Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Uber-X cheaper than Taxi Service - I dont think so

Uber is great and it helped me atleast dozen times in Singapore, few dozen times overseas. I really love the overall experience but recently I started to feel the fees in Singapore are getting a bit expensive. So I put together a quick comparison of taxi bills vs uber and the comparison does shows Uber is cheaper.

When I compare $ / Min or $ / KM, it clearly shows Uber is cheaper than regular taxis. But the weird part is my journey route is almost the same. So when I looked a bit deeper, the evidence started to surface. Some how Uber calculates the "distance" a bit longer compared to other taxi services. May be Uber is more accurate or whatever it is but if you look at the trip on 22-Apr-15 (last row), vs 30-Apr-14 (first row), or 15-Jul-14 (5th Row), the source-destination-route is exactly the same. Barring some deviation due to traffic, the fare should end up cheaper for uber as the claim.

So for me, it's very simple. I am happy with the level of taxi service in Singapore and I would go back to Comfort or other regular taxi service. Ofcourse, I would still need Uber in SFO & SYD. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Telemedicine: The next big thing to drive bandwidth requirements?

Recently there is plenty of noise in the Internet of things, or everything (IoE), connected home, smart nation, or smart cities and smart everyhing ;). During my conversations with service providers in the region, one of the biggest question is how could the SP monetize this new wave. For example, if the money is to be spent on infrastucture or m2m, the SP part is very little. i.e. they would end up providing the SIM cards. If its connected homes, then again SP got little to play. So the question always goes back to enterprise / B2B applications.

One of the most talked, and interest raising domain is healthcare. Given the diversity in Asia, this is believed to make a huge change in the coming future. Almost all major service providers in the region are evaluating Healthcare and how they can be part of the value chain. I saw Telstra made first announcement in this category by acquiring Anywhere Healthcare. I like the way Telstra been transformed from a lethargic incumbent to aggressive player.

Another country with huge potential is Indonesia. The country or the nation of multiple islands is geographically so diverse, and with horrible connectivity. Telemedicine can make a huge difference in the lives of people. Probably my guess is Telstra would focus on australia first then on Indonesia. I can see it happening with telstra global with its cloud offerings, and the same will happen with other services.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

HDB Lease buy back extended to Four Rooms

Source: CNA

In a summary, its no longer applicable for 3-Rooms and 3,000 income criteria. Now it's applicable (from tomorrow) for 4-Rooms and 10,000 income.

I seriously wish this should be applicable to all HDB and not 3-room, and 4-rooms. With this approach, elders can have a more stable income during their late years. After all it is the same HDB, and same HDB payments all people paid :)

Singapore Taxi - Standardization some fare components

Source: CNA

As recent as last month, I shared my frustration with the industry/situation, and today I saw the news from CNA. But I am quite disappointed with the details, and approach. Basically it is as it is today, but legalizing the approach. Why can't be there a simple system in place? Lets say two different categories - Budget, Premium ? Why can't we forgo the advance booking charges? or for that matter booking charges? Why can't we remove the credit card surcharge and link with our credit cards so no-show fee can be put in place?

I believe this is the right time we should treat Taxi as an integral part of public transport, and stop the complex charge system. 

Weird, Contradicting Airlines rules

Most of the folks would have faced this situation. Take out the laptop or ipad from the bag, remove belts, remove shoes, and jackets while going through the airport security.

Though I hate this process, initially I was kind of appreciative that it is to 'secure'me but after roaming across 4 different continents over the last decade, my feelings changed dramatically. I couldnt understand the rational, or logic behind these actions when I see it across the journey. Some of my observations goes here, but I would start with the most annoying one which is at Hong Kong airport

* No water in to the flight at all. Not even after security check, and there is a second security check right before you enter your foot in the flight. The officer will stare at you and ask you to drink or throw it off. If its a O&D airport, I could understand but HKG is one of the largest transit / connecting airport between east-west with 10+ hour flights. One may say, simply ask the hostess in the flight, but trust me this will not work with all airplanes, they wont refuse but they wont serve either.
Anyway, the observations below

  1. Why no KINDLE or iPad (flight mode) but news paper allowed during taxi/take-off/landing ?
  2. Why SQ, Asian airlines ask people to up the shades even blinding sun while United or US airlines insist on closing the shades?
  3. Why SQ takes 30 min for landing procedures and with seat belt sign on while United takes last 5-10 min?
  4. Why different rules / processes followed at different airports? i.e. some need to remove shoes, some no need? is it the technology they are using or something else?
  5. Why "highly flammable" Alcohol from Duty Free shops allowed in to the flight but no lighter (India - you to be blamed)? ...No idea, and the list goes on. 
Finally, one last one.

