Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The math of owning cars - diesel or petrol ?

There are many factors today to decide on what car to own. Compared to a few years ago, these days the fuel price of petrol has skyrocketed from about 55 bucks to a whopping 75 bucks per litre. So is it really high then or is it just a perception that owning petrol cars is now more costly? Lets do a reality check shall we?


A petrol sedan costs on the road in Bangalore, about 8.5 lacs. While a diesel version about 9.8 lacs. For about 50000km of drive irrespective of where you take it and how you finish the distance, and in how much time for calculation - we just consider the distance alone.


We further assume petrol price is 75 bucks, and the fuel economy is around 12kmpl. Similarly diesel is 46 bucks and the fuel economy is around 15kmpl (maybe more though). With this assumption, for a distance of 50000kms we need about 4167 litres of petrol and 3333 litres of diesel. The cost of this fuel is respectively Rs.312525 and Rs.153333 for 50000km of usage. Add these values to the base prices of the vehicle mentioned above and we get a cost of Rs.1112525, and Rs.1133333.


Let us take service costs for petrol to be Rs.1000 for first service, 3000 for second, 5000 for third and 7000 for fourth and 10000 for fifth. So the total here is 26000 bucks. Consider the same for diesel to be Rs.1500, 5000, 10000, 12000 and 15000 and we have a figure of 42000 bucks.


Add this again to previously computed values and we have Rs.1138525 Rs.1175333 for a petrol and diesel vehicle over about 50000km of driving.


If you were to drive about 15000km every year, you will need 3 years to manage this distance. However if you are even more conservative then perhaps 5 years to complete the same distance.


So for the first 50000km the diesel vehicle is atmost about 40000 rupees more expensive to own! Now what then differentiates the diesel from the petrol vehicle is not fuel price, service cost or features - but just the engine characteristics - not even mileage as the arithmetic is more or less close.


So tell me which one would you now consider? :-)


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Flipkart really serious about customer feedback?

After much coaxing, waiting, reading, reviewing, and hearing great things about flipkart, I ordered a Steve Jobs book which I got promptly. Delivery was quick with many sync up calls and all the fanfare. Continuing to be impressed I decided to order a HP multifunction wireless printer as shown below:






To my luck, the price fell from 5200 bucks to 4949 as shown above. Promptly enough I received the delivery of this printer in two days. I setup the printer and took a test print out via WiFi connection using my iMac. The next step was to setup the scanner functionality by installing additional drivers from HP on my mac. While I was doing this, the printer switched off.



I tried many things but the printer would not switch on again. No matter what amount of knowledge i applied, it would not go on. Since this was through flipkart the only logical thing was to approach them and log a ticket. Here is where some nuances on the way of working in Flipkart surfaced. The following are to be noted:





  • Each time you log a call a ticket is assigned to you



  • They reserve the right to take 24 hours to respond to your ticket, it could be earlier but no later, though it was quite late each time for me



  • Every issue they pass from customer service team to refunds team, to technical team and so on, so you need to add these many 24 hour schedules for your call to come to some state




Given this criteria of handling things which is best suited to them, it also shows how tight a control they have over dealers and distributors of some items such as this (electronics). Just to speeden up things I myself called them each time the ticket did not progress. Then I had a troubleshooting document given by HP sent to me by Flipkart which also I tried without any use.



Now comes the returns/refund part. This is where Flipkart annoyed me. They asked me to take the product to a service center and check, which I promptly disagreed with. The very reason I do online purchases is not to waste time going physically from one place to another just to service something that came to me almost dead.



Given this explanation, they again huddled into a conversation regarding my case, and came back after 1-2 days saying they will arrange for a replacement and reverse pickup. I packed up the stuff and reverse pick up was done in 1 day. Here is where I spoke with them for one of three possible options:





  1. Replace the product and go through all of this again



  2. Refund equivalent amount into my flipkart wallet so i can buy something else



  3. Refund the amount to my bank and nullify this deal




Thankfully flipkart offerred me all three choice and no guesses which one I chose for reasons of convenience and not to go through this process again. Option 3.



