Monday, February 19, 2007

Making Sense of coffee experience and prices

No point complaining about high prices. They keep others from getting their hands on to all the nice things that you enjoy.

Of course, sometimes you have to play "others", but that's life.

Tim Harford (writing in the Financial Times) tells us that even hidden prices are functional and make the world a better place:

Perhaps, however, these hidden extras aren’t quite so bad. In fact, I think the world might be more expensive - and more unfair - without them. If that seems counterintuitive, it’s because we tend to assume that the alternative to hidden charges is no charges at all.

Source: / Weekend columnists / Tim Harford - The Undercover Economist: Cheap tricks

The very next day I got a chance to reflect upon life, the coffee experience and hidden prices.


Source: Cafe Coffee Day's Mission Statement

I have ranted about cornmeal sticks with coffee at the Cafe Coffee Day before.

On Saturday they served up a packet of sticks again and impaired an otherwise perfect time. The sticks shouldn't have come with either the coffee or the sandwich that I had ordered.

I figured they were part of the SUPER SW VEG TIKK, which means their cost was hidden in the price of the sandwich.

My wife didn't seem to mind and Tim Harford says that hidden prices make economic sense, so why am I ranting about a free packet that cost 5% of the total bill?

Because hidden prices are functional, only when you have the option to incur the expenditure.

I welcome expensive minibars in hotel rooms, because I rarely pick anything from them. And I'd resent a free minibar because guests may be tempted to drink to excess and push up room rent for everybody. On the other hand, nobody should have to pay for the soap in their bathrooms.

In other words, a purchased product or service package should meet one's expectations of what it's supposed to be. No need to play with the expectations, unless you can deliver a significantly better, and welcome, experience.

Therefore, IMHO, a better option for Cafe Coffee Day may be to let the customers ask for a free packet of cornmeal sticks.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Unconference on Wiki's being held in Chennai

It was in September 2006 at the BlogCamp in Chennai that I met lots of wonderful people and got introduced to the idea of blogging--and not to forget, the idea of an unconference.

The same team are now organizing WikiCamp on the 25th of February at Chennai. It should be an equally exciting event.

Can you believe that Jimmy Wales, yes the man himself, will be attending this event?


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Monday, February 12, 2007

To my Wife and my Valentine ...

... I sent the finest Godiva chocolates and a poem last year.

We were as far apart, geographically, as two persons can be on the earth. I was in Buenos Aires and she was home in New Delhi.

Did I miss her? Yes.

But I wasn't sad. It isn't mandatory for me to be unhappy and sentimental for the reason that it's a particular day.

We had each other in life, what could be better?

Buenos Aires is a wonderful place in February and maybe the rest of the year as well.

I walked about Caminito and enjoyed chatting with the artists. Bought a painting and requested a Valentine's day message on the reverse. The charming fellow also drew us dancing the tango and his own image wearing a hat!

Tango is everywhere in Buenos Aires. In their paintings, on the streets and probably in their school curricula.

Here's me all nervous and graceful in a tango pose. It is unusual for me to be either in real life. 

If you think tango is just a dance, you are completely mistaken. It's equal part music. 

The bandoneĆ³n and the baritone voice of a tango singer are God's gift to men, if they have the good sense to take their wives, girlfriends and Valentines to be put under the spell. 

Want to fall in love all over again? Try holding holding hands and sipping champagne at a tango show. 

This year I am home. As close with my wife and Valentine as two persons can be on the earth.

And you know I just bought a guitar :-)


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Simple Simon buys a Guitar!

I want to learn

guitar from dsm

in summer holz.

Luv, prajeet

(04:21 pm 06-Feb-07)

The text message was from my younger son. By "dsm" he meant the Delhi School of Music.

Unknown to him, barely two hours earlier I had bought him a surprise gift. A guitar from the Musee Musicals in Chennai.

What synchronicity! Life can be so surprisingly beautiful at times!!

I was now on train to Trivandrum for work. One of the last things to do, before heading home over the weekend.

For next one hour I enjoyed reflecting upon all the wondrous things. The countryside that rolled by, my wife and two sons, and that beautifully crafted instrument now in my possession. For 16910, it was a steal.

One hour being up, I received a call from Citibank. They wanted to know if I had made any credit card purchase that day.


Could you confirm the amount, please?

sixteen nine ninety something. (He assisted me with the exact digits towards the end.)

Thank you, Sir.

Any problems?

No, Sir. No problem. Have a good day!

During the call there was a text message from my wife: "Pl call up".

Did you make a credit card purchase?


What was it?

(Oh no! These guys had called up home and destroyed the surprise!!)

Umm...a guitar. It's a surprise gift.

How much did you pay? Did the bank call up?

sixteen nine ninety something. Yes, they called and I confirmed it to them.

He said you signed for sixty nine thousand something!

Relax. It's 16990 and I just had a chat with them.

Well it turned out it was sixty nine thousand something. I called Musee Musicals.

Yes, Sir. the guitar is for 69110.

Oh, god. I don't want to buy such an expensive piece. Please, this has been an error. Could you give me Mr Kishore's cell number?

(Mr Kishore is the showroom manager.)

For the next two hours my office tried to locate the driver who had driven me to the showroom and to have the instrument returned. It was 8:20 pm when the void slip was issued.


On Friday (Feb 9) I went back to Musee Musicals to apologise for the confusion I had caused and to say thanks for their understanding and co-operation.

I bought another beautiful, made-in-Spain Spanish Guitar. Two hours later I am again on the train, this time headed home. And the credit card company hasn't called to blow up the surprise.

It's a beautiful classical style instrument, not quite as expensive as the last. I tried it a while ago on train itself. Love the thicker nylon strings.

Oh btw, all the biggest stars visit Musee Musicals. Sivamani did on the 5th of February and wrote out a message in their visitors' book. Turn the page over and you'd see what I wrote the very next day, while waiting for the card to be swiped.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Is DRM such a good idea?

According to Steve Jobs, hardly 3% of the music on an average iPod has been purchased via iTunes and is, therefore, protected using Apple's FairPlay DRM technology.

He states that FairPlay was implemented because the big four (Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI), who control 70% of distribution rights for all music worldwide, required "Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied." He favours abolition of DRMs.

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.

Source: Apple - Thoughts on Music

Steve has once again hit the nail on the head. There is little use for DRM because it protects nothing that is worth protecting at the cost it entails.

If only each agency would be content with their fair share of revenues, based on the value of their contribution to the music industry, we can throw DRM out of the window.

If not, DRM would likely die a natural death. Some new startup would create a model that competes sans DRM and quickly become the new way.

Agency Responsibility Revenue stream
Artists Bring in the audience Concerts, endorsements and share in Internet advertising revenue.
Recording Studios The equipment and facilities Rent
Online stores, search engines, new services like YouTube Promotion of artists and musical works Advertising revenue
Music companies, online stores Distribution Advertising revenue, subscription price, purchase price, etc.


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Web 2.0 in just under 5 minutes!

What is Web 2.0?

Oh no, not the whole discussion about collaboration, social networking, wiki's and folksonomies again!

Instead look at this awesome video on YouTube created and uploaded by Michael Wesch Assitant Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University:


If you have more bandwidth, a higher quality version is available for download here:

The song is "There's Nothing Impossible" by Deus, available for free at