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Owning a Car or taking an Uber

Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Uber, built his cab-hailing startup with one ambitious goal: to stop people from buying cars. And while his ultimate goal could well be achieved globally, India would remain an exception. New research by Swiss investment bank UBS says that ride-on-demand (RoD) apps won’t stop Indians from buying their own…

via The simple reason why Uber and Ola can’t deter Indians from owning cars — Quartz

The investment bank UBS research might be saying that Indians still want a car, however, I still prefer taking an Uber ride over driving. Here’s why –

  • I can sit and read while the car is happily en route to my destination. Taking calls and thinking through things is a breeze.
  • Labor as well as Time & Material are saved
  • Dependency on cash is more or less removed. After demonetization, I have reduced my cash dependency completely, and I am loving it.
  • Whereas, its great to have a car and a driver handy to do on random jaunts like drop the kids to school, go for shopping, et al … however, an on the spot Uber is almost as good

Indians would treat the car as a status symbol, perhaps in the interiors they still do – however, with parking space coming at a premium (last I checked, a parking space in Nariman point as expensive as a 15 Lakh INR) taking an Uber is just more convenient.

Car Customization

In India, the moment you say the words car customization, the name Deepak Chhabria automatically crops up. DC used to be the pioneer of car tuning and modding in India. Back then, changing the looks of your car was not considered as the “in thing”, and people almost always made do with the factory settings.

With the successful launch of the Need for Speed series, the Indian market has slowly warmed to the idea that even cars can be customized and do not have to be kept in their pristine form in which they had been shipped from the factory.

Yes, we have finally started tearing away that smelly plastic from the upholstery and consider sticking on cute little dog stickers on our bumpers as well!!

The really elite ones do the smart thing and get a better looking car from abroad, and then go ahead and get customizations which are worth that car! In the digital era, almost everything that you purchase has a little CPU of it’s own … yes, even the fridge knows when to milk goes bad! Then it comes hardly a surprise that most cars are also smart cars. And smart cars require smarter customizations and mods.

This is where brabus comes into picture. Brabus is a German company which absolutely rocks the customization scene. Especially if you own a Mercedes. In fact, in the past the BBC has covered the brabus in their automobile show, Top Gear. An excerpt from one of their episodes,

It’s unlikely, but should you find the standard Mercedes SL600 wanting in the power department, mentalist German tuning firm Brabus may have the answer. By throwing away most of the standard Merc’s motor, adding new turbochargers and fiddling with the many onboard computers, it’s created the most powerful convertible car ever.

Now, why would I recommend that you definitely get this for your Mercedes? Well, if you can afford to get a custom made car through customs, then it has to be either a Mercedes, a Ferrari or better yet, a Maybach. Interestingly enough, Brabus do tuning for all these brands. So the next time you are thinking of car tuning, don’t say DC … say Brabus :)

Insuring a Close Shave

It was raining heavily the other day, and I was stuck in traffic. The road which other-wise would take me home in under ten minutes, was jammed with traffic. The incessant rain combined with braking every single meter was a cocktail for disaster. I was slowly losing my patience and was considering parking the car and walking home getting drenched in the rain.

Let me tell you about traffic rules in such cases … Mumbai is generally a well behaved city in India (if you consider the traffic) … but once monsoon hits, then the rules get flushed the drain and the roads become a battlefield of cuts, swerves and brakes! That day was no different.

I was slowly manoeuvring my 7 year old Wagon-R through the traffic, literally inching my way to my home. At that moment, an idiot chose to cut past me and get in his Honda before my car. In a fit of frustration, I tried to stop his cut by nosing ahead in the traffic and pushed frantically at my horn … HEY YOU ARE BREAKING THE CODE!! The Honda went right ahead and put a dent in my car … a light dent on the nose … had I gone a little ahead, then it would have struck the door!

A small dent on both of our cars was not a big enough matter to come out shouting in the rain. In fact both of us will not even report it to our insurance companies … why? Well because in India, the cost of repairing a small dent is lower than the additional premium payment that I would have to pay. In the developed countries, this exploit is not there, for accident claims UK you can see for yourself, the sheer thoughtfulness that has been put into creating a simple service for accidents claim is an inspiration for insurance companies in India. In India, a lot of processes are paper based, and the thoughts of having a paper-less office are still being dismissed off as impossible. Although the companies in the UK are also still debating the feasibility of the paper-less office, it is already being put in practice in a lot of companies.

The point is, would you go ahead and insure a minor accident, if you knew its going to increase the premium payment? In the developed nations, this approach is far more mature. Will the insurance companies in India think of a new insurance vehicle where close shaves and minor accidents can be covered?

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Mumbai Rain, the Driver’s Pain

While the Twitter world went abuzz with the Mumbai Rains, I was not seeing the big deal with rains. So what?

Then I went to my car on my drive back to home.

  1. Potholes are not visible, you have to look for them and differentiate the pot holes from shallow puddles
  2. The car is slow to react
  3. You come to know nuances of your car when driving in rains, it makes noises that you never knew it could!!
  4. Vipers + Drizzle makes for an irritating screensaver while driving
  5. WIndows and windshield fogs up
  6. Mumbaikars run to their home like madmen when it rains, in cars. So more traffic

All this in one drive back home. Eagerly waiting the monsoons :-)

Crashed!

I generally leave for my office at 9am or 8.45am. Today, I got delayed … I left from my home at 9.30am. A matter of thirty minutes and the entire western express highway was swamped with traffic. One huge moving traffic jam from Andheri (my place) to Goregaon (my office). Thank my stars that my office is not any further!

Somewhere in the midst of this huge traffic jam, a street urchin rushed past my car … I had to immediately push the brakes in order to hit her. Stop I did, but the car stalled. In the middle of a traffic … on a slope.

With seconds ticking by … and what seemed like an eternity, try as I may, the car simply would not start (there is some problem with the starter in my car). So I relaxed, turned off the ignition, put the car in neutral … and hey!! I am moving back … (grrr … I had forgotten that I was on a slope!).

Thud!! I had slammed right into the vehicle behind me (an auto rickshaw carrier). The driver is boiling now, and his accomplice has gotten off to check the damage. At that point, the words of Baba dawned upon me –

  1. Relax and take it easy
  2. Let the traffic go and do not care about them
  3. Focus on getting the car started

So I switched on the hand brake, put the car in neutral and turned on the ignition. The car started!

Luckily, the auto was not even scratched (it was just a bumper to bumper bump). Also, the driver was now cooled down and we exchanged a few pleasantries (apologies from my side and advice from his) and I moved off.