Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to SEO Proof your blog and increase traffic by 10X

The last few years, blogging as an activity has witnessed a phenomenal growth in adoption. It has gradually moved on from a past time work to a full time job for many users. The initial entry to the blogging world is pretty easy with many blogging platforms such as Blogspot & Wordpress offering space to create free blogs for anyone. However, what comes post the setup and launch stage is pretty crucial. 


Marketing the Blog in the Right Channels





Just like any other brand or company, your blog is essentially a product that you need to market to the outside world. You need to define the niche, target market and category in which you want to promote your blog and also attract the right audience by posting good content. 

As a great benefactor, Google and other search engines are primarily responsible in bringing traffic into your blog. So it’s your responsibility to setup your blog in a way that Google can find you when the right keyword match is met with your blog content. This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in. If you’re wondering, how do I optimize my blog, how do I start earning quickly, how do I quadruple my traffic in a short period, you’ve arrived at the right place.

Improve Organic Search Traffic


Some say Social media sharing and creation of a separate fb page for your post can be a good way to increase traffic. I completely disagree with this fact. Your twitter followers and Facebook friends/followers may come across your blog post but this does not mean conversion of blog readers or followers. Additionally this is not an organic traffic and hence doesn't impact on long term traffic
  • Google's rank and traffic primarily relies on the number of other websites and blogs that links back to your blog, no of unique visitors, unique pageviews among other things.
  • So blog marketing should be done through regularly going through other blogs, commenting on them, posting good content in your website. I have also listed out detailed methods to improve your traffic and optimize your blog in the best method possible

Understanding Google Search : Decoding their algorithm


Before you begin optimizing your blog, you need to first understand how Google works. 
  • With billions of websites out there on the World Wide Web, Google sends a bot called a “Web Crawler” to go through the pages, crawl them and index them. 
  • Google identifies other websites that links back to your blog and passes on its rank to you as well (sounds awesome right?) . Another way Google finds you is through keywords.
  • Every post your write, Google tries to asses to which category it belongs to and extracts a few essential keywords that it's based about. 


Google's PageRank Calculation

Whenever anyone searches for those words in Google search, if your blog ranks high in those keyword, there's a bright chance your blog post link is gonna appear in the first or second page itself (within top 15 search result). This means you can get an immense boost to traffic from all over the world

So given all these factors, it’s important that you need to setup a good blog with a neat design that improves on the visitor retention time and also come back for more often
This means your blog should excel in good navigation, excellent content (preferably niche), a clean design and additionally faster loading times. Even two seconds can make a huge difference in improving landing page views by more than 30-40%

So how do you go about in setting up the blog and more importantly optimize it? Read on...

Blog Design & Layout : Simplicity is the Key


Some people argue that content is the key. It overrides everything. I partially disagree.
  • A good content in a badly designed blog can go for waste and may not yield the results it warrants. Just like an exam where your handwriting could mean a lot of difference in the marks scored, a blog's key factor also lies in its design. 
  • A design should be simple, have a pleasing background (Preferably white or light colours) , less no of page elements ( for faster loading esp. in slow connections) and of course good navigation. If your reader is unable to find what he's looking for, he wont hesitate to close the tab in less than 5 seconds.
  • If you're using Wordpress or Blogger, there are countless templates that has a simplistic yet powerful design that could really make a huge impact (ever wondered why the top websites in the world including Google, Facebook has a plain white background with nothing flashy?) .You can also read up on the Zen philosophy of website design (esp. by popular blogger Guy Kawasaki)

Install SEO optimized Blog Templates

When it comes to navigation friendly, earning friendly templates, Wordpress takes much precedence in clean, SEO friendly templates that can rake in more revenue than BlogSpot templates. This is because Wordpress has much more design features, elements that can be customized to make it much more attractive. Blogspot on the other hand suffers with a rigid text body space and a fixed add-ons space that can ruin your look.
However note that custom themes can be used in Wordpress only on self-hosted blogs and for free .wordpress.com blogs, you have to choose a theme from the list only.

