Bangalore Revised Auto Fare Chart (updated February 2014)

The transport department is doing so much to bring in regulation and transparency to the auto-rickshaw industry – but whatever it takes, driver are still doing the rounds to fleece passengers and I don’t blame just the auto drivers for this altogether – we too have a role to play as we agree to their demands. 

The other day I had to travel from the K.R. Puram Railway Station to my house which is hardly 3 Kms, and one smart chap fellow was quick to offer Rs. 200 as the package price. I was amused but angered at the same time, and told him that for that kind of money I can very well buy 3 times full course meals and also added that all it would take is Rs. 80 even to afford the most expensive Radio Taxi in Bengaluru (Meru Cabs). While I traveled back home, I searched for the revised auto fare chart online and was not able to find one that could address my needs, not even on the Bangalore RTO’s website. Agreed that they do all promotion and awareness campaigns, but they still have the auto fares on their portal that was last updated way back  in 2010  (screenshot below). No wonder auto drivers use this to their advantage!

Bangalore RTO outdated Auto Fare Chart

With no more option left to ponder, I went ahead and created my own version of revised Auto Fare Chart for Bangalore. This takes into account the new fares announced by the Bangalore RTO that has come into effect from 18 December 2013.  This post from me was long overdue and I accept this has been in my drafts for sometime now. Nevertheless, I finally wanted to push this to Live so that ordinary people can get saved from being fleeced  by erring drivers.

How to use this chart:

  • This chart gives you the revised auto fare details for upto 30 Kms of travel by a Bangalore auto.
  • All you have to do is match the auto rickshaw meter reading with that of this chart (I’m sure the auto driver will have a copy of the so-called revised chart, but go ahead and doubt its authenticity, as generally the chart neither has an official RTO stamp nor any other identifier to prove that it was issued by the RTO)
  • If the rates of his chart and this one is not matching, then it is very sure that your driver is carrying a manipulated chart with them. Watch out!

Revised Bangalore Auto Fares - www.AjayKumarsBlog.wordpress.com

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Why you should not use IRCTC eWallet to book train tickets

IRCTC has always been on the path of innovation, and is known for constantly rolling out exciting new features for the consumers. One such novel feature is the eWallet feature on IRCTC and i just wanted to share some information around the same. It is good to see IRCTC atop of technology and stay trending, unmindful of the sarcasm and criticism thrown against them which is available all around the internet.

Generally, eWallet is an online wallet system that could be used for using services on a specific sites, either for purchasing or processing refunds. It is a common feature on several shopping portals such as Yebhi, Jabong etc.,. Just like you are required to have some cash in your physical wallet should you need to purchase anything, similarly you also need to keep funds in your eWallet. There are several payment options such as credit card, debit card, net banking and so on, using which you could credit funds to your eWallet.

why shoul d you not use ewallet

What are the disadvantage that stop you from using IRCTC’s eWallet Service?

While eWallet speeds up time that is otherwise wasted on entering card details on the payment gateway or navigating to your netbanking – so that you could complete a transaction, it has some glaring disadvantages which I would like to highlight and leave it your decision whether to use eWallet or not:

  • eWallet could NOT be used to book tickets during Tatkaal hours i.e., 1000 hrs to 1200 hrs. It is during this crucial time that speed matters the most and every second of the booking time is of significant importance. But if eWallet does not work for me when people need it most, why would someone even sign up for it in the first place.
  • Usually eWallet services offered by shopping sites are free of charge, and you even get some kind of incentives to fund the wallet. However, IRCTC has taken another route, they burden the user with a fee of Rs. 250.00 (non-refundable) just to register an eWallet account. At a time where even banks offer zero-balance accounts (with free debit card, internet banking accounts etc.,), why would someone even go ahead and spend Rs.250 just for an eWallet.
  • Towards the end of the transaction, in addition to the IRCTC’s online booking service charge of Rs. 35.00 (maximum), you are required to shell out an additional Rs. 5.00 as eWallet transaction charge. I’m thoroughly confused and have no idea as why this charge is in the first place. We do understand if  IRCTC has to pay gateway charges to banks who process payments, but here in the eWallet it is an entirely different case, as the wallet by itself is maintained by IRCTC!
  • Refunds or Cancellations are usually made through mode of payment used for the original transaction. So in the case of eWallet it is same too. You get your refunds into your eWallet, presuming that you would do your next booking via eWallet mode.

Who should used eWallet?

With several disadvantages to its credit, we still believe eWallet holds good for following type of consumers:

  • Users who are frequent travellers and need to book their tickets often
  • Users of large organizations where a single IRCTC userid is used to multiple book tickets across the organization. So here eWallet payment mode comes handy as it would usually be recharged/topped-up by a single user.
  • Users who think Rs. 250 for the registration and Rs. 5.00 for every transaction is a negligible, when compared to the exorbitant prices of other transportation modes.
  • Travel Agents/Net Cafe Operators

How to register for the IRCTC eWallet service?

