How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Aadhaar Card

Aadhar card india

It took me a few months to get my hands on my Aadhar card. But once I had it, there were no emotions to express my joy. After moving to a new place, it became my only valid proof of residence. That means I could sign up for an internet service, get a new post-paid mobile connection, or even open a brand new bank account.

One ID to rule them all. Certainly.

According to the numbers, around 88% of the Indian population has already signed up for an Aadhar number. Two things that helped achieve this number are benefits linked exclusively to Aadhar subscribers by the government, and secondly the ease of signing up for one.

But Aadhaar isn’t all that green. It is the world’s biggest biometric database which makes it more attractive for security breaches. Privacy remains a strong concern for a large chunk of the Indian population given how we don’t have a single solid privacy law in the country.

Another thing that annoys most people (and sometimes me as well) is the way the government keeps on making Aadhaar mandatory for key services. Just yesterday, we got to know Aadhaar would be mandatory for filing taxes now. If you thought having a PAN was enough, think again. That’s not all. The government is keen on linking Aadhaar to all bank accounts, and in all probability a major chunk of all other things one can imagine.

The next note-bandi might be just Aadhaar-bandi

Aadhaar will basically serve as an easy identifier for the government linked databases. This will also include all financial holdings for citizens, which was earlier tied to PAN. Imagine all medical, financial, government records tied to one single identification number in the near future. It sounds convenient but it’s equally scary too.

The current government which loved to make all sorts of jokes about the whole UID project is now keen on making it a grand success. The Supreme Court doesn’t want the government to extend support for Aadhaar in a way that makes it mandatory but the government is the legitimate mafia. They continue to find loopholes to bring Aadhar in everyone’s pocket.

But if you pack all your worries in a sack and think about the advantages you may just start loving Aadhaar. I don’t know if it’s the convenience of walking in to a mobile phone operator’s store, and walking out with a working connection in less than 30 minutes or getting banks to open a new account without multiple IDs or introductions from existing customers, all I know is Aadhaar has a grand vision to make our lives easier.

I do understand it will take a lot more for the government to reassure the citizens. I do agree we need a strong privacy bill right now. I also know we are highly likely to have security breaches and misuses going forward. All these still need to be addressed.

But for now, I’m happy to press my thumb against a fingerprint reader in the hope of better, and quicker services.

The Anatomy of an Online Sale

Who doesn’t love a good online sale? We’re all guilty of making useless irrational purchases every single time a major online retailer announces a promotional sale. I am probably one of the worst when it comes to online sales. The thing’s hit me so bad lately, I’ve decided to pen down my experience as well as my observations around each major sale. It’ll be alright if we’re not friends after you read this.

Each major online sale include four major components.
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The Problem With “Free Internet”

Who doesn’t like free internet? We all do. To be honest, we all love anything that’s free. Over the years we’ve somewhat realised that we all must pay a price for this label called free. Sometimes it means having a limited set of features and viewing ads as a part of the free experience (also known as the freemium model), and sometimes it means giving up personal information to access a freebie (like your phone number or business credentials).

If you seriously think about it, all the free stuff you get everywhere isn’t really free. But we’re happy as long as it doesn’t directly reach for our wallets.

We also love free internet. Be it at the airport or at the local coffee shop, we’ve started visiting places that offer free WiFi as a part of the package. You may be overpaying for a cup of joe but you certainly don’t mind since you’re getting a great deal overall. The internet you and I have come to love over all these years is about to change, and in a big way.

Airtel, India’s premier mobile and broadband services provider, is likely to pull you into its new platform called Airtel Zero. The company is marketing it as a “win-win” platform for both customers and marketers. But that’s just what they want you to believe. You, as a customer, will lose, marketers, startups and companies will also lose money in the process. It’s only going to be a win for Airtel.

Here’s how: Airtel will offer customers a chance to browse a specific number of apps and services completely free on its network. Yes, that’s free internet for you. That means you can download an app, use it as much as you’d like, and pay nothing as data charges for the app. The deal works even if you’re on a zero balance with a prepaid connection.

Now you may ask, how do I lose as a customer if I don’t pay anything? You lose because this promise of free internet for specific apps is only the start. The concept pokes fun at the net neutrality fundamentals. If you’re happy to use a bunch of apps and services for free, you should prepare yourself to pay extra for another set of apps and services later on in the future. It works much like what you currently pay for your DTH connection. Consider Flipkart as a free-to-air channel, and then Amazon as a paid premium channel. Now you see what I’m getting at?

