Friday, December 27, 2013

Google Nexus 5 buying experience via Google Play Store - must read

After all the hype behind the Nexus-4 and its technological prowess, a year later after frustrating users with a long wait and lots of similar hype, the Nexus 5 launched in India. I had a chance to take a look at it at the local LG store, which was about 10 minutes from my work location by drive. 
(source google.com)

At the store, I managed to play around with the device to my heart’s content for about half hour or so. After owning a Nexus 4, it was only logical that I personally check the credentials of the nexus 5 before opting for it as an upgrade. The store was selling the phone at about 1,000 rupees more than Google’s online price of Rs.28,999. Flipkart, the online megastore did not show signs of launching this phone yet, and as for other websites such as snapdeal my confidence on their shipping prowess was low. My patience was running out due to one main reason. I had just sold out my Nexus 4 and I was in a situation where I could not receive my office email on the phone. This was because I was using my Nokia Asha 501 as a temporary solution until I could decide on the Nexus 5.
Being a bit price conscious after having wasted lots and lots of money on phones, my logical thinking was to order this device directly from Google for two reasons - one getting it directly from the maker of the device and two, peace of mind. Or so I thought. Being the friendly guy that I am, I decided to also help my friend purchase one more device of the same type. So an order for two Google nexus 5 devices were placed with Google on November 20. The total bill amount was a whopping 60,000 rupees which by no means is something small to contend with. I had placed my order on a credit card and promptly waited for the devices to come to me in two business days. At the worst four. 

I also received a mail from google about my order saying it was shipped through blue dart courier (or carrier as per the language used by google) and it also had a tracking number. Upon going to blue dart’s website, there was no tracking number like that entered into the system. Giving the benefit of doubt that it would take upto 24 hours to update this entry, I checked the next day and still found no information. I promptly called google and a friendly support executive welcomed me with customary “hi, how are you doing?” question. Frankly I wasn’t doing alright. When it comes to ordering gadgets, I would like my shipping dates commitment to be met at all times. After having shopped online for more than 7 years in the making now, this order already had all the qualities of becoming a disaster.
Google confirmed my worst fears saying there is no such order via Blue Dart. I checked with the local blue dart office in Bangalore and they said there is no package even listed against my name. This was after three days. After a few back and forth calls with google, they routed my query to a shipping specialist who promptly greeted me with the same “Hi, how are you doing?” query. If he could only see my face, he would have got my answer. Well basically it was the 27th of November - a full one week later and Google - yes Google - the technological giant whose tentacles have engulfed the whole world via their search algorithm could not bloody locate where a teeny-weeny-tiny courier package was in the world !
After an angry exchange of mails literally, a guy named Abhishek answered my query not just with the right answer, but after fully understanding my frustration very quickly. He told me what I needed to know - the shipment was transferred out only around the 27th Nov, via Aramex couriers and not through Blue Dart. The pity was and is that Google has never bothered to make a note of the new shipping information against my order even till date. If you dont know what that means, just hang on a little while. Thanks to Abhishek, I could now contact Aramex and they indeed told me that my devices were on the way and could reach anytime in two days. Fair enough I thought. Around the same time, a third friend of mine who we where chiding telling him that he was incapable of buying a phone on time like us, actually was flaunting a nexus 5 in the office that day.
After a day’s worth of use, he was extremely satisfied except for battery issues. It was also the time when my cousins received a pair of nexus 5 devices (yes, basically everyone other than us two) and they also confirmed battery issues. People were getting 3-4 hours on rough use, and about 6+ hours on moderate use of data and calls. Compared to my nexus 4, that was three hours negative. Coming back to my third friend, he started facing wierd issues on day two. His SIM would not recognize no matter what and his battery life remained pathetic. Even if the SIM did recognize, he could not hear others, others could not hear him. To prove a point about the phone, my SIM did not recognize on his phone as well. So it boiled down to the device. This got me thinking. Was Rs.28,999 worthwhile for this device (after having owned a nexus 4 before) given the real time live problems that I am seeing with others owning this device? My mind did not feel comfortable with this purchase and I decided to opt for a refund.
I spoke with Google again and they offered me two modes of refund. Either get an RMA form and ship the device back to them, or just refuse the courier and the device would get back to them automatically. This suggestion was offered after a billion precious minutes of updating to them my new shipping information and the customary greetings and enquiries about my moods and feelings about this purchase. I decided to opt for route two, and spoke with Aramex to deny the courier. By this time the courier had been initiated from Bhiwandi, Maharashtra and had been received at Indiranagar, Bangalore. In spite of my informing the people not to get it to my home and return it then and there, they brought it home only to take it back since my stand did not change.
I decided to opt for a return of merchandise at source without receiving the courier (reject delivery) and it was on its way back to shipper. After a couple of days the Aramex website indicated that it had been shipped back to shipper (which I again did some R&D to find out that it was Gadgetguru.com). I contacted Google again and they had no idea that Blue Dart had not shipped this orginally to me. After telecasting the Ramayan again to them, they said they had not received the device back and that it may take upto 2-3 days for that to happen. A couple of days later, the status still remained the same. Meanwhile my credit card was swiped on 20th of Nov and the statement was due on 25th of December. It was already 3rd December. I decided to use my trump card again and contacted the friendly neighborhood spiderman Abhishek again. He let me know that the device had indeed been received by Google on 1st of December itself.