To book tickets via IRCTC eWallet, first of all you need to be registered for this service. Just having an IRCTC username and password does not automatically register you for eWallet, this service has to be registered for separately. A detailed guide on how to register for an eWallet account, depositing funds and booking a train ticket could be found at this IRCTC website link.

How to choose the right Call Taxi (Radio Taxi) in Bangalore – Review, Fares and Comparison

If you had the privilege of taking an auto in Bengaluru in recent times, to be specific after December 18, then you would have been ushered into a pleasant surprise (the word ‘pleasant’ is only for an auto driver). Yes – auto rickshaw fares have been hiked yet again in Bengaluru.

Haggling to arrive at a reasonable price with auto drivers has become a daily affair these days. It may seem as if we are either travelling in an auto made of gold or a road made of gold – that’s exactly how the drivers charge to ply for a short distance of 2-3 Kms. With such instances increasingly becoming common these days, there is seriously no room for respite for the commuter. Whatever regulation is brought in, auto drivers continue to fleece ignorant customers which in turn spoils the reputation of even the genuine auto drivers of namma Bengaluru.

That said, having traveled in several call taxis at Bengaluru, I thought it would be best on my part to share my current knowledge on the same – so that, both your travel and wallet stay comfortable. Some of radio taxi or call taxi services I would like to comment upon include Meru Cabs, Ola Cabs, Taxi For Sure, Easy Cabs and finally Fast Track. I am not aware of other industries, but can definitely assert that Call Taxi Industry is one industry which is immensely benefited from the Bangalore’s International Airport placed somewhere in the outskirts of the city.

Meru Cabs:

A pioneer in radio call taxis in Bengaluru, Meru Cabs stands for reliability and safety. Once you have a booking confirmed from Meru, there is nothing more left to worry, as your cab will reach you on time for pickup – and at times even early.  They have a tamper-proof meter, which cannot be just rigged like your ordinary speedometer.

Meru's Tamper-proof Meter

The only drawback with Meru is the premium price they charge. I do agree that maintaining a huge fleet in addition to sticking to punctuality does come at a price. Meru’s fleets boasts of Mahindra Logan – the comfortable car which can spaciously accommodate 4 adults.  Meru charges Rs. 80 for the 4 Kms and Rs.19.50 for every Km thereafter. In addition to being expensive, Meru also charges night fare (12AM – 6AM). Simply put, this is an additional 10% over the day-time fare.

You could also view the updated Meru Cabs Fares at: http://www.merucabs.com/fares/

You can book a Meru by calling them at 080 – 4422 4422, however bookings done over phone call could attract a charge of Rs. 60 in additional to the actual travel fare, so it always better to book over web using their portal: http://www.merucabs.com/smart or using their app that is available on the PlayStore (Android) and Appstore (iOS) respectively.

Ola Cabs:

In the past, I have heard many people complaining about Ola, but I think they have used those stones hurled at them to bring a strong empire in the radio call taxi industry. At present, they are close on heals with Meru and often sought after when one does not get through a booking with Meru.

Ola-cabs

Ola’s fares are reasonable (for long distance travels) and they have 3 types vehicles to choose from. Their compact  package provides you with Tata Indica at a min fare price of Rs.150 (first 8 Kms) and Rs. 14 for each Km thereafter. Ola’s next package is the Sedan one, in which you would mostly get a Swift Desire (spacious enough to accommodate 4 people – just like Meru’s Logan). The Sedan model comes at min fare price of Rs. 200 (first 8 Kms) and Rs. 17 for each Km thereafter.  The last and premium package that Ola costs you Rs. 250 as the min fare price and Rs. 20 for every Km thereafter.

ola-pays-for-your-flight

Ola’s most attractive offers are airport pickup and drops. Their charges are reasonable, the icing on the cake is they even go a step further and promise to pay for your flight tickets if they don’t turn up on time. That is one irresistible offer that no other operator could ever offer or even think of!

Ola also has runs exciting offers from time to time, you could check those on their Offers page. The fares for Ola Cabs could be checked on their website as well at:  http://www.olacabs.com/fares/bangalore. To book a Ola Cabs call them at 080- 3355 3355 at  or use their app that is available for free on the PlayStore (Android) and Appstore (iOS).

I have made use of their service close to 10-15 times for various trips and am extremely happy with the punctuality they adhere to during during each trip.

