Uber Is Not Uber-cool After All

Just after my first ride with Uber, they blocked me for no reason. I had Lyft app too on my phone, and I never bothered to correct the situation with Uber. Well, it was not due to laziness, though a lot for the reason that I had started liking Lyft’s service, and detesting Uber because of a lot of hear-say things, facts, experiences, etc. which I could not ignore after a point. There is a lot of legal stuff that Uber is trying to juggle with. I am not going to bite my tongue for having used the word “hear-say” because it’s mostly from the horse’s mouth – the drivers of their competitors.

  • Uber is banned from operating in Delhi, India: Would I like to feel safe when using a cab service (or sharing a ride, whatever in the hell it means)? Hell yes, I would. If I have to pay to a service that says that they are “safe”, I would expect not just a careful driver, but also someone who does not make me feel unsafe for being a girl, especially when I am travelling alone at night. I could be taking a ride back from my school, or from a club. That does not matter. I have at many occasions felt completely unsafe with some obnoxious drivers, and even reported them. Does a reason like that warrant Uber’s ban in India? May be, may be not. They might have looked into their operational facts before taking the decision. I just hope that Indian Police Service does not get away with this one, playing the blame game.
  • Uber vs others: Uber probably got into trouble in some European countries because cartels seemingly attacked them where they tried to give the cheapest rates ever, just enough to run their business. Will I always pick a service that is unbelievably cheap, just because it is unbelievably cheap (to try to monopolize its business), and turn a blind eye to all its other aspects? May be if I am completely broke. Even in that case, I would try to bail, to use public transportation. So would other informed citizens, I believe.
  • Customers rate drivers, and drivers rate customers too: That’s sweet. But do I see the drivers representing the company, especially when they are scared of getting low rates from the customers and become extremely chatty (if they get very low rates, they are banned from driving with Uber, or penalized in some way), customers who themselves can be obnoxious, and when drivers think they are in it just for money, and not because they love driving people from one place to another? Well, these may sound like first world problems, but anyway, my answer to this is – no.
  • Uber may be treating customers fine, but how are they treating their drivers?: I happened to get a ride from a Lyft driver, who claimed that he was Uber’s first driver in Boston. After that he told me that Uber treats their drivers like shit, and a lot of Uber drivers are moving to Lyft. Uber app is pretty good, but if you have used Lyft app, you will know that it is pretty good as well. A lot of drivers get to appreciate it, because it contacts drivers in the vicinity and if they are not close, it simply does not send them. Well, a person waiting for a cab might suffer because of this. But this is what happens on the other end – drivers have to travel all the way if they get picked by the app. They hate this. They also hate going to certain areas where they expect the customers to be obnoxious. Also, Uber has reduced rates so much, that it becomes difficult for these drivers to sustain themselves. They have evolved against their own wish to cheat the system – keep the app off when you want to avoid a ride. Keep it on at prime time. Some Lyft drivers have told me that Lyft customers are better than Uber customers. You see, it works both ways.
  • Uber helps driver buy a car: Is that a good thing? Not necessarily. It does not care so much about the credit history of the applications, and it advertises so openly. Is that a good thing? Be the judge. About the interest rates on loans – they are definitely a little shady.
  • Uber is unethical at many levels: When Lyft had entered the market, Uber would book the Lyft cars, only to cancel them at the 11th hour. They did this a lot of times to create false traffic, until they got caught. Way to go.
  • Uber and Lyft are not taxi services, but transportation network companies: That is fine. If a business or technology is disruptive in good ways, it’s great. It will definitely face a lot of problems from the existing systems that it is trying to replace, true. But here’s what: these companies do not consider themselves to be in taxi service. But that is proving for them to run into legal issues. Uber has been audacious enough for asking the laws to fix themselves up. The problem is, an Uber of Lyft driver, when on the job, has rendered his car insurance void. Technically, the driver is on business, and no one is going to cover for their insurance. I have no words for that kind of risk.