WordPress Plugins - Yoast for SEO

Wordpress users can install additional plugins such as Yoast SEO that immensely helps in optimizing your content and improves SEO by a great factor. It also handles the technical portion of optimizing the content in your blog and makes your life much easier.



Positioning of Google Adsense, Banner ads in the Blog

  • Ad elements like Google Adsense banner, horizontal/vertical ads and page element ads can be placed on the blog either near your header or on the left/right pane or right below your blog post.
  • However to get more "organic clicks", it’s been found that ads placed between blog posts has a higher chance of clicks mainly due to relevance and most time it resembles like part of the blog post itself.  
  • Users may be led to think that this ad (having a "blended" colour template with the blog post) is actually a continuation of the above post and may click on it, hoping to find more relevant info on the same.

Here's some example of a nice position of an ad between posts. (screenshot from labnol.org). Notice how the ad has been completely blended and the right arrow grey box looks like as a "read more" button but instead it takes you to the ad.


How to Find SEO Optimized Blog templates ?

There are plenty of free templates provided by Blogspot and Wordpress itself that can be really good . However if you are looking for more, a quick google search can help you find the exact design that you need. You can also search for "No pane blog templates", "Single Pane SEO Wordpress templates" etc. to find good results. 


Keyword Planning & Research for writing a blog post

The keyword planning can be both a top down approach or a bottom up approach. This is how you do it 

1.  Top Down approach in selecting a topic: 

So if you're the person who's looking for what to write, then you can do your research online to find what keywords are trending and in those which variations seem to rank on the top in google search results. Select your category and country and find the list of trending topics that you could write about 






2. Bottom Up Approach in selecting a blog topic:


If you already have your blog niche setup and have topics to write about, but unsure of the keywords to include for a high ranking search, just do the following:


Login to a site that offers long tail key word search (you could plenty of examples if you google). In that site, in the search box enter the topic you want to write about and find out what people are searching about it.

Example : if you are writing about a cricket match between India vs England, I did the following search and you can see keywords, the search volume, search result score, cost per score etc. So if your title was like "India vs England 4th test", it would have a good search ranking score. I used  http://keywordtool.io/  in this case.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Adapting to Demonetization and A Quest to Find Atm with Cash

In late November, you may have read my earlier post  about the Govt’s move to ban 500 and 1000 Rs notes and how I managed to survive the crisis personally by using digital wallets, online payment services and debit cards to pay for things.

Demonetisation of Zimbabwe


This radical move is not new and in fact Demonetization in Zimbabwe happened much earlier (in 2015), though for a completely different reason. When the country of Zimbabwe faced an insane amount of inflation due to various economic factors(4 billion percent to be exact), currency note values went from hundreds to thousands to millions, to billion to trillion and even quadrillion , basically worthless. In fact 250 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars was equal to 0.4 USD (Roughly Rs.30) and the government decided to end this and start trading in dollars for time being and a year later slowly rolled out the ZWD in phases in a stabilized manner.


In India, with a population of 80 times that of Zimbabwe, such transitions can’t be easy.  A preparation for a move this big should have been done by estimating national level withdrawals, currency needs per person, max amount of money an ATM can hold, no of ATM’s in all cities, max capacity of printing of 100,new 500 and Rs.2000 notes to fulfil an entire nation’s demand continuously for a min period of 3 months (until money starts rotating). Yet the shortage of money in banks, closure of 90% of ATM’s seem to indicate a panic mode had caused an urge to withdraw money even if there wasn’t an need. This indirectly led to shortage of currency everywhere.

