Sunday, September 30, 2012

DealExtreme - Cheap electronic/accessories online and FREE postage to anywhere

Most of the guys in Singapore(or region) knows DX or DealExtreme. This is a online webstore similar to Amazon but the best part is the delivery is free of charge worldwide. I guess that's their USP . Though there are some complaints I am quite happy with their goods and service so far. If I feedback on a faulty item, the replacement is almost immediate without any questions asked.

You can see a conversation between me & DX recently on a DOA item. I was curious to see how the solar charger works on an iPhone so I placed an order and the item came as DOA. I can see it get's charged for a couple of min (red light on) but it just goes off immed. Connecting to iPhone doesn't work too. So within couple of days the DX service exec clarified with me and offered a replacement..Great job.

Order #: 120903001096xxxxxxx27
Request Type: DOA (Dead on Arrival) Item
Status: Closed
Ticket number: 51635xxxxxxxxxxxxD85B8570FAAD3A0798E
Date Received: 9/26/2012 2:39:24 PM (UTC)
Notification E-mail: xxxxxt*****.*** (masked for privacy)
Defective SKU : 94466  

Description: Hi, This piece doesn't even get charged. There are three small lights at the bottom which supposed to show some activity. I've connected the USB cable to direct power source, laptop power source, and even put it under direct sunlight for 2 hours to see any change or indication. It seems the battery itself is dead.I can't

Dear customer

Have a nice day. Thanks for your support with DX.

A free replacement
94466 has been processed for you, and we rushed your order, so the items will be shipped immediately. You will receive a notification email once we get it shipped. And it would be much appreciated if you could kindly give a mark for my service.

Once we shipped the parcel, you can track the replacement using your existing order number

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Indian antiquated custom laws - Creating negative impression at the very first step.

Can you believe that you (if you are person of Indian origin, or Indian national or at times a human being) may end up paying "custom tax" on your engagement ring or gold chain when you enter India ?

Indian government introduced recently a law (40 years old law) which states allows a man to carry gold worth INR 10,000 and women to carry INR 20,000. So as per the current prices it turns out 3.5 gms and 7.1 gms for men & women. When this law introduced then the gold price was INR 88. So it used to allow more than 100 gms / men & 200 gms/women.

I am not asking for legally allowing to bring gold but after facing a "harassment from Indian customs" during my recent trip I am stunned now. I was stopped because my ring is more than 8 grams and I was asked to pay tax.

It shows again that there is no commonsense when it comes to Indian bureaucratic system and it simply works based on the whims and whits of some idiots sitting at top and some barbarians trying to ransack you officially @ customs.

The solution given by one of my friend was "to pay" or "to ask for a custom certification while leaving India". Apparantly this was mentioned in the website but no details given. When I requested the Customs officer he was dumb folded and he doesn't even know there is something that exists. So after spending couple of hours in one of the most expensive Airport in world (New Delhi) I left the country with a bitter taste.

The website and text is pasted for quick reference. If you manage to get it done or knows the procedure please share so the rest of folks can save their hard earned money.

          All the passengers leaving India by Air are subject to clearance by Custom Authorities. Only bonafide baggage is allowed to be cleared by passengers. There is a procedure prescribed whereby the passengers leaving India can take the export certificate for the various high value items as well as jewellery from the Customs authorities. Such an export certificate comes handy while bringing back the things to India so that no duty is charged on such goods exported by the passenger.

LTE Price plans - SingTel, SH, M1

I saw the recent update from Yahoo on iPhone price plans and I believe this is bundled with LTE data. If I see standalone BBOM plans from SingTel, the prices are 59.90 per 10GB. Which means the LTE data is valued at ~ SGD 6 / GB and the typical speeds are ~ 3.4 - 12.0 Mbps

Looking at 3G plans, for speeds of 1.4-3.7 Mbps, and the cost per GB is ~ SGD 3.

Now the question is that the industry boasted a lot that with LTE prices set to drop as the cost to TELCO's will be much cheaper in comparison with legacy 2G/3G network. LTE is an all-ip flat network and supposed to deliver 1GB of data for > USD 1. Back in 2009, Ericsson came with the business case/whitepaper to deliver 1GB for 1EUR. I saw similar paper from them and Huawei recently in some of the user forums.

So now the question is is it our TELCO's are running such a non-optimized network so their costs are substantially higher?
Or is it their profit margins are higher compared to other world telco's?

If LTE data could be delivered for $1 that means the operating margins are close to 70% for our TELCO's. That' assuming people use the bundled data completely. So in any case I see some good margins for the telcos on LTE but bad deal to the customers. So iPhone5 users, beware and if you can, hold back to your 3G plans. Let the heavy users go to LTE and bundled with the lower plan levels the network should have some free space in the near future and addresses the current congestion. (I am not hoping SingTel,SH,M1) to take any action to resolve by putting more capacity.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Asia's 50 best companies to work for. Huawei is only company in top-20

Source: Universum

Have a look and you'd be quite surprised at the results. No facebook or Yahoo in the list. From Singapore again there is none.