These things might seem secondary, or unnecessary for a business to worry about. Especially for someone as aggressive as Uber. But these are exactly the things that go a long way. They are a giant, and it’s very difficult to budge one. We have examples in history. But there are things to learn, from these examples. Also, we have all sorts of examples for stupid arrogance as well.

Marketing Gone Too Far

So now Kalashnikov (popularly known as AK-47) is being rebranded. Any wild guess as to what they are doing about it? It’s rebranded to be projected as a weapon of peace. I don’t see the need to do this. This weapon, when used to shoot, is still going to kill.

If there is agendum that is truly noble, something that is not sinister, I fail to see it. Here’s the complete article – http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/Kalashnikov-rebrands-AK-47s-as-weapons-of-peace/articleshow/45367702.cms

All I have to say to this is – seriously?

Indian Advertisements

For my Consumer Behaviour class, I have to present something, that showcases what we have learned in the class. My professor loves to know what is happening in countries other than the US, so I thought of picking up Indian adverts. I have not really watched TV in a year, but back home when I did, I used to criticize adverts more than the actual stuff that I was watching. There are many stupid ones, and quite a few are impressive, smart. Here are some that I have picked for my class. My list was longer than this, but there is time constraint. I hope they will show some aspects of India, in terms of norms, values, taboo, and other societal and cultural things attached with India, and how marketing people have made use of those.

1. Arranged marriage – A guy’s family sees a girl’s. The guy just looks at her, and agrees. She is beautiful, and that’s enough for him. His dad has a list though. Can she sing is what he asks. She sings, and says that she can do more, and dances too. Mirinda, as a brand, in India, is about doing what you feel like doing, fearlessly. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65DbA-baZYA The language spoken is Tamil.

2. Office humour – Camlin is a lot about creative adverts. This is just a build-up for the next advert to come. I might have to cut this out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiHUw-Hz3BU The language spoken is, of course, English.

3. This advert speaks for itself – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKthceSGlyM Language spoken is Hindi

4. India-Pakistan war – The never-ending war, where we have only tried putting each other down. Airtel has always used some good adverts, and this is just one of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLLc0mJyAic Language spoken is Urdu

5. Bollywood – This advert is a funny take on a typical Bollywood romantic dance number – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mS2BXagtFc

6. Norms and values – The song in Hindi says that we are changing, advancing, but we still respect our culture. In India, if your foot touches someone by mistake, they touch you, and then touch their forehead, a way of saying sorry. Some such other norms and values – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIGAniJxmds I might get rid of this one, because I don’t personally like a lot of those “norms and values”. But I might even retain it, because it is not about my feelings, it is about showing to the class what’s what.

7. Cricket. Cricket. Cricket. It’s a religion in India, that almost everyone follows. Cricketers are stars, Gods. IPL seasons are mad, and there have been some amazing adverts that have gone viral during cricket seasons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXYK-KivZWg This is a very old advert that every Indian can still watch and enjoy. Brings goosebumps. I might have to cut this out though. But it’s very cute, so I might keep it.

ZooZoos, who are actually masked ballet dancers, took India by storm in the season two of IPL. They were a marketing campaign by Vodafone networks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0xUpr3RH0w

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plCZ8HtiOb8 They speak unintelligible launguage

8. Diversity – India is so diverse, that it is really difficult even for an Indian from one part to understand one from another. Unity in diversity is one of India’s mottos, and a lot of brands have used it beautifully.

Nike has used cricket and diversity – Bleed Blue – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52tY338hhdg

Amul, unarguably the favourite dairy brand of India – British brought it to India, and called butter “utterly butterly”.  Even Indians in the US look for Amul butter everywhere – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mndv6gdZ7M0

CocaCola – It says that we are all the same. We look different, but our favourite cold drink is the same – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFXb6a301DE

Last but not the least, an advert by Incredible India, a marketing campaign by Indian Government, to promote tourism in India. It covers the snow-capped mountains, deserts, backwaters, nodding head sideways when meaning “yes”, ayurveda, yoga, Atithi Devo Bhava (Sanskrit for “Guest is God”), etc. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qBE_Z8JbzY

I was going to include Raymond suitings adverts too, because they have proven that babies, puppies, a sweet husband, a reliable son-in-law, can never go wrong. They have mostly used modern Indian households to show these. But it would have been kind of a drag. I was also going to add the Fevicol Moochwali advert. You live the story of a poor girl stuck with a moustache, and just as you fall in love with the character, she dies. But there’s rebirth 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUc4iKIAPV8 I might keep this, depending on the time left, and how the class will have responded to all of the above.