Apparently Flipkart is one of the first partners Airtel has signed up for its Airtel Zero platform. The online retail giant’s apps will be free to access once Airtel Zero goes live. Those who support the move may call it a toll-free line to the internet, much like toll-free phone numbers, but you’re fine with that, don’t be surprised to pay ISD rates for websites and online streaming services in the future.

The whole concept of net neutrality needs customers’ support as of now. I’ll keep it as a separate post, but you should really go through this in case you feel alarmed reading the above. My only goal is to shake up a bunch of my non-techie friends and relatives in the process. Feel free to drop in your questions and comments using the form below.

Image credits: Flickr (Creative Commons)

To Uber, or not?

I remember the first time I came to know about radio cabs, I felt an instant connection. The ability to call for a cab, anytime and anywhere, and with a promise of well behaved English speaking cab drivers, it made everything feel so good. I think Chandigarh was one of the first few cities to experience radio cabs.

Even though they were more expensive here, it felt like a convenience no one else could offer. Fast forward several years into the smartphone-filled scenario, taxi apps like Uber, Ola, Taxi for Sure, and others took things to the next level. Being able to call for a cab right from the app itself, to tracking the current location, and even getting a decent discount on the whole trip — it was just too good.

But then we’re not really living a perfect world. Are we? This happened, and all hell broke loose. The incident shed light on how taxi app companies had discovered a major loophole, and were operating without following proper legal procedures. Delhi, and now even Chandigarh, have started banning these app based taxi services.

The Delhi Police officials claimed they didn’t know about the app before the incident. To make matter worse, Uber doesn’t even run a call centre necessary to ensure proper customer support. The cops had to install the app, demand a cab, and then asked the cab driver to take them to the company’s offices. That’s sad.

Uber isn’t new to controversies in the country. Earlier the company was accused to bypassing the mandatory two-factor authentication according to regulations laid down by the Reserve Bank of India. Uber did manage to get a lot of attention that time, and even some support from users who claimed that it was a dick move on other radio cabs’ part to accuse Uber.

The latest incident, and the subsequent ban has put Uber, and other taxi app based companies in the limelight. These companies have put in a significant investment across the country, and they will do their best to comply by the regulations. But when they do, after some time, will people still trust them? Will you trust them for a late-night ride while all alone?

From Now On Windows Phone Will Get All The Attention It Deserves At Microsoft

 

We all saw this coming, but no one expected a sudden sharp U turn. After announcing a massive layoff affecting 18,000 employees this year, Microsoft came out with a new strategy for its Windows Phone offerings. The company is going to pull the plug on Nokia’s feature phones and Android powered phones with immediate effect.

Nokia is known for its highly affordable, sturdy, and accessible feature phones. Microsoft’s mobile plans don’t include feature phones at all, and for them it’s more of a cost-cutting measure to drop off feature phones which are likely to go extinct in the near future. Microsoft will also discontinue Nokia X phones which ran a forked version of Google’s mobile operating system Android.

Microsoft’s Jo Harlow, who previously worked with Nokia and joined the company after the acquisition, posted an internal memo to Microsoft employees which revealed the company’s plans for its devices division. Harlow is now in charge of the phone business under the devices division at Microsoft.

In her memo, Harlow clearly mentioned that Nokia’s existing phones based on Series 40, Asha and even the recently launched Nokia X are to be put up on “maintenance mode,” with support for existing devices to be available for a maximum period of 18 months only. This ensures there will be no new feature updates on any of these mobile platforms in the future.

It’s quite clear that Microsoft would want to convert these customers into Windows Phone users. Microsoft’s goal, as mentioned in the internal memo, is “delighting our customers with Microsoft platforms, services, and applications through our hardware”. Apart from these platforms in particular, Microsoft will also axe the MixRadio service, ideally selling it off to third parties in the near future.

This means Microsoft wouldn’t be selling any phones, be it entry level or high-end, in the market that run any operating system other than Windows Phone. Microsoft may launch more high-end Windows Phone powered devices which are due to hit the market very soon. It’s worth mentioning here that Microsoft has effectively halved the Nokia workforce that joined the company from approximately 25,000 workers to around 12,500 only.

