Bharti Airtel CEO's e-mail on Net Neutrality and response from the people


Few days back I posted Mahesh Murthy's take on anti #net neutrality and Airtel's 'Airtel Zero' plan. After a huge outcry (over 800,000 emails to the Government) and Flipkart's final decision of backing out of Airtel Zero, Bharti Airtel's CEO Gopal Vittal wrote to customers on April 19, 2015, explaining why they love net neutrality and why Airtel Zero is benign and just some "technology platform". Below is the email.

Dear Customer

Over the last few days you may have seen a lot of conversation on our toll free platform Airtel Zero. It has been painted as a move that violates net neutrality and we have been very concerned at the incorrect information that has been carried by some quarters in the media as well as in social media. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear the air and reiterate that we are completely committed to net neutrality. Let me clarify.

Our vision is to have every Indian on the internet. There are millions of Indians who think that the internet is expensive and do not know what it can do for them. We believe that every Indian has the right to be on the internet. We know that if we allow them to experience the joys of the internet they will join the digital revolution.

Airtel Zero is a technology platform that connects application providers to their customers for free. The platform allows any content or application provider to enroll on it so that their customers can visit these sites for free. Instead of charging customers we charge the providers who choose to get on to the platform.

Our platform is open to all application developers, content providers and internet sites on an equal basis. The same rate card is offered to all these providers on a totally non discriminatory basis.

There is no difference between this and toll free voice such as 1-800. When a company selling an insurance product enrols into the toll free voice platform, customers who call the number are not charged but when they call a normal number they are charged. Calls are not blocked or given preferential treatment else our whole business would be jeopardized. Toll free voice helps the business owner engage with their customer. At the same time it provides the customer the benefit of reaching the business for free. Toll free voice is not a product or a tariff plan, it is merely a technology platform. We are simply taking the same concept of toll free voice to the world of data. As a result it is for the application developer and their customer to decide how data charges will be paid for. If the application developer is on the platform they pay for the data and their customer does not. If the developer is not on the platform the customer pays for data as they do now. Companies are free to choose whether they want to be on the platform or not. This does not change access to the content in any way whatsoever. Customers are free to choose which web site they want to visit, whether it is toll free or not. If they visit a toll free site they are not charged for data. If they visit any other site normal data charges apply.

Finally every web site, content or application will always be given the same treatment on our network whether they are on the toll free platform or not. As a company we do not ever block, throttle or provide any differential speeds to any web site. We have never done it and will never do it. We believe customers are the reason we are in business. As a result we will always do what is right for our customers.
There has been a deliberate effort by some quarters to confuse people that we will offer differential speeds or differential access for different sites. This is untrue. After all we earn revenues from data. If there are more customers who are on the Internet the better it is for our business. Our revenues are not dependent on which sites they visit because we charge on the basis of consumption of mega bytes not which site they visited.

In sum our platform is a technology platform and is open to all application developers and their customers. Our platform only provides a choice of how the data that is consumed is paid for by any of the two - the application provider or their customer. Whether any application provider enrolls on the platform or not is entirely their choice. All we have is a technology. We do not have a product or tariff plan that we have launched. We simply have a platform. And every application developer and their customer is free to choose in an entirely neutral way what they want to do.

In conclusion, we stand fully committed to net neutrality to ensure the goals of the Prime Minister`s vision of digital India are met.

Regards,
Gopal Vittal
MD & CEO
Bharti Airtel Ltd.
India & South Asia

In response to Gopal Vittal's e-mail, venture capitalist, marketing consultant and corporate speaker Mahesh Murthy writes -

Here's how I suggest you reply to him at ceo.airtel@airtelupdate.com or gopal.vittal@in.airtel.com

Subject: Dear Mr. Airtel CEO, my concepts are right. Perhaps you have a misconception.

Dear Mr. Vittal,

Thank you for writing to me. It’s a refreshing change from seeing some operator’s association fronting for you.

I’d like to correct some serious misconceptions you have about the internet, the role it plays in my life and how I’d like it to be.