Over a month after Demonetization


Roughly after 25 days later, the situation seems to be exactly the way I had predicted. Though the nation is being pushed towards a cashless Economy, the overall health of the economy is pretty much on a downward spiral.  Small vendors, hotels and other people in service business felt major cash crunch. Manufacturing towns faced max impact with almost no orders or not enough cash to give salaries.  Though wallet companies are putting up large scale ads saying how easy it is for vendors to go digital and success stories of vegetable vendors accepting PayTM or Freecharge, you know the ground reality is far from it. Even autos and cabs that have prepaid wallet options refuse to accept rides unless you choose the cash option.  So I hoped the situation in high-end supermarkets may be completely different, as you can simply swipe your debit/credit card in the counter.


I was wrong. Even there, one is faced with large sign boards that read:
•    Min card transaction amount is Rs.500
•    Old Notes of 500/1000 not accepted
•    Rs.2000 notes accepted only if bill amount is greater than 2000
I’m not talking about small kirana stores but big supermarkets such as WhiteRose Supermarket, Aditya Birla More and even Nilgiris that sports similar boards as above.

So what actually went right for the government?


The actual black money hoarders either burnt all the money or stopped midway in doing any kind of financial transaction and thereby force illegal/unaccounted black money transactions to a standstill. No one however went to the bank to deposit all their money as they know it’s a sure-fire way to get caught. They however recovered some considerable amounts through IT Raids.

My Journey to Find ATM with Cash


So in the last 20 days I tried to visit ATM’s and my bank for five times and this is what happened
  • First time I tried, all ATM's in my entire neighbourhood were closed.
  • Second time, the queue was more than 15 people and I simply gave up.
  • Third time, on the pretext of being smart, I found an ATM in a shady street and entered Rs.1900 as amount. The ATM said: you can enter only 2000 as amount. So I entered 2000 as amount and I got 1 note and my day’s withdrawl quota was already over.
  • Fourth time, I stood in queue in an ATM which happened to have 500 Rs notes. Even midway during the queue, the ATM threw a “No Money” error.
  • Fifth time, I went to the HDFC Branch in my area. I stood in queue for 45 minutes to withdraw using my cheque book for 20,000 Rs. All I got was 9 "2000" Rs notes and 20rs bundle for the remaining 2000(though I happened to spend all of it in roughly 3 days).


Apps to Find Working ATM


On a positive note, several apps have been developed (not by Govt but by fellow citizens) to help find ATM’s with Cash. One such app/website is Money View App. The Money View app provides information about closest Big Bazaars, Petrol pumps and Inox multiplexes where you can get cash (Definitely the need of the house, quite literally). They seem to have gathered info from a 5 million people userbase (50Lakhs) and their live fedback enables the App to provide updated information. You can actually get a working ATM with cash (updated up to 3hours before) which is really amazing.

Download Money View App by clicking the link or you can also find out closest ATM with cash on desktop by clicking this link. In case you have questions, you can reach out to MoneyView's social channels here :  FB, Twitter, Blog.

I just happend to check for my street and spotted a working ATM which is only half a km away.Let's hope I get some cash atleast this time :)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

LG V20 : An Indepth Review - Can it break the Premium Smartphone Market?

The premium smartphone market in Inda has seen very few takers with the likes of Apple, Samsung and the relatively launched Google Pixle dominating the market. Though Google's Nexus was manufactured by LG only, LG has now smartly decided to manufacture their own version of s high end "Premium" smartphone with the recently launched LG V20 after a remarkable success flirting around in the 35K smartphone market with the fanastic LG G3 and G4's with some study phones. 


This power packed premium smartphone from LG could be a major deal breaker for someone who are looking for a high end Android phone, that can basically "do everything" and is actually the real deal. Purely based on the spec sheet, it's clearly evident that there's been no compromise in any front and probably achieved what they set out to begin with.

Here's a short analysis based on the phone's specs :

Wide-Angle Camera

One of the primary things that stands out when it comes to this phone is the camera. A wide angle lens camera with a 16MP dual primary camera and 5MP front camera definitely helps you get an amazing wide angle HD shot . 