What surprises me is the position of Huawei in the list. I was under the impression that the work life in Huawei is not that great based on my friends feedback. Either my friends expectations are quite high or there is a different picture of Huawei outside of Singapore. In any case Huawei got three notches above Cisco which is one of its competitors. The traditional telecom competitors like Ericsson were ten notches below @ 27.

Interesting survey I'd say.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Google Maps & Youtube in IOS6 or iPhone 5

If you guys are excited to upgrade to iOS6 or already did, then you must have realized that there is no Google MAPS & Youtube App.
Apple replaced google maps with their own maps app but this is not a good thing to me. I've used Google Maps for years and that can be a apple vs android thing to me. However Youtube is not a big issue and I've been using Youtube in Safari/Chrome for years. So the same thought came and it works on my iPad :)

So the useful part is HTML5 and all you need is to create a shortcut of and on your home screen. This can be easily done by opening them in Safari or Chrome, then create a shrotcut.

I prefer Youtube on Safari because it offers me to select HD quality or normal quality; also the stock application doesn't offer much benefits.

But for Maps, my first experience on Safari is not that exciting. Chrome is great but still lacks the 'fastness' of stock maps app. This can be a wonderful interim solution while waiting for Google to release an app of maps. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Solar Power generation in India - Plenty of opportunities and huge potential

Ok. I started this post after experiencing the massive power cut in India personally couple of weeks back.

Power was gone for couple of days almost and what surprises me is the level of redundancy, failsafe mechanisms put by five star hotels, office buildings and shopping malls. This may looks good on surface but I am quite sad to see their dis-trust in the system. People do not trust the power supply so it is very common in India to have backup as part of any important installation. Not for few hours but days. We see this kind of backup power/ups in mission critical deployments but in India this is common even in shopping malls.

Most of these generators uses diesel which is damn expensive and putting pressure on the petrol bill. The initial deployment it self increases the cost of business and the operating expenditure would add up to it.

If the government is really sincere in its efforts to reduce the reliance on imports, they should start focusing on Solar power.

Singapore - myth of 'cheap' foreign workforce

Ok.This is very sensitive topic and I do not want to give any wrong impression. This is my 2c based on my experiences and observations.

I always took the position that companies are hiring foreigners not because they are cheap but they are more flexible. In the end the flexibility doesn't have to result in lower cost. I just saw an article from Jobstreet which is kind of supporting my observations. Just to mention "66 per cent of locals considered the low cost of labour the reason for hiring non-Singaporeans, only 16 per cent of employers cited this as the reason."

The problem is not the 'cost' but it is about the quality and even at times exposure. I've worked with many people from almost all the different categories of folks (i.e. Singaporeans, Almost Singaporeans, new Singaporeans, PR, EP ..) and I can see why $$$ is not the issue. Majority of knowledge workers are certainly making higher than their local counterparts (ofcourse including CPF) but still companies are going for them. Why ?

May be I can try to share my views based on a specific industry. This case my fav Mobile Industry. Mobile industry spans across all kind of trades from Radio to Sales/Front Office. So will try to share my views in detail here.

Experience / Exposure:

Being a tiny country we do not have the opportunity to experience many 'new' stuff and 'legacy' stuff.  For example Microwave is a pretty common backhaul in Asia/rest of the world. But we do not have any idea and if we need to even test the microwave we need to get people from outside.
Another classic case was with prepaid explosion. Few years back no-body used to use Pre-paid. Suddenly due to the foreign worker growth there is a new market for pre-paid and our telco's has no idea how to handle. They needed expert knowledge from outside. So this is considered a legacy but still we haven't had the experience.

For the "new" stuff. Lets take an example of "Green telecom". If we're to try solar base station we do not have any experience. Again we've to look at Indonesia or India.

Regional / Out of Singapore roles:

When SingTel wants to hire a person who need to manage their regional assets (SingTel owns 100% Optus-Australia; strategic stakes in Bharti-India, Telkomsel-Indonesia; AIS-Thailand; Globe-Philippines & couple more in Pakistan, Bangladesh), who would SingTel hire? A person with 3G/LTE/IP knowledge in Singapore market or a person with 2G/3G/IP/TDM knowledge from overseas?

Be it the local regulatory stuff or technologies or for that matter the mechanism of day to day work. We do not really have the skill set. Similarly, if the job requires to spend significant time in western europe or USA (For international sales or consultancy), again no choice but to get a person with real experience from those countries.


This is another area we need to improve. Now the world is changing pretty fast and with automation the jobs are getting simplified (and eliminated at the same time too).However we are still focusing too much on 'specialization' and going to narrow. Imagine if the same job can be done (with google help) by an engineer from vietnam/myanmar why would the employer (profit oriented) would like to pay higher pay to a local engineer?
So we need to differentiate ourselves and this is not a bad thing in my opinion. Government can help with policy/regulatory stuff to have specific % of local people but end of the day 'free markets' are driven by profits.

