Banking on just a Karishma

Here’s a 1 sentence review of for the Busy reader: AVOID them for now, they’re learning at the customer’s expense & don’t seem to be ready for PrimeTime!

A Short review of, for those who like Bulleted lists:

  • Pricing: There are discounts but the items I needed had none 
  • Shipping charges: Free
  • COD available: Yes, but orders below INR 500 are charged INR50 extra for COD
  • Courier services used: Relatively unknown (Quantium Solutions, Delhivery), Delhivery delivered on time but Tracking didn’t work [Updated 25-Apr]
  • Timely delivery: No Sometimes [Updated 25-Apr]
  • The Good
    • Good variety in catalog
    • COD option
  • The Bad
    • Delivery times inaccurate
    • Not too many attractive discounts on items I was considering ordering, but YMMV
    • Not transparent: they don’t inform you when they ship the order & don’t update the tracking number on their website
    • They use relatively unknown courier services
    • No item-wise expected delivery time shown before ordering. So, they can decide to source the item from anywhere in the world & you’ll just have to wait
    • Generally not proactive in reaching out to customers
    • Services don’t seem professional
    • Extra charges for COD under INR500
    • First two Credit Card payment attempts failed (Master Card), went through the 3rd time.
  • Summary: A Big [Updated 25-Apr] Thumbs Down! I’ve had some bad experiences with them twice, and will not give them any further business. I hope people looking for reviews online find this write-up and make an informed choice. Hopefully, these guys are either forced to get their act in order, or go do something else. For, consumers do have other choices and sometimes, there’s more a business needs to do, than just bank on (a) Karis(h)ma (Translation: Miracle)!

Here’s the long review, for those interested in Details.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my sister in Delhi and she mentioned she’s trying to source a baby product (Farlin baby clothing detergent) but was not able to find it in any of the shops around her home in Delhi. With many online stores selling baby products these days, I thought of ordering online. She’s not too net savvy so I decided to order it for her. 

Had been hearing about this website called via their online & TV ads, with Karisma Kapoor as their brand ambassador & investor. I decided to give it a try.

The first try:

April 5, 2012 (Calendar Days elapsed: 0, Business Days elapsed: 0):

I searched the website and was able to find the Product I was looking for. There were no discounts on the MRP. Since it was a daily use item, I decided to order 2 1litre bottles.

Shipping was Free, and their Shipping policy & charges stated that for Metros, “We are committed to delivering consumables like Diapers, baby feed and other daily need consumables within 2 to 3 business days of the order being confirmed.“. It also mentioned “To ensure that your order reaches you in the fastest time and in good condition, we only ship through reputed courier agencies.

Their contact address on their website mentioned an address in Delhi, so I was hoping deliveries within Delhi will be pretty fast.
They also had Cash on Delivery option but since I was sending it for my sister, I decided to pay upfront via Credit Card.
After two failed attempts at making a Credit Card payment, the payment went through the 3rd time. I placed the order on Thursday, 5th April 2012 (Order #100098379). 

Friday was a holiday, and I was hoping they’ll Ship on Saturday, 7th April, and it’ll surely reach by Monday, 9th April. I communicated to my sister that the item is on it’s way.

After placing an order, I received a confirmation email with the Order number. 
Saturday, 7th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 2, Business Days elapsed: 1):

I didn’t hear from them for 2 days and on Saturday, I decided to call their 24×7 Customer Care number. After getting connected to an Agent and inquiring the status, I was told that the items have already been dispatched from Mumbai via Quantium Courier, and I was provided a Tracking number on the phone. Never heard on this courier company, but hey, there’s so many things in the world I haven’t heard of. 
Sunday, 8th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 3, Business Days elapsed: 1)
I tracked the courier again and the message I see on the website says:
Status: Offload/Bag missing by Airlines
Remarks: Contains liquid
Location: Bombay
On seeing this, I called Customer Care and was told that since the courier contained liquid, it was not accepted on the flight and they’ll now be sending the courier via Surface mode. I’m quite surprised and am imagining someone carrying my courier along with their cabin baggage & getting stopped before boarding :P, “Sorry Sir, aap yeh Sabun nahi le jaa saktey, anumati nahi hai!” (Translation: Sorry Sir, you can’t carry this liquid soap, not allowed)

I asked them when I can expect the item and I was told that it’ll still reach within the time promised.

