Wednesday, September 21, 2011

(Cross posted from Byte Channel)

Of the many startups that try to build up a social network in one form or another, this one is different. It does not have games, apps, or sharing in circles, but has profiles and pages, and has an asymmetric sharing. Pages are for organizations and can be linked from profile pages of children, which can be followed by the second kind of members, the Godparents. is not just another internet startup. It is a platform that brings together thousands of underprivileged children in need of money for basic necessities like nutrition and education to willing donors. You would say there are numerous other organizations that do that, like CRY, Akshaya Patra, Smile Foundation et cetera. Godparents is different because it goes a step ahead and establishes a connection between the donor and the person.

By giving the child a name, a face, and a background story. And allowing you in making informed decisions on your donations, track where your money goes, how it is used, and most importantly how it impacts the lives of children that you choose to support, making a data-rich, transparent social-service-network specifically focussed at facilitating one-to-one financial support to underprivileged children.

Sample Preeti Upadhyay, who is a 10 year old girl studying in VII standard. She is good in studies and likes drawing, singing and reading stories. Her father is a daily wage labourer and mother a domestic help. She has two sisters and their parents meagre income is insufficient to meet her educational expenses. She requires a sum of Rs 8,600 per annum to take care of her school fees, uniform, books, and commute to school.

In addition to the above details, Preeti's profile page has a photo of hers, a list of her grandparents who have contributed towards her needs along with their contributions, and the NGO (with a link to the NGO page) that takes care for her.

So, establishes a three-way relationship between needy children, patrons, and NGOs.

A donor can go through the entire list of children's profiles and choose one or more of them to god parent. Every child has a total requirement and the amount left to raise. You may help a part or full of the remaining amount required. collects the money on behalf of the connected NGO, on which they have already had a due diligence done. The fund transactions are quite transparent with the incoming and outgoing funds listed on the site, including breakups of funds raised by NGO. Also accessible are regular updates on your Godchild's progress (through updates on child's profile) and the annual reports on the activities of recepient NGOs.

You can also connect to other godparents through their profile pages that have their brief bios with email ids and phone numbers If you feel good deeds should not be boasted, you can remain an anonymous Godparent. However, a public contribution adds to the transparency of the process. Your choice..

The novel idea was innovated by Shubham Shrivastava and Shivam Shrivastava. The creation and maintenance team for consists of a total of 17 volunteers, many of them IIT graduates and working in corporates in India and abroad. Apart from individuals, the effort has support from a few organizations as well. Microsoft supports under their 'BizSpark Global Startup Program', and Flipkart provides free publicity by distributing bookmarks along with the books that they sell online. As of today, the site has 15 NGOs and 415 godparents.

All the best This will make a difference. I am signing up for a god parent right away.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sound Cloud

Cross posted from Byte Channel

If you thought Google Music was cool, take a look at Sound Cloud. While Google Music, very much like all the other apps by the search engine giant, does not create/store data, but crawls the web and filters relevant data, Sound Music lets you create and share your own sounds!

SoundCloud works in the same way as Flickr; the way you click, upload and share photos in Flickr, SoundCloud lets you record, upload and share your music. And yes, very much like Flickr, you will have to buy one of the annual subscription plans available from €29 to €500 if your total tracks go longer than 120 minutes. Very much like Flickr, when you upload your music, it gives a unique url to your upload, and hence you can embed it on any website you wish to.

A short trip to the homepage, and I was impressed with the design and especially the 'Timed Comments' in the form of a waveform sitting at the centre, which I later learnt in the tour, can be generated for comments on your shared sounds as well. The footer features a list of features that SoundCloud provides, including a visualization for your sound, direct links to share it on FB, Twitter, Blogger, Wordpress and other popular websites, and connect with over 100 apps.