1. First, the internet is critical to my life, my future, and that of my family. As you’ve heard our Prime Minister say, a Digital India is essential for this country to develop. And core to a digital India is equal and unfettered access to the Internet. The internet is a global collection of interlinked sites and there is only one internet. For my future and for all our futures, this one internet has to be freely accessible and open to all. This one internet cannot be broken into separate collections of sites available on separate payment plans. So I am most concerned when someone tries to sell parts of the internet separately, at different price plans, including some at a price called ‘free’. This breaks the internet, and I do not wish that to happen.

2. Second, I’m glad to see you say that you support net neutrality. I understand your company may have conducted tests in the past where you’ve deliberately throttled down video and audio bytes to give a bad user experience on those, so that you have the opportunity in the future to charge more for these as separate services. Given your stated support of net neutrality now, I hope that will never happen again. I am aware what happened in the US between Comcast and Netflix, and I hope, with your statement, that something like this will never ever happen on any Airtel network.

3. I also hope you understand that there’s nothing special or different between a byte of video, a byte of audio and a byte of text going through your network. They’re all the same, and they all go through at the same speed. I am happy to pay a competitive price for the amount of bandwidth I consume regardless of whether it’s audio, video or text – and I take your statement as a commitment that you will never have a separately priced YouTube pack, or a specially priced WhatsApp pack or Facebook pack or whatever.

4. I appreciate your acceptance clearly that you’re an internet bandwidth provider and the applications I use on this bandwidth that you provide are not your concern – as long as you charge for the data consumed. I understand that your commitment is that all data from all applications that I use will now be delivered equally promptly with no discrimination and separate pricing, either based on the type of data I am using, or the application it is emanating from. I thank you for your new stand and clarity on this issue.

5. While that is a welcome step, that is just one part of net neutrality. I am sure you have read the news that the government’s TRAI believes that zero-rating plans like Airtel Zero and Facebook Internet Dot Org both violate net neutrality. Here is a link to that - http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2015-04-16/news/61217927_1_net-neutrality-app-makers-open-internet.

6. But even if you were not to take the government’s word for it, you’ve probably seen that over 800,000 email have gone from concerned users like me to the Government to ask them to ensure net neutrality and to ban all kind of zero-rating plans. That should give you an idea of the number of people who have a clear concept about what exactly they expect from licensed internet providers in India. I have no opposition to only your plan, it’s nothing personal – I also oppose all other zero-rating plans including what Facebook is pushing via something called Internet Dot Org on the Reliance network. If you stop this Airtel Zero plan on my network and never bring back anything like it ever again, and I’ll be your fan again.

7. I now hear you say that your commitment is to bring the internet to everybody in the country and that is why you wanted to cordon off one section of the internet, get it subsidized and sponsored by the sites in that cordon, and offer that at no bandwidth cost to the users because you can't afford to do it yourself, even though you declared over Rs.7,800 crores in profit last year. This is interesting, because the reason quoted so far by your representative at your association has been that “you spent a lot of money and hence you want to make more money”. Good to know of your altruism, even though it is in the form of making others pay for the charity and developmental work that you say you want to do

8. Let me tell you other reasons why I am opposed to any sort of zero-rating plan. There are new things that happen every day, somewhere in the world, and the internet helps me discover these. I discovered long-lost contacts on WhatsApp through this digital word of mouth, I discovered new parts of the internet via Google this way, I discovered my friends on Facebook this way, I discovered new jobs on Naukri this way, and I also discovered your offerings and services this way. Now if you cordon off one part of the internet, no one in that restricted zone will ever be able to discover or experience anything new – all they can see are the few and limited sites of the rich companies who have paid you to be placed on that so-called free channel, and the users can’t go anywhere else. Many of these new offerings will come from start-ups and young companies who have no money for subsidizing Airtel bandwidth and hence the users of your cordoned-off service will never discover them. Innovation – especially as driven by our Prime Minister’s Made In India drive, will die as a result. And the worst affected will be the people that you apparently are doing this for – at the bottom of the pyramid. That is why Airtel Zero is such a bad idea. I understand people at the bottom of the pyramid have a huge hunger for knowledge and information – but it is horrible to feed them just a limited tiny diet from wealthy companies who can sponsor your bandwidth and who are looking to recover the money they paid you by exploiting these poor and needy folks. That’s a tragedy, and don’t you think it’s somewhat shameful that your firm is a part of it? Let’s not exploit the unwired and the poor.

