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How will travel industry transform post-Covid

Unlike philosophers, journalists and teenagers, the world of entrepreneurship does not permit the luxury of gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future. An entrepreneur’s world is instead made of MVPs (Minimum Viable Product), A/B Tests, launching products, features or services and gauging / measuring their reception in the market to arrive at verifiable truths which can drive the business forward. Which is why I have never written about my musings or hypothesis about travel industry – we usually either seek customer feedback or launch an MVPised version and gather market feedback. However, with Covid-19 travel bans across the globe, the industry is currently stuck – while a lot of industry reports and journalistic conjectures are out, there’s no definitive answer to the way forward. Besides there is no way to test your hypothesis since even the traveller does not know what they will do when skies open. So, I decided to don my blogger hat and take the luxury of crystal gazing

Bookstore of the future has arrived

I had written about an aspirational bookstore idea almost 2.5 years ago - I am glad that the idea is taking root and no other thanthe big daddy of e-commerce Amazon has come up with physical bookstores which encompass some of the ideas I proposed in my original piece.  Here are some news items along with excerpts on this.  Amazon officially opened its first brick-and-mortar store in New York City.  Every single book is turned to face outward, so that you can shop with your eyes--which only confirms that people do, in fact, judge books by their cover ... customers can find recommendations based on other books, just like they would when shopping online. On entire walls, customers will find books side by side, with arrows pointing and instructing, "If you liked this, then you'll probably like this." .. the tag under each book provides customers with a real Amazon review, along with the total number of reviews and star rating Source: https://www.inc.com/nic

The Bookstore of future

In my previous post , I outlined why the bookstore, even if inefficient in selling books, has reasons to exist beyond mere 'sales'. If the bookstore is to continue to exist, without the inherent value of selling books, it needs to find other ways of generating cash flow, and that too while it serves the other purposes outlined. But let me first recap the purposes which a book store should serve: Serendipity and discoverability of books  Browse a book before buying  Meet like minded people One key element which is implicit to the above is quiet surroundings. The list sounds more like the requirements we have from community libraries than from bookstores, but indeed good bookstores are no less than libraries! So let's start in the reverse order: To satisfy #3, the bookshop needs to have sufficient real estate which should be utilized through a combination of large seating area - preferably a coffee shop - and enough room between the aisles for customers to

The Lost World of Book stores

Indie book stores have seen a revival around the world; In US, numbers increased from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014 http://t.co/gWKLGZCiIQ — Nikhil Kulkarni (@kulkarninikhil) September 12, 2015 This article in Mint  made me think of the dying trade of bookstores, which as a bibliophile pains me.  Independent book stores have been downing shutters for a few years now - Borders the iconic bookstore chain - its Oxford street store was a landmark (even tourist attraction for Bibliophile Asians like me where I have spent couple of Sundays just reading) - shut shop in 2009 ; Fact & Fiction a similar iconic store in Delhi shut shop  recently. Some non-bibliophiles wonder why are bookstores needed when you can buy any book online much cheaper? Well, (at the risk of sounding politically incorrect) any woman would tell you why - the pleasures of Window shopping! Yes indeed - for bibliophiles, bookstores offer the same pleasures of serendipity - discovering a new book in a compl

Thoughts on a Sojourn - Part II

Continued from here . I did whirlwind tours of Bangalore and Chennai in December, went to Singapore to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and then to Ratlam to attend a wedding. Singapore deserves a separate post, but here are my thoughts on Bangalore, Chennai and sleepy Ratlam. Bangalore Bangalore is fast changing, my last lengthy visit to the city was in 2006 - in 4 years Bangalore has changed - the metro track running all along MG Road has changed the way the city center looks now. I could not recognize the square which I so often roamed around last time, until I noticed that the mall on the corner had 'Forum' written on it. Nice to see that the Bangalore metro quietly seems to be moving faster than its much publicised contemporary the Mumbai Metro.  And the 9km flyover that connects Electronic City to the city is an absolute charm - travel which used to take 2 hours can now be zipped in a cool 25 minutes! There are some things that still haven't changed or

Thoughts on a Sojourn

I have been busy off late and here's why - for Diwali we (me & my wife) went to Vadodara and drove to Bhopal with my parents and brother, the last 2 days of Diwali were spent at Indore; on my return to Mumbai I made a trip to Shirdi and office work made me travel to Bangalore - Chennai lined up next. Posted below are my thoughts from my sojourns: I have posted similar thoughts earlier under the same title. You can read them here . This time, I plan to restrict my post to a reality-check and not suggest any solutions. Gujarat Narendra Modi has been hailed for his development model across the country and rightly so - Gujarat boasts of fantastic infrastructure - urban or rural. From Expresshighways between major cities to BRT in Ahmedabad or roads in smallest of villages - Gujarat's prosperity is quite evident. This also manifests from the habits of Gujarat's rural folk who prefer commuting to cities on a daily basis than emigrating to them. What I am not sure is that i

