Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Time for transparency for Ola and Uber?

A few years ago, who would have thought we will have the power to hail a cab from our mobile sitting at home - without even talking to a human? All it requires are a few clicks and a cab is ready to pick up and drop at our destination.
It is true that cab aggregators like Uber and Ola have changed the way we commute. We may like or hate them, but the fact is that they have come to stay. The ease of the cab ride also brings with it associated problems like rouge drivers and surge pricing.
Both the Central and State Governments don't seem to have a clue on how to regulate Ola and Uber. When the Governments came down on surge pricing, all Ola and Uber did was to remove the word surge. Now there is a talk of having a cap on surge pricing. Will an over-enthusiastic government destroy these companies with over-regulation? Even with all the faults, we have got used to the new form of commuting. And any hare-brained move may only put an end to the ease with which we commute.

Read more :

Monday, July 18, 2016

UTS: Useless Ticketing System

The Indian Railways is now actively promoting its UTS app. The app has been around for quite some time, but has not received any traction because of the problems associated with the app - in other words, it has 'made by Government' written all over it.

First, though it is supposed to make train ticketing easy, it is not exactly so. Sometimes, we feel the app has been designed to discourage booking of tickets from the app! It doesn't allow booking tickets if we are close to the platform. We have to be away at a considerable distance to be able to book a ticket. What if we are late and we have to book a ticket? Or if we decide to book a platform ticket after we reach the station?

The app drives us round the bend with repeated errors and messages that we are too close to the platform. We have to keep moving all around the place to 'discover' the spot where the app decides to have our way.

The worst part is that if you change your mobile, you just cannot use the app in the new mobile. You have to go to and request the Indian Railway's approval for you to switch the app to the new mobile.

Now, what happens if you have to change the mobile again? No. The Indian Railways thinks it is too much work and informs you that you have to wait for three months to do it. What if you have a season ticket in the app? Forget it. You HAVE to have the other mobile. What if you have lost the mobile? You have to lodge a complaint at a police station, take the FIR copy to the Chief Commercial Manager (Don't know where he sits? Search). What if the mobile is faulty? Go to a service centre, give the mobile for servicing, and give the service centre receipt to the CCM. If the mobile breaks? Give proof of the broken mobile to the CCM and get his approval to change the handset.

Do these sound ridiculous? May be, but these were the answers given by the UTS helpline.

The worst part is the Indian Railways will tell you that you cannot change the app the second time only AFTER you try to change it. The usless UTS website (which is not also mobile friendly), won't tell you anything about it.

The site and the app are handled by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). And even in Narendra Modi's Digital India, it has not bothered to create itself a Twitter handle. And emails go unanswered.

Tweets to the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the Indian Railways went unanswered. As a friend said, may be @sureshpprabhu will respond only if we praise him.

There are things we never understand. Nor do the 'makers', in this case it is the Indian Railways.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tweets about issues with OYORooms

I received a few responses to my post on OyoRooms. I also search Twitter for more info. Here is the compilation of some of them about Manoj Thelakkat's experience of booking an Oyo Rooms.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Ordeal Called OYO Rooms

(This is NOT my experience of OYO Rooms, but of Manoj Thelakkat. I am just reproducing his post in Facebook)

The Ordeal Called OYO Rooms – You are not apologetic for the inconvenience caused to me !!

I used to quote Ritesh Agarwal of OYO and his vision as an entrepreneur, even in my international trainings. So when I was coaxed to book a room using the mobile app, by a very friendly call centre boy, I was appreciative of their proactive selling skills. But, I was in for a rude awakening !

It started with my planned trip to Mumbai on 20th Jan, 2016. I usually have my list of hotels in Mumbai, but wanted to try out OYO this time. So, on the night of 19th, I was checking for OYO rooms, and I get a call from the call centre. He gives me an additional offer for the room I was looking in Khar, Mumbai. I agree, and he sends me a mail confirming the booking, and another mail with the link to make the payment. I make the payment, and receive the SMS on booking confirmation with details of the hotel ( Hotel Unicontinental, Khar ) and location map. I was travelling through Pune, so I called the hotel on the number given in the sms sent by OYO and confirm my arrival, in the evening.

After braving the Mumbai traffic, I reach the hotel Unicontinental at 2030 pm. I tell the guy in the reception that I have a booking and even before I could give him the details, he says we are sold out. I said, I have a paid booking from OYO. Unapologetically he says, we had not confirmed the booking with OYO, so we cant do anything. Its a first come first serve policy with OYO so we do not have any rooms for you. Both the guys in the reception take turns to say that, it always happens with OYO. I tell them that I called your hotel and confirmed on my arrival, and I have already paid. So you cannot deny me the booking now. He claims I had not called, and I show him my call record. He then says that number is not theirs. I call the same number from the phone, and their phone rings and he picks up the call himself. Now with nothing more to say, he adamantly says, there is no room, you can figure it out with OYO.