9. I appreciate this new view from you that your vision is to get every Indian online, and that it’s not about making more money, unlike what your association has been saying so far. But if you truly, sincerely, really look at getting this bottom of the pyramid online, you’ll see that bandwidth cost is the least of the issues. Bandwidth can cost Rs. 49 a month or even less – but people first have to get a Rs. 2,000 phone or device, and learn English to use it. Then they have to have good coverage where they live. The challenges are many and difficult.

10. I can see that you have a huge issue delivering even regular telephone calls without dropping them multiple times in urban areas, or even delivering the stated bandwidth to paying customers - how many of your paying 3G users actually get 3G speeds? How many of your paying 2G users actually get 2G speeds? I for sure don’t get what I pay for from you – and perhaps that’s a good place for you to start, if you really want to help develop our country. Why not start by catering to your paying customers and not short-changing them? I am unclear how you’ll deliver bandwidth that even paying customers like me pay for – let alone the free customers who are spread all across India where your networks probably don’t even reach. The challenges as we agree, are many, and bandwidth affordability is not among the key ones.

11. Further, if your objective is to bring these folks online – why not just offer a cheaper plan that all can access, where the entire internet is open to them – and not just the elite and closed-garden neighbourhood of rich sites who are paying you? Why not a Rs.5 a month, open Internet access plan? I’m sure you can do it – bandwidth prices are falling the world over.

12. I also want to ask you this: I don’t know if you and others in your management team have growing children. But if you do, would you send them to a cordoned-off part of the internet sponsored and run by wealthy sites where they can’t go anywhere else? Or would want them to enjoy the full internet at a low cost, where there is no bias just to sites owned by wealthy corporations who can sponsor the bandwidth? I am sure your answer will be that you’d never wish that your children – or even the children of your maids and drivers - should ever be on a broken internet limited to sites sponsored by rich, exploitative companies.

13. One more thing: I keep noticing your mention of toll-free numbers. I know that is not an appropriate analogy. Toll free numbers work when people have phones – and can easily get to all the other numbers they want to call. That is not the case here – to state the equivalent here: people have no phones and no coverage, and what’s stopping them from making calls is not some high cost of calling. In reality too in India, toll-free hasn’t been important because the cost of phone calls was always affordable to all. Maybe that’s the lesson here for all of us. Give us a more affordable open internet. Not an internet broken into pieces with one elite area paid for by rich companies only to exploit poor people. So let’s leave this toll-free analogy aside – it’s not relevant to the point.

14. I want to end with one remark. I do know that your service, and that of other telecom companies, runs on bandwidth and airwaves owned by the Government and people of India. You merely have a license to use it, that too in a way as prescribed by the Government. Under all these circumstances, I hope you will agree with me that any kind of restrictive Internet plan that blockades poor people to seeing sites only owned by wealthy companies does not promote India’s development or that of my fellow citizens. I appreciate your altruism and desire to help develop India in an inclusive and meaningful way. To that end I request you consider offering better service across the board to paying customers, to lowering your cost of internet access for all, and yes, to withdrawing your Airtel Zero plan.

That will help clear all misconceptions about the good you want to do for our nation.

Niyoror Xur - an Assamese song by Jim Ankan Deka and Mayukh Hazarika

Niyoror Xur (নিয়ৰৰ সুৰ) - is Jim Ankan Deka's fourth Assamese music video. Sung by Mayukh Hazarika, the song is based on poems by Assamese writer duo Late Bhabananda Deka and Late Nalini Prava Deka and edited by Ankur Deka. The video is directed by Parmita Borah. The song will be released online in June, 2015.