Weekend Trips and Google Maps

I am a self confessed Fan (yes with a capital 'F') of Google and its products - my GMail remains open on my laptop as long as it is switched on; I visit Google to reach every 9 in 10 websites I visit; I save most of my documents as GMail attachments or Google Docs; all the websites which I manage are managed through blogger.com; and almost every time I drive to a new place, I use Google Maps ! The resolution and detail on Google Maps for India has improved a lot since I first blogged about MapMyIndia version of Indian mapping software (incidentally, the makers of MapMyIndia now power Yahoo! India Maps ). However, Google Maps has forged far ahead of Yahoo! Maps or MapMyIndia thanks to its colaborative features - most of the landmarks and addresses which I find on Google Maps are tagged or identified by users themselves. This kind of crowdsourced mapping info makes Google maps an ideal tool to find anything from businesses (say CD Shop in Powai) to picnic spots and weekend geta

Mumbai-Delhi-Rae Bareli-Delhi-Mumbai

Yeah! That’s what I have been doing in the past 3 days – having spent all nights on Train berths rather than any beds.  I left Mumbai on Aug-Kranti Rajdhani on Friday evening for Delhi, reached Delhi at 11 AM on Saturday. Milind had come up to pick me up from Nizamuddin railway station. On our way, I marveled at the well developed road infrastructure in New Delhi – the underpasses, overpasses, the big 8’s and big O’s creating a seamless flow of traffic at the junctions and crossovers. I stayed at to AshiMil’s place in Gurgaon for the day. This was my first visit to Gurgaon and I should say I was impressed - wide roads, huge open spaces, humongous buildings and malls and good road connectivity to New Delhi. If the development here is managed well, it may as well end up becoming the Shanghai of India (blowing Mumbai’s dreams!). Some essentials which they need to do: Expedite the metro connectivity to Delhi Decongest the internal road traffic (create multilevel flyovers, underpasses and

Trip Over - lets do a recon ...

As I prepare to leave Norwich tomorrow and the UK the day after, just trying to reconcile if I met all my personal goals (as they would call in corporate lingo) :-) I couldn't visit London as often as I had planned, partly because I got busy with work and partly because I kinda liked staying in Norwich. Norwich is a small town and staying here felt like going back to my childhood days at BHEL township in Bhopal. So anyway, not having time in London I could not meet a lot of people there. However, I did manage to steal a visit to Stonehenge , Windsor and Bath with Piyush. Then instead of spending a day at the St. James park reading a book - I did the same at the local park in Norwich. I spent almost two weekends in the park reading books - finished The World is Flat and Shantaram - would soon post a review of Shantaram. Finally, I did spend a day at the Borders book store but not the one on Bond Street-London, but the one at Chapelfield-Norwich. Though, my day was not very s

New Delhi or Las Vegas

Well ... not exactly the Vegas look - but this was a picture I took just next to the New Delhi railway station. .

Indian food rocking London ...

I am at one of my 'old' offices today - as I went to the cafeteria to collect my lunch, I was pleasantly surprised to see the addition of a new counter to the lunch area - Tiffin Bites: Indian curry food. The counter was serving Chhole, some paneer curry and roti & rice along with Indian pickles. Since I am on a brief trip, I decided to rather enjoy the typical British food items which I don't get back home in India - jacket potato & beans, croissants, Delis, Salads (with lots of Mayonnaise on it). But after a moment I realized that not just me, no Indian face (you can find quite a few in London at any place) was found at the Tiffin bites food counter. All of its customers were non-Indian. I'm sure, if it continues like this for another 5 years, the British will find Indian foods in their regular lunch and dinner, ahead of their own traditionals. (It would actually be a bad news for someone like me who would rather enjoy British food in Britain). I have also

In London

As some of you know, I am in London for a little over a month. Landed here on Saturday (10/05) evening. Strangely enough, as the flight flew over the city, across the Thames, the Tower bridge and the Buckingham Palace - I got a feeling of homecoming ! I felt somehow that this was also one of "my" cities; though I have stayed in London only for 6 months, it definitely felt like home. The same evening, went to Leicester square and barged into Wagamama's - one of my favourite eating places in London and had saien soba . It was great to be in Leicester Square on a Saturday night among the usual crowd and frenzy. Came back by a bus which took me through all the familiar places from Blackfrairs (where my previous office was) to Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral .... felt quite nostalgic remembering the times I spent looking around these places for the first time - 'twas then with some NITIE friends who also were in London :-). Sunday was mostly lazy, had

Roadies ....

