Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dear Dear Dear Flipkart!

Dear Dear Dear Flipkart!!!
Why did you do this?
You might now be thinking what did you do?

Let me tell you, I am an avid shopper (yeah, you might have seen or read avid reader, but avid shopper, really?) Well, that's for me, and a million other Indians who find Flipkart much closer to their heighbourhood grocery store, had you been selling us groceries as well, you would have been something bigger than what you are today, and the grocers in this country would have all stood up against you. This, by all means is appreciation for the great work you do. By, pricing most of the products you sell on your platform, at competitive rates when compared to other online stores, by ensuring a hassle free shopping experience to the shoppers, and by ensuring before-the-time delivery, and your great customer support (I have an apprehension with that, as one of my customer support instance didn't go that well.)

As netizens, we still remember some of the most famous hacks, that too involving Multi Billion Dollar companies, that compromised customer data, credit card details and other sensitive information. These are just a few examples: Sony Hacking, another one entrusted on the task to secure the internet - Verisign, and then there have been numerous instances of financial frauds.

Not to mention the numerous scam mails reaching our mailboxes everyday offering us hundreds of thousands of dollars and pounds just for sending them our contact details.

Now, why am I writing this? Well, that is something I wanted to bring to your kind notice. First and foremost, I am one of your customers who used to shop over, one of your latest feather in the cap takeovers, then I have been shopping on as well, for well, around since 2010, as much as I recall. The first thing I recall you doing was to take over letsbuy and killing the brand. Though, I have nothing against that takeover, as I have had a bitter experience with them in my first ever purchase. By the time I could settle down with the awesome service your in-house seller WSRetail provided, you guys changed over to multi-seller marketplace model. Much to try to imitate eBay. Again, I, as a customer, worried about the expected deficiency in service and products I would receive from Flipkart, more than anything else. As a result of some experiences I have seen with friends, acquaintances and colleagues, I decided to stick up with WSR, as much as possible, and still prefer going over to check out your rival marketplaces eBay and Amazon, when I have to buy from a seller other than WSR. The reason, in case of a third party seller, the chances of ending up with duplicates increases by x-times. And in the wake of controversies we have had in last year or so, where major consumer electronics brands stood up to put down any After Sales Service request if one purchased from one of the online stores like yours, and even Amazon, the danger increased many times. Still, I have no complaints, as I never faced issues with any of the transactions I've had with you people, and if it ever needed me to reach out to you, the issue was resolved promptly, barring a single instance.

Now, your decision to turn into an app only platform is something out of my understanding, partially so because I don't have much of business sense. But from the perspective of a regular internet shopper, and a common man, I see this as you have closed one of the doors to force people come in your home from just one door, and that, is something I am baffled at. Instead of making your platform available seamlessly on as many platforms as possible, you just killed the very platform that gave you identity. It's a PITA (I won't be expanding that) browsing on a 4-5 inch screen of a smartphone, in comparision to a 14 inch screen of a laptop. It definitely is! So, I left Myntra there itself. No more shopping over, since it doesn't exist anymore.

I have heard that you guys too will take that route, 2016 onwards? If that is true, I will have no option but to look for alternatives. Believe me as I say, I have installed your app (flipkart app) around 2 months back, and haven't found it to be suitable enough to shop over it. You might ask why? Well, because, the browser on my computer allows me to open multiple tabs compare items side by side, read all specifications, compare the items with rival sites and then make an INFORMED DECISION! And your app doesn't let that happen. For us, it is either your way or we should go to hell. So, app's not cool for me. I am not that much of an App person, though, I like calling myself - a techie, who boasts of fair enough knowledge in the technology domain (hence this blog).

Then, while shopping on your site a few days back, I got a shock, a big one. You made it mandatory for customers to save details of their cards - CREDIT/DEBIT cards, if they use it to pay for their purchases. How much time, in your opinion does a customer take in entering the details of that credit/debit card on the payment gateway? Is that time worth more than the risk you are exposing us, the customers, to financial frauds? In the light of the various unknown people offering us millions of billions of dollars, just because our mail address ended up in their mailing list, or offering us unclaimed bank deposits of deceased people having an account in some bank in Burkina Faso, or some lottery for which we never bought a ticket, or the RBI sending us our share of the black money the government promised us to bring back and deposit in our accounts. It would have been still good had you provided that as an option which, if chosen by the customer saved the details of their cards for easier payments. HOWEVER IT IS OUTRAGEOUS THAT YOU ARE FORCING US TO SAVE CARDS FOR MAKING PAYMENTS. What if a customer wants to pay for his/her purchases using their card and at the same time does not want to store that information with anyone? Wouldn't that be a violation of their rights of privacy? HOW DO YOU GUARANTEE THE SAFETY OF THE INFORMATION YOU ARE FORCING US TO SAVE WITH YOU? Who would be heldresponsible in the event of another financial fraud?

I did save details of my cards, because I had to make purchases, and after making the purchases, removed the details as well. Is it enough that once we remove those details from our account, it will be deleted from all your databases? My technical mind says it is not enough. It makes me believe that actually you are not deleting the details of card I have once saved with you. Rather, it is being stored away in some other database, away from where the customer could see it. I do not want to be a victim to once such financial frauds if something like that finds you in the middle of the eye of the storm. I sincerely hope that someone, capable enough of taking important policy decisions, and understanding enough to understand a customer's apprehensions about his/her financial security stumbles upon this post, and we see something concrete coming out of these paragraphs.

