Wednesday, October 16, 2019

ZoomCar SelfDriving Experience - A Firsthand Review

The era of Uber & Ola's has partially reduced the rental of self driven cars in India ,expect those who wishes to go to multiple places with different stopovers and always on the move. Pretty much for the same reason I had never ever opted for a self driven car when I had travelled outside Chennai. The fear factor of getting into a collision somewhere and damaging the car was also there .

Last week , I had a one day work trip to Pune planned and decided to rent out a car for the day. Just then I saw an offer for Zoomcar that offered cars for as low as 500-600 for an entire day after a 50% offer running in their website.

The Plan chosen was as follows : 13 hours. 65 KMS . Maruti Swift Manual for 598 Rs.(Actual price was around 1300 RS) . Rs. 3500 Was a refundable deposit , which will be adjusted for any additional kms driven and charged accordingly.

There was a total damage claim insurance of 10,000 that would cover my expenses if such an unfortunate thing were to happen


Pickup Process

1. Just 60 mins before the actual pickup , I was told by Zoomcar that the car was no longer available and I was asked to choose an automatic car in the same area. I was also told this was a "Partner" car, which meant it was someone else who was renting out their car to Zoomcar, just like an AirBnB.  I was slightly skeptical about the same, but I was assured by the executive that this is a normal process and I can just go and pick up the car once I reach the location.

2. I headed to the location using Google maps and I found a Red swift parked in a small street, covered in full dust , atleast for two layers. Though I was in a slight hurry to head out somewhere, there was a major formality to complete the pickup process which included the following :
    • Spot the car
    • Evaluate the condition
    • Take photographs of every part of the car including : Front bonnet, all four tyres, passenger door, driver door, driver side rear door, passenger side rear door, Fuel Gauge, Starting Odometer etc.

3. For someone in a hurry , this was atleast clicking 10-15 pictures of every part of the car. Second given the dirty condition of the car covered in dust, most of the scratches weren't visible at first glance. Only post dusting off with bare hands (Mind you I am not carrying cleaning cloths as I am just renting out a car), I get to see a lot of scratches on the surface. If I had clicked the pics without dusting off and not noticed these scratches, it would have definitely been pinned saying I caused these scratches.

4. Ensure you need to identify every single scratch in every part of the body of the car and if you're doing this alone, it can be a humongous effort.

The type of scratches classification :
  • No Scratches
  • Single scratch
  • Multiple scratches
  • Damage which requires repair

5. Opening the car
As soon as i clicked on "I spotted the car" option, it generated an OTP and once I entered the OTP into the app, the car got instantly unlocked ( this was a super cool feature ). The keys were found inside the glove box . I entered the starting km in the app and started on my journey



My initial concern was that the car was on very low fuel mode and to my estimate would last a maximum of 5-10 kms only. Thankfully I was able to spot a petrol bunk a few kms later and was able to refill. I expected a full tank or atleast half when borrowing a car and this was something of a miss.

Zoomcar mandates that original fuel bill has to be uploaded . Unfortunately I happened to have a credit card charge slip from the petrol bunk and this was disallowed. So refuelling for 1100 rs turned out to be an additional expense for me as Zoom car charged 10/KM anyways for every km drive apart from the given 65 kms . so basically I ended paying for the fuel as well for the additional km .

What went Right ?

The car ride was smooth and comfortable. It proved to be immensely useful to drive around to so many places in a single day , stopping wherever I wanted and grabbing things to eat.  To explore a new city, rather than relying on Uber's and Ola's (and trying to communicate in broken Hindi) , this was a great, cheaper and better alternative. When you are with someone else or a group of people, this offers great privacy too..

The pricing was excellent, given I was totally charged 590 (65kms)+1000 (for extra 100 kms) . So totally I paid 1600 for 160 kms for 13 hours and that was a steal given I would have paid twice or thrice if taken a private cab for every place I went plus the waiting time etc.

Thankfully no untoward accidents or issues and the overall ride was clean without any hiccups. THe day went exactly as planned and I could cover my itinerary easily.

What could have been better?

Since I failed to obtain an original fuel bill and only had a credit card charge slip , this was disallowed by Zoomcar. Maybe as an exception, given the slip indicated it was a fuel bill, they could have manually allowed the charge , but unfortunately this was denied.