Last Thursday one of my NITIE batchmates got married in Vadodara. My parents are currently stationed there, but coincidentally, they were off to our home town (Bhopal) on the precise dates when I was going to be there. So I hatched an alternate plan - along with Sabya and Arijit, I decided to spend 2 days driving around Vadodara. We started the first day lazily and started from home by about 11 for Pavagadh - home to a famous Mahakali temple. On our way we took a pitt stop at Sikander Shah ka Makbara (an ASI monument). Unfortunately, the ropeway at Pavagadh was under maintenance, so we could not visit the temple. So, we proceeded to visit Champaner where remains of an old capital city of Gujarat are located; it is today the site of the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park . The snap below is of the Champaner Citadels - a UNESCO world Heritage monument. By the time we finished off, the sun of Gujarat had extracted all energy out of us, so we headed back to Vadodara. We fel

Paradise!

We started the next day by visiting the St. Francis Church and Basilica – both facing each other. It was interesting to know that Velha Goa (means Old Goa) – an abandoned town today was a popular commercial hub in the medieval times with a population of 200,000. At St Francis Church Sabya and Shubham at the Basilica Church One thing that irked me about my visits to the church was that none of the artefacts were accompanied by plaques or notices detailing their significance. Let’s accept that none in the world today understands Latin (except historians and linguists) and if you want tourists to know more about historical places, you need to put descriptions around. I think this is something that the clergy need to be more concerned about rather than protesting against movies. Puratatva Vibhaag ke pathhar We moved to Palolem beach from Velha Goa – the breathtaking journey through the Ghats of Goa. And Paloelem is heavenly!! I think we would have planned spending more time ther

Dil Chahta Hai!

We reached Goa and contacted S. Dutta (our batchmate @ NITIE now with P&G) and he helped us arrange a Santro for our travel for the next two days. The next day started with a visit to the Chapora fort – where we had our DCH moment! We sat there for some time contemplating (while Shubham was busy cracking his PJs) and enjoying the scenery around. Dil Chahta Hai! The Trio! Humsafar! The next destination were beaches in north Goa – starting with Vagator and moving to Calungute and ending the day in the Panaji City at Miramar beach. First steps into water And its all into the ocean! The handsome hunk prefers to stay out! Miramar!! Came back to the Guest house, freshened up and then left to meet the Tapaswis (my friend M’s folks who stay nearby). I had Gilki pe pakode after a long long time, thanks to the hospitality of M’s Mom. Dusk on the beach ...

Go Goa!!

I am in Goa with Shubham and Sabyasachi for a 3 day tour. Technically this is my fourth visit to Goa - I visited Goa first when I was 5, then when I was 12 and then last year (for a company offsite). This is my first visit with friends - and frankly, I have been planning this getaway for almost 6 years now. I first planned a Goa trip when I was in 2nd year of my enginnering (2001) when DCH was released. But for some reason or the other it never worked out. My plan was rejuvenated when some friends planned a similar trip at the end of our NITIE tenure - but again the plan didn't work out. Finally, as a consolation I managed to go to Uttaranchal , last year. But the original plan for Goa was still in hibernation, and finally got activated this year. So here I am - in Goa for 3 days. Shubham and Sabya flew to Mumbai yesterday and we took the Janshatabdi from Mumbai to Madgaon today 5.30 AM; reached here about 4 PM - are staying in Dona Paola - almost half a Kilometre from the coas

Retreat @ Khopoli

Went to a outing with a few colleagues (and ex-colleagues) to a place near Khopoli . Our basecamp was at ' Tudor Retreat ' - a farm located by a Lake off Mumbai-Pune Highway. Tudor Retreat is surrounded on three sides by lush green forests and hills. The farm is a spread on 10 acres of land full with greenery, trees and plantations. We went to a waterfall about 30 minutes walk from the resort. Since I had wet my shoes playing football earlier - I trekked barefoot to the waterfalls. It proved out to be a session of rigorous acupressure - to be frank - 'twas was quite a torture; I am still nursing my feet. The waterfall was wonderful! Water was gushing from the cliff (about 50 feet high) with immense force - none of us could manage to stand exactly below the main waterfall. There was a smaller offshoot waterfall, which also was quite forceful - but just enough for us to take some acupressure on our head and back as well. It was raining, so unfortunately, none of us

Bhopal circa June 2007

Update: As a fellow blogger Bhopal-e pointed out, I missed the Bhopal buses (literally too, I haven't yet travelled in them). The Star Buses had been introduced in Bhopal before they were introduced in Mumbai. Also, the multicolored (all Web 2.0 colors used!) buses of Bhopal look much better than the mono-colored BEST star buses in Mumbai. Original Post I am in Bhopal - my hometown .. a lot is changing here and this time around the major changes that struck me were: 1. Radio In the past 3 months, Bhopal grew from being a single Radio channel town (FM Vivid Bharti) to a 4 FM Channel town. BIG FM (92.7), My FM (94.3) and Radio Mirchi (98.3) are already here - thats just one channel less than Mumbai! 104 Fever - where are you??? ;-) 2. Roadside Beauty Before you start getting ideas - I am talking about the beautification of road dividers and footpaths. Run along the road from MP Nagar (Ambedkar/ Board Office चौराहा) to New Market / TT Nagar - the dividers and the footpaths h