Why can't they normalize the volume for announcements ? Is it to show their sadistic nature to scare the shit out of sleeping people? or hurt the ears so badly, that they will not feel anything in their next flight?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Visible corruption/cheating in Bangkok - Taxi is just tip of the problem

If you happened to read this article about the taxi cheating case in Bangkok and wondering that if this is true given the positive news we always hear about thailand, or thai culture, then let me tell you. 

The cheating or the mindset is pretty common if you happened to be a non-thai or new to the place. Actually the problems starts at the moment you step down at the airport. I mentioned it previously here, and it is still a norm. i.e. as long as you go in to the priority queue with infants or kids, then you are charged 200 baht extra and without any receipt. That's not a small amount and imagine this is practised in the open day light. 

I have been to Bangkok more than 30-35 times in the last 5 years and every time I end up with some negative memory. Overall the trip experience is positive but there will be one or two cases which makes it bad. My biggest complaint is with taxi drivers is they simply refuse to stop, or refuse to go to specific place or bug on going with a fixed rate instead of meter. I face atleast once. I dont remember having a good memory that a driver is courteous or giving the exact change (i.e. meter shows 85, but no  change for 100 baht note)

My recent trip, I had an instance where taxi driver asked me to pass 75 baht for highway charges, and 50 baht for airport tax. When I asked for a receipt, (which nobody cares) his answer is dont have and a nasty look. I wish I had taken the video too. Anyway the authorities are not doing any thing because it doesnt hurt them directly. Be it the corruption at airports, or cheating tourists. 

Seriously hope, they realize that this would hurt the image of nation, and thai culture. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Singapore Budget 2015: Higher tax for top earners, Benefits to lower income groups and CPF enhancements

If you have not seen any of these news about Singapore budget, then you must be living under a rock. Just kidding.. I was told not many are concerned as there will not be massive changes in the budget without prior hints.. So lets look at the budget and the key points captured my eyes were,

  1. CPF Enhancements: Increased the limit from current 5000/m to 6000/month. Which means I am expecting the limit to go 17 months including OW + AW ceiling. So instead of SGD 31,450 per annum, its going to be SGD 37,740. Or additional 6,290. Here 2,890 comes from Employer while the rest is from you. So you got a pay hike of ~250 from next year. 
  2. Income tax: I hate this part to increase the rate and create complexity. Especially when the top bracket is paying 20%. If it goes higher then what exactly is the point of getting top talent here. Anyway to not to offend the 'mass sentiment' and to show robinhood policies I would go with it. If you are making 250,000 the MoF estimated that the difference is 400 (Source: Todayonline). Not sure how they ended up with 50,000 taken for deductions. The CPF is max 20,400, Earned Income - 1,000, Spouse Relief - 2,000 (if your spouse is not working), Kids - 8000 (2x 4000) and this makes it max 32,000. I don't think an average person can claim relief of 50,000 but more in to 30,000 unless max out on SRS, Insurance, Education, etc.. So if I take 30,000 then the difference is 950. Anyway I will wait to see the excel calculators from IRAS as I am not very good with manual calculators. Or I need to use excel to measure
  3. Maid Levy: not a fan as this is not applicable
  4. Others: No comments

Overall, this is a mixed one for me and I tend to feel that this is more towards negative side rather than exited one. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stereo type - Is it true that many things happen based on 'profile' or race?

This is one of the most sensitive topic but I am deeply saddened by an interaction with one my  close friend (who holds masters and Dr from world class schools). We are having a conversation and there are few words came out of his mouth that gave me his views about the social class system in even developed economies.

