Saturday, February 25, 2017

Power of Aadhar - True potential to be unlocked !

Last week, we decided to upgrade my wife's phone connection from a pre-paid to a postpaid plan. After swirling around the town, we landed up in a showroom in Ashok Nagar. The showroom was
very busy and filled with people. All of the representatives were quite engaged in conversations with customers.  In fact, the store had a token system for customers to be serviced in order, by the Airtel representatives. We took a token and patiently waited for our turn. While waiting for our turn, my wife told me "I don't have a passport sized picture. Would that be a problem?". I gave her a stare, not knowing how to react to that.

Also read: Coimbatore Airport - Lost & Found

I looked around and saw some applications hanging off the shelf in the wall. I pulled a postpaid upgrade application form from the shelf. It was longer than the application form to apply for a H1B visa in US consulate. They had a place to affix photograph. "Oops!" I thought. I made my wife to sit inside the store and walked out to check if there is any instant passport photo shop nearby. I couldn't spot one. I walked back into the Airtel store with disappointment.

Around that time, one of the representatives called our token number. We walked to him and occupied the chairs in front of him. He looked at us and asked for the application form, photograph, address proof and ID proof. I told him with a "sorry" face "Sir! We don't have a passport sized photograph. We just have the Aadhar card. Would that be enough?". He said "No problem sir ! That would be enough". He pulled out a small finger print reader, connected it to his mobile phone... and opened an application from the mobile. He entered the Aadhar number and asked my wife to put her thumb on the finger print reader. The mobile application immediately pulled all of her information from the Aadhar database - picture, address etc., He entered the old pre-paid mobile number, selected the basic postpaid plan and clicked submit. He said "Sir! The transaction is complete. You'll receive an SMS in another 4 hours and the migration to a postpaid plan would be complete".

Also read: Money need to R2I

"Wow! No application form... no signatures ... no photocopies of proofs "... I was spellbound when I saw that. The experience that I had in the Airtel store was on par with some of the mobile activation experiences that I've had in the US (or even better than that). I was amazed by the power of Aadhar. I'm now quite excited to see other Aadhar integration applications. I'm hoping that we will soon live in a world, where we don't have to remember two dozen usernames and passwords. On one side I'm excited of the simplicity of Aadhar and on the other side, I'm nervous about its security features. In a country like India, it is very hard to protect online services from hackers. Hopefully, Nandan Nilekani had done a thorough job on the security of the Aadhar services, too. I feel that India is very well positioned to enable digital identity verification and digital payments with services like Aadhar based validation and UPI payments. We have the potential to leap frog some developing / developed nations in digital payments / customer identity validation.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Coimbatore Airport - Lost & Found

Last week, I had been to Pollachi to attend a Industry Institute Conclave in Dr. Mahalingam College of Engineering and Technology (MCET). It was almost a full day event and there were participants from many industries, all over South India. After the event was over, I returned back to Coimbatore
Airport to catch my Spicejet flight at 9.15 pm. I reached airport by 6 pm and the checkin counter wasn't open at that time. I spent an hour in the lobby catching up with emails and phone calls.

At 7 pm, I checked-in at the Airline counter and stood in the queue for security checks. The security personnel asked everyone to keep their laptop and iPad in a tray. Normally, I keep all of my electronic gadgets in one tray, including laptop, iPad and mobile phone. On that day, I had carried with me my iPad and mobile phone. I kept just the iPad on the tray and kept the mobile phone in my bag. After clearing the security checks, I picked up my bag and moved to the seating area. I didn't realize that I had forgot to pick up my iPad from the tray.

(Also read: Chennai Metro Rail - Simply the BEST)

I was at the Coimbatore airport till 9.15 pm and boarded the Spicejet flight. The flight started on time (These days, Spicejet maintains on time departure ! :)). I landed in Chennai and reached home in a Ola cab. By the time I reached home, I was too tired and crashed into the bed.

The next day morning when I got up and wanted to catch up with my emails, I couldn't find my iPad in the bag. I was shocked. When I rewound the sequence of events the previous day, I realized that I didn't pick my iPad from the security. I didn't know what to do. I googled to find out Coimbatore Airport's website. There was a phone number and email id published in the website for "Enquiry". I sent an email to them and called the phone number (thinking that no one will pick up the phone at 7 am in the morning). To my surprise, a lady picked up the phone on the other side. I asked her "Mme! I was traveling from Coimbatore airport yesterday night and I missed to pick up my iPad during the security checks. Can you please check if the security officers have secured it?" She turned around and asked someone "Did you find an iPad yesterday night from the security line?" I could hear the conversation... and the other person responded back positively to her. She turned to me and said "Sir! Your iPad is safe, you can come and collect it from us showing your ID proof and copy of the boarding pass". I told her that I'm in Chennai and I can request my friend to pick it up. She said "Your friend has to come up with their ID proof and a requisition letter from you". I requested one of my friends in Coimbatore for help. I sent the documents through my friend and she was able to pick it up for me. The next I received a response to my email checking if I have received my iPad.

(Also read: Night stay in Bangalore airport - rethink)

I am positively surprised by the responsiveness of the Coimbatore Airport staff and their outstanding support. It is very rare to see such committed / sincere staff in Government institutions. Our country is still going strong, because of officials like the one in Coimbatore Airport. I'm very thankful to them. If you are flying via Coimbatore, you don't have to worry.. you are in "safe hands".

