Saw this DIY “Signal Booster” made out of an old coca-cola bottle, at a village during my recent trek to Harishchandragad. The cell phone kept in the contraption surprisingly was able to get reception in an otherwise “dead-signal” area. Must work I guess…
The e-commerce scene in India is pretty much booming with a gazillion “Flipkart” clones and seemingly endless hordes of VC/PE money. But how much do these firms actually make, in terms of revenue? To answer this question, I’ve been wondering if its possible to estimate revenue for some of the more leading firms in the space. To do this, I chose Flipkart, mainly for its prominence and the fact that they recently announced a ballpark figure for their revenue.
- Is this an effect of Flyte being launched? Unlikely, since by FlipKart’s own assertion Flyte currently represents only 1% of overall sales. Also Flyte retails digital music at approximately Rs 10 per track (approx. 20 cents). Combining, these two figures it definitely seems highly unlikely that the increase is because of Flyte.
- Is Flipkart’s foray into multiple categories finally paying off? Possibly. They definitely seem to have helped Flipkart raise the average transaction size to $35
- Is this the effect of Flipkart’s recent media campaign? Considering that the new campaign launched around the same time that sales started picking up, this might be a possible cause. However, I would definitely need more data before judging on the causality and I guess there is only so much one can do with public sources.
- The traffic estimates website does not clearly indicate what the figures are. For the sake of convenience I assumed that the figures represent visits by potential buyers and not unique customers
- Biggest assumption – Trafficestimate.com gives fairly OK estimates
Much has been made of the recent “censorship” by the Indian government and the spurt in “takedown” notices from India over the year. Granted that this is indeed deplorable, a quick look at the data published over at the Google Transparency Report website reveals some interesting stats about the state of affairs in other “free” countries. (Data is for 2011) (Click on the image for an interactive view)
Amazon finally released Kindle in India (you can currently buy it from Croma in India) along with the Kindle Store. The Kindle store was a pleasant surprise, since it showed the price of books in INR. Also I found that a number of Indian titles were also present, including everyone’s favorite author – Chetan Bhagat !!!
This got me thinking on whether the skewed pricing that is often seen in e-book titles in the US also holds good here. To test this hypothesis, I chose a sample of 50 books from the bestseller list on Flipkart for both fiction and non-fiction titles. I noted the price for these titles for both Flipkart and Kindle. The idea was to see if the e-books were substantially cheaper than their dead tree counterparts. The summary of that analysis can be seen below:
The chart plots the difference in price between Flipkart and Amazon Kindle. The Flipkart price is taken as the base and so a negative difference indicates that the Amazon price is more expensive than the Flipkart one. Click on the image above to open an interactive view. You can hover your mouse over each point to see details or select some points using the mouse and only see them to kind of zoom into the details.
What I noticed was that
- On an average, e-books were about 20% cheaper than the dead-tree counterparts
- The average savings that one would make by going the e-book route would be about INR 52
- The savings for a significant number of books, about 46% of the total, is negligible (INR 30 or less)
- There are outliers where the Kindle copy is substantially more expensive than the physical copy
- These outliers seem to be more prominent in case on Non-Fiction books
- A number of books, including popular ones like Ascent of Money, are not available on Kindle. Also a number of Indian authors were not to be found on the Amazon Kindle store.
So does buying e-books make sense, given that they are 20% cheaper on an average? I don’t think so, mainly because of the fact that the cost savings for a number of titles are not substantial, with the title being only a few rupees cheaper or in some case more expensive. Also given that one can’t lend or re-sell the e-book as yet like a physical copy, it does seem like a raw end of the deal to buy an e-book.
However, it’s great to note that the Kindle store seems to have a decent collection of Indian titles and might just make sense to use the Kindle for one-time reads.
Not too long ago, in a galaxy not too far away, a towing ship carrying mineral ore came across a “distress” beacon and decided to investigate. What they found became cinematic sci-fi history – a movie called “Alien”. The movie with its claustrophobic environment and acid-bleeding aliens became the rare blend of sci-fi and horror that actually worked on the big screen.
Since then the original has spawned many sequels, many of which just capitalized on the “Alien” franchise rather than adding anything new to the mix.
So when Ridley Scott, the director of the original Alien series, announced that he was returning to the Alien universe, fans around the globe rejoiced. At last we will have the answers that we wanted, like what on earth were those “Space Jockeys” in Alien, they said. Continue reading ‘Prometheus or why the movie is aptly titled’ »
It had been almost a month since my last trekking trip and I was itching to go on another trek. A chance meeting with an old pal in Manila, put me onto a number of websites and groups based in Philippines that covered trekking and trails. One of these groups was Trail Adventours which happened to be doing an overnight camping trip to Mt. Pulag that weekend.
Mt. Pulag, at 2922m above sea level, is the highest peak in Luzon and the third highest in the Philippines. The climb to Mt. Pulag passes through some amazing trails that cut through the rainforest. Generally the dry months of March to May are the best time to go there, though the trails are open all year round.
Trail Adventours is one of the few groups that organize regular monthly trips up Mt. Pulag. Generally due to the time taken to get there, the trip is done with an overnight stay at one of the camp sites on the mountain.