Additionally he also let me know that there is a 14 business day period for refunds after which the authorization to refund would be automatically lifted (ie., approved) and that date would be the 19th of December. I let my mind rest in peace even buying another phone during that timeframe assured that the refund process was well underway. Come December 19th and I called Google again and bloopers of bloopers :
  • They had no idea what my order was
  • They had no idea who had shipped it
  • Even though they had all the details of my previous interactions, they acted as if they had no information in front of them
  • They had no idea that the devices were returned via RMA or rejecting the delivery
  • They had no idea of the refund or when it would be done
  • The support executives had no idea what the shipping “specialists” were upto
  • The Google support had no way of calling me back again and they said they cannot put me to any specialist as they cannot attend phone calls (the specialists) - they are special people you see with only special abilities such as responding to only emails



I waited for a day more and blew up on Google for my next call. I told them their 14 day refund period was over and they had to keep their promise of refunding the money immediately. It was 22nd of December and 2 more days for my statement to come through for my credit card. Heard of nail biting finishes? Well sometimes you need to work hard for your money, if you don’t no one else will either.
I gave them an ultimatum that the refund had to be sorted out on the same phone call. I gave them details as usual:
  • no dudes, blue dart didnt ship it !
  • no lady its not armx.com its aramex.com
  • no google you cant say you didnt receive the device back, its listed as returned with the carrier/courier and the friendly neighborhood spiderman also confirms you got it back on 1st December.
  • For the last freaking time its not an RMA return, its a rejection during delivery !
So now the Google support exec decides he would rope in the shipping specialist on the same call and suddenly the two of them realize how much torture and trauma I’ve been through. So the shipping specialist who is more educated technically to “handle” the matter decides to issue me a refund then and there. And he does it, says sorry, thank you and whatever more and hangs up. 