Tuesday, 11th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 5, Business Days elapsed: 3)
I checked the tracking status again and it was updated on Tuesday to say the following:
Status: onforward to branch
Remarks: Forward to surface mode
Location: Bombay
I called them to ask the following questions, and they didn’t have satisfactory answers:
a. Why was the item shipped from Mumbai? If a daily consumable is not available locally, shouldn’t they inform me it’ll get delayed?
b. What’s the definition of a reputed courier service, as claimed in their T&Cs?
c. Is it the first time they’re shipping a product with liquids?
d. Why did someone not inform me proactively when they got to know the package will get delayed? I would have appreciated an option to cancel my order.
I then asked them when I can expect to receive the item and was given the same answer “within the time promised”. I ask them when that is, and the Agent says within “3-4 working days” (notice a day added ChupkeSe), I asked by what date is that, and he says he can’t give me an ETA. When I ask him why can’t he calculate 3-4 working days from the date I ordered and tell me I’ll receive the item by Wednesday, he has the audacity to bang the phone on me. Really angry, Hope that call was recorded and someone listens to the recording, and the guy has to explain!
Thursday, 13th Apr (Calendar Days elapsed: 7, Business Days elapsed: 5)
The item has still not been delivered and the courier tracking has the following update:
Status: Physical item received
Location: Delhi
Friday, 14th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 8, Business Days elapsed: 6)
The item has still not been delivered and the courier tracking update now says:
Status: Onforward to branch
Remarks: Kotla
Location: Delhi
Sunday, 15th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 10, Business Days elapsed: 7)
Saturday has passed and the item has still not been delivered. I call their customer care number and it’s their usual Laachaari (Translation: helplessness), and the cosmetic “regretting the inconvenience caused”.  

I then ask to be connected to a supervisor and am put through to Arif. I simply ask him why I should order from them again, for that matter why anyone should order from them. Apologies as usual and a promise me that the item will be delivered on Monday, 16th April. I say I know it will get delivered on Monday, considered it’s now sitting 2 Kms away from destination address since the last 2 days, but what about the delay? I ask to be compensated for the delay and he promises to speak to higher-ups and call me back. I promise him that if I don’t hear from him, not only will I never order from their site again, but I will also take extra effort to write a review and spread the word

Monday, 16th April (Calendar Days elapsed: 11, Business Days elapsed: 7)
The item is finally delivered. Around afternoon, I get a call from Arif and he communicates that after consulting with his higher-ups, he can offer me a INR 300 coupon for the inconvenience caused. I accept and he sends me the coupon code by email. 

The second chance

Now I have a 300 bucks coupon that I need to use which brings me back to
Not able to decide whether to order something strictly within 300 bucks, or to buy something that we need & pay the difference amount. I decide the latter and to use their Cash on Delivery option to avoid paying upfront, in case they decide to source the item from Africa this time & ship via a Boat.
Sunday, 22nd April (Calendar Days elapsed: 0, Business Days elapsed: 0)

I choose a travel doodler worth 600 bucks and apply the coupon. It works but I see the charge as 350, whereas I was expecting it to be 300 bucks. I then notice their Terms & Conditions on COD which state that if the order value is below 500 bucks, there will be extra charge of 50 bucks for COD. Very conveniently, they decide to use the after-discount value of 300 instead of the original value of 600. They also mention someone will call to confirm the order in case of COD.
I need to use this coupon so I place the order (Order #100105035). I notice a coloring book included in the order which initially confuses me, but then I check the order details and realize it’s Free (Hurray!). An order confirmation email arrives as usual.
Monday, 23rd April (Calendar Days elapsed: 1, Business Days elapsed: 1)
A very detailed email invoice arrives. Its followed by an email that has the subject “ Shipment # 1000xxxxx for Invoice #203130000xxxx & Order # 100xxxxxx” and says “Please find your shipment confirmation and tracking number below”. Strangely, the email doesn’t mention the name of the courier, nor does it have any tracking number. How & where am I supposed to track my courier? Via Telepathy? 