The first primary rear camera takes care of the closer picture (within 75 deg) while the second rear camera captures all the other surrounding details in high detail in a wide angle. The same applies to the front camera as well which helps take a wide angle shot.



Frankly, this has always been my requirement in a smartphone, especially while taking selfies. You really need to stretch your hand pretty high in the air to take that good selfie which can cover all the people in a picture instead of cutting their head and neck off and the LGV20 takes care of the wide angle details neatly.

The AutoFocus (both Laser detection and Phase detection) helps you identify the right contrast , face detection even in low light scenarios. In short, you can probably put off your purchase of a DSLR just yet.The above also helps in non-shaky static pictures even if your hand seems to tremble a bit while clicking.

Audio 

LG has collaborated with Bang & Olufsen to provide a premium music experience in the LG V20. The phone comes with a B&O speakers as well as a Bang&Olufsen Play earphones for a rich audio experience.



So how do they bring a rich audio experience inside the phone? : By a concept called Quad DAC.  

What are DAC's ?

DAC stands for Digital Analog converter. A digital mp3 file stored in your phone or even streamed from an online site has to be converted to an analog version for it to be sent an audio output, namely the earphones. So while the digital to analog conversion takes place, there's a high possibility of distortion, noise, loss of bits that can happen significantly impacting the audio clarity.

The below images of the Digital to Analog converter could well explain how multiple DAC's used can improve the audio clarity multifold, as it tries to reduce the noise in conversion to a large extent



(Source of Image : www.androidauthority.com)

The LG V20 uses multiple sub DAC's for conversion (Hence the Quad DAC) and therefore takes care of that problem by conversion with almost insignificant noise and warrants crystal clear clarity in your music


Other Salient Features

The phone also comes with several other interesting features that definitely needs a special mention

  • First smart phone that came preloaded with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box
  • A steady record feature for HD Video recording
  • A Durable Solid metal design with a military standard testing on drop tests
  • 5.7-inch Quad HD IPS multi-touch capacitive dual screen with 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution (Say Goodbye to those 1366 HD Ready and 1920 HD resolution phones you had been using all alone)
  • 3200mAH lithium-ion battery providing talk-time of 14 hours and standby time of 136 hours
  • 4 GB RAM with Vulcan API to power up those cells for high intensity gaming
  • 64GB internal memory expandable up to 2TB ( never seen any phone coming close to offering that amount of expandable memory)

My Opinion :

LG is a powerful and a trusted player when it comes to smartphones. Almost all their smartphones I have used have come for a pretty long time.
With respect to the LGV20,  time will tell as to how the #LGV20 will be positioned , perceived and received in the market. LG's hardcore fans who are earlier used to some high quality phone with Nexus 5 and Lg G3/G4 without a doubt may switchover to the V20 . But the 55K price tag may be a decisive point in the phone's success or failure.

Do check the phone here at Amazon

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Khanagadi - Making Train Travel a Gastronomic Experience

Train journeys are something that I always look forward to. Not just comfort, but the ease of ticketing, station proximity, timings and of course,relatively cheaper cost makes train journeys always preferable, especially when compared to airlines or even some buses that seem to charge quite a bomb these days

Though both trains and stations are getting modernized to maximize passenger comfort, the one thing that haven't focussed much is on food. In almost all cities, including the metros, the food inside train and at stations are pretty much bad, if not stale. They are invariably expensive, lack of options available and you are basically forced to eat whatever's given.

There has been several attempts in making this a better process and improvise standards , but actual execution never took off. Even in a Shatabdi, where the ticket price is inclusive of the food, the food quality is dismal to say the least. Several times, I have left my food untouched thanks to a bad taste.

Online food app aggregators have only enabled deliveries from various restaurants to where you stay/work. You can't expect the same delivery to the station even if the hotel is pretty closeby, unless you manually go and pick it up which is not possible. I have always shuddered at the thought of the lousy food available in platforms or junk foods that I always strive to avoid

So I happened to discover a new service that actually delivers delicious foods right to our seat(in the train) at the designated time in any of the listed stations enroute your journey. Its called Khanagadi and its available easily through Android and iOS apps.




