Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 3

Day 3: 22nd February, 2009
Day 3 belonged to Walmart. Woke up early at 6.30 AM (guess the jet lag is still not out). Sky Diving was cancelled today – it was the bad weather this time. Guess that is one thing that has to be there in the bucket list for some more time to come. Nevertheless, no regrets for that. The lunch was Mediterranean at Flowers - a place jointly owned by a European man and his Indian wife. The combo was well visible in the buffet.
Walmart as expected was huge. The main aim was to shop around a bit but it is a bad place to go when you don’t know what you have to buy. One gets lost in the massiveness. After struggling for a couple of hours we moved to an adjacent complex which was full of factory outlets of all possible brands. Some browsing around and after some coffee at Starbucks, it was decided to go to Redmond where Raka was putting up with his friends. Time for the 1st bus ride of Seattle. The one at NY was easier as it was more like a tourist bus with 3 main popular stops. This time around it was a local bus. Raka, the 2 day bus ride veteran was the guide. His friend’s place was like a typical bachelor house though more refined than the ones in India. We learnt Minimizer, a new card game – quite enjoyable I must say. The residential campus – just across Microsoft was quite similar to the Infy mysore campus. Or should I say Infy campuses are deeply inspired from MS. The return journey was independent of the veteran raka and after some struggle we were able to reach home – getting lost in the dark on the way.

1. There was a survey by Reader’s Digest that people in Mumbai are not courteous as compared to ones in US or Europe etc. Don’t know about other places but people here are definitely much much more courteous – especially in buses.

2. We threw away our bus tickets after completing one leg of the journey but the ticket here is valid for all journeys within 3 hours. On our way back, by chance we got into the same bus and the driver recognized us and updated us about this. He didn’t take any money and gave us new tickets for our 2nd leg of the journey.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day 2

Day 2: 21st February, 2009

Snoqualmie Falls

Well.. the jet lag effect had its say on the first morning in Seattle. After hitting the bed at 3AM, I remember watching the wrist watch at 6.30 AM last. And then as if something hit and it was deep slumber till Sreejith woke me up. It was 2PM and I had already said bye bye to plans of Sky diving on a bright sunny day.
Had breakfast errr.. lunch – a big chicken sandwich at Broadway. (Though they call something else a sandwich – what we normally know as hot dog kind of thing). Travelled to Snoqualmie Falls – a half hour ride South of Seattle. Did some hiking down to the waterfall there. Amid the nice chill. Then had coffee at Starbucks. One thing noticeable is the huge servings of quantity here – be it dinner, lunch or coffee. On the way back saw Anu’s hospital Virginia Mason – her working place to be precise and got to know the ultra modern processes and facilities available there. It was a trip downtown then. Seattle touches the pacific ocean so had a nice walk alongside it. We went to meet Anu & Vinay’s friends then. It was something like you see in HIMYM or friends – café below their flat. Someone sitting in a corner playing games on his mobile, others chit chatting and most of them with their laptops on coding, researching and having coffee. There are plenty of cafes in Seattle with a similar ambience. It was dinner time – Ethiopian this time. Nice food – with a similarity to Indian food. We had a big dosa kind of thing with Dal (2- 3 types), Paneer.. ok cheese etc around like a thali. And everyone gorging on it. Time to move to a sports bar – a huge complex with pool tables, TT tables, a huge video games section, Dance floor etc. You lose track of time in a place like this – after rounds of video games, pool and TT. That’s what pretty much ended the short day.

Breaking rules???

Insight: If everyone follows the traffic rules any place can look so good.
The laws are too many, well defined and well followed here. For example, you don’t cross the road wherever you like – only at a zebra crossing and only when the light is green for you. Imagine someone coming from Mumbai and told to follow these rules and regulations. No wonder it took me a couple of days to adjust to it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Day 1. Part 2