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chennai Metro Rail (CMRL) - Simply the best !

"Showstopper" ... this is the term that you'll use to describe the rains in Chennai, which is continuously pouring for the last few weeks. The rains have brought the entire city to a grinding halt including schools, hospitals and shops. If there is one thing that keeps moving without any hiccups
Image Source:
for the last few weeks, amidst intense rains, it is the Chennai Metro Rail (CMRL).

(Also read: Heavy rain turned Chennai to Venice)

It was the Diwali eve. I packed my stuff from office and headed to the parking lot to take my car to home. When I got into the car, I was shocked to see that my car's gear box wasn't functional. That is when I realized that the reason could be the car's small dip in the morning, in the stagnant pool of water near my office. I decided not to spoil my Diwali mood, left the car in my office garage and decided to take CMRL to home. It is about 6 months since CMRL started its service in Chennai. I never had a chance to take a ride, even for pleasure. I thought it is a good opportunity for me to experience the CMRL service.

I walked to the Ekkatuthangal station near my office. The moment I climbed the stairs to reach the 1st level, I was astonished. The infrastructure was world class. They had a security checkpoint similar to the airports. The security guards scanned all the people and their belongings before letting them in. There were representatives at the ticketing counter who helped me to get a token (ticket) for my ride to Arumbakkam station. The ticket costed Rs.40 for a single ride. I went to the 2nd level to board the train. The 2nd level was as clean as the first level. There were security guards placed at several places. The monitors in the 2nd level clearly indicated the time duration for the next train to arrive. The count down clock in the monitor started showing "5 minutes for the next train to Koyambedu". 5 mins became 4, 4 became 3 ... finally the clock showed 0 minutes for train's arrival and I saw the train entering the station. The doors of the coach opened without making any noise, as smooth as the doors of the elevators you see in a 5 star hotel. I entered the coach and took a seat.

The coach interiors were air conditioned and very clean. There were 2 stations between Ekkattuthangal and Arumbakkam. Whenever the train approached a station, there were clear announcements made inside the coach with a clear digital sign board. It reminded me of the light rail journey that I used to take in US in 2002, to go to office. In about 10 minutes I reached the Arumbakkam station and got down from the train. I waved a bye to the CMRL and started taking the stairs to the road.

When I reached the ground level and got to the road, I felt as if I jumped from a western world to the local Chennai, with just a flip of a switch. I was amazed by the quality of the service and the CMRL infrastructure. I wish our Chennaiites continue to support the government in maintaining the infrastructure in its current form. Our Chennai CMRL is simply the best.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sixth R2I Anniversary - Still going strong !

We just celebrated the 6th year anniversary of our R2I (Return to India). If I have to summarize the our R2I experience in one word, it is "Transformation". My life has dramatically changed in more than one way since my R2I. (Read: First R2I Anniversary: The journey continues)

I'm still continuing with my corporate career. When I returned back, I was working as a "Technical Marketing Engineer" at Ankeena Networks (which later got acquired by Juniper). Now, I'm the Director Technology for Aricent. It was a progressive career and I enjoy doing what I do. The work environment in India hasn't changed much in the last 6 years. But, if you are clear about "what you really want to achieve" and "what is important to you in life", you can easily strike a balance between work, family and social life. (Also read: The need for more money never ends)

My daughter got adjusted very well to the culture in India. In fact, she got adjusted faster than my wife and me. She is studying well and I can see that the schools are focusing on grooming the person overall, as opposed to just focusing on marks. Recently, she got pneumonia and was hospitalized for a week. We went through the fire drill for a week and we were back to our normal life after that. My support system at home (my dad/mom) was of great help. My wife is now working as a teacher and she has a busy life too.

My dad and mom are extremely happy that we are back. We attend a number of weddings and family events. We get to meet our relatives very often... it helps to stay connected with them. These days, our relatives treat us like "Indians". Immediately after our return, some of them thought that we will lead an American life in India. They don't have that doubt anymore :) Technically speaking, except for the infrastructure, you can lead an American life in India (KFCs/McDs, iPhones, BMWs/Audis, Porch Villas in good communities, Hotels/Restaurants, Online shopping, Shopping malls, International Schools with A/C etc.,). The life style in India has changed much that people don't peak into your personal life anymore (actually, they don't have the time for it).

Also read: Driving in Indian roads - pleasure or pain?

We visited California for a vacation, last year and had a great time visiting a few friends and going around places. In fact, we were constantly on the run and could meet only half of my friends during the trip. During my recent trip to US, I realized that US has become more "automated". Automated toll collection, automated parking lots, automated ticketing systems... these services used to be there before, but now they are seen "everywhere".

What do I miss the most from my US life? It is the ease with which you can plan your travel / vacation. In India, you would still need the support of people (travel agents, taxi wallas etc.,) to have a nice vacation.  The scenario is changing somewhat, but still have a long way to go.

What do I enjoy the most in my R2I life? It is the time that I spend with youngsters in India, in helping them to groom their career and personality (through Toastmasters). I get a sense of satisfaction that I'm able to contribute something back to the society. Of course, I enjoy meeting & spending time with my relatives at weddings / family functions :)

Today, a few of my friends have already R2I'd and I'm quite sure that the count will continue to increase.