Published April 28, 2014 by Srikanth Eswaran with 0 comment

Flipkart introduces same day delivery of shopping items

After Amazon promised in a day delivery, Flipkart has now upped the ante with a **Same Day delivery promise** for an introductory price of an additional 140 bucks. The next day delivery still stands at Rs.90 additional just as before. Post the offer the delivery charges will be raised to Rs.200, which in my opinion is a bit on the higher side. Even if a person takes a bus or auto from their Whitefiled sort facility for instance and come directly to my house, this is perhaps what it might cost.

By placing an additional cost, Flipkart is trying to address those customers who would otherwise shop on Amazon, as well as those customers who have the fastest fingers first philosophy on online shopping. So, what are you waiting for? Go and grab that favorite gadget of yours and get it on the same day if you order before 12 noon. Yeah, obviously no later than that :-)

Let's now wait for Amazon to counter that and then Flipkart to come up with 2-hr shipping !
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Published April 27, 2014 by Srikanth Eswaran

Hotel Kodai International Review

During the long holidays, I had a chance to visit Kodaikanal for the first time in my life. While I will write a different blog post on the route I took and other iternary related information, this post is just to review my stay at Hotel Kodai International in Kodaikanal.

I was expecting that the hotel was setup in the midst of a tea garden, but my expectations were shattered when I reached the hotel. It was in the middle of the town, just couple of kms away from the really charming Kodai lake.

**Reception lobby**

The reception area is large and inviting, and there is a reasonably useful car porch outside. There are sofas placed around the reception area with a nice front desk. The experience of checking in was pleasant. There are also couple of restrooms for public which are neat. Also, there is the cafeteria/restaurant which has access from the lobby. This also has a very small play area with colored balls for small kids, but I found it to be near useless and with no light or air, making it very clautrophobic.

I must mention though that there are housekeeping staff who are waiting to take your luggage to your rooms and it seemed to me they were a bit over courteous in expectance of some tips.

**Room standards**

Before we dwell further let me explain to you a bit more on the room rates so you know what you would expect out of this hotel. The per room rates were nearly around 5000 Rs. per room per night. When I emailed them and spoke with them, I was sepcifically told that the checkin and checkout timings were 24 hours and not the nearest 12 hour window.

Now obviously one would expect climatized airconditioner, great beds, some reasonably soothing lighting and last but not least, really good sanitation facilities. However I was in for a surprise when I got into my room. I felt that the room was old fashioned, the beds were the hard mattress types (which I personally like, but many others dont appreciate). The lighting was lacklustre and failed to instill the needed peace of mind of being in Kodai.

Coming to the toilet, here is my main grouse. There was a large stain on the floor which I thought was left behind by the previous occupant of the room, hence I requested room service to clean it up. The lady managing the room service was indifferent to my request and said its a permanent stain due to water leaking from - hold your breath - the ceiling. Now imagine having a room with water dripping on you when you are doing your most important morning job.

Now before you start judging the hotel, let me tell you that all rooms may not have had this problem, but a problem is still a problem and with the amount of money being charged for the hotel upkeep the least expectation is most definitely not a leaking roof.

The room service lady asked me whether she can place soap for my use. While this question is reasonable when I am already in the room, is it not etiquitte enough to have all this in place before even I enter the room in the first place? I have been informing from days and even for the last several hours of my whereabouts so that the hotel understands when the guest is likely to arrive. Each time my mail was even acknowledged. But at the end when you enter your room, many things are still not in place. We had to request an extra towel as well.

**Room service**

Normally in any hotel review, the room service will find a mention but in a small way. If I have to dedicate an entire section about room review in my my blog post then you can imagine my frustration on this topic.

The room service in this hotel was almost as if it was non existent. The rates for room service was through the roof at nearly hundred bucks a coffee to 200 bucks a hot chocolate which was available just in the common area of the hotel itself for 1/4th to 1/8th the price. What you do expect for this price is for those items that are easily prepared in lesser time, the items be available in a jiffy.

For the money being charged every room service order of mine had to take at least a minimum of 3-4 reminder calls to let them know that there was a guest waiting for something. Perhaps they have a shortage of staff or something, or perhaps they were just acting indifferent which is something I am not sure of, but what I am sure of is that there was no such thing called efficient room service.

