Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rann - Review

If you expect Rann to be anywhere close to Company or Satya or even believe the reviews that it’s about exposing the media, you will be thoroughly disappointed. Because Rann is about neither. i thought it was good enough as a family drama with some suspense and thrill thrown in. The main action is about the life of the characters than the moral decline of the media. i guess the framework to get the action going could be anything, but in this instance, it just happened to be the media. It’s just a story about a son’s deceit to make his channel beat competiton. The father here is at the receiving end.

The movie certainly lacks the research and incisiveness that make such movies stand out on their own. There are no behind the scene analyses of what makes 'breaking news' or how channels have gone on historically to ‘create’ news than to just ‘report’ it. TRP matches remain in the background. It shows just one fictitious incident that could be a part of any other regular Bollywood fare.

The music is used to heighten the melodrama which the movie doesn’t deserve. Amitabh’s sermon at the end is long and tedious. From being a personal and emotional confession of the channel deceiving the viewers, it transforms into a diatribe against the media. The rant could have been weaved into and depicted through the story.

AB and Preash Rawal are brilliant, as usual. Sudeep, plays the restless and angry Jai very convincingly. Riteish Deshmukh proved that he can carry off serious roles as well as the Apna Sapna Money Money kinds. The only woman in the movie who has a role is Suchitra Krishnamurthy. Gul Panag had to just sit in her casuals at the background every time RIteish did his shots and Neetu Chandra pose in her sheer night dresses. Well, as RGV has already confessed its a movie centered around the men.

Not a trade mark RGV film. Bit overdone for realistic cinema.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Customer dissatisfaction..

Customer has been the king for a long time now. There are a plethora of options in any product category. Technically better, extended warranty schemes and growing competition have made it very tempting for the customer to switch brands. In such a scenario, only a committed customer service can ensure a fair amount of customer loyalty. 24/7 customer care centres, technical helpdesk, telesales - companies can go to any extent to retain current customers and also win over new ones.

But some incidents in the recent past have left me wondering if the zeal of customer service is losing its sheen after being at its best for more than a decade. Here i mean the failing customer service and incompetent executives of even known brands like Reliance and Airtel. i am personally quite finicky as a customer and hate to hear a telebanking guy advice me “please drop in at your nearest branch to get a detailed statement”. Why do customer care numbers exist if i have to make that trip to the bank. Even a month after my request to change my tariff plan, Airtel has not done the needful. The new customer care center of Reliance has rude executives who don’t seem to have heard words like polite and courteous basic to customer care. A smart customer executive swerved my decision to subscribe to Tatasky as opposed to a lousy executive with awful English on the competitors front. i don’t want to get try sign language on phone to get my problems sorted out later!

On further analysis, i figure out that big brands with big ad campaigns are fine but customer care is where the truth of the company lies. The interface between the customer and the representatives of the company is at this point. Though the executive sitting at the other end of the customer service numbers is at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, he or she is a crucial link in the whole game. But not a lot of people would dream of a job that involves saying, “Hello, thank you for calling %%&*, I am &^%*&^$, how may I help you” for 9 hours a day (or night). Most of them are college freshers or people who don’t seem to fit in anywhere else. And from experience i can say that their skill levels are not too high. The biggest challenge being language skills. There was a time when training for domestic and international call centres was at a peak, but not anymore. Since these guys are no MBA or Masters, their emolument is not too great and hence they have no motivation to upgrade their skills. Most mouth standard lines and have mechanical answers to all your problems. Deviate from their list of questions and they flounder like a toy whose battery is almost finished!

Customer Delight is lost in the melee of executives trying to woo customers and lives only in the manuals of company procedures. Though, there are companies that have competent people who are efficient and quick and have all the right answers to keep customers happy. I do remember stray incidents of customer delight like prompt customer care from Deutsche Bank.

