Sunday, September 26, 2010

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So I happened to apply for a car loan at SBI. I was anticipating that a usual home verification would happen and later on the loan would be sanctioned. I was pretty right in my assumptions except that I did not anticipate that the officer who would verify my credentials would come armed with a CIBIL report.
The report she showed me was nothing less than astounding. She pointed out to me on what all loans I had taken since 1999 for a whole period of ten years. My bike loan, esrtwhile car loans, personal loans, credit card spends – everything was in that report neatly outlined. Courtesy CIBIL.
CIBIL is the credit information bureau Inida limited, a company that helps money lenders understand their credit worthiness of their borrowers. Every time you go for a new loan or credit card spend in huge amounts, these details are at regular intervals shared by the lenders (banks) to CIBIL. So in essence there is a history maintained with CIBIL on a regular basis on the new loan(s) you have taken and the status of the old loan(s) you have already borrowed. Each time the lending agency notifies CIBIL that a particular loan has been closed, CIBIL makes the pending amount “0” on that loan, which is technically when the loan is ACTUALLY closed.
However there are few cases where the lending agencies do not notify CIBIL on loan closures, or perhaps more regularly than others, which leads to some inconsistent information about your loans. It is at this point that we as borrowers must go behind these banks, to make them send the closure report to CIBIL so that your credit history is made CLEAN by reflecting the proper status. Also, there are two types of reports that CIBIL generates – a customer copy (which is essentially your copy) and the lender copy (which is what banks prefetch while issuing a new loan to you each time). The former copy is more detailed, has the account numbers, amounts, and types of loan sanctioned, sanctioning authority, etc. The latter also indicates the amounts, and closure status while it does not give the account numbers and other sensitive information to third parties. This is for obvious security reasons of your data not being able to to be misused.
Along with the famous Dun and Bradstreet Corp of the USA, CIBIL has ushered in a new era of helping lenders understand clearly the profile of their borrowers, and borrowers understand clearly their spends and loans they go into to help make them plan more efficiently for their life needs. So then you may ask what is the way to get your own CIBIL report.
The answer is very simple. Go to www.cibil.com and signup as a customer. Needless to say you need to provide valid credentials like address proof, id proof etc. For a meager amount of about less than Rs.200, you can in no time access your credit (loan) information to help yourself better understand what you have been spending on, and how much of your credit history is clean in terms of repayments.

Posted by Srikanth Eswaran in ,

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

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Today I happened to test drive the FORD FIGO TITATNIUM DIESEL. Initially I thought i would take the car only for a short distance, but then I decided to try this baby out on a rather empty stretch of almost a 10 to 20kms highway. This was the Electronics city toll elevated highway. Person from Ford with whom i interacted with for the fiesta promised yesterday that he would be here in my home at 10AM and he appeared about 15 mins late.

(source: http://www.theautomotiveindia.com)

I jumped into the car and without wasting time shot off on my drive. From here on some crisp points about the drive itself. Just to give you a background, I ve owned 2 800s, one palio petrol 1.2, one swift diesel 1.3 and one honda city 1.5 iVTEC. Also test driven the punto 1.4p, 1.3d, manza 1.4p and 1.3d, linea 1.4p and 1.3d. Also test driven 1.3 swift Dzire ZDI and fiesta 1.6S petrol. Today was the figo's turn after all this.

Seating position is spot on with ample room in the footwell. While the absence of a dead pedal would be found annoying by some people, especially on highway drives, due to ample room in footwell, this is hardly a concern on the figo. Unlike the cramped footwell of punto due to dead pedal, the figo was far more spacious down there.

(source www.fordfigo.in)

The gear shift is similar in nature to fiesta. Its not exactly slotty, but kind of still precise without leaving room for errors while shifting. There is no engine roar as in swift exactly but though the figo takes some time to pick up, once it does, nothing can beat it. if used effectively this translates to a 2000 rpm + manouvre on each gear. The torqueyness isnt exactly as good as swift but it is not unbearable as the car responds the moment you accelerate on any gear.

Driver and passenger ergonomics seem spot on though a bit lower than swift. the reason i keep comparing to swift is because i owned it before this one. being lower also means better stability on the road which i will come to shortly. thankfully the one i drove had the black dashboard and not the pink one. Seats have sufficient thigh support although back support could be bolstered a bit more. Plastics and interiors look a bit cheap, but then this vehicle is about value for money with respect to function not great interiors. For that look elsewhere like the polo which is more expensive.

Clutch was pretty easy to use and with an excellent gear shift, made the driving a pleasure. The AC is an absolute chiller. Though Figo does not offer climate control one can easily still control the temperature with the manual heat adjustment to offset for the chillness. The presence of a rear defogger also means good defogging in bangalore city during rains especially in the nights. The electrically controlled side view mirror switches are of very high quality and are also of precise action without errors or doubts. Needless to say when compared to the swift, which does not provide this feature, it is definitely a plus point during those hard to negotiate reversal and parking manouvres. The 154cc compressor acts immediately putting everyone in the cabin at utmost ease quite soon.

The lower height (if not necessarily ground clearance) only means that the car stays well planted on the road. What better example can I take than the fact that I had to remind myself that I was overshooting 140kmph all along the long tollway drive. One of the superior characteristics I found about this engine was its eagerness to push beyond 140 all the way upto 160 or more without much ado. Of course I did not try this feat due to obvious reasons. Going at 140 seemed like going at 60.