With this, I think I should stop ranting now. It's more than enough of talking and trying to pass on an honest feedback of an honest customer!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Apps to make our life easier

In today's time, almost everyone seems to have a phone, and a smartphone has become sort of ubiquitous. The applications (or apps) that can be installed on these smartphones do a lot of things for us. We get entertaining games, music apps, and a lot of other utility services have started making their way into our smartphones. Be it your bank, your utility service providers like your Electricity distributor, the water supply provider, or the variety of online shopping service providers like Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, to name a few. More than that, there are apps to manage bill payments of say, your Landline, Postpaid mobile phone, DTH services, broadband connection to name a few. There are apps to book refill of your LPG connection, if you haven't tried one yet, check out the official website of your LPG distributor, or search with the distributor's name on the app store for your phone.

Recently Airtel, one of the leading telecom service providers of the country rolled out its app for smartphones, for now, on the Android OS platform, called My Airtel. I downloaded and installed it on my phone to try out the features, to see if it really happens to do what apps are supposed to do - provide portability to the users? The download and installation was quick and easy. Once it is installed and you launch the app, you are supposed to enter the mobile phone number, to register your phone. Once you enter the number, it sends out an OTP code for verification. Once successfully registered, you are taken to the home or dashboard. You can add more services, prepaid and postpaid mobile phone numbers, DTH connections you have, your Airtel Money Wallet to shop online or transfer money to other Airtel Money users.

One of the most hyped features of the app is the interesting discounts and exclusive offers you get on shaking up your phone. You get various offers like Full Talktime recharge offers, various offers of data packs for your phone like free additional data on purchase of data packs, and other exclusive promotional offers on other special recharges. A couple of features of this app that appeal to me are:
1. One of the features I liked most on this app was the ability to manage different products from a single account, like, different prepaid/postpaid mobile phone numbers, fixedline or broadband connection you manage, or your Airtel DTH connection. You could actually see and manage different products like the balance talktime/data on your prepaid number, or Airtel DTH connection, see the outstanding bill of your Postpaid, fixedline or broadband connections. This makes managing different phone numbers, an easy task, and whenever you need to recharge it can be done with ease, and quickly, all you have to do is open your MyAirtel app and do what you want.
2. Another feature worth mention here is the ability to pay bills, and the ability to recharge your prepaid number, or your DTH connection online, with ease. The My Airtel app gives you the ability to manage your Airtel Money app, a different service from Airtel that caters to mobile payment arena. You can shop online using your Airtel Money account, instantly transfer money to others as well, and use your Airtel Money account to pay bills.
3. Who doesn't like to be pampered, and when it comes in the form of exclusive offers for your smartphone, what more could you ask? The My Airtel app gives you loads of exclusive app only offers that can be used to get more out of your recharges. Be it full talktime, additional data, exclusive offers on special recharges for discounted tariffs for calls and messages.
4. The app helps me do things on the move. So, whether I am travelling in the city or out of it, I can easily manage all the Airtel services from my smartphone, which is easier given the portability of the smartphone.

So, if you use your smartphone a lot, and want to do more with your Airtel prepaid or postpaid connection, on the move, go ahead download the MyAirtel app from your app store.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The New League in Town

Did you too happen to come across the new Kapil Dev advert being telecast on TV these days?

The captain of the WC triamphant Indian Cricket team of the 1983 is upto something, and this something seems to be big. Earlier around a year before the IPL (Indian Premier League) was announced, Kapil Dev was the face of ICL (Indian Cricket League), an idea that had the potential to transform how the players in the domestic arena were treated in comparision to their counterparts playing for the National team. Though, ICL couldn't take up for good, for too long, this new thing by Kapil Dev seems to be reassuring us of something like that. Or is it?

I came across a couple more of the adverts for this Ek Nayi League with the legendary cricketer seen promoting the very idea of this new league. He can be seen referring to Dhoni (Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the current captain of the Indian Cricket Team for ODI's). Watching this video alone gives one the impression that this is again something related to cricket, someone trying to ride the popularity of cricket bandwagon in the country. But then when I checked out more videos, it became apparent that this is not exactly about cricket alone, as he can be seen talking to Sania Mirza, the Woman Tennis star of the country, appreciating her play. In one more videos, he mentions a number of top sportspersons who earn a handsome from their careers as sportspersons, and in stark contrast, lots of young talented players here in India couldn't even get to showcase their talents, let alone earning money they couldn't even spend.

And one final video refers to Kapil Sharma, the overnight star of the Indian Standup Comedy scene, more lovingly called as Bittu by his pet name. He also appreciates Kapil Sharma, saying he too is his fan. Like in other videos, he calls in Kapil Sharma too to follow his twitter account, to know more about this new league.

MY TAKE: In all the videos, one thing is common, the legendary cricketer is talking about the state of Indian sports and Indian sportpersons, most of whom can't even get to reach the start line, calling in known and some of the other star attractions of different sports in India, M.S. Dhoni, Sania Mirza to name a few. Understandably, Kapil Sharma has nothing to do with sports, but then owing to his huge popularity, Kapil Sharma too has been made a part of this new league, apparently to grab people's attention, and to add the element of humour to the idea, due to the soaring popularity of Kapil Sharma, a.k.a. Bittu. Could it be a yet another cricket league, of the likes of IPL or CCL (Celebrity Cricket League) or the BCL (Box Cricket League)? Or could it be something different?

The impressions at this point of time appear to be something of the sorts of/on the format of National Games, or the Olympics (if I should quote a much easily recognisable term). Could it be? Could it not be? We will have to wait to know more. In the meantime, the team has launched the website as well. People are being motivated to connect with them, and for this, they have announced a contest on their website wherein, people have to guess what this is all about and if they do that correctly, they stand a chance to win 1 lakh rupees.