalised assistance across various cities in India with services ranging from car rentals to city guides.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to be happy for getting a card like this or be irritated because this wasn’t really what I was looking for, but it has definitely managed to catch my attention. When I called the customer service asking for hidden charges – there has to be a catch in such cards, I presumed - this is what I got as reply:
The card is absolutely free – all joining fee, renewal fee etc have been discounted and this is purely a complimentary card along with the main one for a special customer like you.
That was some training alright. I would’ve been bowled twice over if I hadn’t had attended those marketing classes back in IIM-I. The problem with attending these classes is you start to expect unique services and you don't easily get blown away. In other words, you cease to be a normal customer. I'm dead sure this deal would've made a lot of others customers cement their relationship with ICICI cards. Wonder what would be the service levels for Platinum cards – ones that are provided not on request but only to people – hotshots, actually - directly cherry-picked by the card companies.

If you are a frequent flier, check out the comparison of the different card deals here. Some of them are really great if you cross certain air miles over a period.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kalishnikov Type-56

Dutt has been convicted for holding a AK56 assault weapon, which is glad news simply coz the law shows signs of hope at times, but there is a funny statement accompanying the whole thing.
Judge Kode said, "Sanjay Dutt is not a terrorist but he kept the weapons for his own protection."
A gun AND a Kalishnikov Type-56 for protection? In India? As though a Civil War is in progress?

We have limited information, obviously, but that is a LOT of protection alright.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Do not disturb, for heaven's sake!

This must come as a welcome surprise to you if you do not like being waken up in the night or be disturbed for no reason at all, which is what most of the mobile service providers have been doing for a long time now. I fail to understand why they are called service providers at all. Bad service is not service, after all.

There seems to be some way to relief, however:
Interestingly, not many subscribers know a more recent development among private telecom companies wherein they have decided to maintain a "Do Not Disturb" registry.

The "Do Not Disturb" registry is the telecom industry's act of self-regulation.
My earlier attempts to block the unsolicited spam SMS messages by sending a retro SMS didn't work. Looks like now we got to fill up an online form to subscribe to the "Do not disturb" service, which again is something I do not understand. The setting is like we'd be disturbed by default, and we can opt not to be. Typical. The kind of stuff that can happen only in India.

Anyway, here are the links to subscribe to the ‘Do not disturb’ service:

For other provides, Google for the same.

The funny thing is such Goody services are never advertised or communicated anywhere. And I REALLY wonder if people, even some of them, actually read and respond to those unsolicited messages at all.

Hope we get some respite from now on.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Best of Fortune

Linux users wake up every morning to a Fortune quote, which, in earlier Unix versions, went by the name ‘Message of the Day’.

I used to love some of those quotes. It is a compendium of some of the most interesting ones ever penned down, and I used to invoke the program repeatedly even for hours at a stretch. It used to be such fun. I got a chance to revisit some of them and am noting down some quotes that are full of wisdom yet humorous.
"Every morning, I get up and look through the 'Forbes' list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work" -- Robert Orben

"A good marriage would be between a blind wife and deaf husband." -- Michel de Montaigne

"Once I finally figured out all of life's answers, they changed the questions."

“To be intoxicated is to feel sophisticated but not be able to say it.”

“Prizes are for children.” -- Charles Ives, upon being given, but refusing, the Pulitzer prize

"People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first."

"Good health" is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.

"Real programmers drink too much coffee so that they will always seem tense and overworked."

"In Hollywood, all marriages are happy. It's trying to live together afterwards that causes the problems." -- Shelley Winters

"Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. My advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it." -- W. Somerset Maugham, his last words

"Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening. "-- Alexander Woollcott

"All true wisdom is found on T-shirts."

"All's well that ends."

"Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are?"

Gossip, n.: "Hearing something you like about someone you don't." -- Earl Wilson

Captain Penny's Law: "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you Can't Fool Mom."

A little sad that I no longer use Linux (that used to give a shot of wisdom every time I login) as my standard desktop, but I guess all good things have to end. You could continue relishing other Fortune quotes here.

And, as usual, the Men-Women set of quotes just rock!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Four ways to spend money

Milton Friedman died yesterday. Everybody who's had something to do with economics would known him. The world lost a great man. Following is one of the bestest ever quotes I've read in the recent times.

Four ways to spend money:
There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.
Holy cow! Everything that can be explained has been, and in one para.

Via Indiauncut.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moral policing might not be entirely bad after all!

I don’t like Chennai for several reasons – for compulsively being ignorant about a lot of things non-Chennai, for compulsively interfering with the rights of people, for moral policing and all the hypocrisy around, and for the dressing culture – I mean, the near total lack of it, but may be, just may be, it all serves one purpose: All this ensures poor people don’t get run over by cars while they are snoozing.

Don’t see the connection?

You don’t read news articles about drunkards ramming into pavement dwellers in the night time in Chennai, simply coz there are not many drunkards, and they don’t really drive in the city in the night time coz they can't.

