Sunday, August 31, 2008

~ Fiat Palio: The saga to own my first car ~

I always wanted my first car to be from the FIAT stable. I just love their engines, the build  and the drive quality. After waiting for 2 years for the launch of Punto, being disappointed, finally decided to go with Palio. 

Believe me buying a FIAT car in India isn't easy at all. Any car sales person anywhere in the world would be very happy if the customer walks into the showroom and tells I would like to buy this car, does the booking & walks out without asking any questions. That would be so easy for the sales person without having to explain, impress or up-sell anything. However, the reality is that FIAT is stuck with the partner TATA Motors for doing the sales via their dealer network.

Guess, what the sales person tells me when I go for booking Palio. Sir, why don't you look at Indica, Indigo or other TATA vehicles? My response, no offence to TATA vehicles, sorry am not interested in them. I came here for booking FIAT Palio1.3 MJD  & let's do the formalities. They didn't even have a test drive car, but I still booked it.

Booking was just one step away into insanity of FIAT/TATA sales lifecycle. The next couple of months have not been so pleasant dealing with the sales executives. Here is how the chronology of events:  

21 June 2008. I booked my car with Mainpal Motors, Sankey Road. The Sales Executive promised me it will take 35-40 days for the car to be delivered. 

Regularly followed with the sales' executive on the delivery date. In the mean time, got all the formalities sorted out and got the car loan approved.

4 August 2008: Sales executive stated that I needed to make the full payment to raise the invoice for production & transit. Since, it was my first car and didn't get any advice/caution from anyone else, like a fool I gave them the loan amount. At the time of full payment, I was told that the vehicle would be delivered to me on 13th Aug 2008.

13 August 2008: After successive follow-ups to the D day, nothing happened & the car didn't materialise. Then they sought additional 10 days. I was like fine, let me give another chance.

23 August 2008: 10 days have passed and still none from Manipal Motors called me. I had to follow up and ask what has happened. Again some vague replies on delay in dispatch from the factory, lack of production, demand, etc. I went to the showroom and spoke with the GM Sales Mr Kulkarni. Told him that I have lost patience & interest in even owning a car and feel very miserable at this whole process. Really disappointed that despite giving adequate time & money, I still don't have the car. Mr Kulkarni, requests time till Monday for me to give a confirmation on the delivery dates. I said this time you can either deliver me the car by 30 August or else cancel the booking and kindly return me full loan amount along with booking amount. 

I walked out of the showroom without any confidence nor trust on the entire sales team at Manipal Motors. I felt that they would probably not deliver it on 30th.

Came home & gave a thought about what I could do. Finally, thought that it would be good to bring up the whole matter to Fiat India leadership, so that they can take the necessary steps on their part. Wrote to them about the whole sales experience that I had to go through. My question to them was, "How could Fiat which has such good cars to offer & have such bad sales via their partner. It is hurting their BRAND image and loosing their enthusiasts more than adding new customers." I posted the content to customer support across various FIAT websites in the world, hoping that someone would eventually get back to me.

26 August 2008: Voila! I get an email acknowledgement from FIAT Customer Care International.

27 August 2008: Somewhere around 11:00 hrs I receive a call from Rahul from FIAT Pune office about my complaint & tell me that they are working to get a car delivered. Someone from TATA Motors will get in touch with me. I said am tired of dealing with the sales folks from TATA Motors. He assured me that people from FIAT have taken up my case.

14:00 hrs I receive another call from the South Head of TATA Motors. He finally promised me the good news that my vehicle would be delivered on 30th August. I validated with him twice, he said 100% they would deliver and someone from Concorde Motors (Subsidiary of TATA Motors) reach out to me in the evening.

17:30 hrs I receive the call from Javed, Concorde Motors. He said that they would be delivering the vehicle on 30 August via Manipal Motors since I had done the payment to them.

More than being joyful and excited. I was relieved that the dream of owing a FIAT is not that easy, at least in India.

By the way, FIAT Palio isn't the hottest hatch in the market even with 1.3 MJD engine. The hottest hatch in the country is Maruti SWIFT. The diesel edition of Swift has the same 1.3 MJD engine under the hood made by none other than FIAT. However, Maruti has great sales & wider dealer network. It is selling them like hot cakes & running away with success. Swift apparently has 6 months of waiting period & the dealers tell that upfront at the time of booking.