A Colourful World

Lavender, emerald, scarlet, brick red, ochre yellow, powder pink, vanilla white. Questions? Okay, let me try to get there.

Amethyst, eggplant, fuchsia, indigo, orchid, violet. Olive, teal, sea green, jade, moss green. Salmon, coral pink, scarlet red, vermillion, rust, beige, pearl, shell, vanilla. It never ends, does it? I am sorry if you are a guy reading this.

how_men_and_women_see_colors

(flicked from the internet)

Well, I have loved playing with colours ever since I can remember. When I was four years old, my KG teacher told my mom that I knew about colour coordination, and I never really let the crayon colours get out of lines. I drew quite well for my age, she told my mom. My mom, as always, thought that the teacher was exaggerating. Anyway, I have loved colours, always. All the colours. I would not want the world to be in any one colour. Not even shades of red, which I am highly biased toward. Or blue, which was my favourite colour for a long time. The world has got to be colourful, exactly the way it is right now.

Colours affect moods, they affect a lot of things. But who had the least of the ideas, that it would one day become a thing of research, and marketing. I do not like the fact that there are researchers sitting there, predicting the colours for the coming years, forecasting them. Fashion industry and nowadays other industries too, thrive on that. They define colours for people (especially women), and tell them what they should be wearing – this Fall cannot be without, must-haves for this Spring, this Summer you wardrobe is missing… Take a break there please! Trends are set up, and emails are designed. Mannequins are dressed up, and girls are dolled up. They all look the same. So much for colours, colours, and colours.

A boy does not have so many woes, thankfully. The reason is, he simply cannot understand the difference between brick red and rusty red. Good for him. No kidding there. Once my guy friend bought a hoodie exactly similar to what he was wearing when he bought it. He realized that only when he reached home, and then he got it exchanged. He was glad that Macy’s asks no questions upon returning stuff.

A girl, on the other hand, sees colours everywhere. The colour of the cake, the icing, the pie, the curry, etc., let alone clothes. She will know if that other girl has worn the same sweater or not (same pattern, slightly different colours). A whole new market for the marketers. Phew!

Let the girls wear what they want to. Let them paint their nails and lips the way they would like it. Give them the shades, and let them do whatever they want to. If you really want to be a good marketer, customize the colours for them, as they would want it. May be, the world will then become a little more colourful.

PS: With all due respect to some boys, who understand colours too 😉 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfbBqBOSXlU

Interstellar – Not a Review

Foreword: Do not read if you have not watched the movie, and if you plan to watch it

The movie begins with Cooper shown to be doing some cool work that not many can do. No one really knows what work, because they don’t tell us ever. Anyway, after he barges into NASA’s secret office, they just hire him for the job. They have set up everything that an astronaut can dream about. The only thing missing is one astronaut. One brave astronaut. They probably had the job profile advertised in the market but it was done so discreetly that the only way to get the job was to figure out NASA’s location through binary codes. Amelia in NASA’s office just smiles a lot for no reason. It’s only later that we realize that she is the most emotional astronaut in the history of mankind.

When he has to leave for the mission, Cooper just removes a watch out of his pocket (he carries a spare one apparently) because his daughter begs him to not leave. She throws the watch and it lands somewhere, yes, in the library, and it’s not difficult at all to guess that the watch is going to play a pivotal role in the movie. Without that watch, human race probably would not have survived. The reason why Cooper carries a spare one, probably. It’s all weird because apparently Cooper sends himself the coordinates for the secret NASA office, and then he sends his daughter the code for completing the equation. Think about it, it simply does not make sense. Anyway, let’s move on with that one.