I’m delighted for the next few minutes that I won a war not a fight only to realize that the shipping spealist has “handle” the matter so well that I’ve received the amount only for one device instead of for the two I ordered. I just almost faint imagining the process I’d have to go through again to get the other one refunded.
No - blue dart didnt ship, its two devices not one, its not RMA its reject of courier, its Aramex, its returned - aaaaaaargh .... please .... please ... please .... return my money.... my money.... please!
Finally Google execs realized their blooper and issued a return of the amount for the other device as well. The entire amount was reversed on 23rd December midnight. Just hours before my credit card statement was generated. Just in time. Saving grace finally.
This post is not to educate about the Nexus 5 device, but is to let you all know how bad Google’s supply chain management really is for India. Everyone knows they make reasonably good operating systems and/or devices, but what about the other part ? The shipping, the customer experience? The above story must be an eye opener for anyone wanting to order anything online directly from Google. I will let you all know about other better online shopping experiences a while later. But it’s to you own understanding of why you must NOT order anything more from Google. I seriously don’t want you all to go through what I went through. The trauma is enough to feel like just visiting a local store and picking up a phone.
The absolute horror of malformed shipping information, the absurdity of having to repeat the same information to multiple disconnected support executives, the handover of calls from support guys to shipping guys, the local tie ups for actual shipment of hardware, the refund procedure going awry and finally a partial refund - are these sufficient reasons for you to shun Google? Tell me about your experience.
And Thank you Tiffany, DeeJay, Ebony, Ashleigh, Kassydi, Christopher, Kadijah, Jason, Demi, Brandon, Christina, Woodell, Elizabeth, Dustin, Philip - it was great knowing you - if you manage to visit India, please contact me and I'll show you how supply chain works here just so that you may learn something more.
As for you Abhishek - you're my man - the real savior of the day for Google's goofups. For my case they must rename themselves Goofle. I am proud that a sensible man works atleast to make some part of this supply chain more orderly.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Govt does a U-turn but private colleges not ready to budge

A day after the CET rules were changed, the government did a u turn to leave the CET pattern unchanged. However the private colleges who were on the verge of tasting blood have not yet given up. They are adamant about the fee hike and are arm twisting the government into accepting the same.
Only time will tell what the final decision will be but if this is approved then one can see a three fold increase in the current costs of education.
God help this state and country going further.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The CET condurum



There has been a recent decision by the government of Karnataka to abolish the Common entrance exam for private colleges and also remove any cap on the maximum fees that can be charged by these private colleges. However to mitigate the possible consequences the government also states that there would be a governing committee or ombudsman to decide what fee the colleges can charge based upon their location, infrastructure, coaching and course (You can read the full news report here

Everyone who has studied in Karnataka for their entire life or atleast from high school would perhaps know how much of a game changer the CET exam was. Even during the early 90’s this exam was the most coveted exam which brought in a sense of academic discipline among both students from Karnataka and other states. Though one had the potential to clear the IInd PUC exam, that was no reason to say the same person could match up against the CET exam with similar potential.

Take my case in point. I am from the ICSE stream for high school. With an 86% and above in my Xth board exams, there was still a feeling in me that my state syllabus bretheren were much ahead of me in terms of sheer marks scored. After switching to the state syllabus for my pre-university college, the sheer amount of coaching I received from one of the most experienced teachers from Bright Academy and my equal willingess to put in the same hard work from my end saw me top my college and score close to the 20th rank in the entire state. While this was just half the story, the coaching for the CET exam was a challenge in itself owing to the fact that the exam was 2 months away and we had to learn up what mattered by putting in a year’s worth of hard work in two months.

It was not the question of whether someone cleared the CET or not. It was the question of whether someone had the right focus, the right aim and understood the challenge of time in front of us. More than the students, it was so challenging for the teacher to optimize the opportunity to bring out the best in students in the right amount of time - what we call smart studying/working rather than hard work today.

The CET itself was a mixed bag of luck for each student as it was an outright pressure which made everyone tense on the day of the exam. It was not about the technical complexity. It was about negative marking, it was about wasting time on the one hard question than on the 5 easy questions. It was about focus and hitting the target that mattered. As a person who was confident of getting a rank between 1 & 100, the day of the exam changed all that confidence in me to revise my guidance (!). Owing to the fact of twists appearing in the form of more questions from Ist PUC syllabus a span of 10 extra questions that were unexpected, changed the fate for me to now provide a new expectation of being numerically below the 500 rank mark.

A rank of 483 showed how much one could be precise about his performance. CET was about bringing the best to the forefront. It was a show of might. A show of dedication. A result of suspense. An atmosphere of tension. A feeling of euphoria. A nail biting finish of the counselling. A sinking feeling of the fact that an engieering or medical seat had been secured. A family union after the whole episode. A feeling of 12 years worth of hard work, and more specifically 5 real years of hard work showing results. A sense of pride of having achieved something for what the parents stood for. For having educated you with their sweat of hard work.