**Other nitty-gritties**

* The bathroom thankfully had hot water at all times mostly which is a plus considering a 15 degrees C temperature in Kodai early in the mornings.
* I did not remember seeing a coffee making machine in the room
* The soaps could have been better at that price
* There was no centralized air conditioner in the room
* No sufficient towels in the room even after specific request
* The room provided to me was very close to the main boiler area which was heating up water to the rooms, so it was not the best room in the resort, but it was not noisy
* Room service is extremely exorbidant and its a rip off at the stated prices - perhaps the hotel is encouraging guests to step out of their rooms and socialize a bit :-)


I decided to have dinner at the cafeteria and it was an a-la-carte menu. I must say that the dishes done there were of good standard and some dishes were outstanding. Coming to the price part, the cafe/restaurant was again quite on the pricey side, but then that is how expensive hotels are bound to be.

I so happened to glance at the kitchen of the hotel when I was at the restaurant and I must share here some positive words regarding the quality of the kitchen. It was impeccably clean and very modern. This is one part of the hotel stay that was really pleasing to me.

Just outside the restaurant, there is a HKI Tea shop which serves hot masala chai and coffee at specified times. Though at the time of me going there it was beyond working hours the cook was kind enough to ask If he still needed to make coffee for me and this kind of request is highly appreciated as it means going out of the way to please a guest. Also the rates for coffee was almost 1/4th of room service rates and made me go there more than once.

**Dance floor and other entertainment areas**

***Dance floor***

There is a dance floor with disco lights and some beat songs that are played from 7:30pm onwards upto about 10pm. Thanks to my room being somewhere close by, I had to put up with the loud noise this area was making within my room as well. This inspite of closing doors and windows to my room. Almost a little past 9:30pm I grew so tired of this noise I had to literally call up front desk and request them to shut the music out soon as I was very sleepy after such a long drive.

This was so different from the [destiny farm stay]( at ooty which I have written about earlier to this post. In the resort they had the same dance floor as a completely indoor area which did not create noise for other people at the resort.


Coming to the campfire request at the Kodai hotel, they specifically requested us to come to the campfire. After taking the walk upto there we were informed there is no campfire on that given day which is not acceptable. What I mean is its not acceptible to give wrong information, though it may be okay to me that there is no campfire.

***Children's play area***

This resort also has children's play areas which have slides, swings, merry go rounds, hammocks, and the likes which make this a unique hotel. If you have kids like me, rest assured they will be extremely happy running around the place. I did find that some slides which are the really old ones, which we as kids used to play with and they are uneven, made of cement and hurt kids. These needs to be replaced by the hotel with more of plastic based toys. Of course this will mean some money but then that's what's needed to attract more people. Safe kids play area can be quite a relief to many parents.

***Gym and other games***

This hotel has a gym which I did not use. However from what I hear, this should be a decent one. The dance floor also had table tennis tables.

***Rose garden and waterfall***

There was a rose garden for guests, and also a private waterfall within the hotel. I did not try and access it since it was late evening already, but guests I believe can go there and go up above to view the waterfall in closeup.

**Animals & Birds**

From what I understood this resort had some emu birds, and rabbits and perhaps a few ducks for kids to see and enjoy. Though the emu enclosure is safe, sometimes unattended kids who are left near the enclosure can get a knock or two from an emu if they go too close.


The housekeeping was as similar as the room service. They acted indifferent, were not there on time at the room and generally needed lots of reminders that something was requested.

**Final words and advise**

The hotel is a mixture of good and bad. The room rents are high, but the rooms themselves are not of high standards matching the rates. The room service is highly expensive. There is hot water all round the clock thankfully. Food in the restaurant is on the expensive side, but good to eat. The dance floor is somewhat of a failed effort in bringing people together. The children's play area is a nice touch, and there is also a temple within the property along with the waterfall and other such areas. There are big lawns as well where people can casually play games like cricket, etc. The tea shop is a nice touch too.

I was shocked out of my wits to learn that the checkout time was 9AM and not 24 hours as told to me earlier. I feel the hotel goofed up in properly stating this to me and felt let down after I stayed there due to this fact. One good thing is I paid after I went there rather than book upfront as is the usual norm these days.

There are properties in Kodai which are more perfect for the facilities offered as compared to the Kodai International, for the stated price.

In my opinion, I may not stay there again.
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Published April 14, 2014 by Srikanth Eswaran with 0 comment

Pronto car wash review

Though I've been a regular at the Pronto Car Wash at HSR Layout, I only got some time to blog about this facility now due to many constraints.

The Pronto Car wash is fully automatic car washing system like you find in other countries. While other countries offer many different options like waxing, foam, etc the car wash facility here is a set of simple soap wash, water wash and air dry sequences.

