Acute fuel shortage and the panic situation in Chennai!

Posted on July 1, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

Over the last 4 days, Chennai is experiencing acute shortage of petrol and diesel resulting in total panic and chaos near the fuel stations. The Petrol Pump Owners Association claims that the Oil Marketing companies have reduced the supply by 50% over the last 4 days. The first two days of reduced supply didnt have much impact as it fell on a weekend and come Monday, there was utter chaos. With there is real shortage of diesel, the people started becoming worried about the availability of petrol and started filling the tanks.

People waited for more than 45 minutes to 1 hour to get their tanks filled up against the normal time of 2-3 minutes. As it is the case with any scarcity, black marketing was at full speed, with diesel being sold at as high as Rs80/- per litre. I was told that Shell petrol pumps have yesterday sold diesel in their petrol pumps at Rs66/- per litre officially, which is a good Rs27/- more than the official Government price. The problem is getting accentuated because of the Transport Lorry Owners Association strike call which starts on Tuesday. With the lorry strike also on the horizon, the threat of real scarcity is looming large.
The senior State Government officials have had a discussion with the Oil Marketing Companies staff yesterday and have asked them to increase the supply. It is reported that there is a delay in arrival of a tanker ship at Chennai port which is causing the delay. In my company, the pick-up and drop facility which is usually provided for people who come to office before 7.00 AM and leave after 8.30 PM has been already suspended for the day. Many BPO’s and IT companies have been working overnight trying to rejig the transport route map so that the employees are least affected. But most of the companies have declared that the staff have to make their own arrangements to come to office today and till further notice.
When I step out of my office and have a look at the road, I see a very minimal traffic inspite of today being a working day. The number of vehicles on the road has gone down drastically. Where all this going to end is a big question mark?
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Is fuel retailing not a lucrative business?

Posted on June 24, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

The answer seems so, particularly after seeing atleast two petrol pumps in the heart of the city closing down and converting or planning to utilise the real estate for other commerical purposes.
The petrol pump opposite to the Dass Community Centre on the Cathedral Road has been closed down. The other one is at Alwar Thirunagar just diagonally opposite to the Mega Mart showroom. Both are located at prime locations on a main road in the city (don’t kick me when I say Alwar thirunagar is a prime location..guys wake up Chennai is not Mylapore, T Nagar and Nungambakkam alone!!!).

My knowledge on the petrol retailing business is very limited. I have done some accounting and tax related work during my CA articleship training. I know that for every kilo litre of petrol, diesel sold, the Oil Marketing Companies (BPCL, HPCL etc) gives these petrol pumps commission. In addition to that, they also enjoy credit with this companies atleast for a weeks’s time. Remember, petrol/diesel is cash business (atleast 95% of the sales) and they enjoy the float. In addition to that there is wide-spread adulteration of petrol and diesel (common form of adulteration is to mix Kerosene, I was told) and under-selling on quantity. Also whenever you have a price hike, you hoard the entire quantity of stock overnight and sell it the next day morning to make a good tidy sum. But that is not a major portion since Indian fuel prices are changed very rarely. But in spite of all these money making avenues, many of the petrol pumps are being closed.

The other possible reason I can think of is that the land on which these petrol pumps operate or leased/rented lands and the owner refuses to renew the lease once it expires. The owners may think that by selling the land or by doing joint development they may be able to make more money than just renting it out to a petrol pump.

Do you know of any other reasons? Please post your comments.

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Poor customer service by Times of India

Posted on June 24, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

On June 11, I came to know about the Times of India has re-opened the subscription window for annual subscriptions at Rs299/- per year. The same day I called up TOI office in chennai and registered my name. They informed me that their Marketing Executive would come collect the money, handover the bag and receipt. The delivery of the paper would start within 2 days from the date of collection.

But now, Times of India subscription is turning out to be a pain in the neck. I was very happy when I got the second chance to subscribe for TOI, but the problem is even after 13 days nobody has come to collect the money. I have called them twice to enquire on the status and everytime, they have been telling that their marketing executive would come and collect the amount.

I am losing interest now and I am not sure how long I may be able to wait.

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Traffic on GST Road

Posted on June 16, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

I have always had a feeling that the traffic on GST Road would be smooth and particularly so after the opening up of the Kathipara flyover (ofcourse, partially). I was in for a rude shock last thursday when I have to go to Chrompet to attend a marriage reception. Somehow I chose the MIOT hospital route from my home at Valasaravakkam to reach the Kathipara junction. That was the first mistake on that day. The road has been blocked near the Butt Road and was the vehicles are routed through an alternate route. That took more than 15 minutes from that point to reach Kathipara Junction. I felt a sigh of relief after reaching Kathipara Junction and started driving on the GST Road. The road was free and the traffic was flowing. Alas, that was only up till a kilometer or so before the airport. From that point onwards till we crossed Pallavaram, the traffic was chaotic and hardly moved few meters in a minute. It was really bumper to bumper traffic and finding space to drive was nerve-wrecking. It took almost 45 minutes for me to move from Meenambakkam and cross Pallavaram, all for a distance of 3-4 kms.