Day 1(20 Feb, 2009), Part 2: Seattle
This has to be the longest and the most eventful day of my life. The fact that I am writing it in 2 parts signifies that. Longest because we travelled through 3 time zones and every time moving backwards in the day and most eventful. Well.. does that need further explanation???
Anyways, so the flight to Seattle was uneventful – slept the whole time (It was night at that time in India). Anu and Vinay came to receive us at the airport as did Duong Dang, our student ambassador at GSEC. Sreejith and I came to Anu’s place while Duong dropped Raka and Ankit to his friend’s place in Redmond. With the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, it was a scenic ride to the beautiful apartment. Minimal furniture and cosy environs with a three side window giving an amazing view of the lake and the city on the hill beyond. Actually this part is quite similar to the house we had in Shimla where there was a view of the whole of shimla from the drawing room. After freshening up, it was time to try some new cuisines. It was Thai on day 1 - a meal which looked quite healthy considering the high percentage of color green in the food. We dashed quickly from there to watch Delhi 6 (quite amazing – coming from India and watching a desi movie within hours of landing). The theater was much more amazing - one that is hard to find even in India. Sunil and Ruchi – friends of Anu and Vinay joined us. Once you enter the compound, it doesn’t feel like its US. All Indians around, no English, typical long lines in front of the ticket counter. Once inside, any feeling left of being in US also goes. There is no seat number assigned so sit where you get a seat – typical jugads (“yaar, 1 seat udhar ho jaa, hum 4 log saath mein hain”) in the making. The 9 PM show hadn’t started and began half hour late – letting the theater fill up. I won’t comment on the movie here. After the show, 6 of us moved to Broadway café for some late night coffee, ice cream etc. The day ended quite late with lots of mails, replies and some photo uploading.

Insight: Nice exhibition of customer service by continental airlines. They knew 4 of us were on a connecting flight and were served special Indian vegetarian food and it was free for us while rest of the passengers or ‘customers’ as continental call s them has to pay for meal. At Seattle too, our luggage was brought out separately and we didn’t have to wait at the conveyor.

US Trip Log

Day 1(20 Feb, 2009), Part 1: NY

Newark Airport :

At Times Square

Just a day has passed since we left Mumbai and already so much has happened that it’s tough to believe.

Things started at Mumbai itself where I left our poster (brought for a competition) at the immigration desk. Realized it later after having gone through all the security checks and had to go back, reversing all steps and finally retrieving it. After multiple security checks, we finally boarded the aircraft. Raka’s row was different so he boarded late and with that came another news that he gave the wrong boarding pass (the one meant for travel from Newark to Seattle) for the Mumbai – NY flight. With that settled after some time, started the 16 hour long journey. There were plenty of movies on board (which I was quite excited to see initially) but eventually landed up watching only 1 and rest of the time listening to music only. 16 hours passed easier than expected. All the time it was dark outside, so was good that I got an Aisle seat. It was a first time being in an aircraft with 3 columns of seats.

After more security checks and questioning at the immigration desk in Newark, we finally settled down for the 8 hour wait to the connecting flight to Seattle. It was while waiting that we met Manisha – an Indian settled in Columbia. She was also waiting for a connecting flight and suggested we go out to see NY as we had lots of time on our hands. Raka had already proposed it but the fear of unknown had led to turn us down. After a bit of reluctance initially everyone agreed – Manisha had been to NY so the resistance was considerably reduced. The trip turned out to be a chilly and memorable one. Gloves were the first thing bought to beat the cold. In record time Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall Street, Statue of liberty (not upclose) were visited. Time spent at each place was minimal – due to cold and lack of time.

Managing to Hold on!!!

Some insights:

1. Desi help was readiliy available – from airports (all guidance about sight seeing in NY was in a Hindi/Gujrati mix) to buying gloves (maandwali to lower the prices in Hindi).

2. As we entered Grand Central station – one color that hit us was black. Everyone was wearing black – the preferred color of heavy over coats.

3. There was no clock at the airport. Surprising. Yes!!

4. There was no security at the front gate of the airport. Generally when you enter a airport in India, the policewala checks your ticket and then lets you enter. Nothing like that here. 

Writing this post @ Newark Airport

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Economics and Branding

Interesting to hear the word “Brand” in a class of Economics of Industrial Organisation. But it seems brand is in a way derived from the concept of monopoly – which you generally find in a Eco book.

Though Marketing, essentially has been derived from economics only but still it’s interesting to see the concepts merge. According to economists, Branding is a way of gaining “Artificial Monopoly”.

Monopoly is when you have the power to control prices. You are the Price Maker – i.e. you can set the price and then are able to sell everything at that price. By branding you are differentiating yourself and trying to positioning yourself a tad above the rest. You are trying to gain that distinct space in the minds of the consumer – or in other words a monopoly in the Mindshare – which will then give returns just like a ‘copy book’ monopoly.

A tradition Monopoly Market is not generally preferred as it results in an overall social loss. Hence many economists are against the concept of Branding or artificial monopoly too. They believe that an activity like advertisement or branding does not add any value – it does not increase production.

Well, just a contrarian view point. Though I am a die-hard fan of the concept of Branding !