No-one calls me to confirm the order, as was claimed on their website

Tuesday, 24th Aprtil (Calendar Days elapsed: 2, Business Days elapsed: 2)
I call Customer Care and ask for Courier name, tracking number & ETA. I’m told that the item has been shipped by a courier called Delhivery (for some reason, I hear Delhi Belly the first time 😛), and am given a Tracking number. Again, I haven’t heard of this courier name so am surprised, half-expecting the same story to repeat again. [Update 25-Apr:] Delhivery delivered within 3 days, but their tracking is either broken, or babyoye provided me the wrong TrackingID! I also find it a bit discomforting that I’m in Bangalore, and the courier has been sent via Delhivery, I quickly confirm that my Shipping Address is correct. 

I try the tracking number on the Delhivery website and it’s not recognized. I try the Shipment number and it’s not recognized too. I ask the Agent Why and she has no clue, she tries and it doesn’t work for her too. Maybe it’s Rahukalam, or the Website has had a short-term memory loss! She promises to follow-up with Logistics team and get back to me. 

I wait for 8 hours and call them again. Am offered the same tracking number which still doesn’t work. The Agent promises again to check with the Logistics team and get back soon. I ask for the Supervisor Arif, who helped me the last time, but he’s already left for the day. So, I decide to call it a day too, hoping someone will call me tomorrow and just say “Mai Delhivery se bol raha hun Sir, aur aapke darwaaze ke ikdum saamne khadaa hun 😛” (Translation: Sir, I’m from Delhivery and here outside your door/apartment to deliver the courier)

Tuesday, 25th Aprtil (Calendar Days elapsed: 3, Business Days elapsed: 3)

I track the shipment on Delhivery at 1pm, it’s still going Ghajini on me. So, I get back to work. I try again at 6pm, and the Tracking number is still not recognized. The shipment number is not recognized too. I browse through About Us and get some comfort seeing IIT & IIM multiple times on the page. Mann mein hai vishwaas, Courier pakka pahunchegaa, ek din (Translation: I have faith that the courier will reach me, One day)

No-one from Logistics team has cared to call me yet, so I call their customer care number again. The agent as usual puts me on hold, and after a few minutes, the only update he has is that they had sent an email to the Courier company but haven’t heard back. Now, they will escalate! Kursi ki peti baandh leejiye, mahaashaiy … (Translation: Fasten your seat belt…)

I ask to speak to Arif, the supervisor and after a short wait, I get through to him. He assures me that they’ve shipped the order and there seems to be some problem with the Delhivery website. It’s still expected to reach within the time promised, which BTW, is 3-7 working days. Apparently, this time the item has been shipped from their warehouse in Bhiwandi and is on it’s way to my home in Bangalore.

I ask Arif why they use these little-known courier services when they have options like DTDC and others. I’m told it’s owned by the same group. Sounds like a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, and meanwhile the customer can just scratch their head wondering when they’ll get their shipment. Besides, they’s no other company covering Bhiwandi. Trivia: The main mode of transport within Bhiwandi Nizampur is the auto rickshaw. There are no intra-city buses as of now running within the city, but the Bhiwandi-Nizampur city Municipal Corporation is planning a bus system soon. Those Auto wallahs must be making a killing there, One and a half meter Sir, Khaali aana waapis! 

So, I was promised by Arif that he’ll reach out to me by tomorrow and provide an update. I promised him that I will overcome my laziness and write down my experience with their website, and share it with him & all my friends. And I’ll just hope it causes someone at sit up & take notice, and things change for the better. So here it is, I’ve kept my promise! 

Meanwhile, the wait continues…
[Update 25-Apr] I reached home after publishing this review and found that the item got delivered around 7:30pm today. So, the wait has ended & the 2nd experience was not as bad as the first one. However, most issues raised in this review still hold true, and I hope they improve on those. In my 2 experiences with, the only positive impression was the customer fixation of Arif, I hope they recognize his good work & hire more people like him.

