Archive for January, 2009
January 12th saw the launch of Bharthi Airtel in Sri Lanka. That tune which was so familiar on Dialog TV (ironic, I guess) began to feature on the local TV channels as well, with Sharuk Khan greeting Sri Lankans with a cheerful “Hello Sri Lanka”.
It was not long after this that another ad did the rounds – it features our very own Kumar Sangakkara talking about being shushed all throughout his life and now wondering why complicated mobile plans should stop him. Then those words (Unicode Sinhala required):
?? Airtel ??? ???? ????. ?? ???? Simple plan ????.
(Translation: I switched to Airtel. It’s a very simple plan). This was apparently considered by many as a betrayal, since Kumar had been prominently featured on the hoardings, advertisements of Hutch – one of the smaller players in the mobile telecommunications market.
Soon afterwards, my inbox received emails which features Sanga’s face and various products and that infamous tagline;
?? Nestomalt ??? ???? ????. ?? ???? Simple plan ????.
(Translation: I switched to Nestomalt. It’s a very simple plan). This played on Sanga’s present status of appearing in ads endorsing the malt drink “Viva” (which led not so long ago to the whole “??? ????? ?????????? Viva” fiasco) and the fact that Nestomalt is the competing brand.
?? Eva ??? ???? ????. ?? ???? Simple pad ????.
Translation:I switched to Eva (sanitary pads). It’s a very simple pad. Some wordplay involved here.
Then there was the email about Sanga switching to being vegetarian and how that’s a simple plan, while there also were various photoshopped images of him pondering the Dialog logo on his T-shirt during the match.
In addition to this sudden influx of anti-Sanga sentiment was our own office colleague who quipped (after hearing that Sanga had lost his wicket);
?? Pavilion ??? ???? ????. ?? ???? Simple place ????.
Translation: I switched to the pavilion. It’s a very simple place.
Ah… poor Sangakkara.
What seems to have gotten the goat (goats?) of some of Sri Lanka’s netizens is not so much the fact that the guy switched his endorsements from one provider to another, but the fact that he had the cheek to actually say so on national television. After hailing the guy for his forthrightness, I think it’s pretty unfair to criticise him for being forthright about changing his endorsements. After all, endorsements are surely a major source of income for professional cricketers in Sri Lanka.
That said, this has caused some negative publicity for both Sangakkara (for switching sides, so to speak) and Airtel (for poaching Sangakkara).
I just hope that this undue criticism has had nothing to do with his recent performance at Dambulla.
On a completely different note, this is my first post to include Sinhala. Although it makes me cringe to see the kombuwa follow letters in unicode Sinhala, it was the easiest way to express these sentiments online (plus, my limited requirement didn’t involve much opportunity for the attack on Sinhala). Hat tip to Shaakunthala for having the Real Time Font converter from UCSC and the Local Language Resource Portal links on his blog, without which this post wouldn’t have been possible.
UPDATE: Sangakkara has a short and sweet reply on this issue at this blog, here. (thanks Don!)
Occasionally, I surf the web using a Suntel CDMA connection. On such occasions, watching paint dry would possibly be less time consuming. Even with images switched off, Firefox takes some time to load pages. That is why I want to find out where I can get my hands on the much vaunted Airtel data package with its low low rates… (of course, it could be marketing gimmick that turns sour later on…)
Until then, whenever my surfing requirements don’t really require logging in for any services and are purely information based, I use Lynx. With its simple requirements and text only interface, I feel like I’m at my old 486DX machine sometimes. It’s also pretty zippy with the information, making good use of the bandwidth.
Information doesn’t always have to be all images and colours… although there’d be no point in putting that Flash tag cloud (wp-cumulus) on the sidebar if everyone was on Lynx.
I came across an article on the Freakonomics blog today about the difference between autorickshaw (3-Wheeler in Sri Lankan parlance) drivers in Delhi and Mumbai.
According to law, autorickshaw drivers must only go by the meter reading that is reported after a commuter’s trip is finished. However in Delhi, there are hardly any autorickshaw drivers who go by this law, and instead they quote nefariously high prices. In Mumbai though, no matter what the time of the day or night, the drivers go by the meter.
The reason for this difference put forward by the writer Abhishek Rawat (himself a reader of the Freakonomics blog) is simply competition – there are more 3-wheelers in Mumbai than Delhi and there are less alternatives in Delhi. As a result, the commuters in Delhi are more likely to pay whatever the three wheeler driver asks for and get to wherever he or she is headed.
Stephen J. Dubner put forward the following first three reasons, whereas the other reasons were also submitted in the comments;
- Differences in law enforcement in Delhi and Mumbai
- Whether or not drivers belong to a fleet or operate independently
- The possibility of differences in professional culture (Abhishek discounted the notion of cultural differences).
- The government-set rates are not sufficient for the drivers in Delhi to make a profit
- Differences in the commuters’ economic status in the two cities – Delhi having wider gaps between the rich and poor while Mumbai has a middle class more interested in value for money.