Fast Track:

While Fast Track has good stronghold in Chennai, it is still in its infancy at Bengaluru. This fact is very much obvious with the quality of cabs that they assign for your pickup. Not only do they have a proper branding, you end up paying more as you are always billed per the vehicle’s native speedometer (mostly analog and could be easily rigged!). Fast Track’s Call Taxi fares are expensive too, they charge Rs. 175 (10 Kms) as a min fare charge and Rs.15 for each additional Km thereafter.

Their preferred mode of communication for booking a Fast Track is Phone, as the website stills needs a good developer to fix it. Fast Track could be reached at 080-2888 9999

Easy Cabs & Taxi For Sure:

I haven’t made much use of Taxi For Sure or Easy Cabs – but have heard from people they are okay too. I was surprised to know that Taxi For Sure charges a Rs.50 as a booking fee if you travel anything below 10 Kms (smart way to earn money!). However, even their prices don’t look impressive and are far expensive than Ola Cabs.

Taxi For Sure could be reached at: 080-60601010 (Sixty Sixty Ten Ten – remember the Big FM Radio advt.?)

To sum up, below are my recommendations to choose Call Taxis in Bengaluru:

  • If you are travelling within 4-6 Kms (or) travelling in a group and prefer to share the trip cost (or) travelling after a late-night party, then hop on to a Meru (book it online, use phone booking only for emergency – 080-44224422)
  • If you are travelling anywhere between 6 – 10 Kms, go for a Ola Cabs compact package. It will cost you well within Rs. 180 (here too, make your booking online or you could call 080-33553355)
  • If you are not lucky enough and do not get a confirmation in either of these, try other service providers such as Taxi For Sure, Easy Cabs or Fast Track.

If you have any other recommendations for Call Taxi providers in Bangalore, share it with us so that we can all benefit 🙂

2013 – My Pristine Reflections!

My reflections

My reflections

Today is the last day of 2013, while looking back, it seems I have had a very fruitful year with several events – blockades checking my progress and accolades bestowed on me for my hard work. The year 2013, for me, had especially been a year of changes, be it official or personal as I was lucky enough to go through changes at both the extremes.

While everyone is busy partying (I’ve no qualms!!) and framing resolutions (usually created to be broken!!) – I chose to be different by penning my thoughts on how 2013 has been to me. By doing this, not only am I introspecting the entire year but also setting up expectations for the year ahead – the magnificent 2014! My introspection may be philosophical at some places, so do not mind those!

Just like the wise saying ‘God gives problems to only those who are capable enough to face them’ – I am a proud to share that I have been a rich beneficiary of the same. God had been kind to me in 2013, just like he has been with me with all these years. He would never give me a lock to open, without placing its key elsewhere well within my reach and sight – grateful to you Bhagwan for you to do so. On my personal observation, I recommend all others to search for the key instead of breaking the whole door. The key would definitely be within your reach, all you need to do is to search at the right places.

While I am introspecting 2013, I could not but stop thinking about 2012. The reason being, life was never same after 2012. I used to be lethargic, and sported a carefree attitude, and was literally enjoying my bachelorhood – I loved it and feel nostalgic about it, just like old school days. But after the mid-2012, I started to understand the nuances of life that continued on till the end of 2013 and on. It took me sometime to understand life and what it had in store for me. It would be blatant lie if I say that I have accomplished everything in life in these 2 years, however I would like to declare that my actions/inactions during these years have made me aware of things I need to accomplish in life. I now know what I want in life and what do pursue to achieve my goals. That said, for pursuing a goal – you need to identify what is your goal – without which it is like being seated in a car with no steering wheel or driver. The car takes you wherever it wants, not where you want to go!

On a personal note, relationships in general had given me enough trouble in 2013. I was able to deduce faint traces or feelers in 2012, but little did I know that those will get deeply rooted in 2013. I have tried my best to wriggle out of family issues, keeping my mouth shut at the right times and being aloof to emotional blackmailing, with similar instances so on and so forth. By doing such, I have made my life a far better place to live, rather than rattling my thoughts and emotions over factors which I know I don’t have influence over. At the end of the day, if you are not happy with the life you are leading, then you are not living your life but just existing!

I do believe in astrology to an extent – the science of stars and planetary motions, but have never got carried away by its predictions. I see astrology as a tool, and recommend you to compare it to something like a daily weather forecast – stay wary of the circumstances/scenarios around you and plan well in advance. To illustrate better, wear warm clothes if rough weather is anticipated, or carry an umbrella if you expect Surya Bhagwan to gleam throughout the day.

In the new dawn of 2014, I expect life to give me more challenges and opportunities that would shape me into a much better person than I am today. I would also like to request it to make me a person who dreams creatively, loves unconditionally, aspires indefinitely, and on top of everything help me achieve my personal and career goals. Aspirations are just fine, but without hard work – you are no different from a day-dreamer. I pray to god to give me the strength to take up challenges and astuteness to grasp opportunities in 2014!