It's HIGH time that FIAT to debut in India on its own than with joint venture or partnership. It is doing more damage to their BRAND & sales than anything else. Hope, the FIAT leadership is listening to few loyal customers who would like to buy FIAT cars. 

Thank you for reading the rant. Here are the pictures of the red stallion ;)

Friday, August 29, 2008

~ G1 Vs iPhone? ~

Its good to have healthy competition, which will eventually benefit the customer. If you aren't a gadget freak & don't know what G1 is, then G1 is the first Google powered phone to debut on the market sometime in Sep/Oct through T-mobile in the US.

Have been following it for quite few weeks and here are the G1 features. Does have an impressive features list, which could compete with iPhone. And there is a first peak into the G1 design.

I also happened to stumble upon the phase I winners of Android Developer Challenge, which are decent set of apps. Innovative ideas for mobile user.

I liked the following,

I'm not sure when we would get to see G1 in India. Just hope that they would be affordable in India, unlike the pricey iPhone.

And do you think G1 can compete against iPhone?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

~ 61st Independence Day ~

Of all the Independence Day's that I have celebrated, 61st Independence Day has been most satisfying & worthy. It started when Venky told me about his friend, Lokapriya's plan of afforestation on Thursday night. The plan was to plant 250 saplings in the region of Savandurga.

15 adults along with 4 children met @ 7:30hrs near Malleshwaram & ventured out to Savandurga via Mysore Road by 8:30hrs. After a brief pit-stop for breakfast in Bidadi for some special 'Tattee Idli' (a variation of Idli), we continued our journey towards Magadi.

We arrived @ Savandurga by 11:00hrs and few folks visited the Narashima Temple. Then entered the forest region of Savandurga, that's where the plot was chosen by Lokapriya for the plantation. We did ask for the school boys who were in the region to join us in our mission, but they didn't seem to be keen. 250 pits were dug couple of days prior to our arrival.

Finally, 13 of us with 3 locals started off our task of planting 250 saplings. The team was divided into groups - movers, uncoverers, planters - for better optimization. 6 movers, including me, who moved the saplings to the designated pits; 3 uncoverers, helped in uncovering the plastic bags which held the saplings; 4 planters, finally performed the last task of the plantation.

After the initial enthusiasm of moving the saplings, my forearms began to ache. The saplings had soaked in the rain from previous night, making it heavier to carry. But, that didn't deter our focus & goal, we finished planting by 15:00hrs.

Had our lunch & bhel-puri enjoying the back drop of the Savandurga. We left Savandurga @ 16:30hrs towards Bangalore en route Manchinbele reservoir (the same place where KRV/Police busted a Rave party on Friday night). The kids had good time playing in the water.

We departed Manchinbele to the city @ 18:25hrs, with another pit-stop for some hot tea & aloo bonda @ the Big Banyan Tree.

On our way home we saw two huge dish antennas near-by to the big banyan tree. Me & Venky were discussing about what project could this part of, in an isolated place off Mysore Road. We finally concluded that this could be a part of ISRO, tracking something. To my surprise in the morning it turned out to be part of ISRO for the upcoming Chandrayaan, which appeared in TOI.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

~ Cheers to friends ~

"You and I can share the silence
Finding comfort together

The way old friends do

And after fights and words of violence

We make up with each other

The way old friends do

Times of joy and times of sorrow

We will always see it through

Oh I don't care what comes tomorrow

We can face it together

The way old friends do

Nita sent me this today evening with the following message, "Very simple lyrics but I found it to be very powerful. True for any relationship that you want to maintain on a long term. -NEETS"

I admired the beauty of the song/poem. Thanks Nita for sharing & the unknown author

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

~ iPhone in Airtel stores by 20th August ~

Just back from the Airtel outlet located on SanjayNagar, paying my bill for the last month. I happened to inquire about the iPhone, when is it actually hitting the stores. The lady said it will debut on 20th of August.

My next question was bout the service options, she mentioned I could use it with my existing connection. I'm sure there will be some restrictions @ the hardware level, which would restrict you from changing your network providers.

Price, tentative range is 13,000-15,000 INR. I am guessing this would be for the 4GB model.

Update 6 Aug: Finally its official, that iPhone will be available through Airtel in India by 22nd Aug. More here. But, there aren't any significant announcements on Airtel's iPhone website.

Update 21 Aug: Disappointed with insane pricing of iPhone. 31,000/- INR for a 8GB model & 36,000/- for a 16GB model. Why would you pay so much, when none of the current mobile operators in the country still don't have a 3G infrastructure ready.