In this Food in Train app service, all you have to do is simply login, select the station/city and date/time and choose the kind of food you need from the avaialble options. Do mention the train no/seat no for a on-seat delivery. The best part about this service  is that they automatically track train timings,consider train delays and ensure your food is delivered before its due for departure. So you don't have the hassle of infomring them at every step to keep them updated about your location and arrival time.




Suppose you are on your way from Chennai to New Delhi in Tamilnadu Express. Being a 30 hour journey it can be extremely difficult to manage without proper hygienic and good food. Prepacked home food may not last that long and could become stale. So how about scheduling food deliveries in the designated times (and corresponding stations the train stops)?



Probably starting with Dinner in Chennai Central , Breakfast at Warrangal Station (next day at 7AM), lunch at Nagpur (at 2PM) and another delicious North Indian meal at Bhopal(at 8PM), all scheduled deliveries through

If this app service takes off ( though haven't personally tried it yet) it could be a revolutionary step in addressing the needs of several thousand passengers, who can have a hand at the delicious local cuisine where the train is halting without even having to get down.

On a critical note, I tried scheduling for an upcoming journey from Chennai, but currently there's very few choices available.  Additionally for a few other cities, the rates are slightly on the higher side. I'd naturally assume they are expanding their options on a much larger scale and definitely hoping to order from them soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Telegraph Blogging

There are several promising writers out there, who just haven't taken time to create a blog(either through blogger or wordpress), design the the layouts, theme, give a name and start blogging regularly.

They probably are looking for something, like an on-the-go blogging platform that doesn't have any registrations, can just type whatever comes to their mind and quickly share that article to others through a link

So I happened to discover something exactly like that. It's by the famous Telegram app , and the site is called http://telegra.ph .  One can just open the link, scribble/write anything they want, even upload any pic and just hit publish. As simple as that

Give this one a shot. It's pretty interesting and here's my first "Telegraph'ed" post

http://telegra.ph/A-telegraph-Story-11-29





F1 2016 : An Eventful Season

 
The recently concluded F1 2016 championship was probably the most exciting seasons compared to the previous years. F1 had always seen a single team dominating from start to finish, while the championship and the constructors was pretty much decided halfway through the season itself.




Ferrari used to finish a consistent 1-2 atleast till the late 2000's when Michael Schumacher was at his peak and just drove away the title. Rubens Barichello gave him solid support in the second place as Ferrari seemed to be invincible.Naturally most of the audience and fan support was rooting for a Ferrari win as always.


But the F1 bosses thought otherwise. They felt compelled to change the rules of the game, so that it'll stop Ferrari's domination and give other teams an equal chance at the podium and pole position as well. This was the chance for teams like Red Bull , Brawn GP (which was later renamed to Mercedes GP) to showcase their power as well

Sebastian Vettel, a young champion who took over from Michael Schumacher began his domination in F1 as he put the relatively newly formed Red Bull to the top. The young kid in the block , Vettel showed immense confidence and he was seen as the face of future F1, or probably another Schumacher in the making. Unfortunately post his move to Ferrari, given the lack of his car performance, even podium finishes seems to be a rare occurence

This was followed by yet another phase of new champions, namely Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes GP), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP), Kimi Raikkonen(Ferrari), Daniel Riccardio (Red Bull) and the youngest driver on the block , Max Verstappen. Barely 17 years when he took the wheel at Red Bull, even the commentators can't stop raving about this energetic , deterministic Max who just doesn't give up, even when F1 seems to keep penalising him constantly for wrongful overtaking or causing collisions