I was given a car change from a manual to an automatic (though I didn't mind this) in a slightly different location. A last minute change kinda delayed my pickup slightly .

The car was parked in the corner of a road and covered in dust. This should have been validated and cleaned by owner or by Zoomcar than expecting me to pickup such a dust covered car.

The car was almost nil on fuel. Given I had chosen a 65KM package, I expected atleast 5-6 litres of diesel to be pre filled before pickup. Me going in search of a fuel station in a slightly panicky mode was something undesirable.

While dorpping the car, my cell phone battery was at 2% and I was in danger of my phone getting switched off anytime and I could never complete the car drop process unless my phone powered back post a charging.


Would I take a zoomcar again? 

Yes, but only in a different city and only if I have company and someone to help me inspect the car for damages, scratches before picking up.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Retirement Savings Calculator - Secure the future with this Financial Planning Tool

Saving for a rainy day is something we have never really done. The hard-earned income that we earn through our jobs is pretty much spent on frivolous expenses, including eating out, entertainment and other essential items. Though there have been countless articles in the newspapers plus financial savings TV shows, we haven't really given too much importance to save money for the future. How many times have we actually sat down and tried using a retirement calculator, to figure out what will our savings be after 25 years?

  Pic Source :

Irrespective of the monthly income level, be it 40,000 or 1 lakh or even 2 lakhs, the spending is always proportionate to the earnings. The 20-30% tax deducted from that is equally daunting. So amid all this, it's imperative that we save a small fraction of that amount (at least 10% as a bare minimum) per month. This will come handy 20-30 years later when you most likely don't have a fixed income.

Where to Invest?
When you finally decide to invest in a savings plan, you need to figure out which one works out to be the best for you. The most common options include mutual funds, fixed deposits, investing in a home loan EMI (instead of saving actual money), and so forth. There’s also a set of people who smartly decide to invest in pension linked savings scheme provided by a few reputed nationalized banks in India.

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance provides one such reliable savings/retirement corpus scheme through their retirement planning policies. It allows you to use a retirement calculator and helps you in deciding the best retirement plan for you. A scheme ideally targeted for people aged 35 and above; this can come as a perfect blessing while planning a stable and secure future. Knowing that you’ll be receiving a fixed monthly income or a hefty amount while at the time of retirement, itself can be a major relief for a lot of people. It takes away all the stress, anxiety and worry that comes with thinking about the future.

The ICICI Retirement Planning Calculator

  • Set the slider to your current age (Should be 35+). You can either keep the default retirement age upto 60 years or modify it by a few years up or down.
  • The most important step is to enter your monthly income. This should be ideally the final income in hand (post taxes) and not your net CTC. The % from this amount would finally be your basis for calculating your post retirement income in a retirement calculator.
  • Enter a reasonable % for annual savings for retirement.
Let’s assume your annual income is 12 Lakhs (1 Lakh/month).
So if your age is 35, the retirement age is set to 60, and annual savings % is 10 %.

This means your retirement corpus after 25 years will be more than 71 Lakhs INR (with an assumed rate of 8%) and 42 Lakhs INR (with an assumed rate of 4%).

Interestingly half of American Millenials have already dipped into their pension fund to repay excessive college loans, debts, to buy a house or even pay for their medical expenses. To read more, click here.

Though Govt provides a national pension system scheme, the rate of income and % interest is much lesser compared to the privatized nationalized banks.

ICICI Prudential offers several pension and payout schemes that you can choose from, based on whether you focus on a payout or a fixed monthly income for life. The benefit of these savings plan may be realized only when our usual income stops and realize how every penny we had saved will come in handy decades later. So even if not a lot, invest whatever you can in a good savings scheme and secure your future and your future generations.

For example, the most popular scheme featured is the : Joint Life, Last Survivor with Return of Purchase Price. This gets you pension for life (5 Lakhs a year) and after you, same pension continues for you spouse for life. After your spouse, your nominee receives a lump sum payout (74 Lakhs).

The benefit of these savings plan may be realized only when our usual income stops and realize how every penny we had saved will come in handy decades later. So even if not a lot, invest whatever you can in a good savings scheme and secure your future and your future generations.