Their turnaround time for this was 7-10 business days but I chose to wait. Somehow a refund was processed in just 2-3 days. What is the end result of all this?



I ended up having to spend 10 days buying a product that never satisfied me. The learning I had with this experience was simple : Never buy those products online that are readily available next door. Its better you can choose to go to a service center yourself rather than having to wait for flipkart to suggest you to do so losing 10 days in the total process.



Of course their gesture of refund was highly appreciated, but their turnaround time was a sore point in the whole deal. Given their sales volumes I can understand all this delay, but in my perspective I am a single customer wanting to strike a deal and this delay is perhaps too huge.



Obviously the last thing I had to do was to put up a review on their website about the service rather than the product which I did promptly. And after few days, Flipkart removed my review citing flimsy reasons.



This is the review I posted on flipkart:






If you take a look at their website now, you will not find it anymore: (note there is only one review)








And this is the flimsy reason I got from flipkart:





Dear Srikanth,



Thank you for your feedback regarding the issue you are faced for “HP Deskjet 3050 Wireless All-in-One - J610a Printer”, dated 10th January 2012.



Your feedback is valuable and of utmost importance to us, we understand that we were not able to meet your expectations and apologize for the same. Feedback has been shared with the concerned department ensuring you will not face the same in future.



We would shortly roll-out a customer centric forum welcoming your experiences and feedback on our services and products. We appreciate your patience in this regard. As per our review policy (www.Flipkart.com/s/help), we solicit only product specific reviews and hence your review on our service has been removed.



Please feel free to share your concerns or queries with us at cs@Flipkart.com.



Looking forward to your continued relationship with Flipkart.com



Yours Sincerely,
Amruta Kurle
Customer Review Team
Flipkart.com







The very fact they solicit only product based review is acceptable to me, but given the company wants to be a leader in the space they operate in, they must not have the slightest hesitation to publish even critical comments like what people in Amazon do. I am sure even Amazon will have some filtering. But to say they have removed my review which is not abusive either but speaks of their turnaround time is obviously for their benefit.



Everybody has some loopholes in the way the operate. It is highly desired a company like Flipkart work on their shortcomings and appreciate such reviews and bring about improvements. Definitely I assume that no one will stop ordering this printer based on my above review. You can read it for yourself if you have a doubt.



The moral of the story is simple. For products such as electronics, home appliances, etc, go to your nearest shop and purchase it. For things like books, software etc, order online !! Always weigh the pros and cons of what you are going to buy against ordering it in a shop vs ordering online. Keep in mind the huge turnaround time and the fact that not always will the redressal be to your benefit.



Having said this, I just ordered a USB pen drive again from Flipkart and it got delivered in one day :) I wish flipkart works on no conditions asked refund atleast for defective products which will take it a long way in making it a preferred online shopping portal over other similar ones! This is where the Paisa Pay protection model of eBay comes to my mind where all your purhcases are fully covered against defects.



Adieu!



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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Beat Diesel Test Drive

Though this review comes after a long while, it carries with it some salient points about the Chevrolet Beat which is now in an improved version with a diesel heart and much unlike its predecessor where some key areas are concerned. It was a sweltering hot winter afternoon in Bangalore when I decided to take up the test drive for this car. Briefly I will take you over with the process so you may understand this car all the way from the dealership perspective upto the drive itself.