Source : motorsport.com


The recently concluded F1 season as I mentioned started off with all the wrong ideas. F1, in the name of reinventing the wheel began imposing crazy rules in the game that caused drivers to be completely put off and lost interest in one of the most happening session in the game, Qualifying. They continued this debacle with a radio ban which prevented teams to even communicate even an issue in the car, much less a strategy. Thankfully both of them were lifted and the race was brought back to the original format

Though we had seen a complete domination of Mercedes ( a literal fight to the finish by Nico Rosberg vs Lewis Hamilton in the last lap of the last race), it has also seen some spirited fights by the other teams such as Force India, Renault and of course Red Bull and Ferrari. Ferrari has seen a rapid decline in their performance , owing to poor strategy, incorrect tile selections and lack of speed that couldn't match the Mercedes GP. However the final 10 laps by Vettel, coming back from 7th position overtaking Riccardio,Raikkonen and even Verstappen to finish third has given much promise to the long lost Ferrari fans

Let's hope for a much louder/noisier, faster F1 in the years to come !

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Demonetization

On the 16th of November, the PMO's office called for a press meeting at 8PM in the night. Though it was at odd hours (post closing of all trade markets, banks, financial institutions etc), people quite naturally assumed this should be yet another speech by the PM to spread awareness on Swachh Bharat or development of smart cities across India. But within minutes of him taking the mike, he got to the point. A sudden action that spent chilling waves around every Indian in the world and could have a long lasting effect on the economy and the way things are done in the country.


Unlike other "Developed" countries, India is largely a cash based economy, where more than 3/4 of the trades, business was dealt primarily in cash. Be it buying vegetables and groceries from a departmental store, cutting your hair at the nearby salon, paying college/school fees, bill payments or even a massive land deal, it was always a Cash in Hand policy. Even a multinational giant like Uber was forced to come up with a "cash" payment ( not available anywhere else in the world)  for their services to make people drive. This cash based economy however aided easier and quicker payments through the system and getting things done (both legally or illegally) . At least one was sure that all they need is a right amount of "Cash" to get things done, literally anywhere.

On a personal front, I have always preferred an online purchase/ netbanking transaction for all services and payments. This is primarily because of ease of return or raising dispute claims and getting refund back to bank account instantly. A cash on delivery option makes you dial through their support centre, ask them to add your bank account and 7 days later, you may or may not get a refund.

List of payment services I use:
  • Uber - Paytm Wallet
  • Recharge : Paytm/Freecharge/Mobikwik/ICICI Pockets/Payzapp/Tapzo (Basically anything where I get a nice cashback)
  • Food : Netbanking/Paytm/Freecharge through Swiggy and Zomato order
  • Petrol : Cash
  • Online Shopping : Netbanking
On the onset I have always been a bit skeptical about the "promise" of a great nation ever since the government change. I have constantly given my voice against raising of taxes, addition of new taxes such as Swachh Bharat, Krishi Kalyan tax, multifold increase in train fares etc. More importantly the long bill at restaurants primarily because of excessive taxes have given me great displeasure several times ( especially at times, when the tax component was more than what I actually ate ),

However this outstanding move by the government ( in collaboration with RBI) can be a bold, decisive move to attack black money hoarders . There are several voices for both pro and against this immediate decision.

People have been forced to go without cash for days, stand in queue for hours , go in search of working ATM's for several kms (and not finding one). Even Google had to place shortcut links that could point to the nearest "working" ATM ( I think that's a first). My own office , housed inside a major tech campus doesn't have a single ATM functioning ( there are 5 machines and all are zero in cash)

Yet all this inconvenience is for a greater good, instilling a fear in people who have amassed a huge sum of wealth without paying the due taxes for the same. Financial experts say this is the start of a financial revolution in India , which eliminates to remove black money , tax evasions and the illegal benami/hawala transactions (which is generally dealt in several hundred crores)

The decision to announce at 8 could be a strategic one, so that it leaves no time for people to quickly convert the black into white through various small transactions. But on the other hand there's a sizeable "daily wage" earning population that's been impacted pretty badly.