If there is a free reign, a la Mumbai, read this:
Alistair, media persons covering the court proceedings said, was absolutely remorseless and said what happened was an accident for which he could not be blamed. Indeed, he was smiling and even made rude and offensive gestures at the photographers who took his photograph.

Alistair, who is an engineer and helps in his father’s business, allegedly showed his middle finger to the media persons.

I’m not against drinking or drunkards – not at all, as long as they don’t have a drunken driving expedition. I so desperately want these kids to be ripped apart, but I know it won’t happen coz they are fuckin rich.
the Bandra metropolitan magistrate’s court remanded Alistair to police custody till November 14, while the other five were released on bail of Rs. 5,000 each.
Yuk! Sometimes, India totally, totally sucks.

Note: I’m not implying that moral policing is good. Far from it. It’s horribly bad, but it’s always good to have some amount of rules in place.

Forced to write after Rashmi’s blog on the same topic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Film lovers in Chennai, listen up!

My brief struggle to find a decent movie club in Chennai that operates in weekends has come to an end, at last.

Firstly, there is a club, a rather famous one, that goes by the name "Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (ICAF) Chennai" that regularly shows very good quality foreign language movies. But, unfortunately, most of the movies are screened during weekdays at 6.30 pm, which shuts down any chance if you are into office employment.

Then there were several clubs that weren't functioning. But I also found another functioning club that shows movies in the weekends. It goes by the name "Tamilnadu Thiraippada Iyakkam" (Chennai film society, roughly). The best part is that they show movies in the ultra-famed Satyam Theatre, and, hold your breath... the yearly membership fee is 400 Rs. They promise to show at least about 50 rare foreign language (mostly non-English) movies, which works out to Rs. 8 for a weekend movie in an awesome theatre. A great deal, even if you don't have much of interest in movies and you manage to see just 25% of the movies.

I was terribly surprised not to find any information about this place on the web. Even more so coz the deal is so great I found at least 4 friends who were immediately interested after I told them about this. So here goes the details, for the benefit of people Googling for the same:

TamilNadu Thiraippada Iyakkam (Chennai film society, roughly),
348, TTK Road, Royapettah, Near Music Academy, Chennai-600014.

Buzz me for the name and phone number, if you need them.

Search Tags: Chennai, Madras, film, movie, cinema, club, society, foundation.
[Image courtesy]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The inexpressible

Spotted on BBC today: An image captured by Hubble. Is there a word in English to describe this?

[Image courtesy]

Been reading some documents on putting together amateur telescopes. Let me see if I could actually make (however primitive) one, before taking the easier route of buying one.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Remembering Carl Sagan

On Friday, the 15th of October 1999, BBC wrote: "If we send just one book to the grace the libraries of distant worlds tended by librarians born under the light of an alien sun, let it be "Cosmos".

These words are perhaps the supreme accolade any book has ever got. And the author of the book, Carl Sagan, was born on the 9th of November.

I actually stumbled on Cosmos that was trashed in a room corner back in Mumbai. And ever since, I’ve thought everything from the number of dimensions that space is made of to the futility of human existence. The book covers everything from cosmos (which is the original theme) to the evolution of species to evolution of mankind to the powers and limitations of mankind as a species.

BBC goes on:
More than 20 years later, there is not a book on astronomy - in fact not one on science - that comes close to the eloquence and intellectual sweep of Cosmos.
Sagan, an astronomer by profession, was personally involved in designing several extra-terrestrial flights. He also assembled the contents of the first physical message sent into space, with the hope that it will reach other aliens.

Personally, I haven’t read a more informative book than Cosmos. His other book, Contact, is considered as a supreme accomplishment in Science-Fiction. If you’ve achieved martyrdom in movie-dom, you might recollect the cutie Jodie Foster starrer Contact, which is an on screen adaptation of the book.

Cosmos happens to be best selling science book ever. The Cosmos video series was the most watched TV series of all time in the US when it was released. It’s available for us now through Google videos. Puhleez do watch it!!!

More than anything else, Carl Sagan stands out in terms of educating general people about science. I think this is one reason for which he deserves more accolades than others, coz it’s relatively easy to do something nerdy and be silent about it and keep all the knowledge to oneself. But, I think, it’s far tougher to actually come out and let everyone share what you know.

I’m about to read An Ancestor’s Tale, the book that talks about evolution of humans from the most primitive one-celled organisms. It supposedly talks about 40 different intermediate transformations before humans evolved, all over billions of years. Reviews on that later!

Note: Cosmos might be vying for the most informative book you’ll read, but be forewarned: It might not the easiest book you’ll read. It’s riveting in the start and towards the end, but it might digress a bit in the middle. And it certainly doesn’t compete with The Da Vinci Code in terms of raw pace. But, rest assured - its intellectual sweep is nothing short of spectacular.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

50000 hits

Thanks all you readers!