Dealerships



Firstly and interestingly a google search for Chevy dealers in Bangalore throws up only three results which are shown below:



Kropex India Ltd
Address:49/1 Singasandara, Hosur Main Road, Bangalore.,
Bangalore, Karnataka, 560068



Phone: 080-43574357 / 09663388830 / 9663388812
Fax: 080-43574353



Email: kropex.sales@gmidealer.com



Sundaram Motors
Address:P.B.No 5358,107, Kasturba Road, Bangalore.,
Bangalore, Karnataka, 560001



Phone: 080 - 22070709 - 13 / 22070751 - 3 / 9880631313



Email: sundaram2.sales@gmidealer.com



Trident Chevrolet
Address:No.122/1, C. Shankar Reddy Layout, Kalyan Nagar Outer Ring Road, Bangalore.,
Bangalore, Karnataka, 560043



Phone: 080- 43430500



Email: tridentban.service@gmidealer.com



Upon visiting Kasturba road for a different reason which i will come to in a different post, I found that the Sundaram GM dealership was under lock and key and they seemed to have moved elsewhere. While I did not care to check, I also knew the Outer Ring Road showroom was a mere showroom of a very small size without any servicing options. I do remember there was one on Mahadevapura Main Road leading to whitefield, but it was somehow conspiciously missing from out here in this list above !! Since the Singasandra one was near my home, I reached there after informing apriori that I would be there.



Cars in the showroom



The showroom itself is impressive with an entire range of cars put up there under the Chevry Umbrella starting from the barebones Spark upto the Fully loaded Captiva. The Sail sedan and hatch are yet to make it even to showrooms as they were just recently showcased at the auto expo in Delhi.



A friendly supervisor let me meddle with all cars including the Cruze until the test drive itself was ready. One thing that struck me immediately was that all Chevy cars were low in seating much like yours truly Honda. Somehow I think these are not suitable with back problems for easy ingress/egress. The Beat thankfully was a bit more supportive of the driver if not necessarily the passenger.



Chevy Beat






(Image courtesy: www.chevrolet.co.in)



As we already know, the petrol Beat has been doing its rounds for a year or more now so many people already know the cockpit internals of the car along with a billion digital meters and displays. So its worthwhile just dwelling into the new diesel and outlining its good points and pitfalls. My test drive was about 3-4 kms which included great highway roads, congested city roads, broken gravel roads, ditches and road humps, curves and straight lines and some U-turns. This was a clear representation of what a test drive must be like. So how did the Beat Diesel perform? Read on!




  • Steering: The steering is really sweet and assistive without complaining ever. Now you would know that its important to have a very good steering for both low and high speeds and the Beat simply has that.

  • Footwell: This is an area where I have frequent issues, and car manufacturers also turn a blind eye to at times making it cramped and lousy to put your foot into. On longer journeys as well as congested city drives on bumper to bumper the footwell determines how bad you feel when you get down. I am happy to say the Beat has a great footwell with all pedals placed comfortably which causes minimal discomfort on the natural driving position and leg positioning. One more important factor to consider is the alignment of the pedals with respect to their height, and while its normal to have a recessed accelerator pedal, its NOT OK to have a raised clutch pedal. This is very common in the Polo/Vento which makes it very uncomfortable for tall people whose natural foot resting position gets changed due to the increased need to get your feet up due to pedal height. For longer drives this is a sure nightmare and the Beat thankfully does not have such pedal alignment. Simply put, a very comfortable footwell which adds to the already great steering.

  • Interiors: This is a topic that everyone loves to discuss about and beat the dead horse over and over, but one has to understand that its upto personal tastes on what people want. I have personally found light biege or griege (dont know where they coined this word) interiors to suit sedans like sunny or city, while grey or black interiors to suit cars like the Beat or Swift. As I already said its a personal taste, as some people like the illusion of roominess that Beige creates while some others like their interiors to be as black as possible so the meters are visible and keep the driver focussed specifically at night times. The Beat comes with grey to mild black interiors which make it more like an engine cockpit at night on an airline. The already small windows only make this kind of seating feel even worse after some continuous drive. Nothing to disturb, but disappoints. A light gray combination would have worked in my opinion.