I had a chat with an Uber driver and much to his dismay , I had selected PayTm as mode of payment.. This was his view : Cab companies usually pay once a week , that too directly in his bank account. Before the demonetization , a large % of his passengers paid in cash and inflow was pretty healthy for his food, fuel , personal and other maintenance expenses. Now suddenly his cash flow is completely dried up , given 10/12 passengers pay through PayTm , he has absolutely no time to stand in ATM/bank queues for hours as he may miss a lot of ride requestss. Missing ride requests will also give him a blackmark and rating downgrade that can cause him to lose his salary. So he's on a lose-lose situation as he's left with no cash in hand for fuel, food or to give his family, have to accept all rides that comes even if its PayTm and at the end of the day he has nothing in hand.

Yet, all the inconvenience aside, this should signal for a new change in the country. Though the black money hoarders have found ways to convert this to white money for a fee of 20-30% , a large section of the society knew,its a decisive blow on all their illegal savings.  I can also say for a fact that, no other prime minister or politician in the country could ever come up with such a daring move that can signal an end to terrorism funded initiatives and black money hoarders.

Be it engineering/medical colleges, dubious housing registrations or even political donations will have a major blowout and may ultimately have to admit storing black money (unless they decide to burn all the money away).

The first casualty in this raid was St.Jospehs College of Engineering who was found to have 8 crores of money as black and was asking their staff to deposit small amounts into each of their bank accounts, and later retrieve it. But thankfully it was found and IT officials seemed to have recovered the same, sending clear warning signals to many such dubious institutions.

Though media channels seem to promote the negativity and troubles faced because of demonetization, I'd urge my readers to hang on for a bit, support this brilliant move and this should definitely turn out for the better in the near future.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Dear Zindagi

Everyone has a letter that they send, the one they never complete, nor have a destination address. A letter, you intend to write to the future you, talking about life has been to you. Many a times, it may have let you down, made you feel this is the end and there's no coming back. Yet, you find yourself rising up every time, every single time. Probably you realize life is fair after all. All those defeats and failures had a purpose. Life changed you for the better. It made you stronger. A strength that makes you overcome anything and look at the bright side.

 My letter to my life would probably convey a mixture of anger, love, happiness, sadness and every emotion that’s there. A life that has seen so many ups and downs, so many wonderful moments that can be cherished and even miracles that wasn’t least expected. Life had thrown me problems that I felt I couldn’t solve, yet minutes later I was staring right at the solution. Life’s lessons gave me the courage to do things, things I wouldn’t even have dreamt that I could 

So here goes my letter:  Dear Zindagi,

Just by saying you played an integral part in everything I have achieved or even tried to become could be an understatement, as the whole concept of me was defined by you. A route you laid for me to follow, which I faithfully followed, having complete faith in what you had in mind. Sometimes the going was tough, but there was a guiding light that kept telling me, you just have a few more things to cross. You gave the passion to follow what I wanted, to get what I wanted and even letting go of things that I never needed.  I am also blaming you completely for the things I desperately need and yet for mysterious reasons, you never gave me that gift. It would have been an entirely different life that I always wanted. Having said that, the life I’m leading right now is an interesting path, not exactly equated to what I wanted earlier, but I’ll take this any day.

Money may be important for few and may have been their primary passion. But having known me, you’d know people and relationships are more important to cultivate than monetary assets. Thankfully you didn’t disappoint in me this category. I am bestowed with some amazing people, who since have played a very key role. If I now look back and think, how I came to know each one of them, I may not even recollect. But I am thankful to have run into their paths.

Everything has a lot of if’s, a two letter word for futility. If I had got that job, if I had got that item, if I had done something else to make it all better and the list goes on. But in a way I am thankful to you for guiding me to do the right things at the right time (though not always). I still haven’t forgiven you for many things, that you could have made me do it right.
So a final word to you. Thanks for being there, quite literally, but don’t throw me any more surprises. Just take it one day at a time and we should be good for life 😀😀

I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda
Do check out this upcoming teaser of the movie Dear Zindagi



Sunday, October 30, 2016

An Hexa Experience at Hyderabad

You may have in all probability read my previous blog post on the upcoming Tata Hexa and its features. This is about the #HexaExperience I indulged in, during the third weekend of October.