This reminded me of the All Island Three Wheeler Drivers Welfare Association (Meter taxis, contactable on 0712-500800) which has gained a lot of Word of Mouth popularity these days. Here in Sri Lanka there are plenty of three wheelers around. The profession isn’t viewed very favourably, which led to the formation of the Association, as can be seen in Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera’s article about the Meter Taxis from the Sunday Times.
Calling the hotline mentioned on the website revealed that the rates are now Rs. 50/- for the first kilometer and Rs. 30/- for each thereon. Given the current situ, I’m wondering if they qualify for the reduced rate of petrol for three wheelers announced for the 2009 budget. They certainly meet the requirement of having a meter.
So what are the chances of mass adoption of meters by the Sri Lankan three wheeler drivers? Pretty slim, I think. My reasons?
- Regulation and the lack of it. Apart from registration (due mostly to the negative reputation of the profession) with the local police, there doesn’t seem to be any other type of regulation. Without any formal rules, I’m not convinced that many of the three wheeler drivers will adopt using the meters.
- Peer pressure – not everyone wants to give up the opportunity of fleecing prospective customers, especially foreigners. With most three wheelers operating from “stands” where groups of 3 or more operate, the guy with the meter is likely to be ostracized. This will result in resistance to using a meter. For example, anyone picking a 3 wheeler from near Odel or Majestic City will be surprised at the rates charged by other three wheelers.
- Lack of information. In the article mentioned above, the profit per day from running with a meter is given as Rs. 1,500/-, while there is also mentioned a greater demand than the Association can meet. However, I don’t think many three wheeler drivers are aware of this.
- Lack of customer pressure. People who use three wheelers often would have honed their tactics (or Tuktics) for getting the best rates. Some people will travel with only a selected few, whom they contact on their mobile numbers and are guaranteed reasonable rates. This leaves the occasional traveller to deal with and that probably doesn’t warrant the trouble of having to fix a meter.
However, given the popularity of the three wheeler as a means of transport and the difficulty in parking in Colombo during the day (and sometimes night) there’s a likelihood the situation will change in favour of the meter. That should benefit the traveller by means of more economic transport, while also providing the owner/driver with more business. More business because the hassle of bargaining is taken out and transparency in the pricing is created.
Not so long ago, a number of people fell for a clever prank. An email did the rounds, promising its forwarders the opportunity to win an Apple iPhone along with the launch of AirTel. Of course, everyone wants an iPhone, so Thomas, Richard and Harold’s local counterparts were sending out the email with some obscure gmail account on copy. I managed to dig out the one I got:
AirTell Launch in Sri Lanka
Date: 13 th November 2008
Venue & Time : To be notified via public media.
As part of our launch, we have decided to give away THREE Apple iPhones and TWO Life Time Connections to FIVE lucky winners.
These prizes will be give away as part of our promotional campaign and winners will be unanimously selected based on the most number of times this mail has been forwarded.
What will you have to do ?
To be eligible to win the above mentioned prizes, all you are required to do is to forward this mail to as many people as you can and make sure you copy it firstname.lastname@example.org . The winner will be selected on the 9 th of November 2008, and details on how to claim the prize will be notified via email.
.Apple iPhone is a registered product of Apple Inc.
Best Regards Sanjaya Weerakkody
Senior Public Relations Manager
AirTell Sri Lanka
I’m not even sure that there is such a person as Mr. Weerakkody, or even if his name was added later by someone editing the email with the intention of forwarding it.
The general response to the email was very simple – at least 95% (a guesstimate of mine) of the people who got that email forwarded it to their friends and everyone else in their address book. Not many stopped to consider the validity of the offer or even wonder why, when it’d cost no more than sixty dollars (on average) to own a domain and email address, a massive company like AirTel would have to resort to using Gmail accounts. That’s where the true genius of the email lay = the company being launched was “AirTell”, so in any case no one could really blame the real AirTel if no one won or something unethical was going on.
I wrote back to some of the people who forwarded this email to me and kept everyone else on copy when I pointed these things out. Not everyone felt good after seeing the issues I pointed out and there was an initial period of unpleasantness until I’d explained my intentions in using the “Reply-to-all” function. All I was trying to do was reduce the spread of false information.
However, it’s been no big surprise that as of late my office email address will report at least one email advertisement per week in the Junk email folder. This ad will have the unsubscribe address as “RemoveAds@gmail.com” which leads me to suspect that whoever sent out the initial email has stepped out into the world of Email Marketing and is probably charging someone for the facility to intrude on my mailbox with their message.
As this is not the first time I’ve had my email address shared with a third party without my knowledge, I’m thinking that Email Marketing seems to follow a process like this;
- Create Gmail or similar disposable account. Let’s call it the deposit account (DA).
- Compile email with details of fake competition. This should ideally play on the news of an upcoming event or on basic greed.
- Send out the email, asking people to keep the DA on copy.
- Collect the email addresses that flow into the DA and compile a “comprehensive database of email contacts” with which you can “deliver advertisements to the right crowd” or some similar market-speak.
- Charge people for the Email Marketing campaign and earn money while doing so.
The way I see it, this kind of marketing is bad for both the advertiser and the person doing the mail address harvesting.