This Berlin-based startup had the initial intention of allowing musicians to share recordings with each other, but later transformed into a full publishing tool that allowed musicians to distribute their tracks. Over around four years, it has evolved into a general-purpose music sharing tool. I was surprised to find recent Bollywood albums like Delhi Belly and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara had its music launch just yesterday, but the album was available on Sound Cloud 10 days ago. All these albums are also available for download. I am sure they keep encountering copyright issues from time to time.

Anyway, I find this a useful site, I only wonder why is it not that popular--not popular in Indian/American circles at least, since I had never heard/read of it till last week, but the kind of music shared on this cloud tells otherwise. Google tells me they have over 3 million subscribers! I don't see any publicity for it anywhere, probably because of the European base.

While I am sceptical about the copyright infringement part of it, recalling the fate of Napster, I believe SoundCloud has a huge scope as a platform for musicians, keeping to the original intent. And I wonder why do we still not have any such startup in India/US?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fly with Indian Rail

I was in for a surprise when I visited the IRCTC site to book rail tickets and this banner welcomed me. I was instantly reminisced of the chain mails last year stating the irony that IRCTC hosted an ad for SpiceJet.

Not bothering with the irony, I went ahead to explore the site, realizing that it is just one of the myriad OTAs Indian Railways has stiff competition with.

The simple looking UI is powered with ajax, and provides a highly responsive and smooth process of searching and booking your tickets. The rates are a couple hundred more than had you booked them directly with the airlines, but the 10% cashback reduces the total cost by almost the same amount.

However, I could not help wondering on these lines:

  • Why does Indian Railways have to sell out flight tickets? Granted, it is not a direct competition, but they are still modes of travel; and come to think of the comparative fares between IR and lost-cost airlines.
  • How many people would actually go for this sarkari subsidiary of the state-owned Indian Railways, which doesn't work for even rail bookings half the time?
  • How much money does IRCTC make out of the OTA business? Is it worth the share of travellers that is liable to shift towards flying?
  • Since IRCTC does not allow bookings during 11:30pm to 8:00 am, I was left to wonder if the air booking would work at night ;). I hope it would, let me try it out tonight.
Anyway, an appreciable attempt by IRCTC. IMO they could strike a good deal if they come up with a functionality that lets you combine the two modes of travel; connecting airport cities to smaller ones, providing direct bookings for the two legs of travel, the way 90di does. Lets wait and watch if the alliance between rails and skies opens up a new era of domestic travel.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

90di- Simple Search for complex travel

Crosspost : vcbytes

90di, a new travel search engine in the already flooded market of online travel sites, stands out because of its unique features. First, it is not a travel agency, it simply searches on various modes of travel and redirects you to the respective booking sites, much similar to ixigo. But the best feature lies in the integration between various modes of travel, bus, train, and flight.

With its simplistic google-like homepage sans any ads (I wonder what their revenue model is), 90 Degree Internet Travel lets you combine all modes of travel between a pair of destinations. The search bar is simple, again like google’s, and one can enter source, destination, dates, and modes of travel in plain English and the powerful parser parses them to generate a list of meaningful search results. Of course you have the form-like search page too.

Another interesting feature is the ‘near search’, which lets you search routes to lesser-known destinations, that do not have an airport, or even a railway station. Once you search for such a destination, 90di gives you a list of close by locations to choose from. These are the much-needed features that the founders of 90di used as the USP for their travel site and will definitely take them far and ahead of competitors.

One improvement that can be done in the inter-mode search is to include the transition time. For example, in Bangalore, a one-hour window between landing at BIAL and boarding a train at Majestic is utterly insufficient. Intra-city travel times can be taken into account to not show such a result.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blogger's Block

One may call it another chic excuse for not having blogged in a long time as against the drab I-was-very-busy and I-was-getting-married-and-honeymooning-in-Switzerland and I-was-trying-to-strike-a-work-life-balance excuses. Or one may dismiss it with the arguement that just because there is a term like that, you'd like to term your inactivity Blogger's block. And that just because you read about a condition like that, you'd condition yourself to being afflicted by it.