Presented by ChaiTunes, the song is produced by Eastern Fare Music Foundation, Bangalore and powered by Music Malt, a music house based in Bangalore.

Indian telcos killed VAS business. Now they're out to kill your business. - Mahesh Murthy


Some of you may remember the huge hype around VAS (Value Added Services) startups in India less than a decade years ago - remember SMSing to get your horoscope for the day, or a cricket score update? The story was all about how they'd create great content for distribution on the telcos' networks and how we'd see new giant companies being formed.

Fast forward to today - the telcos' user base is ten times larger - but do you see any of those VAS companiess around?

They're all virtually dead - and the telcos killed them. And they did so with a simple weapon - they charged a toll tax of 80% or more on all revenues generated by the VAS startups on their networks.

VAS companies are long gone - the telcos killed and ate the golden geese, and golden eggs are now hard to come by. But rather than learn from this debacle - they're out there to find and kill the next golden egg.

And that's you, dear Indian internet entrepreneur. You're going to be the next victim of anti #net neutrality.

Here's their plan. First it was Facebook with its apparently goodie-goodie "Internet.org" non-profit that was to bring the internet for free to the masses. This is what Reliance launched on its network. Till one figured that it would only bring Facebook's narrow, self-serving version of the internet to the people. So you'd get Facebook for sure, because your social network is more important than your kids' education or your health. And you'd get Bing, not Google - because Microsoft has a stake in Facebook while Google is the enemy. And it'd bring Babajobs not Naukri, for whatever reason - and so on. It's advertised as "internet designed for the poor" but it increasingly seems like "Internet designed to keep you poor". Your business can't get on to that platform.

Not to be outdone, and smelling revenues where Facebook sniffed out only poor people poking each other, India's largest telco has just brought out Airtel Zero - its "zero rating" app. And other telcos are waiting silently in the wings licking their chops to bring out their own ransom apps like Zero if they see Airtel get away with it.

While the PR spin around it is the same "free internet for the poor", the truth is that it's a very expensive proposition for everybody.

Here's what Airtel Zero is - it's a collection of apps that are chosen by Airtel and offered for free surfing by the public. So if you used Airtel Zero, your bandwidth meter stops ticking for any app that's part of the plan. Before you get excited, see what it really means.

First - this isn't for use by the poor - the real users will be all of us wanting to save a dime on bandwidth costs - which Airtel and others are raising anyway though global costs are falling.

Now you've heard that Flipkart has paid a chunk of money to be the e-com store featured on Airtel Zero. That means Airtel gets the money for the bandwidth from Flipkart - and in turns keeps other stores including yours out of this very select set. So if you're an e-com entrepreneur or a VC funding e-com companies, then tough luck - because you've just been locked out of the free internet that up to 200 million people will use in India. Airtel is busy striking expensive deals with others to be the exclusive real estate / matrimony etc type providers on this service.

It's horrible from the consumer point of view too. We go from the open internet to the closed internet. Flipkart has paid through its nose for their spot and if you're in front of it, there's no competition on this free channel. They'll raise their prices on their products not just because they can, because you can't compare here - but because they have to, so that they can pay Airtel the ransom demanded.

And given that Airtel revenues are in the billions of dollars, you can be assured they wouldn't touch a thing unless it could mean another billion to them. So if you had a few dozens of crores of rupees - that is, a few dozen million dollars every year - lying around, you might have a chance of getting on to the free bus. If you don't, too bad, you're going to wither away and die. The Indian Internet dream will become a Sunil Bharti Mittal fiefdom. Oh, you can be sure that Sunil's son's little company, Hike Messenger, will be part of Airtel Zero - what's life without nepotism?

This is no longer the open internet - this is the closed network, where Airtel is the toll-tax collector. Airtel is the goonda asking for collection money to put your app in front of people. This is the old Airtel - the killer of VAS, back in full form.