Why it’s bad for the advertiser
Pretty simple really – I’m (in this case the user/recipient of the email) being interrupted/having my privacy intruded by someone without my permission. I’m also probably not interested in what the advertisement is all about, so that’s money wasted. Online, most people are unlikely to welcome advertisements that are forced on them. When it tends to land in their inbox, it’s pretty likely going to end up being deleted without even being read.
Why it’s bad for the Address Harvester
For starters, you’re not quite as anonymous as you think you are. If I call up the advertiser and casually ask about who he’s paying in order to bother me, I’d be able to find you. Then I can easily tell the world about how you resort to unethical practices in order to earn money… not a pleasant situation. A bit of the proverbial dung drop in the milk pail, I think. Add to this the possible legal issues – I’m not sure if there’s much legal recourse for fake advertising victims, but if the party has enough clout I’d not want to be on the receiving end…
So called for its “opt-in” approach to marketing of products and services, Permission Marketing is a concept that needs to be popularised in Sri Lanka. Given that many people still don’t have proper internet access, other internet based marketing methods might not have the same user access as email; many companies will give their employees email, but not internet access. When this is the case, building a sense of trust and respect from the target market is what will set the email marketer apart from the rest of the crowd, IMHO. There’s no point in setting out to make money when you are sabotaging your chances of continuing to make money.
The first thing anyone who’s set up a blog would want to know… well, generally it would be something like “How many people actually check this out?”. This is where web statistics come into play.
Previously I used Tracewatch, which was quite a handy piece of work. Now I use the WordPress Stats plugin, as well as an account at Statcounter. However, apart from Twatch (which I dropped since it doesn’t seem to have been updated in some time) the other two have been a little vague for my tastes.
Therefore, I looked around and found a free stat counter – AWStats. A little searching on the net led me to the easiest method to install AWStats on the Dreamhost wiki and also the method to install the GeoIP plugin for AWStats to figure out from where my visitors are coming from.
The only additional piece of work I did was setting up a .htaccess file to the otherwise cumbersome link to view the stats. By setting the DirectoryIndex to a PHP file, I then added the header(Location: “URL”) line to direct to the stats link.
Voila! I now have a working set of stats with the GeoIP plugin working…
As I may have pointed out before, the consistent feature of this blog has been upgrades to WordPress and its plugins.
Rarely have I taken the time to actually add anything of note to this blog.
Beginning May 2005, Nisadas was launched from home on my dial-up connection and featured a mashed up theme that borrowed (stole?) heavily from various existing themes that I thought were interesting.
After that, I managed to squeeze in a few posts such as;
- Small is beautiful
- Multum in parvo
- Identity crisis
- The Horton Place Progressive Front (possibly one of my better posts)
- Quis custodiet ipso custodes? (which combined my penchant for latin headings with my interest in Pratchett)
- The Magic of books (the Kindle wasn’t out yet)
- Life on the silver screen (my first movie review and the first time I went for a premiere. It was weird sharing the theater with so many sri lankan actors, ‘cos I didn’t know any of their names – just their faces )
- and my most viewed post – HSBC (SL) doesn’t want me to use Linux
After that, most of my posts came few and far between, with random surges whenever I got some free time (which was spent mostly fiddling with the themes and plugins).
During all this time, I’d been hosting at NearlyFreeSpeech.net which I have to say is the best bet for anyone looking to start out hosting their own domain for their blog. Then came a special offer from Dreamhost which sounded pretty good so as of January 4, 2009 Nisadas found a set of new nameservers. Within a few days though, the server this was hosted went down. It was back up again and I’m sure apart from a few spambots, no one else apart from me noticed. Which is ok – I’ll give DH a go and see how it fares. If it doesn’t impress me, I’ll be back at NFSN.
Installing WordPress 2.7 and getting the fabulous Amazing Grace theme working (after getting it off NFSN) was a breeze. I’m quite impressed by the ease of exporting the blog using the settings. Also, WordPress 2.7 looks even better than before. Very Web 2.0 so to speak (I remember the older 1.5 UI). The facility to upgrade from within the blog comes quite in handy, especially since I’m not much of a hacker anymore.
So my goal for 2009 is quite simple – at least one post a week, for a total of 52 in 2009. Let’s see how that goes.
I’d ask you to put your seatbelts on, but this is going to be more like a ride on a bullock cart, so no worries, y’all
There are very few occasions when the customer actually is on the winning end of a dispute with a company. However, it would seem that a guy called Howard Schaffer actually managed to get his own after endless delays in getting his problem fixed from a phone company.
Barely a day after reading Cerno’s post on Airtel coming to Sri Lanka (and the related post on Dialog customer service) I came across the story of how Howard Schaffer billed his phone company for time wasted (via Yahoo). Kudos to the company for actually paying up, though. It could’ve just hung back and let the whole thing blow over (after maybe putting the problem to rest). Instead, they dealt with the negative publicity created (Schaffer is a PR guy who took his tale to the local media – nasty combo, methinks) and made something positive out of it.
I’d hate to think of how they deal with any future problems, though – they’d be flooded with bills from people whose time they waste. Probably the best incentive to upgrade their customer service, I guess.