Cut to the present day situation. More and more private colleges mushrooming day after day. From 10 to 26 to perhaps a 100 or even more. The chaos was already in the making. And it only got cemented so well that the private colleges association now had more teeth to demand anything and everything from the government. The last nail in the coffin being fee structure control.

Coming to the government’s latest stand on grading colleges based on :

Location: So what the government seems to be saying is that colleges which are easily accessible score more? Now in today’s situation does it mean a college in Jalahalli which is accessible in 30 mins from byappanahalli scores more than a reputed college in Basavanagudi which takes 2 hours by bus to reach?

Infrastructure: Alright, makes sense. But how do you quantify what infrastructure means? Labs? Cabs? Cafeteria? Library? What exactly?

Courses: Again we seem to be treading the wrong path here. Is it the number of courses or the kind of courses? Are these going to be measured on how industry specific they are? How industry relevant they are in today’s situation? How much in tune they are with the way education is organized abroad?

Coaching: I’m not sure how to write about this or what to write about this. Roughly about 30% of the lecturers have no freaking idea what they are teaching. While the remaining 70% are really good, its impossible to grade a college on just the kind of teaching done given the attrition rate of the lecturers every single year.

Veerappa Moily’s soft protest against changing the CET regime is very legitimate. Not because he started it. Because of the kind of control it weilded and shaped today’s industry that you see in Bangalore today. The kind of organized education that it brought about for what Karnataka is famous for.

To me its not about the poor who will be marginalized. Its about the rich who would be made poorer. Arbitrary fee structure increase is the last kind of favour any college needs from the government to start growing into automous currency monsters. An engineering degree that costed 20000 bucks way back in 1995 is now costing about 6 lakh+ in 2013. while this rate increase justifies against inflation, imagine the next three years fee structure. Are you able to guess where this is leading to?

I am predicting a four fold increase in this cost. Upto 25 lakh for a payment seat. Notwithstanding the fact that management seats are being auctioned anywhere between half a crore to more than 1 crore in both the engineering and medical segments. Assuming one spends half a crore on an engineering seat it takes anywhere between 15-25 years of meticulous hard work and growth in the software industry to even get anywhere close to earning back that amount. Given the kind of industry irrelevant subjects on offer this money spent is not even going to be of any worth.

Of course the colleges want to invest more money by charging students higher fee to maintain some standards within themselves. But if you are with me in understanding how building bye-laws worked and the Akrama-Sakrama scheme, you would know that this situation under discussion is no different from growing into an academic racket with similar dimensions and irreversibility few years down the line.

By the way is anyone looking at the way the schools are mushrooming with their own fee structures without a proper ombudsman? Your guess is as good as mine.

While every country is striving to make education free until high school and bringing the focus back into developing individuals to a higher level of performance, our education system is weaning towards a dangerous path laden with high unaffordable fee structures which only promotes growth of those people with money. This will eventually widen not only the urban-rural gap, but now widen an already mushrooming urban-urban gap in the education system.

If a doctor pays up 1 crore to get a seat and doesnt study well, you can imagine the guarantee for the set of patients that go under his knife! Similarly if an engineer pays up half a crore and doesnt study well, you can imagine how relevant what he studied would be for the industry. Thankfully the industry lobby is different from the college lobby. They select candidates based on how relevant the candidate is. Not how much a college in which he studied has been graded by the government.

If not anything else this will only start making the industry more aware that they need to start looking at the merit in candidates rather than the grade of the college in which he studied (as given by the government) in future. Its about time the companies start looking at visiting all educational campuses irrespective of their industry or academic standing. In three years time, a meritorious candidate could be well studying in a college which hardly people know of, which is hardly accessible, but might have the right amount of coaching and a more relevant course offering.

Bye Bye UVCE, RV, BMS, PESIT & MS Ramaiah.