Image source: www.windowsphone.com

What Would You Do With A 128GB iPad?

128gb ipad

The 128GB iPad rumors didn’t stay in the air for very long. Apple just launched the 128GB iPad 4th generation with Retina Display even before pundits could pen down long blog posts on how it could be a good or a bad idea. Apple already sells 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants of the iPad. With a massive 128GB storage option, there’s a new era of opportunities to how you can use an iPad.

Most of my friends and some people I’ve talked to are now on the golden question – what exactly can you do with a 128GB iPad? That’s almost like asking Uncle Scrooge what he’d do with another billion dollars. Another question, a more specific one, that pops up is why would you need a 128GB iPad? I say, why not?

Apple understands the value of a 128GB iPad for professional users. The official press release states all kinds of amazing stuff those guys can do with more storage. Heck, with 128GB the iPad 4th generation now takes on the base model of the MacBook Air which includes just 128GB worth of storage on a SSD. The world will soon shift to iPad or a MacBook Air set of questions.

Personally, I think the 128GB iPad makes an amazing portable media machine. It’s not enough to hold your entire media library but it’s not very tiny either. It could just about hold enough entertainment, reading material and professional information that you need on a trip abroad or even for sync-once-and-forget at home use-case scenarios. The possibilities(excuse me for the cliche), are endless. The only thing worth considering, especially in emerging markets, would be the price tag.

So what will you do with a 128GB iPad?

Sachin: How We Lost Him

sachin retirement

Almost all of us have faced that familiar phenomenon called the ‘fair-weather friend’; people surrounding us during the good times, abandoning us in the bad times. The opportunists are the ones the mothers tell one to be most careful around: the glib talkers, the flatterers and the like. Almost everyone today has an axe to grind, and the level to which many a people would go to achieve some of those ends is truly remarkable.

That is how Sachin Tendulkar would have perceived the world around in the last days of his career as an ODI player. People ranging to his evergreen critics, to the gullible ones who believed that Ricky Ponting’s retirement was a sign for him to follow suit had long asked him to sheath his cricketing blade for good.
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The Evolving Indian Mobile Phone Buyer

[quote_left]For one, people weren’t asking for a Nokia phone. It’s true that Indians have worshiped Nokia like the Goddess of mobile phones for a long time.[/quote_left]The last time I walked into a local mobile phone store here, I could notice a significant change in the way people bought their phones. Now India is a huge country. A billion people just cannot fit into a single category of cell phone buyers. Everyone has their own needs and budget is one of the most important reasons for making a final choice here. Don’t worry I’m not going to write a thesis on the types of mobile phone buyers in India here. I’m only going to explain the segment I particularly found interesting.
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81st Academy Awards: And the winner is…

oscars 2009 predictions

And finally we have decided on our list of winners for the 81st Academy Awards. It was great to watch all nominated flicks and then vote for the best one. Here are our predictions for this year’s Oscars. Please feel free to voice your opinions and predictions in the comments section below.

[This is Part 1 of the predictions.]

Best Animated Feature Film

Nominations:

Bolt (Disney)
Kung-Fu Panda (Dreamworks)
Wall-E (Disney)
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Satyam Shivam Sundaram

A leading Indian outsourcing company Satyam had inflated it’s earnings and assets. A revelation made by the company’s co-founder and chairman, Ramalinga Raju, made Satyam the most talk about company of the day as it bought the company down to it’s knees. The Indian stock market roiled as the industry went into a turmoil. Raju made this revelation in a resignation letter he sent to the board of directors of the company on Wednesday.

As per Raju 50.4 billion rupees of the 53.6 billion rupees listed in the company’s assets for the second quarter were non existing. Now that’s a whopping amount of money. The incident could have some serious effects on the huge Indian outsourcing industry which is already experiencing economic slowdowns. Satyam employees now fear losing their jobs. It is obvious that Satyam would be acquired by a bigger company in the near future. So if you were thinking of getting placed in Satyam during this placement season, forget it.

So Mr. Raju tried to do an Enron in India and thought he could get away. Wait till they fry your ass in jail you moron. Satyam’s share prices fell by as much as 70%. The investors would be some angry people right now.