What is truly terrifying is that the firms you'd expect to stand up for the open internet - Google and Twitter - have bought into this terrifying plan. They're on Airtel Zero - but Airtel gave them a free pass for now. Their logic is "Well, we're not paying, so who cares". Shame on you two and your shameful Indian managements who signed these deals - I'm sure if your owners and management in Silicon Valley knew the full impact of your decisions, you guys would be boarded out in a hurry.

Think a little, Google and Twitter. Sure, the first year, Airtel needs you, to get traction for their horrendous Zero product. But by year three, you'll need them. And you'll end up paying the tens of millions of dollars a year in hafta vasooli - protection money - to India's most thuggish telco. And who will you have to recover it from? The consumer again.

And who are you screwing over in the process, Google and Twitter? The consumer AND the young entrepreneur. Dear Google, you once said "Don't be evil". I don't know if you're watching - but your Indian team has just gone over to the dark side.

We're going back 30 years, to the days of the license raj, where the guy who owned the pipe could dictate what flowed through it. Can something stop this outrage, though? Can we get the open internet back?

Actually yes. The thing is that the atmosphere and airwaves this stuff goes through is ours, the people of India's. And our government licensed it to these thugs, under our terms and conditions.

There's currently a move by the telco-lovers at supposedly-independent government organisation TRAI to make things like Aritel Zero which break net neutrality legal and kosher. We have 13 more days to stop them.

As usual the Indian internet entrepreneur and VC / PE organisations like IVCA, TIE and NASSCOM are asleep at the wheel. Or clueless. Or bought. Or all of the above.

So it's up to us - the general public and the entrepreneurs - to fight back and stop this internet holocaust.

Here's what you can do.
1. Sign this petition over at https://www.change.org/p/rsprasad-trai-don-t-allow-differential-pricing-of-services-let-consumers-choose-how-they-want-to-use-internet-netneutrality and share it with your friends.

2. Write directly to TRAI at "advqos@trai.gov.in". You can write what you like - but you could have words that say something like

Dear TRAI, I am writing to express my concern against the actions that telecom carriers are taking against Net Neutrality. Zero Rating Apps are one of these neutrality-breaking moves.
I believe the internet is a vital resource - if telecom operators can determine which apps I use for free and which I cannot, because of their secret backroom deals - this creates an environment that is deeply anti-competitive and deeply anti-consumer.

India is an inclusive country, and we cannot have such elitist structures on the internet. We have to allow the open internet, where consumers and entrepreneurs can be free to market and use any and all apps, without the burden of knowing which apps have free bandwidth pre-paid and which don't.

I am writing to ask you to demand net neutrality from telcos and specifically disallow Zero Rating Apps from all Internet Service Providers
Regards, {Your Name}


3. (Revised on Apr 12) Go over to http://savetheinternet.in - a site put together by some of our friends who care deeply about this. TRAI has asked 20 questions in their so-called "Consultation Paper" - here is a set of answers you can send them for each of those questions.

4. Write to the management at Google and Twitter to get them off any and all Zero Rating apps, including Airtel, so that they don't encourage rapacious telcos.

5. If you're part of an industry organisation like FICCI, CII, Assocham, IMC or others, get them to lobby on behalf of consumers and entrepreneurs around India. Ask them to put forward a simple message - yes to net neutrality and no to zero rating apps.

6. Spread this message by sharing this piece on LinkedIn, and ironically on the culprits Facebook, Twitter & Google Plus. Let's get all their members to see how evil their apparently-friendly social networks can be.

7. Get this message to your MP, and / or to Ravi Shankar Prasad or Prime Minister Modi. Make sure they know you care deeply about net neutrality and get them to legislate that neutrality-breaking activites cannot be allowed in India.

8. If any of you are members of the press, traditional or digital, feel free to re-post this entire article on your site or media vehicle, with attribution and without any significant changes.