The condition of Writer's block, in its originality, doesn't apply to blogging, at least to Rambling Mutterings, but then I need something to mutter and scribble to break this spell of inactivity, and what is a better way of overcoming the Blogger's block by blogging about the Blogger's block. A little off track, here is a good list of tips I found for beating it.

The last time I couldn't blog for a long time I had attributed it to quarter-life-crisis. Things are pretty different now. I am happily married, have enough workload to keep me busy at work, have lots to write and share, especially in the travelogue part of my blog (yes, Switzerland indeed!), experiences of my new life and all; there are a few draft posts sitting in my blogger account that I did not complete and post lest they should have shooed away prospective brides. I had taken resolve in my last post three months ago, that was one after a gap of two months, that I shall try to post at least once a week. Almost all my readers have asked me at least once about my next post. I had many things and lots of reasons and enough time and peace of mind.

I still couldn't write.

If I try to analyse and list down reasons for it (in order to justify it to myself):

  • I actually had no time when I was taking nuptial vows and was touring the Alpine land.
  • Nocturnal habits die hard. I realized I was more creative in the dark, and now the nights are not that free, not that I complain.
  • I used to look forward to a large chunk of time to write a new blogpost: composing, Googling and Wikiing, editing, and then posting all in one go. Drafts remain drafts for ever. Don't get those large chunks now.
  • I try to come up with a well-written, complete piece of essay-like post, half-baked, hurriedly written posts are something I don't want to do.
  • Didn't watch any movies, thanks to the multiplex-owners' strike and an almost diminished torrent-downloading interest among colleagues, else would have come up with some interesting movie reviews.
  • I have too many topics to write upon, so when I pick up the pen, I lose interest by the time I decide which one to begin with.
  • Time and again, I have this urge to split up my blog into many, a travelogue, a movie review blog, a personal one, a photography one etc. This thought hinders me from writing under the general Rambling Mutterings umbrella.
and so on and so forth.

Let me wait and see if I am able to produce more posts soon. To start with, this one is an incomplete post ending with an incomplete senten

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ashes' Rashez

When I analyze the above graph that depicts the number of posts on my blog per month, retrospect on my state of mind, and read my previous posts, it gives, to some extent, an indication of my stress level over the past 21 months. There have been many months when I posted quite frequently, and when I look back, I find that I was stressed, frustrated, or depressed. That I was real busy and not low was only for the months of Feb and April 08. Blogging came as a real help for most of the other times. Writing gives me the kicks and acts as an anti-depressant. Related viral activities like Googling or Wikiing when required also helped keep the devil away from an empty mind.

Q4, 2008 saw me getting inclined towards reviewing movies, which was useful in killing up a huge chunk of my free time in more ways than one. Watch movies, explore IMDB and wiki etc, write reviews, find out more related movies, download them, watch them and review them again, thereby creating a circle I was very happy with. People started liking my reviews and I started getting requests for more reviews, making new friends in the process. Rambling Mutterings was proving to be a friend in need, indeed.

The onset of 2009 saw me giving lesser time for this friend I visited every few hours, and then one fine day, I abruptly didn't feel the need. No time for getting stressed/depressed. Rambling Mutterings did not complain but its readers did. Despite getting multiple reminders from many of you in the forms of comments, emails, and IMs, I didn't keep the friend whose existence depends on me. I had so many plans (ideas to write about) for it but nothing materialized.

There is a beautiful reason called 'rashez' behind the neglect, and I am not at all sorry. It’s a month and a half that I met her for the first time. I still remember the way she turned, bouncing her hair back, when I called from within my car waiting for her at MG Road. She was a bit lost initially but then grew comfortable by the end of our first date and things have never been the same since then.

Not only are our names similar and our birthdays concur, but our behaviour, likes-dislikes, and tastes match to quite an extent. We even share the same fooding habits; we have exactly similar favorites, though I need to develop in her a taste for Italian food, and teach her using chopsticks. I enjoy spending time with her, teasing her, irritating her, and then going back appeasing her. We love and quarrel, and keep pulling each other’s leg, I over her अशुद्ध हिन्दी, and she over my lots of other things.