  • Windows: This is where yours truly has a big big issue. The smaller the windows and the deeper the seating within, the worse it gets for the growing clan of claustrophobians or the set of people who feel lack of air, oxygen and feel asphyxiated. While the sedan class hatch is the new benchmark for roominess the Beat is the new benchmark for claustrophobia. No brownie points here in fact negative marks if possible. The styling has taken upper seat to miss out on something as important as a window. The rear window is ridiculously small and competes and wins against even swift who earlier held the master of claustrophobia title. Enough Said.

  • Space: The front two seats are elaborate, deep set and provides great comfort, but if you are expecting similar things at the rear, prepare to get disappointed and also unsettled along the way as this car does not even have the space of a Wagon R. Alright, lets not try to make things sounds so bad, but this is strictly a car for 4 people. The fifth average Joe can decide to stay back at home please. And if you are really tall, while the headroom is not much of an issue this deep beauty can provide you, legroom is. Lots of mixing and matching of passengers is needed to get the most optmial seating which is also bound to be disturbing an hour after the drive sequence.

  • Visibility: The Beat also has deep set interiors which makes it difficult for us to notice what is outside. The visibility is quite bad and one needs to get used to this car for sometime to guage who is standing outside. Its easy to miss out small kids standing next to the car or small cats, dogs crossing in front due to poor visibility.

  • Boot: Ok, how about some three small bags, some slippers, perhaps a small umbrella, and anything else as long as it gets smaller and smaller? I am already telling you that the car itself is small. Its unreasonable to provoke me to comment on the boot. For me, its as good as non existent for larger luggages. Period. If you want a deeper spacious boot look elsewhere. Not here.

  • Auto AC: If you close all your windows and do not have the climate control on, I believe you are going to sweat, puff and pant and feel like you are in an oven in less than ten minutes. Thankfully the automatic climate control does its job and keeps everyone cool and comfortable inside. Due to the technical limitations on the capacity of the engine, the cooling is also only marginal. I am not sure if you can take this car to rajasthan and expect it to cool your interiors when the outside temperature is 50 degrees. For Bangalore however, it gets the job done. Period. Its not very cold exactly its just at the temperature you set it in which gives a nice ambience. The overall BLUE colouring of the dials and meters are great. Personally I am a big fan of soothing blue as it mellows down your temper. So if you have just fought with your boss, sit down inside the Beat at night onset, and switch on the car and go for a long drive. You will come back fresh.

  • Engine: The new 1000cc, 3 Cylinder diesel is pretty noisy on the outside, and a bit of it on the inside too. Chevy are masters at sound damping and this is one of the traits why their cars really sell and are comfortable to be in, however this diesel has a bit of clatter though nothing to disturb your daily routine of driving the car itself. Start accelerating her and then the noise starts becoming coarse and coarser on higher RPMs and higher speeds. A constant drive at 100kmph will bring out a distinct hum and if you are the types like me who just prefers an ultra quiet cabin, then petrol is the way to go. The engine itself is peppy and punchy for short drives which makes this a cool car to drive around and chuck about in the traffic. This engine can surely give you much above 17kmpl in dirty traffic and maybe 22+ on the highways. Remember that there are speed limiters that Chevy has put in for the first gear, so that the engine is not spoilt, so a quick shift to second gear is almost all the time needed. The torque of 150NM is able to keep this car going and hence no big deal. If you are a mileage freak, kitna-deta-hai types, then close your eyes and buy this car!

  • Gear ratios: Well lets talk in plain english shall we? I could not push this car beyond 20-30 kmph on first, say maybe upto 60kmph on second and so on upto fifth. I could not stretch it beyond 80-90kmph as it required lots of acceleration though the showroom staff claim it will effortlessly go to higher speeds and remain there. Well it might, but we know from other forums on how the highway or long drive performance of this car is. Personally I feel this car cannot stretch but if you are the 80-100kmph types, then this should just be fine! Remember these speeds are the ones where the insane mileages are achieved albeit you might reach a bit late to your destination if not any earlier!!