Share/Tweet with #IndiaWantsNetNeutrality

Mahesh Murthy is an investor, marketer, venture capitalist, marketing consultant, board director and corporate speaker. He has spent 30 years helping brands with marketing advice and 15 of those helping startups with advice & funding.
tweets @maheshmurthy

All India Bakchod - Save The Internet

Xaare Aasu - an Assamese music video by Jim Ankan Deka featuring Queen Hazarika

Xaare Aasu - Jim Ankan Deka ft. Queen Hazarika
Xaare Aasu (সাৰে আ্ছো) - is Jim Ankan Deka's third Assamese music video. The song features Assamese singer Queen Hazarika. The video is directed by Parmita Borah. The song will be released online in May, 2015.

The song is produced by Eastern Fare Music Foundation, Bangalore. The lyrics of the single is penned together by writer Bhabananda Deka, poet Nalini Prava Deka and Jim.

Xaare Aasu is powered by Music Malt and presented by Chai Tunes.

Music, a deep dive

Jim Ankan Deka and Rittique Phukan at BFlat, Bangalore (Nov, 2014)

In over a decade of experience in music instruction, often have I come across people with diverse outlooks towards music - for most, music is a form of entertainment, for some it is an art to be passionately pursued and mastered, for some it is ‘dope’ and for some its nirvana. What strikes me odd is that a very small percentage of music enthusiasts try to explore the concept “MUSIC” in itself.

What is music, why does it exist, how did it evolve and what good does it do us anyway?

Well to begin with the history of music dates back to times beyond the days of yore, right from the inception of civilization. Music, or rhythmic sound, stood at the cradle of all religions. The rhythmic articulation of time by means of an instrument conflating with melody can be considered as Music. Listening to music is a psychosomatic (A descriptive term for the relationship between the mind and body) experience that, apart from creating harmony and inner peace, holds a power for reassurance and satisfaction which stems from deep within the human spirit.

Besides being an excellent medium of entertainment, music fosters a great sense of self-discipline and self-confidence. It improves one’s concentration and co-ordination, resulting in a boost of confidence. Describing music or a piece of music is complicated if not impossible as the response of the listener depends to a great extent on the listeners’ culture, upbringing and even state-of-mind.

As teachers, we believe that Music, unlike other art forms, is self-explanatory. If a person seriously intends to foray into the world of music here’s what s/he needs to know – Three basic elements constitute music- Melody, Rhythm and Harmony. Melody is the combination of Notes, which are also known as 12 sounds. Rhythm is the beat. And Harmony is the combination of both Melody and Rhythm in different Pitches.

For me music has always been 'Sound through time'.

Moments from Voodoo Child's concert at The Warehouse, Bangalore

Voodoo Child live at The Warehouse, Bangalore

I have been a part of the Guwahati based band Voodoo Child since December, 2005. I left the band in September 2006 as I had to leave the city for good. I rejoined the band in May, 2014 after a long break of 8 years. Although initially I used to play the keyboard with the band, after rejoining I have taken up the role of the lead guitarist. Below are few of my moments with Voodoo Child at a pub (club) in Bangalore called The Warehouse. It was a special event on the occasion of Valentine's Day held on Saturday, February 14, 2015. Photos by Deepak Vijaykumar.

Jim Ankan Deka with Voodoo Child drummer Vicky Mahanta at The Warehouse Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka with Voodoo Child drummer Vicky Mahanta 

Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka at The Warehouse, Bangalore (courtesy: The Warehouse)
Jim Ankan Deka with Suchin Ravi (left) of Voodoo Child at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Jim Ankan Deka with Suchin Ravi (left) of Voodoo Child at The Warehouse, Bangalore
Some of the guests at Voodoo Child concert at The Warehouse, Bangalore 

Uber and Ola Cabs in Bangalore - there's still hope!