Wishing you everyone a Happy & Prosperous New Year 2014!! May god bless with you with all goodness of life to aspire, achieve and succeed in life!!

God bless.

Why paying via Sodexo Coupons and Cash is not the same!

So, do you pay via Sodexo?

sodexo

If you are part of an MNC and have opted for tax savings in the form of food coupons, then you are indeed part of sodexo’s network.  Paying at retail store’s cash counter may look cool, but little do we understand what exactly takes place behind the scenes. I’ve tried my best to explore and present my version of my limited findings.

Just like you, I too had this question lingering in my mind for quite sometime, not long before I found out the roots for this tax haven we are currently being subjected to.

Who is Sodexo?
Sodexo is a French multinational corporation and is one of the largest food services and facilities management companies and have their presence in over 80 countries. They make money by making you opt for Sodexo coupons (part of your company’s flexible compensation package). In turn, you could use these coupons to pay in lieu of cash for food items at any retail chain (wherever they’re accepted).

Sodexo Business Model Vs. Government Model
Before you can understand the business model, you should first understand our own government model.

As per the govt. rules, an employer cannot pay more than Rs. 50/- per meal during employee’s working hours.  Let’s do a quick math here, presuming that we have 22 working days in a month and 2 meals is the max you can have at your office, our total expense works up to Rs. 2200/- p.m (remember this limit that most of us get on a monthly basis) However, the maximum anyone is eligible to get is Rs. 3000/- (30 days X 2 meals/day X Rs. 50 = 3000/-).  This also explains why the voucher value is never above Rs. 50/-

maximum-value-of-sodexo-coupon

Maximum value of Sodexo is always Rs. 50/-

So, to adhere with govt. rules and to make disbursal of this amount much easier to employees, large Organizations gradually started moving from the conventional system to the Sodexo model. This turned out to be far less cumbersome as the entire process was taken care by Sodexo.

The process goes as below, which also explains their business model:

  1. Your organization pays Sodexo in hard cash according to the value of coupons based on whatever you had declared in your compensation Flexi package
  2. Sodexo, in turn provides you either with paper-based or card-based coupons – note that the coupons come with an expiry date
  3. You can use your coupons for food item purchase anywhere within India (wherever they are accepted – probably in retail chains and supermarkets).  However when you are provided with the card-based Sodexo coupon, you are left with no option but to use them only at outlets specifically earmarked by Sodexo (which would obviously be your Organization’s cafeteria or food court)
  4. On a monthly basis, the merchant submit their vouchers, and it  might take upto 24-34 and sometimes 45 days for Sodexo to reimburse the merchant. However, the only flipside during reimbursement is the 4-7% service/commission charge levied by Sodexo (now you know how Sodexo generates its revenue from).
  5. In addition to charging service/commission charge, Sodexo also earns from the Interest during  window period while it reimburses merchants. Note that your organization had already paid Sodexo in lump-sum during the beginning of the financial year.
sodexo-model

The Sodexo Business Model

All said and done – you might ask, their model is fine and I get my much desired tax exemption – so what’s the big deal? Wait, the ordeal is not still over. As consumers, little do we know that we are at the receiving end or in literal sense ‘face the music’ while we pay via Sodexo coupons.

As explained in the model earlier, we know that Sodexo charges upto 7% as commission charges – but where do you think merchants are transferring this to, at a time where they are already reeling under pressure from competitors and lagged payments? Just like we pay VAT or service charges or service taxes at merchant outlets, these charges are conveniently cascaded to us without even we knowing that we are being taken for a ride.

In simple words, merchants who accept Sodexo coupons automatically mark up their prices by 7% so that they could make profits. On a comparative note, you would be purchasing products or services at a higher price when you are offering to pay via Sodexo or when the merchant is ready to accept coupons.

Paying via coupons is fine, but when what happens you are paying via cash? Merchants can’t  have double standards those who pay via Sodexo and those who pay via cash – so they simply adopt an unified approach – charge EVERYONE alike irrespective of whether they pay via Cash or Coupons.

Merchants Markup Prices   when you pay via Coupons!

Merchants Markup Prices when you pay via Coupons!

So what that means for you is, when you pay via Cash to a merchant who accepts payments via coupons, you are using ‘real cash’ to buy a product/service at a comparatively higher price than other merchants. This may sound shocking, but sadly this is the reality and frankly speaking doing roaring business.

The next time, you go to a store or restaurant that accepts Sodexo – make sure you have the coupons (paper cash) handy, and don’t end up paying ‘real cash’ for marked up prices. Rather, you can get the same product at a far better price elsewhere for your hard-earned ‘real money’.