Our story is more like an express, things clicked and everything happened so fast, we have already become the closest of friends. We have shared so much, gotten so close, that we often feel we’ve known each other for ages. I know she is The One. The One I can spend the rest of my life happily. I only wish I had met her earlier.

Anyway, I am not going to forget this good friend and would be loyal to it. Shall visit regularly and though I cannot promise, I shall try to write one post a week. Or lets start with three a month.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chandni Chowk To China

Under normal circumstances, I would have waited for Chandni Chowk to China to be chipped off on DVD or torrent but RS insisted and I could not resist. So we went off on a rather busy Sunday for this over-hyped, widest-US-opener-Bollywood-film, first-Indian-movie-shot-in-China, first-Warner-Bros.-Hindi-movie, that managed to make 33 crores on the opening weekend owing to expensive multiplex tickets in India and some more crores out of tickets sold in USDs.

The new mantra of Bollywood is: have star, will sell. It doesn't matter how much amount of crap you fit in. Yuvraaj, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Ghajini, and now Chandni Chowk To China. Akshay Kumar has carved his way into stardom no less than the Khans, in fact deeper than a few of them.

CC2C goes a step ahead in trying out something new. Blends of kungfu and bhangra, a rustic Delhi vegetable cutter and rural Chinese vegetable sellers, chequered shirts and flowered mandarin gowns add a lot of colour and vigour to the streets of Chandni Chowk and The Great Wall of China. Amid all this you'll find a bumpkin of Akshay Kumar duped into travelling to Chinkiland and falling into a kumbh-ka-mela-separation-revenge sequence that is intelligently weaved into funny antics and a few serious action scenes after a prolonged practice session.

The opening scene of the war on the Great Wall of China had actually thrilled me. Brilliantly shot in shades of gray and a lot of mist, it reminded me of scenes in movies like Gladiator. However, that excitement slacked as soon as the scene shifts to the present Chandni Chowk. Zooming in and out of Delhi as Akshay flies up with smoke-propelling rockets up his you-know-where and falls down on earth, sets that do not quite look like Chandni Chowk, and very stupid TV ads, the movie moves on to a very jittery pace that makes you look lustfully at the Exit doors. However, the pace is checked as the plot shifts back to China and you are glad you didn't satisfy yourself.

If you liked one or more of Singh is King, Welcome, or Golmaal Returns, you will like CC2C's comedy too. You'll find Akshay Kumar blabbering and jumping with his gaon-waali-moustache and punditji-plait, using physical jokes a la Jim Carrey, though much more gimcrack and much less witty. Akki is the only one acting funny though, most of the other characters are serious and genuine, though humour has been attempted by mocking Chinese stunts you'd seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the like. A few of these and other comic stunts would look good only in Tom and Jerry. In short, a lot of nonsensical comedy in a make-believe setting.

Deepika Padukone simply looks stunning in both her Indian and Chinese avatars. The long-legged lass kicks butt the martial arts way where she looks as sexy as Charlize Theron in Aeonflux, though her newly-developed skills could have been used for a longer screen time. Ranveer Shourey wastes himself being a loser sidekick the way pal Vinay Pathak did in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Actors like them should not try to enter mainstream cinema; they know they cannot look better here, these roles do not demand good acting, and they lose the already niche audience their kind of cinema has.

The music is mediocre, and I had dismissed it initially. But when you keep listening to it, you start liking it. The extra rap song by Akshay was fresh, and the mixing of Chinese rhythms added a new form. The melodious Tere Naina is pleasant to hear to, a few others by Kailash Kher.

Overall, CC2C can be a one-time watch that will sure fetch you some giggles and laughs. Talk of cinema that will be remembered, and you'll have to be content that films like Chupke Chupke and Andaz Apna Apna were made only in yore. Watch it out in a light mood with friends and you might agree for a 6 on 10.

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