In a nutshell, 

SingTel m-Commerce or mCash

Source: SingTel Website
So there is one more option for people to remit money out of Singapore and this is from SingTel.

It is expected to be launched in a few days time and the first place will be Philippines or Globe GCash. This is a good 'try' to expand in to new business areas. However I am not sure whether this is another 'try' which is going to be short lived.

The market is there and Philippines getting 21 Billion dollars (US) in remittances. In Singapore, I don't have the stats but some what old document shows the estimates to SEA from Singapore are around 4-5 Billion Dollars (Source) in 2005. I'm sure this figure is easily doubled and if I take 10 Billion now and 50% of it going to Philippines it'll be ~ 5 Billion.

Other way is by looking at total number x average remittance. Which is ~100,000 (80,000 FDW + 25,000 other permits) and in an average if they are sending $ 250 / month that would be close to $ 3 Billion / Year.

Question is what % SingTel or other telco's can get from this amount. If it's even 3% that's going to be wonderful for SingTel.

Based on my observation, typical remittances are depending on "other party" or "recipient" rather then the "sender" convenience. If the recipient prefers to use GCash or Gcash channel this might be a success. If the other party prefers to go for normal channel, then this is going to be few weeks/months publicity.

So Globe customer base is approx 30 million and market share is ~ 30-35% in Philippines. Also in rural areas (where I guess the recipients are located) their presence is not as strong as PLDT. So this could be a negative point for them.

Overall if Globe can execute this well, this will bring some additional cash to SingTel bottom line. If Globe fails, this will fail.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sugarsync - Dropbox alternative

If you are looking for >2GB space given by Dropbox, you've plenty of choices. Google Drive (5GB), SkyDrie (5GB) but I bumped to this service called Sugarsync and the best part of it is the device compatibility. The experience is awesome and right now they have a deal where you forward the invitation to 20 people and you get 2GB absolutely free. Yes, that's right. You'll get it even if your freinds didn't subscribe to sugarsync.

If you need more you can upgrade to 30GB or other options and the prices are much more reasonable too. Give it a try and

Just click here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

SilkAir to operate flight from Singapore to Visakhapatnam

Source: Hindu

Finally.. What a great news. It's been a pain for people traveling to Vizag (aka visakapatnam) to/from Singapore.  The nearest airports are in Hyderabad & Chennai which is approximately 600 & 800 km far. This will take easily 12 hours journey on a train. The catchment area is pretty huge and I wonder why there is no direct flight. People from East Godavari - southern districts in Orissa is pretty much connected with Vizag and this is going to be a pretty good news for them.

Hopefully silkair will release the schedule soon. At this time, there is no news/schedule in SilkAir website.

On a side note Tiger too started a flight from Singapore to Hyderabad. Though Silkair runs a daily service to Hyd, Tiger going to be a good news for people in Hyd. Best wishes guys..

Prices are rather reasonable (of course timings sucks as usual being a budget airline) with a two way tickets are going from ~300+ depending on season, time of booking. This is excluding all baggage, or meals etc.

Update: Silkair just published the rates.Prices are SGD-538. Not too bad if you can go to Vizag directly and save almost a day in train / bus journey.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Singapore Airlines - Need to improve, re-invent and face the bigger threats

When we say SQ or Singapore Airlines, every singaporean and resident will take some proud in it. Be it setting the standards in service or innovating SQ led the way for years.

But there seems to be little improvement or lack of it recent years. While I certainly agree that it is very tough to continue the same (i.e. easy to go from 40 to 50; but 85 to 95 is tough) but the expectations are different and new levels are defined.

Still SQ is one of the six 5-Star Airlines in operation, the recent ranking (world airline & Skytrax) both showed SQ in 3rd position rather than in 1st or 2nd which it used to be for years. The top honors goes to Qatar & Asiana.

Based on my personal experience, the SQ seems to be missing the important point: Which is Customer Experience and attention to small or minor things.

For example, The headphones in Economy class is a First from SQ. Then it became a standard. However the definitions of in-flight entertainment changed and now the audio quality from these headphones became terribly bad. it's been years since the industry started to standardize to standard 3.5 mm audio jacks while SQ still maintains the 3-pin jacks. One may say 'adapter' or buy yourself. This defeats the purpose totally. If I're to do it myself then what is the differentiation from SQ?

These fine details and attention is what made SQ a world class carrier with superior service levels. Now I don't see the same from SQ. The machines are hardware became commoditized , but the software or the 'touch' from SQ can keep it different from others.

Oh yeah, I should talk about food too (If not I can't do justice to Singapore). For heavens sake change the wines. Getting so bored with the wines collection.