Taxicab apps on a Samsung Smartphone

Some time back I wrote about my rendezvous with Meru, Taxi For Sure and other Taxicab services in Bangalore. I almost lost hope. But then, after two incidents, I regained my trust in Bangalore taxicabs, although believing in the honesty and reliability of a taxicab service in Bangalore is somewhat chucklesome.
Ola Cabs
I went to a late night party at a friend's place which was almost close to 25 kms from my place. And by the time we finished few bottles of 'happy water', it was almost 1 AM. And to catch an auto was out of question as I had to walk through the lonely roads for 15 mins before I could reach the main road. I am somewhat afraid of darkness. So, my friend asked me to call Ola Cabs. I first denied and tried calling Taxi For Sure giving into my regular habit. As usual, they 'didn't have a taxi for sure.' Hence I had to call Ola after browsing through the net for their number. It took just couple of seconds before a very professional voice picked up. I told about my destination and pick-up location, and even before I was ready to be disappointed, I was told that the cab will reach within 15 mins to pick me up. I reached home without any hassle paying much lesser than what an auto driver would have asked for. I am still very much obliged to their service and behavior for that night. I now sometimes book Ola cabs through their android app. One can enjoy an 'Ola ride with no cash payment hassle.' S/he can use Ola Money service to pay using credit or debit card. What's more? One can book autos through the app too. I am yet to try that out.

Uber
On another occasion I was reading some news materials posted by my Facebook friends, and one of those captured my attention. It was about Uber cabs with their lucrative discount coupon. Before this I had no idea about booking a cab using only mobile application. Uber works in a different way. One has to first download the Uber app from the Android or Apple App Stores, create a profile and add money to the wallet in the denominations of Rs 200, Rs 500 or Rs 1000. Then setting up the pick-up location, s/he can choose from a UberGo, UberX or UberBlack car and request it. I did that for the first time and my car reached my doorstep in 8 mins. Infact one can track her/his car on the app with the help of GPS, which I felt was very helpful.

So far only in one or two occasions both the services disappointed me. But I still prefer both Uber and Ola Cabs to any other taxicab services in Bangalore. If you are moderately hurry, you can try one of these services. 

Speed up your Samsung smartphones with S Voice

S Voice - Samsung Galaxy Smartphones (photo - Jim Ankan)

Awrite! This is a very simple trick actually.

Does your phone take time to come to the home screen from any other screen? Is there a lag? I know that's minute, but sometimes when you need to come to your home page of your Samsung Galaxy phone from an app or apps page urgently, this immeasurably small amount of time can definitely raise your blood pressure.

So, why hotfoot your body to a hospital, when you can make your finger do wonders with your smart phone?! This small trick is for people with Samsung smartphones like S3, S4, S5, Note II, Note 3 and other Samsung phones with the app S Voice.

S Voice is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator which is only available as a built-in application for certain Samsung smartphones. The application uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web services.

So back to the point. How to speed up your phone.

Go to apps page → click on the S Voice → go to settings → uncheck the 'Open via the home key' option.

Voila! You're done. Now your phone will definitely speed up. Check and enjoy!

Taxi For Sure, Easy Cabs, Meru Cabs - not enough taxi services in Bangalore!


As frequent traveler within the city who doesn't like either driving or public transportation, I mostly rely on cabs for commute. Taxicabs arrived in 1911 to complement horse wagons. But many a time, I wished horse wagons continued their services. Infact, my folks used to tell me tales about how they used to travel in 'bullock carts'. With the current traffic situation in the Indian cities, that looks like a viable option.

I have a neutral opinion on most of the cab services in Bangalore. Taxicab service is a lucrative business. One can conveniently book a cab from the thousand companies listed on Google. What happens next? When the taxi should arrive at your doorstep, you get a call from a drunk driver that he has reached some place unknown to you, to pick you up. Most of the time, you have to wait outside, on the street waiting for the driver, while giving instructions over the phone (Sounds familiar? Remember the time in school/college when you would wait for your sweetheart.)

I am generally not a pessimist, nor do I whine that often. But after using the cab services Bangalore has to offer, I figured that sharing my experiences with the said subject, mostly bitter ones, may prove to be beneficial to other souls like me.
'Taxi For Sure' - the name does sound like a commitment from Salman Khan. And most of the time I fall for that. The service commenced in 2011 and never had to look back. With around 11 cities under their belt by 2014, the company had been assuring people of a 'taxi for sure'.