Once on board, these cool guys discuss philosophy, philanthropy, relativity, that a black hole “that big” has greater gravity, and then some more physics which I am sure no one understands. Basically, a lot of humbug that we have heard of and will always be thrilled about.

At first I thought that the robot is thrown in as a prop, just because a sci-fi movie cannot be without a robot that is funny too. But wait, it is more than just a robot with a sense of humour. It acts as a watchdog, as a scapegoat, and watches the space and informs the astronauts about some imminent danger when they are busy crying and having some emotional conversations. After all, Amelia is the most emotional astronaut in the history of mankind. It also happens so that one of the astronauts is hired just to keep reminding the other guys about black hole, what it does, and how it works. Every time he opens his mouth, he mentions black hole. Never mind that, though. Just when I was ready to accept that they went to space to find a planet fit for humans and not just to “hop on a planet for showing human progress”, we see that they don’t forget to hoist the American flag even during such a stressful period. Commendable. Or may be it means something else. Hmm..

Next, Cooper docks a flying object onto another, and boy he does it so well (because it is “necessary”)! Tars, our robot, also knows how to help with docking, besides his part-time job of acting like a funny watchdog. All the while, Amelia keeps her eyes shut and fingers crossed, because she is the most emotional astronaut in the history of mankind. It is necessary because the eventual problem of most sci-fi movies is the same, that of less time and less fuel. We cannot apply our creativity there. Also, when Tars has to be detached, Amelia cannot come to terms with that idea. When Copper says that he is just a robot made to take orders she says – come on! Because she is the most emotional…yawn!

In the meanwhile, on Earth, Murph screams out that the mission is a sham, when in reality it is not. Thing to be noted is that they have cleverly shown that she had gone to a school where her teachers believe that man never landed on moon. Something worth wondering is if NASA paid them to prove to the world once again that they did land on moon, by making words of skepticism come out of stupid teachers’ mouths.

In the end, Tars and Cooper have gotten the final link to the equation. We are not shown how, because we are shown that you apparently need to jump into black hole to find the final piece. Tars and Cooper have found it. Sure this robot has a better role and more emotions than Matt Damon in the movie. The final piece is conveyed by Cooper to his daughter from behind the books, by pushing them and arranging dust in binary patterns, because there is lot of dust on Earth now, that can be made good use of. Turns out, it’s the future him giving clues to the past, to save itself, as he walks back and forth in time. That is killing one of the biggest theories – of trying to change the past. Or may be they never changed the past, and the future was always in loop with the past. It’s not confusing really, because it is not supposed to make much sense.

After Cooper’s mission is complete he just dissolves and gets out of the dimension that he is trapped in. Who really controls that, we are never told. May be love.

What just happened

What just happened

Some other things to wonder about:

The odds that Amelia should touch the “inexplicable” who happens to be Cooper, that Cooper should fall into time-space continuum and land behind the library, and that the library be located in his house only (because it is built on a highly magnetic field), are tremendous, aren’t they?

Amelia can send her information easily from a different galaxy altogether, when we wonder why Cooper has to get caught behind the library and convey his information through gravitational waves that become morse code. May be because he needs to be inside to convey it.

The final message of the movie is beautiful – that only love can save this planet. But that message cannot save Christopher Nolan. You need a better plot and its execution to convey something so profound.

A Nice Little Cafe

So I have talked about this cafe before, and it’s called Cafe on the Common. They have great food prepared by nice people, and the place is very cozy, bright, and has everything that I can ask for in a cafe. A clean toilet and wi-fi inclusive. One of their bakers is not just good with baking, but also with creating very smart menu boards. Here’s proof for that:

CotC1                    CotC2

Now I yearn for their soulful vegetable soup. Sigh!

PS: The address is 677 Main Street, Waltham, MA – 02452