There is also a manual water wash and interior cleaning done by the people working these which include shampooing of seats and vacuum clean and drying before the car goes in for exterior wash.

The cleaning system itself is made of a heavy frame with moving parts and three cleaning brush sets. It also has sprinklers under the chassis at floor level which sprays water jets for the belly of your car. The dryer module is one that adjusts itself by height as it traverses the car by automatically computing its current height so as not to damage the car. The dryer unit is powerful and ensures that the car is perfectly dry (well, almost) once the whole sequence is done.

So how long does this take? 7-8 minutes to be precise for the automated wash, another 10 minutes for the manual. Interior cleaning can take more time and there is also a wait time since there maybe other vehicles before you.

Ok, I got it but this must be expensive? Owning and maintaining a car is definitely expensive business. And the pronto is no cheap either. But its not so expensive that will make you opt out. For a basic body wash its 300 bucks. Drying manually is another 50 bucks (service you see!). Interior cleaning can set you back anywhere between 300-400 rupees more. The end result is a clean vehicle leaving you satisfied.
The guys remove your car antenna since that can interfere with the pronto system and fit it back later.

So, how often must you clean your car this way? Well honestly - its upto your wallet heaviness. I keep a target of maximum of once a month while the remaining times I am happy with my Karcher. For others who can afford more, you can do once a week. I also time it based on my tiredness to clean it at home or how dirty the car has become that it needs immediate attention.

Ok don't you have that guy who comes daily and spends an hour and bucket loads of water at home cleaning your car - I feel thats cheaper? Yes it is cheaper, but there is no thrill of seeing an automatic system clean your car spotlessly in 8 minutes. Besides, I have a karcher which is almost a mini pronto by itself minus the dryer. So no human beings cleaning my vehicle please. Besides doing it myself means some physical exercise and if I clean my wife's car then I get some brownie points at home as well.

If you want to see the always talked about automatic cleaning and you have not done it until now, I suggest you head upto Gnan Srishti School of Excellence and further down the road leading to HSR BDA complex and you will find Pronto on the right side.

Enjoy the show !
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Published April 11, 2014 by Srikanth Eswaran with 0 comment

Sygic Android mapping app short review


I had a chance to test the Sygic maps app for my LG G2 android phone for using it on my second trip to tiruvannamalai this week. Some of the observations I noted about the app are listed down here.

* The developer is not from india
* The installation itself was fuss free and took a while to download the app and relevant maps of Karnataka and TamilNadu.
* The user interface theme is a bit colorful and may not be to everyone's tastes
* The layout of the map and associated informaton on the panel is very good and provides a reasonably good readability during all times of the day
* Offline maps is an advantage like we have with nokia here maps
* Keep alive sound that says the GPS system is still on and working. Available even on lock screen. good touch!

Some of the things I noticed while using this app was more related to the road conditions on that day. I needed to take a right turn and while I knew I had to be on the right the app confused me into taking a left by saying something like "keep right and then take left", and one time even "keep left and then take left" - when there was really no left turn at all.

I lost my way due to this and the app immeidately asked me to take the nearest u-turn by keeping on the right. But the unfortunate part is that the app said "take a u-turn if possible" - really these kinds of approximations show how much the company is aware of the actual data on the ground. What if there was no u-turn? Then was I supposed to take a left turn? In that case do I need the map app anymore? That's anyones guess!

Due to some silly suggestions I lost about 10 km of drive before I managed to return to the suggested path even that was not accurate. Another thing I noticed was that the app takes a while to update the most immediate information. This means for example a recalculation of route takes a while. And if you are driving more than 80kmph there is a good chance that the route it suggests is already outdated by the time it shows that on the screen. This is not a good thing. I missed a critical right turn and ended up doing a journey on a road that I never wanted to take in reality and was never relevant for the journey.

The only reason I installed this app was because people suggested that it was really accurate even where Google maps wasnt. And the reason I didnt use google maps is that the last time, I neither had a mobile signal, nor data connectivity thereby making Google not to load the map on the screen. Of course we can always think of saved maps etc, but those things dont make sense as much as a real time navigation.

Also Sygic's option screens are a bit edgy looking in terms of polishedness of the interface and many times the search option was looping not allowing me to type anything new by stopping the old search.

Sygic failed me where Google wouldn't have. Personally I do not recommend Sygic since I feel they need to take some time to improve on their capabilities. Also the maps can be made more minimalistic than what it is now.
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