I was getting phobic with the traffic and my legs started paining having to use clutch, accelerator and brake almost every second. For good 3-4 kms, I could not see anything other than vehicles on both sides of the car. I had started at 7.00 PM from Valasaravakkam and reached Chrompet at 8.45 PM, a good one hour and 45 minutes for a distance of 12 kms. Lucky that the food was still available at the marriage reception!!

The biggest regret is that there is apparently no reason why there was such a slow-moving traffic. While driving, I thought there may be some accident or break-down in the middle of the road, which is causing the traffic to hold-up. But there is absolutely nothing of that sort and I later heard from people in Chrompet that the congestion during the peak hours is worst and it takes hours to cross Pallavaram and Meenambakkam. I really pity guys who have to drive on GST Road day in and day out.

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Times of India one year subscription offer is back again!!!

Posted on June 11, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

Time of India, Chennai edition which was launched on April 14 this year has become a major hit, I guess. This was evident from the way the market leader “The Hindu” reacted to the new arrival. The Hindu went on an advertisement blitzkrieg taking over most of the bus stops, mobile advertisements on the bus etc., proclaiming that “Chennai wakes up to only The Hindu”. It also went a step further, very unusual, of The Hindu, that it actually reduced the price. But I think the agony is not over for The Hindu.

Times of India has re-launched the special introductory offer price of Rs299/- for one year. I came to know of it through FM Radio advertisements and I have today enrolled for one year scheme. There are couple of things which made me opt for this one year subscription:
1. Though I am die-hard The Hindu fan, we have been invariably buying TOI on a daily basis paying Rs2 or Rs3 per edition. May be for the novelty value and for the local news coverage.
2. The other thing which caught my attention was the re-sale value of TOI. You may not believe it but it is true that TOI got me 75 paise for a day’s paper. The per day cost works out to 0.81 paise and you get back 75 paise, resulting in a net outflow of 0.06 paise a day. Not a bad bargain, I guess.

To subscribe for Times of India, call 044-24317979. They will take down your number and a marketing executive will come to your home to take the money and give you a travel bag as well. The paper delivery will start from the 5th day from the day you call up the Times of India number.

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My Saturday night TV programmes!!

Posted on April 7, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

If you are mis-led to think of something wild by the heading of this post, I am sorry.

Saturday night is special to me as I watch two interesting programmes, “Kalakka Povathu Yaaru” (KPY) on Sun TV and “Sport Quiz” on DD Podhigai. Of course, there is nothing new in these programmes but nevertheless it is very interesting. The only issue I have is, both the programmes run between 10.00 PM to 11.00 PM.

KPY is a stand up comedy programme originally created by Vijay TV couple of years ago in the name of “Asatha Povathu Yaaru” (APY) but Sun TV copied the format and started airing it. I really wonder is there any copyright protection for these kind of intellectual properties. Sun TV not only copied the format, but was also able to win over most of the performers, judges etc., So Sun TV’s KPY has become popular than the original APY in Vijay TV now. The APY still continues in Vijay TV but it is poor reflection of its original charm. So I stick to KPY in Sun TV. The judges for the show, popular(!) comedians Chittibabu and Madanbob, makes the programme very lively with good comments. The Director of the programme, Rajkumar takes special efforts to bring in new talent every week and keeps the programme’s TRP high. Few of the performers like Madurai Muthu, Venkatesh and Ramesh are real entertainers and they come up with new concepts which keeps you glued.

The second programme, Sports Quiz on DD Podhigai is a live programme hosted Dr Sumanth C Raman. I really admire his spirit and the energy he brings to the programme. He keeps talking continuously for 60 minutes during the show, handling hundred plus phone calls, being polite as well as very strict with the callers for the answers. He really makes the programme very interesting by asking questions which are very contemporary and very intricate. You need to be a keen follower of the sports news to answer most of his questions. Sumanth C Raman is a trained Doctor from Madras Medical College. He works with Tata Consultancy Services at Chennai as well as manages his family silk business. A busy man but never lets you down during the sports quiz.

If you get a chance, watch it once and I am sure you will like these programmes. A far cry from the “crying” soaps which occupy most of the TV time nowadays.

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Three long weekends in April!!

Posted on April 2, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

I just happened to see my company’s holiday list for April 2008. It is definitely very interesting. We have three days of holidays which helps you to get three long weekends.