I was fortunate enough to be shortlisted as one of the 60 bloggers to cover this event as it happened. From Chennai it was a group of 7-8 bloggers who came for the meet. This included a few of my friends , Shrinidhi Hande and Bhushavali, both established bloggers in their domain.



The venue was at Novotel , Hyderabad Airport, Hyderabad. The expections around the event was set pretty high , right from the venue and the way things were organized. The hotel was set in a sprawling campus full of lush greens, long swimming pools, beautifully decorated rooms and passageways and served some great food. Frankly this is the first five star hotel I've personally visited that's right inside an airport campus (hardly 5 mins drive from the airport, inside the same area)
With free shuttles to & fro from the airport at all times , check in counters inside the reception itself, airport arrival and departure screens, Novotel has really upped the ante here.










The HexaExperience involved the actual launch, a product presentation of the Hexa by the design chief(Mr.Richard Winsor) & Head of Marketing (Mr.Vivek Srivatsa). The session involved them taking the crowd through some exciting visuals of how the Hexa was evolved, challenges faced, an audio visual demo of the Hexa's performance and of course followed by a cocktail party.








We also got to form teams for the drive the next day (3 per car) . I happened to meet 2 wonderful bloggers from Mumbai, Avantika & Sangeeta (both incidentally fashion bloggers) and we instantly clicked and finalized the team.




A brand new Hexa in a dazzling midnight blue colour was placed right across the dinner area that gave the bloggers ample opportunities to make full use of their DSLR's to showcase the car in so many ways.


The following day had a super early start at 5AM. Shortly followed by breakfast, before the sunrise could even set in , we started on a long test drive ( longest test drive I've even been ) for about 85 KMs to a Hill & Adventure Resort, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. The drive involved testing every feature of the Hexa which included


  • Different drive modes in Automatic version, 
  • Using Navigation apps
  • Sound testing in the JBL speaker by connecting Bluetooth devices
  • Testing the lumbar support features in the seat
  • Testing the Torque and Acceleration speeds in the Manual , Sports and Race Car Modes
  • and last but not the least, tested to see if the cooling glove box really kept the items chilled
Though we would have loved to spend an hour  at the resort, owing to lack of time for successive activities, we started back pretty soon. One thing I noticed on the way back was that my fellow blogger, Avantika having driven mostly Hatchbacks or other compact cars, could easily master driving the Hexa almost within minutes, that too the manual version.This could make a significant difference in the confidence of new drivers and not really get conscious of the towering structure of the Tata Hexa

The final activity involved a 30 minute offroading experience, probably one of the best parts of the event. This time we were the passengers, while a professional test driver from Tata Motors took over and drove the car to its extremes. Our route involved traversing through deeply dug trench with ice blocks on its path, a steep hill climb with just a gravel track or sand filled roads & farmlands that can slide off any car. But it was quite amazing to see the Hexa 4X4 with almost little effort gliding these obstacles as its engine and booster performance mechanisms kicked in, once the mode was changed to rough road conditions.

Having been experienced dune bashing in a different 4X4 in Dubai desert, I feel this was a totally  different tougher experience, that could truly test the core strength of this car and the Hexa certainly didn't disappoint in any way. As a casual remark, I also suggested to the marketing guys at Hexa that this a great opportunity for them to market it overseas esp in desert areas in Middle East such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi,  Saudi Arabia etc

Dune Bashing at Dubai 

My return journey was through Indian Airlines (surprisingly the first time through this carrier, having flown every other airline in the country) and I should admit the overall flying experience was excellent, service was perfect and completely in contrast with the negative reviews that's been floating around in social media