  • Bad Road Handling: Chevy always has come up with innovative things, and they have this great habit of listening to their customers. They are not the types who would sell a car and forget about you. They surely know pretty well that a bad mouthed publicity on their product if improved upon will win them accolades. If not for anything else atleast for this attitude one can buy a Chevy car. Chevy Beat comes with a rebound suspension specifically designed for the greatly designed indian roads, so that upon going on road humps the car lifts itself pretty sooner avoiding it from hitting the road. This also will mean the passengers will get a mild jolt, but the cocooning of the car will take care of that jolt as easily as it threw you upwards. So rejoice and be at peace. Remember that while carrying other passengers, with you, please reduce the speed and go over the road hump maturely. Not like some rally driver. The car can take it, its the question of your driving manners with other people accompanying you. The top end variant comes with Alloy wheels as well making it a complete package.

  • Overtaking: This is one specific point I wanted to mention to highlight the customer centric company. Chevy has once again listened to common customer problems and has understood that overtaking while the AC is on at short notices is always impossible in a proper way in all low end cars (cars with lesser capacity engines). So Chevy has introduced an automatic AC cut off feature wherein if you press the accelerator real hard, the compressor goes off momentarily giving you the power for the overtake manouvre or whatever else you had stealthily planned, after which the AC goes on once you come back to driving equilibrium. Hats off the chevy for thinking this way. How many times would you have fiddled with the AC just when you had to impress those friends in the car and an overtake manouvre was giving your car’s true colours away?

  • Hill Assist: Chevy claims that the Beat Diesel comes with hill assist where they probably play around with generating more torque on hilly regions, but I could not personally verify this fact as the test drive was on city conditions which did not require this kind of feature. Just to let you know the FIGO has the reverse of hill assist feature. It will not even bother to assist itself on a hill. Leave alone you.

  • Pricing and safety options: The Beat does comes fully equipped with ABS and Airbags, but is extremely pricey at close to 7 lacs on the road in Bangalore which makes it one of the costliest little hatches in that segment. Neither is it cool on space, nor on power, yet it equals the FIGO on pricing. The only reason it can then sell well is due to its cute form factor for those easy single drives within city, or the unBEATable fuel efficiency if not the price. I respect companies who provide safety options on all their variants and Chevy has it only top variant. Well, atleast they have it, and you better have it too. We all have one life and we do not want to lose it in a car accident would we?



Conclusion



The Chevy Beat is a cute car. Its proportions are welcome in a city like Bangalore. It has a peppy diesel engine, with a great suspension, a great automatic climate control, much to my liking black interiors with blue instrument cluster and an absolutely delightful steering. Its great mileage is going to impress all those who have been choking out more money for petrol so far. The engine itself is a bit noisy and the car itself is only a four person vehicle strictly but not a major cause for concern still. The price though is debatable as we have other options in that price range with full safety features. The 100000 km warranty or 3 yrs coverage with labour costs zero is a great initative from Chevy which shows their confidence on designing good cars which require minimal service in the first place.



If you fall into the category of people for whom the above attributes are the most important, you would own a Beat Diesel right away.



Liked this review? - Let me know in the comments section what your opinion is and your views on this car!



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Monday, January 2, 2012

ICICI bank to provide social banking through Facebook in 2012

According to an email received, ICICI bank is set to usher in banking via Facebook in the year 2012. It is not exactly clear what or how they intend to do it. But for starters they are planning to include a page of their own for you to like on Facebook.


Here is an except of the plan:



As we step into 2012, we re-affirm our commitment to continue offering you superior banking services in line with our philosophy of ‘Khayaal Aapka’. We are pleased to inform you that ICICI Bank will soon be present on Facebook. The ICICI Bank page will include a one-of-its kind ‘Your Bank Account’ app through which you can access your bank account information while on Facebook. You can also choose to ‘Like’ our page and get updates on exclusive offers.


It is only known at this point that they will provide an app which will let you interact with the bank backend. But given the number of security loopholes in Facebook or any other social application/website so far, this in my opinion is only a recipe for minor disasters on average users who are already being lured by useless offers and mails.


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