A lot remains to be done to get customer service back on track and make it the way it should be. Training to treat people right and listen to their issues and resolve them should be a good start for people straight out of college. The selection criteria should have some level to it and training should be top priority if companies hope to win the battle through outstanding service standards.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Bingo Night

Abhishek Bachchan’s much hyped aaram classes officially began on TV on Saturday, 23rd January. Too curious to miss what’s all the hype about, i settled down before the idiot box despite the 10-hour travelling ordeal from Delhi to Mumbai. Far from giving me any aaram that I was direly in need of, it left me all confused. Game shows and quiz programs are a passé and we are used to the deluge of dumb family conspiracies on TV. So we have kinda lost the gaming spirit. Two acting geniuses from Bollywood did not it anymore entertaining. i, at least, wasn't able to involve myself in it till the end.

Abhi certainly lacked the confidence and reassurance of a game host. He seemed to be rehearsing the instructions himself, spelling them out slowly and adding to the confusion. Nowhere during the promos did they mention about downloading the Bingo tickets to be ready to play on the D-day. If i were a serious home audience member aspiring to participate in the game, i would be left scratching my head, at least in the first episode. Before i realise, it turns into a family show with Big B in tow to ensure his son’s TV debut was a hit. There couldn’t be a better reason for his presence. Ms. Rashmi, whose important duty is to look pretty pick up and turn around the bingo ball could be easily done away with (women’s dignity, anyone??)

Despite sitting through the game show for one whole hour, i still am not sure if i know how the game works. To me, it seems like a glorified tambola game produced by a dunce who has crores to throw away for the Big ABs to play it with the nation. Bingo night certainly falls short of the hype and stands nowhere close to Amitabh’s KBC that took the nation by storm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Despite DINK and enough investment schemes and instruments around, there still doesn’t seem to be any guarantee for the future. “Investment” is a fashionable word and you belong to a different planet if you don’t know “portfolio of assets”. Despite all this most of us are at sea when it comes to ensuring financial independence in our retirement years.

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter is a path-breaking series that made a huge difference to the way i looked at the whole ‘handling our finances’ issue. Apart from being an absolutely jargon free, it makes an interesting and informative read. It’s not a step-by-step guide to becoming rich but involves a lot of mental conditioning and motivation to achieve financial freedom.

Though i was initially sceptical about the whole idea of becoming rich through investments, i realised it makes a lot of sense to at least be able to manage finances sensibly. If you go on to become rich, that can be a bonus. Seems like a good angle to begin with.

The main premise of the books is to achieve financial freedom by making sensible investments that go on to become passive income generating assets with minimal effort.

The series aims at financial literacy of the common man. Rich Dad Poor Dad begins with how inadequate formal education is in helping people manage their finances for the rest of their lives. Our education mainly qualifies us for a job that might pay us well. And most people have no idea what to go about managing the money they earn. Traditional schooling doesn’t equip us to handle the pressure that the information age puts on us. Gone are the days when people had 9-5 jobs and could rely on their pension plans. New age requires us to change the way we handle our money to make up for the absence of retirement benefits in jobs today. Though it mostly refers to the American context, it pretty much applies to all of us since all of us need money to survive.

The second book in the series - Cashflow Quadrant deals at length with the basics of understanding your cash flow and managing the right kind of balance. The third book is Guide to Investing which I am yet to read and have skipped to a later book Retire Young Retire Rich. The fact that the author draws on his own trajectory from being broke to being financially independent in nine years makes it a lot more credible. The series is well-connected and refers back and forth for the benefit of people who might not have read the previous books.

Looking forward to reading all the books in the series. I’d recommend this to everyone who wants to or even doesn’t want to become rich. It sure gives you a lot financial education. Take a peek...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back to the college...

i was thrilled to go back to the Arts Faculty of Delhi University in North Campus. A lot of things change over the years but the memories come beating back nevertheless. Walking around the red bricked corridors, it felt as if a familiar face would pop out of the somewhere and smile at me. There didn’t seem to be any time lapse between then and now. Everyday, we would come to the campus, put our bags in our seats in class and come out to sit in the corridors waiting for our friends to turn up. All our breaks were spent sitting there finishing our food that we got from home like good children! A new library has come up for the department and the grass on the lawns had a different pattern. But students sitting on those green carpets basking in the winter sunshine was no different from my times.