Its 2045 pm by now, and I call OYO. After 2 unsuccessful attempts, I reach them at 2049 pm. I tell the guy, my situation. He apologizes for the inconvenience caused to me .He says my booking is confirmed, and there is no hassle. I ask him to speak to the reception and hand the phone over. The receptionist tells him that there is no room and hands the phone back to me. The OYO guy tells me that he will sort the issue, and will escalate to another team. I'm kept on hold, and after a while someone comes on line and asks me how he can help me!! I'm surprised, and ask him, if he knows the case, he confirms in negative. He says, he was transferred the call and being the escalation desk he can check the case. I had to explain the whole story again to him. He also apologized for the inconvenience caused to me. I ask him for the solution, and tells him that I cannot search for another place, I need my stay arranged here itself. He says he will talk to the Cluster Manager of the area and the operations manager of the hotel (?) and will arrange a call back to me in 5 minutes. I was asked to wait for the call. I wait till 2120, no call came to neither me nor to the hotel. I call OYO back at 2120 and at 2122, and get the IVR that all their executives were busy. I get connected at 2123 and another guy picks the phone, and I’m told to narrate the whole story again. He also apologizes for the inconvenience caused to me. He tells me that I will get a call right away.

Realising nothing much is happening, I try my luck again with the hotel . I see another gentleman walking in for check in with an expedia booking, and he is also told that they are sold out. The man starts his argument with one of the receptionist. Seeing this, one of receptionist comes out tells me that there has been a check out and he will give me that room. In my one hour of waiting, I did not see anyone checking out. I would have slept in the sofa in my condition, so I take the offer anyways. They probably felt that two arguing customers are too much of a task.

I am shifted to the room, and am in store for the worst room I have ever seen. Forget the mini fridge mentioned in the booking, it didn’t even have a glass or a bottle of water. It seemed shady; the photos below will give the better picture. 

1) The stained dirty chair in room.
2)Depleted broken walls 
3)Wires dangerously hanging right outside the window
4)Breakfast is just tasteless Poha, and bread slices. Nothing else.

Now I get a call from OYO, and for a second I felt that they have sorted it out. But NO! It was a return call for my call they had missed. I tell him the situation I am in, and said, I have still not received the call that was promised to be made in 5 minutes at 2045 pm, and it was 2200 by now. He also apologizes for the inconvenience caused to me. He promises that his team will sort it out, and I would be shifted to a better room and that someone will give me a call with all details. He goes on to request me to adjust in the room for the night. 
Next day noon, after coming back from work, I meet the receptionists and demand to be moved to a better room. They agree, and tell me that they will arrange a room by the time I have lunch. Post lunch I come back and he says, the room is being cleaned and the shifting will happen soon. I get shifted after an hour. The next day morning I check out. 
On the 23rd noon, I get a call from OYO. NO, not the call promised to me on 20th, but a feedback call. I give him the details too. By now I had found a new respect to my patience levels. He also apologized for the inconvenience caused to me. Tells me he will ensure a call back immediately from his escalation team. I get a call after 2 hours which gets disconnected after a ring. I wait for a while, and call them back. Back to the call centre, and I tell them that I'm returning a missed call, and wants to be connected to escalation team. He keeps me on hold and then tells me that, he spoke to the escalation desk and they will call me in 10 minutes.

As I publish this, I have not received that call back, nor have I received that call promised in 5 minutes on 20th.

My suggestions, 
1) Avoid OYO, it’s not worth the start-up glamour, and the entrepreneurship fairy tale. They suck.
2) Avoid Hotel Unicontinental Khar. They are a disgrace in the name of hospitality.

My issues 
1) Why have you not called me with resolutions promised over multiple calls ?
2) Why did you charge me, if you had no confirmation from hotel ?
3) What kind of checks do you have on empanelling hotels ?
4) Does anyone check the rooms ? If yes, how can you sell such 3rd grade pathetic rooms ?
5) Is it not cheating to claim and show photos of facilities on your app and website, which are not available on the site ?
6) What action would you take on the hotel and what complaint redressal measures can I expect?
7) It is completely your responsibility, as I booked an OYO room, and didn’t even know the hotel name when I was booking.

Posted by @dinakaran