Believe it or not, or blame it on conspiracy theorists or matrix, the conclusion I ended up is we humans need to evolve lot more. Whatever assumptions we make, and whatever masks we wear, end of the day the real feelings (heart truths ??) can be quite different.

For example, one of the basic assumption in Singapore society I encountered is alcohol and Indians. Similarly laziness and malays, money and chinese. All these are quite funny topics over a meal or bear. But it is not when we see it on a serious note.

Indians are not alchoholics and probably one of the lowest consumers of alcohol in the world barring muslim countries. Per capita consumption of alcohol is quite low and based on the WHO report , the lifetime abstainers are ~82% and including stoppers are ~ 92%. So the 8% are the one who are consuming lot more and probably creating the misconception. Similarly, I have seen dozens of my malay friends who are much more hard working than any other race or nationality. In fact the productivity of the friends is much higher given the balancing act of family and community they do.

Nevertheless, I am not trying to defensive or show some examples and jump to conclusion (or stereo type ;)) but recently I had enough of these things and the horror to me is its happening in Singapore. Not with friends but even at work.. One of the most sickening conversation I ever had is with an executive in an MNC (HQ in USA and Fortune 100 firm). The view shared was it's good to keep a Chinese person to handle local customers. I am flabbergasted by that view, and hearing from a company which talks about equality, and global view. So all the materials and so called CSR topics are just for publishing and the decisions are made based on specific views.

I really wish that we can move on and put these behind.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wish there is a mental shift: Entitlement to Pragmatic, and realstic

What makes people from some other countries like Singapore or Korea to Indians. Very simple, I saw majority of these people questioning their government for their rights, and going with the real world. In India, we tend to demand others for our 'stuff'. We pay taxes through our nose, but we do not question the bad quality in public schools, but send our kids to private schools. Then strike for pay hike; same with health care. Thanks to political parties who just treat public money as their own money, the vicious cycle is going on forever.

I saw this news from sakshi, where a school teacher is complaining that the current CM is not doing his job, and not increasing the pay. The expenditure is

  • Rent: 4,500
  • Daily necessities : 4,000
  • Milk: 1,500
  • Rice: 2,000
  • Education: 10,000
  • Medical: 2,000
  • Clothes: 2,000
  • Gas: 400
  • Utilities: 450
  • Travel: 1,000
  • Entertainment: 600
  • Cable: 150
  • Mobile: 500
  • Vegetables: 1,500
  • Others: 3,000
  • Total: 33,600
First of all this is a totally made up story IMHO. Anyway, still one question on why on earth a school teacher who is getting paid by the tax payers want to send his/her kids to private schools and spend 10,000 every month? 

If the justification is that the quality is bad, then why can't we close down all these schools and remove the teachers? That would save pretty good amount for the tax payers. 

The expenditure is equal to $550 per month which makes it on par with many other asian nations monthly expenditure. 

Average Malaysia school teacher makes $ 1,124 month. Are we trying to say that our cost of living, or living standards are higher than Malaysia which warrant such salaries ?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fuel prices dropped by 40+ percent , but Airlines are not cutting down prices.

I am a bit annoyed thought it seems kind of accepted industry practice when any savings due to price reductions are not transferred to customers.

We can see how the price dropped from IATA. Based on a WSJ article Airlines spend 29% on fuel. So if I take a very simple example of $100 cost per person (while airline charging me $120 assuming $20 as margin) the fuel cost itself used to be $29 and its now $24. So the cost to the Airline is now $95 and the ticket should be reduced accordingly (20% margin gives me $114). However I still see the same old rates and not even a single cent reduced. In fact the opposite is correct. i.e. the ticket prices are going up recently.

The explanation given by Airlines doesnt impress me either. From our own ST article here, it appears some are reducing (which I can't see) but our own SQ is not going along the same route.

I don't understand the logic of investing in lounges, upgrading flights or returning to share holders taking priority over business. May be the last one makes sense to me but the savings due to external factors can't be used to fund the capital expenditure activities which are part of day to day business. Unless there is a huge demand for upgrading flights or investing in lounges for airlines regular passengers (which I found quite weird as any flight I take can see less than 10% frequent flyers) so is it the airlines saying the 10% spending more money compared to rest of the 90%?