Are they able to deliver as many cabs required by the people of these cities? Ummmm No. Big NO. Here's how it usually goes - You are charmed by the name and expect to hire a 'Taxi for Sure'. You call the customer care no 60601010, they would make you 'wait for sure'. After about 5 to 10 minutes of listening to the 60601010 jingle, if you're lucky enough to get past all levels of Interactive Voice Response (IVR), be rest assured you'll hear, "Sorry, we don't have a taxi for sure!"Out of 10 calls that I make to Taxi For Sure, 3 are ignored; meaning, they 'don't have a taxi for sure' in my area.

I have to admit that compared to other taxi services in Bangalore, Taxi For Sure is leading in the area of reliability (you can imagine how the other cab services are). Still, I would suggest that you avoid it if you need a cab on an urgent basis (unless you don't want to be engulfed in a murderous rage).

My humble suggestion to Taxi For Sure management is - Increase the number of cars before increasing the number of cities!
There was a time when Meru Cabs were very reliable. They started their services in the city long before Bangalore airport was shifted to Hebbal. What went wrong? Meru Cabs diverted their attention towards the new Bengaluru International Airport. The longer the distance the more money they could make! So if you are looking for a pick-up and drop within the city of Bangalore, feel free to avoid Meru Cabs as well.

In last five years, I tried to book a Meru Cabs over a dozen times. If it's the airport, they readily agree to transport you. For any other location, their standard response is, "No cabs available in your area and you can 'Rely On Us' on that!"

There have been times when I had waited for hours, but the cab seemed to have pulled Houdini, despite receiving a confirmation on the previous day. It's been a while since I bade them goodbye.
Easy Cabs are easy to locate with their yellow sticker in the cars. In Bangalore you might miss spotting a celebrity, but never an Easy Cab. They claim that they are India's # 1 personal ground transportation service provider. But most of the time they are actually transporting the drivers alone - the backseat usually remains empty.

Easy Cabs customer care (43434343) respond faster compared to other taxi services. Although sometimes it is difficult to understand their English, they would assure you that you will get a 'Cab Easily' through them. They claim to have more than 6500 cabs. So what's there to worry?

And then the waiting begins. Forget about 'easy', you might not even see a 'difficult cab'. Here's a funny incident - I booked an Easy Cab on Oct 14, 2014 for the next day to take me from my premises in Koramangala to Mahadevapura in Bangalore. The booking was confirmed for 8:15 AM on Oct 15, 2014. I got a confirmation message with a booking ID. Next day I received the driver details about one hour before the pick-up time and happily waited for the driver to arrive. When the cab didn't show up by 8:15 AM, I called the driver. He said he was on the way and mumbled something in a language that I couldn't decipher. I called the Easy Cab customer care. I was put on hold for nearly 5 mins; then an executive said that the cab will arrive in another 10 mins. When that didn't happen, I called the driver again. This time he sounded drunk and muttered something again. I called the customer care again. This time the customer care person said that no cabs are available in my area.

Naturally irritated, I disconnected the call and traveled in an auto rickshaw. At 9:00 AM I received another message from Easy Cabs with updated driver details. I chose to ignore that, as I was already on my way. A little later, I got another call from Easy Cabs. The person on the other end said, "Please wait for half an hour, we are looking for another cab for you". By that time I had reached my destination.

My suggestion to Easy Cabs will be, "Change your name from Easy Cabs to Easy Calls!"
I am yet to try taxicab companies like Ola Cabs, Mega Cabs, Yellow Cabs etc. But first I have to get through their phone lines on a rainy day.

In Bangalore, it is sometimes easy to get a taxi on a weekday after 11 AM. It is also easy to get a cab to drop you at the airport. But be prepared to be ditched by cabs services if you are in some kind of emergency. Another heads up - never rely on a cab service if you are stuck somewhere and want to reach to your family at home on a rainy day.

Smaller cities like Shillong have shared taxi services which are cheap. Bangalore too can adopt the idea of having Yellow-colored cabs like Kolkata and Mumbai. Relying on a cab for sure will be easy for the commuters. On a different note, I am contemplating on investing in a bicycle. That should give me enough content for another blog post.

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