The SQL query that made me smile

A few days back, I filed my income tax online. To many, that may seem like something ordinary but to me, being able to do that online was a milestone in itself. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that when I heard that taxes can be filed online, I started off exploring with a pessimistic outlook … maybe the website would be down … the system might be slow … will it be reliable … will it do what it claims. I had reasons for thinking this way, as over the years I’ve seen that these processes and the bookkeeping behind the curtains has been largely manual and on paper. And I’ve had my shares of experiences that have made me form my opinions … I’ve stood in queues for hours, I’ve visited the IT office(*1) and seen how much time & effort it takes to locate a physical file and have always wished that someday (maybe in 10-15 years), things would get computerized. I wasn’t expecting it to come so soon though.

The experience of filing my tax online was a surprise so pleasant, that I was actually …. QUITE surprised. I entered my name, date of birth and PAN number and the query pulled up my address on record. I’m a programmer myself and have written quite a few queries myself but let me tell you … no other query has given me so much happiness. For this query to be able to fetch data meant that the records existed in digital form and could be queried. That, in itself, opens so many avenues and limitless possibilities.

The overall process including registration, downloading and filling up the form and uploading the data took me less than an hour. The overall workflow was very thoughtfully designed, with a few exceptions which I’ll come to. I was able to file my tax from halfway around the world and there was only one manual leg in the process (since I didn’t have a digital signature).

These were my highs and not-so-highs..

The Highs:

  • Was able to file tax online
  • No attachments (Form-16, investment proofs) required
  • Non-proprietary software for filling the return Form. These days, Adobe Acrobat can be considered a standard software.
  • Query for PAN in registration process boosted confidence, was quite fast too
  • Website has an advanced users option (for programmers) where XML data could be edited manually
  • When filing tax without a digital signature, the acknowledgment form is generated as a downloadable PDF file (which has to be printed, signed and submitted in the IT department). Generating a downloadable PDF was a thoughtful design considering people want to retain acknowledgment in soft copy for their records and also may not have a printer at hand to print immediately.

The Not-So-Highs:

  • The name of IT website in digital signature didn’t match with site name verbatim due to which the browser gave a warning.
  • The completely automated option requires a digital certificate. Only certificates issued by one of the 7 affiliate agencies is accepted, even certificates issued by international issuing agencies aren’t accepted. None of these companies sell digital certificates online, so human interaction is required.
  • The return form gave a prompt for upgrading Adobe acrobat when it was opened in Acrobat version 6. When the upgrade option was chosen, Adobe Acrobat got upgraded to Version 7 and not Version 8.1. As per the IT website, the version needed Adobe 8.1.
  • The document opened up without any prompts/warnings when opened in Acrobat 7. While exporting to XML though, all dates in the form were getting dropped from the XML and was causing validation errors wile uploading. This problem was solved when user upgraded to Acrobat version 8.1.
  • IT department could’ve given a FAX number where the signed acknowledgment could be faxed directly. Or maybe an email address where you could send the scanned copy of signed acknowledgment. This would save a trip to the IT office (*2)

Overall, filing tax was a Breeze; IMO, the process isn’t perfect yet but it definitely a big step forward. Believe it or not, I actually jumped with joy after completing the process in less than an hour. And the SQL query for PAN, that’s brought on an instant Smile!

(*1): The best part about visiting the IT office at Mayur Bhawan in Connaught Place, New Delhi … getting to have the Special Choley Bhature/Rajmah Chawal/Kadi Chawal at Shankar Market…Mmmmm, I can smell those bhaturas from here
(*2): Maybe that trip really is worth it (Refer *1).

My Review: Anwar

I’m glad some film makers still put their money in projects like this. It keeps the non-commercial stream of Cinema alive, the stream in which artistics decisions are backed by artistic reasons, rather than by mass-Junta’s acceptance. In short, Anwar is an artistic expression that doesn’t conform with typical cinema but is a pleasant change from the routine.

The movie is set in Uttar Pradesh and the storyline is a simple one: a muslim youth (Anwar) stops to rest at an old temple and is wrongly perceived to be a terrorist holding up a Hindu place of worship. The narration shuttles between Anwar’s present and past, between which there’s no connection apparently. In snapshots from his past, we see his relationship with a Hindu friend (Udit) and how his friend looks at his community, as an outsider. His past also has a failed love angle, and also his relationship with another friend (Master Pasha), who’s happens to be a struggling actor. His present is focussed on the scene of action: a temple where he’s sought shelter, surrounded by media, politicians and the police who all believe he’s a terrorist. The movie also has some sub-plots going on, in the politician’s, journalist’s and the cop’s lives.