(source www.fordfigo.in)

A few times I had to negotiate slow moving traffic ahead of me in a zig zag fashion and the braking was near perfect with ABS and EBD at play. Considering atleast people at front have seat belts on, braking is a no nonsense affair and the car exhibits extreme maturity doing this. Needless to say its also confidence inspiring for the driver. The steering is a bit heavy I thought and did not really check if its tiltable. Neither did I confirm whether seats had height adjust. In a relative context, I did not quite appreciate the open 12V socket and the bonnet latch on passenger side. This was pretty lousy in my opinion as kids in front on passenger side can be easily fiddling with this latch.

The door latches themselves are pretty cheap looking and cheap in function too. In the sense that children in the front can easily pull the door latch when least expected. This is quite dangerous to even think of and I wish Ford had heeded this possible issue during design. Instead they seem to have copied fiesta functionality as is causing some heartburns. Atleast when the car picks up a certain speed, the door latches should not be openable. Neither is there a complete shut possible from drivers side for windows or doors. To add to the glory only front two windows are power windows. While Ford says due to the way the Figo is designed, rear windows have not only had to be mechanical, but also they open only to the tune of 70-80%. Perhaps while in one way this is okay, the rear windows not being powered is a shame and only speaks of some serious cost cutting in some sense. Whatever it is this doesnt seem quite great.

(source www.fordfigo.in)

Flaws aside, the stereo is great to use. While FM radio was a bit cracked to listen to, CDs would sound much better on this system as compared to say Manza or the DZire. I also could pair my iPhone to the music system via bluetooth and the sound quality of songs from my iPhone to the Figo stereo was astounding without the real need for an amp/subwoofer. That said I am not yet clear whether Figo supports 4 channel amp + subwoofer. Also in the midst of listening to a song, when I accelerated the song cut off for a fraction of a second before resuming. Just some signal interference and nothing to think beyond that I feel. As a bonus I also made one call and received another call on the stereo and the caller's voice was very clear and they could also hear me clearly. I am not sure where the mike is placed for this purpose. Bluetooth is one of the most important aspects of the figo at this price w.r.t swift, and these days its an indispensable feature to stay put on concentrating on the road while still enjoying a call or two.

The horn of the Figo is somewhat hard to press but provides the necessary sound externally to deter any annoyances displayed by other vehicles on the road. My personal choice would however be to put in a windtone horn (like what the skoda laura would have) as its more pronounced though it needs to be used maturely. I did not get a chance to test the headlights as it was daylight driving but I assume it would be good enough without warranting a change to Philips 100/120W.

(source www.fordfigo.in)

The rear space of the figo is an interesting aspect to talk about. I initially had the opinion that it would not provide me anything more than a swift. But to my surprise I found that with me being 5'10" and my driver's seat pulled back to my comfort level, I could still sit in the Figo's rear seat without feeling cramped. This is a marked departure from the swift days honestly and this could be a deal breaker for me other than price vs features. The third person (the guy in the middle) is always an unwanted guest and it so remains even in the Figo case. We should start treating all cars as strictly four seaters from now on and should not accept an additional guest simply because its our culture!

The only thing then left to talk about is the boot. By and large the boot is much much larger than say swift. Additionally one can also perfectly (100%) tilt the rear seat to make for much larger space to even carry a bicycle if need be. With this kind of versatality one does not really need a sedan for these purposes. The external design of the Figo looks somewhat oldish, but if one can just excuse that for the features it provides and a price its coming at, its perfectly drool maal. The tyres are not alloys but for a mere 15k more, one can add ford made alloys to the car.
The suspension itself is a bit soft which means if the car is fully loaded, one has to drive carefully on speed breakers. I scraped once with four people in the car at a certain high speed. so take note of this.

Finally, the pricing is the icing on the cake. with some cost cutting by Ford, they are today the only car in the category of diesels with so many modern features and a reasonably responsible engine and handling characteristics. The 1.4 engine isnt exactly a gem at 69bhp and 160NM torque at 2000 rpm but then it isnt a laggard either. The only thing then that will make Figo a winner or loser is the long term complaints about the car and service issues considering whether the strategy of Ford works or not as the case maybe.

The fuel efficiency must be in the range of 16 to 20 easily between city and highway driving which is what one can expect from most diesel hatches cut out for this kind of performance.

So what are you waiting for? Take your own test drive today and enjoy sheer bliss.

Posted by Srikanth Eswaran in 

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

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The TOI reported a couple of days back that the Telenor group is considering quitting India for good. This only means a death knell for a rather successful telco - Uninor which is a joint venture between Unitech and Telenor groups who are into real estate and telecom respectively in India and Norway. The rate at which Uninor has been handing over discounts on prepaid minutes and showing no interest in launching postpaid services, this possibility only looks more realistic than impossible.

If this happens this will be one of the historic failures of a telco in India who is just upcoming showing lots of promise. But however this will not be the end of Unitech's telco jaunt. All Telenor have to do is to sell their stakes to the likes of Bharti or Vodafone or perhaps IDEA telecom and exit the country. Whatever happens would be an easy buy for these other companies, but not so sweet for the consumers who are using these services. With Uninor also not getting 3G service spectrum, things look bleak for the telco in the days to come!

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About Me
Srikanth Eswaran
Bengloor Huduga

Srikanth is a blogger, reader, photographer, butter dosa eater, an urban car racer & an apple fanboy. He loves music, playing table tennis and traveling. Most times he would like to be solitary to introspect on what life has thrown to him and the bigger purpose of life.