We needed to actually get a lot of gear for the trip. I had unfortunately left a lot of my trekking gear back in India (bags, hydration bags, sleeping bags, trekking poles, mess kit etc) and so was faced with the prospect of buying everything anew here. Luckily however we could rent out most of stuff and we ended up renting sleeping bags and a tent for the trip. A second expense was getting some warm clothing for the cold up there. Since I had assumed that the climate in the Philippines would generally not be too cold, I hadn’t packed any warm clothes. So I ended up buying a few gloves, warm jacket etc for the trip. (Though word of advice, if you intend to go up Mt. Pulag you can buy all this at quite reasonable prices at the DENR centre)
So with all our gear bought and rented, we set off to the meeting point at the Pasay Victory Liner Station. There we met Ace, who would be one of our guides on the trip. The bus left from Manila for Baguio at about 10:30 PM. We reached Baguio at about 05:30 in the morning on Saturday. Here we met the rest of our group and our second guide for the trip, Bianca.
Continue reading ‘Of high mountains, cloud rats and freezing nights: Mt. Pulag’ »
I learned about Mt. Pinatubo soon after coming to the Philippines; however I couldn’t figure out how to get there easily. Mt. Pinatubo is one of the many active volcanoes in the Philippines that last erupted in a climatic eruption on June 15th 1991. The resulting eruption was the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th Century and resulted in the ejection of 10 cubic Km of magma. The eruption resulted in the formation of an enormous crater that soon filled with rain water forming a large crater lake. The lake has brilliant blue waters and is one of the tourist attractions of the region.
After much hunting online, we narrowed down on a travel group called Tripinas that did public group tours of Pinatubo. Most of the other groups did private tours which were quite unaffordable as it was just me and a colleague of mine on the trip. We paid the initial advance and got our instructions for the trip.
The trip began at about 02:00 AM early Saturday morning when we assembled at the McDonalds close to the Quezon Avenue MRT station. Here the balance amount was settled and we were allocated our vehicle for the trip. As planned we left at about 03:00 AM for the base camp. The journey took about 3 odd hours and by 6:00 in the morning we were at the base camp.
Sometime back I came across promotions on Facebook for a new horror book called “The Mine” by Arnab Ray. For those who don’t know, Arnab writes the fabulous blog – “Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind” and has also authored the sublimely superb “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss”.
Since Arnab or Great Bong (as he is more popularly known) usually writes humor and satire, a horror novel written by him seemed like a huge deviation from the usual fare. Besides this the general plot of the book – “Experts/ Team sent in to a remote expedition to find out what went/ is going wrong” is pretty much my favorite kind of plot. Variations of the plot have given us such superb pieces like Jurassic Park, Sphere, Deep Storm and movies like Alien. So with somewhat tempered expectations I started reading the book.
The book follows a group of experts that are assembled in a highly secret mining facility under the Thar desert. The mine has uncovered an ancient structure with some disturbing carvings, deep underground. The experts are called in to make sense of this and the many maladies afflicting the miners. As usual things go wrong shortly after and that’s when the fun starts.
The book is fairly well written and the pace picks up after the initial slow start. It builds quite nicely on the claustrophobia of being trapped several kilometers under the surface of the earth. While there are number of gory scenes in the book, regular horror fans might find them a bit pedestrian. In addition to this while there are a number of innovative twists and turns in the book, most of them seem a bit derivative (Either that or I’ve seen / read way too much in that genre). Fans of other horror series like Saw, Hostel etc may be left with a sense of deja vu. In spite of these (imagined ??) shortcomings though, the author manages to keep the plot fairly taut and interesting.
While personally I was a tad disappointed (mainly cause it had a “been there done that” kind of feel to it), I would think its an excellent stab at the horror genre. If nothing else, its a welcome relief from the legions of “Chetan Bhagat” clones that have popped up all over. Definitely worth a try.
I’ve been wanting to do the Mullyangiri – Bababudangiri trek since I heard about this scenic route. I had initially planned to do this in mid-late November with some friends. However, as best laid plans go, this one kind of unravelled as the date drew near. However, when I learned that Bangalore Ascenders would be also attempting the trail (with the added incentive of trekking all the way to Kemmangundi), I quickly signed up for the trek. The weekend before the trek was spent in getting the necessary supplies (food, sleeping mats etc.) as I didn’t want to leave anything to the last minute.
Continue reading ‘Mullyangiri to Kemmangundi – A walk through heaven’ »
In 2007 on my way to Kemmangundi, I happened to glance upon an oddly shaped peak. The peak resembled a horse’s face from afar and thats what it was called – Kudremukha (literally meaning “horse-face”). Sometime this year, I learned that it was possible to trek up to this peak passing through the wildlife sanctuary that the peak was situated in. So I added this peak to my list of treks to do this year and patiently waited for one of the many trekking groups to announce a trip to this peak.
Soon enough, Bangalore Ascenders announced a trek to this peak. After some confusion (and help from Girish) I finally managed to register for the trek. The meeting point this time round was Majestic, and roughly 12-13 of us gathered at the meeting spot on time. As per the plan we left Bangalore on Friday night and traveled to Kudremukh over the night.