There a sequence in the movie which appears between scenes and shows Anwar dressed as Krishna running behind the girl he loves (Mehru), who’s dressed as Radha. This scene has been shot very artistically and creates a good hand-over between Anwar’s past and present.

But it isn’t these plots (which are simple everyday stories) that make a statement, it’s actually the backdrop against which the film is shot! The movie takes a bird’s eye view of current times, and shows the idiosyncrasies of today’s society. The reflection, in my view, is a tight slap on our faces, well deserved by today’s media, politicians and citizens. Realization is the first step to corrective action, and reflections like these are ugly but most effective.

The movie in its backdrop covers multiple topics:

  • Attitude towards minority communities
  • Politicians and political groups creating News for gaining mileage, making issues where none exist
  • The Media reporting what the perception is, instead of digging up what the reality is
  • The cops who’re puppets in hands of politicians and their goons
  • Moral policing by political groups

Sidharth Koirala, as Anwar, looks more pretty than his sister Manisha Koirala (LOL), who plays the role of the jornalist Anitha in the movie. Sudhir pandey does an OK role as the politician. Vijay Raaz (as Master Pasha) and Yashpal Sharma (as the cop) are brilliant, as always. Nauheed Cyrusi plas the role of Mehru, who’s the girl Anwar loves.The only thing I didn’t like in the movie: certain dialogues and sequences were stretched too much beyond what was required, which was breaking the flow. I expect movies like these to be very concise and crisp, which wasn’t the case at several points in the movie. Also, Rajpal Yadav’s character (Gopinath) wan’t needed at all in the movie and was irritating.

Overall, a beautiful movie, Go watch it!

Munnabhai, Vinamrata and The Macho Indian man

First things first, Munnabhai and Circuit ROCK, and so does their creator Rajkumar Hirani. The series started with a “Gangster goes to Medical school” storyline, which took the country by storm and metamorphized Munnabhai & Circuit from screenplay characters to a Brand. The Brand’s identity is now further strengthened with the sequel Lage Raho Munnabhai, which thoroughly stimulates your appetite, and leaves you wanting for more. LRMB is an example of effective story-telling and Hirani has very beautifully managed to deliver age-old Gandhian principles in a package that people can identify with.
I must admit though that based on what I see around me, I did feel that the movie might land up in trouble soon with some political group asking for a ban on it. Strangely, for some reason, everyone has accepted the “Gandhi-giri” sportingly and I do wish people would stop telling us what we can or cannot watch.I watched LRMB twice on the same day and each time, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and never for a moment felt the 3 hours pass by. This, in a way, symbolizes the repeat-business potential of the product. To appreciate it deeply, you should try comparing it with an average product experience, like any Emraan Hashmi movie, and Voila, you instantly see the Magic woven by Hirani & team.In the movie, Gandhiji teaches and proves to Munnabhai that Vinamrata (Politeness) and Ahimsa (Non-violence) can work in today’s world too. Well, if you take that teaching out-of-the-movie and into-your-life, you start seeing that these principles do work, albeit, with persistence. The problem is, over these years, society has started associating arrogance and a short temper with Machismo. We see that no matter where the Indian man is, he wants to start a fight and win it too. The typical Indian man today is not as conscious of being right, as he is of delivering the first and last blow to his opponent. And when I use the term “Indian man”, I do so with deliberation since things aren’t the same in the west, where macho men are not necessarily considered desirable.As Gandhiji said in the movie, accepting your mistake takes more strength than fighting and winning a battle where you’re in the wrong. How many real-life examples have we seen of people coming ahead and accepting they are wrong? It surely does take strength and when you come across a person who has the guts to do so, you get a really positive vibe. A wave of such transformation has the potential of saving so much energy and so many lives; lives that are lost in incidents of rivalry, road rage and many such situations of conflict, aggression and confrontation.

Politeness isn’t cowardice and I’m happy to know there are many people who agree. The climate is right for Munnabhai-2, and it’s proven by the news pouring in …. “Books on Gandhiji flyingoff the shelf since LRMB was released”, “Munnabhai-2 made tax-free in delhi”… the magic seems to be working so …. Lage Raho Munnabhai!