How could i go to North Campus and not walk through Kamlanagar! (Knags, as it was later called by our ‘khool’ juniors). The same Bunglow Road has Archies, Barista, CCD and the recently sprung up Bercos with a few nondescript momos joints. McDonalds has shifted from where it was in my time to Bunglow Road. It is an important landmark in the story of my two years in the University. Our group had six friends and all of us found refuge away from Shakespeare and Wordsworth in McDonalds at least once a week. Multiplexes were not yet popular and our pocket money was a pittance compared to what college kids get today. So we generally loafed around ‘knags’ and landed in McDonalds for an economeal of Chicken mcgrill (veg version for the only vegetarian among us) and a coke for only Rs. 29!! We really didn’t mind having it all the time since that was the only decent place around and it fit our budget too. (Though, McDonald’s turned out to be a major turn off with their monotonous burgers over the years, their new additions not improving the favour one bit)

What really surprised me, pleasantly, was the number of eating joints with a variety of cuisines that had come up in the area. Bercos for Chinese cuisine (the strictly Indian version, if you please) has been there for sometime. But i never imagined that i would find students of DU digging into pasta and lasagne in our good ol’ university neighbourhood! The friend i met up with took me to one such place which served Chinese and Italian at extremely affordable prices for students. (of course, the version again being very local, but pasta is pasta, right) The place was a restaurant with clean tables and liveried waiters with good service and manners. Not surprisingly, it was full of students. i wouldn’t imagine going to a place like that as a student. But that’s how the world progresses and youngsters today are lot more exposed to and comfortable in sophisticated places.

It was great to go back in time. i was also happy to see the headway that college life has made over the years. The activities that students do change over time but the joy of being a student always remains the same. It’s only in hindsight that we realise how carefree those days were and we were better off sitting in those corridors!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pyar tera...aur Dilli ki sardi!!

Coming back to Delhi winters in January after living in Mumbai for more than 2 years is quite reminiscent of the old times. A major reason that helped me settle down quite fast in Mumbai is the absence of really cold days. And i don’t mind that at all. You are free all the year round to jump out of bed and go about your daily chores without the vagaries of weather. i’ve always hated the laziness that settles in my bones during winters that makes getting out of the warm bed a loathsome activity. From brushing my teeth in the morning to washing my face before going to bed - all of it seems difficult. Of course, there’s warm water from the geyser, if you please but who would want to deal with water when you can be in heaven a few minutes longer! i just want to sit in bed, which greatly hampers my freedom to what i want, when i want.

As if having to sacrifice beauty bed wasn’t enough, taking a bath can be a quite an uphill task. First, get rid of several clothes that kept me warm so far. It isn’t easy to step into bath without any of them. Once over, it can be several minutes before i pile on a new set of several clothes that can be quite cold when worn at first. If the hair is wet, extra measures have to be taken to ensure it doesn’t affect my health. Well, there can absolutely no sense of fashion in a lump of woollies that are piled on to save ourselves from winter. Not to forget, the pile that was discarded before the bath has to be dealt with. Even if it means just folding them away for future use.

To top it all, the phone can ring or the doorbell just as you settle down and warm up in bed. If you want to go to the loo, God save you!! Pulling yourself away from the warmth abruptly can send shiver through your body. After getting back to my favourite place, it’s the feet that take the longest to get warm, especially with no socks on! January is the only month i resort to tea as my only source of heat to beat winters. Tea gets a special place in my heart for a month or so!

i’ve always wondered if humans should be allowed to go into hibernation during the really cold months. Why put ourselves through the pain when we, the most intelligent species, have found a way out of so many other pet peeves. We can put together enough winter goodies to keep us warm through the months. After all, munching on the winter favourites like popcorn, peanuts, gajak, rewri, etc is what makes winters worth the effort of surviving it. We can celebrate new year and Lohri without worrying about getting out into the cold. The hibernated world can be our little heaven where everything is perfect for a while...and warm too!

Till then, here’s to the winters in Delhi....