First one is on 07 April, 2008, Monday, being the Telugu New Year day. The second one is on 14 April, Monday being Dr Ambedkar Jayanthi. The third one is on 18 April, Friday, Mahaveer Jayanthi. I am very glad that I get three long weekends in a single month. You cant ask for more in a month.

Check out your company holiday list and plan your holidays.

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Aircel launches internet on mobile facility!!

Posted on March 13, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

Aircel (formerly RPG), one of the largest mobile telephone service provider in Chennai has announced the introduction of internet on mobile facility. It was a long felt demand of Aircel users. When every other service provider like Airtel, Hutch offered internet on mobile, Aircel didnt even bother. It was even more difficult because you are not able to switch a different service provider by retaining the same number as mobile portability is not there in India. But Aircel has woken up and launched the service this week. For activating this service, you need to visit the nearest Aircel Cell City outlets or Aircel Centre.

When enquired with them about the tariff, I understood that they are offering two plans:
Plan A: Pay Rs599/- per month and enjoy unlimited internt browsing and download.
Plan B: Pay Rs10 per 10 KB of data download.

I dont really know if these are attractive rates for this facility. Anybody who is already using internet on mobile facility and help me in understanding how competitive the rates are.

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Chennai gets Call Auto facility!!

Posted on March 4, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

Gates India, has introduced the Call Auto facility in Chennai. Call Auto business runs just like the Call Taxi business. You have to call up the central number and ask for a pick up and they would arrange an auto rickshaw at your door-step.

The call auto fares are as per the Government rates. That is, for the first 2 kilometers they charge Rs14 and for every additional kilometer it is Rs6 per KM. In addition to the fare, you also need to pay Rs20 as service charges.

When I contacted the call centre, they confirmed that they have created a network of existing auto-drivers from various localities in Chennai and they are leveraging on their network. The operator, Gates India doesn’t own any auto-rickshaw. They claim that they have strict norms for ensuring that auto-meters are not tampered and if you feel you are being over-charged, you can call up the call centre and lodge a complaint against the auto-driver.

Currently, the facility is available from 7.00 AM to 7.00 PM across the city. Depending the customer response, they are planning to extend the facility throughout the day.

You can contact the Call Auto facility on 044-3999 3999.

I guess this would help most of the regular auto-users to avoid haggling with the fares each time. But I guess the service charge of Rs20 is little high. Please share your experiences on this call auto if you have already used this.
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A vist to Mega Mart

Posted on February 13, 2008. Filed under: Chennai |

I visited Mega Mart Outlet centre on the Arcot Road last saturday. This is a new initiative from Arvind Mills of creating a bigger shopping avenue compared to the small sized Megamarts. The Mega Mart Outlet Centre is spread over an area of 40000 sq.ft on the main Arcot Road at Valasaravakkam. It is next to La Chatelaine School and the nearest bus-stop is Alwarthirunagar.
This building currently where Mega Mart is situated was earlier used to be an export garmet manufacturing unit. I guess the owner would have seen that more money can be made by letting out the real estate than running a garment manufacturing activity. As I cross this building daily, I have seen how quickly they have re-modelled the building. The work happened at a frentic pace day and night and I think they completed the work in around 45 days or so.

Mega Mart outlet centre has different sections for Ladies, Men and kids on separate floors. The main attraction is that all branded garments like Van Huesen, Louis Phillipe, Arrow, Excalibur, Levis, Flying Machine, Belmonte, Reid and Taylor, Basics, Indigo Nation are available at discount prices throughout the year. It is not only limited to the retail brands of Arvind Mills but they have brought in goods from the competitor Madura Garments (manufacturers of Van Hussen and Louis Phillipe) and others.

You get higher discounts when you buy more of the same quantity. The discount structure goes like this:
Buy 1 – Get 25% off
Buy 2 – Get 1 free
Buy 2 – Get 2 free
I think this is marketing tactic to get more of your wallet!
A person who walks into the store with an intention of buying a shirt would be tempted to buy two to get one shirt free. By doing this, the customer would be spending three times more than his original budget.
Cost two Van Hussen shirts – Rs2300/- (Rs1150 X 2 shirts)
Cost of 1 Van Hussen shirt – Rs863/- (Rs1150 – Rs 288 (25% discount on Rs1150)
They also have a counter called “Market Place” where there are higher discounts. Check that out first before you buy anything within the store.

The ambience and amenities inside the store are good. There is Cafe Coffee Day shop on the 3rd Floor but expensive. A plate of samosas cost Rs31/-.

I think I will go to Mega Marts when I have requirements to buy clothes in large numbers. Else, I have to team up with my friends to buy good which can be later shared to get advantage of higher discounts for large purchases.

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