Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Personalized Gifts with IGP.com

Choosing a nice gift for a friend can be quite difficult than it seems. More often than not, you’ll be wondering what to get him/her and running out of ideas pretty soon. You realize that, they already have most of the things and you are left with very little choices. If you’d ask me, a very ideal gift would be something personalized. Even if it’s a small keychain or pen, when you customize it with their pic or name, it automatically becomes very special and holds immense value to it. This has always been my go-to strategy and never seemed to fail to impress the other person. Fortunately, I was introduced to one such personalized gifts website called IGP.com and invited to review the same.

Personalized Gifts website

IGP stands for Indian gifts portal and one of the biggest multi category online gifts website. In most cases you either finding sites delivering only flowers or cakes or maybe the occasional Teddy Bear. IGP.com thankfully has a lot more variety than the traditional gifting options, giving us the much needed interesting choices we need.

The Personalized Gift Collection

Customization is usually the key in gifting and making the occasion memorable. A gift with a photo of your friend and their name engraved can be a delightful, well thought out gift. You can be sure, that it’s going to a prized possession forever. This could include a mug / tshirt / pen drive/ photo frame/ desk clock or even a perfume bottle with his name engraved. Now who would have thought of that?

Creative Gifting Categories 

As the name goes, you may be able to find gifts in several categories. They even made it easy by sorting it out against festival days, occasions and the type of recipients. These include
  • Home & Living:  This includes everything you might need for home (clocks/wall decors/Showpieces/mugs/office stationaries/ room decorators and furnishings.

Personalized Gifts website home furnishings

  • Fashion, Lifestyle & Jewellery: Be it perfumes set, watches/ties/cufflinks,T-Shirts, personal grooming kits for men, bags, accessories & dresses for women, and a whole bunch of fashion jewellery for women.
  • Toys & Games: This section includes all types of indoor & outdoor games for kids, board games, soft toys etc.
  • Gourmets: Probably my most favourite section in the site. They have a good variety of imported and Indian chocolates, sweets, dry fruits etc.
  • Cakes, Flowers and Teddies: As expected from a gifting site, you get a fair share of delicious cakes and flowers to deliver to anyone you’d want.
Apart from Product level categories, they have also sorted the gifts based on the occasion . This includes Birthdays, Father's Day, Mother's Days, Diwali, Friendship Day etc..

My Picks from IGP.com

After sifting through the entire collection for almost a day, I narrowed it down to a Park Avenue Gym Fitness Kit, a set of Superman action figures, a Vintage Aeroplane collectible and a Lomani brand of EDT kit.


Personalized Gifts vintage collectibles


Personalized Gifts Superman



After much deliberation I ended up buying the Lomani Deo-EDT combo kit for men at a price of 950 or so. This seemed to be an excellent deal and being a perfume lover myself, I couldn’t wait to try this out. The buying process worked smoothly, checked out and got the payment done in a minute or so and I received the mail almost instantly. 



The estimated time was roughly 3-4 days, but I had the product delivered, in 48 hours flat. The products came in a nice big carton neatly sealed. More importantly the perfume kit was wrapped with a ribbon and came with a small wooden tray as well. This seemed to be a perfect gift, you could give to anyone.

Delivery Map of IGP.com

IGP delivers to more than 150+ countries(including US/UK/Australia etc) and 7,000+ pin codes in India.  . You can either ship to any of these countries or even order from anywhere else to India.

So next time instead of breaking your head to get the "Perfect", "Creative" gift for your friend or loved one, just head to IGP.com ,  choose a personalized gift, upload their pic and name, have it delivered with gift wrapped & win those hearts !

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sunday Brunch Menu - An Inter-Continental Experience

I was fortunate enough to be invited for a special Sunday brunch buffet at one of the most popular 5 star resorts in the city, Intercontinental Resorts . This event included a complete tour of the resort and more importantly trying out the new weekend brunch menu in their in-house restaurant, "Melting Pot". Whenever I hear the word brunch menu, I keep constantly being reminded of the famous cheesecake factory brunch menus. So when you are on the lookout for nice Sunday brunch menus, you are left with the standard fare of restaurants with no variety or experimentation. Luckily this invite got me to explore my most favourite meal of the weekend, BRUNCH !

Intercontinental Resort Chennai




A drive along the east coast road followed by delicious food was everything I asked for , and that was exactly what I got. This is my first time to this beautiful beach resort and it certainly turned out to be a great one. Many things about this place impressed me. Inspired from a Pallavan dynasty based architecture,you could see it quite visibly through the lanterns lit over corridors , open air restaurants overlooking the majestic courtyard & performance area, the tastefully designed rooms (they even had a copy of Vogue magazine inside to stress the irony)😀😏 and many other things. (More on this extensively in my travel blog. Link to be updated shortly)

Sunday Brunch Menu

Coming to the food, the resort has two restaurants which includes Melting Pot and Tao of Peng.
Melting Pot is an Indian & Continental restaurant while Tao of Peng is a Japanese & Chinese restaurant.  This sunday brunch menu did not restrict itself to just Indian or Continental but rather had a wide spread of multi cuisine food. (Thankfully not another heavy South Indian thali on a lazy Sunday afternoon).

Sunday Brunch Menu


The brunch menu included a nice mix of Indian, Japanese, Chinese, European cuisines and Seafood. Live counters were present for most items including Mumbai chats, seafood, North Indian, Chinese, Japanese Sushi rolls, a salad bar. A refreshing mix of ice teas and juices were kept being refilled at the table itself. Without being too light or heavy, the menu was somehow kept just right to ensure you are not bogged down by a very heavy meal.




Coming to the breads, it was neatly stacked up one against with another and last time I counted, there were more than 20 types of breads & rolls. I guess the below picture may just tell you that.

Weekend Brunch Menu

The main course included pretty much everything else (Rice/Noodles/Phulkas/Biryanis/Indian breads) and I barely managed to skim through the large variety.  You always need some space for desserts right?

Brunch Desserts Menu


For a brunch menu, the desserts compliment the above foods and not stick to the vanilla or chocolate scoops. Melting Pot went ahead to dedicate an entire row for desserts, every possible kind you could think of. Red Velvet Sundae : Check . Chocolate Mousse : Check . Bluberry Cheese Cake : Check. Home Made Chocolates : Check ! Sea lion shaped dark chocolate on a stick: Check !!

Brunch Desserts Menu


As a staunch vegetarian , I really cant offer my personal comment on the seafood and other non vegetarian items there. But in all probabilities it may have been done just right, given how good the vegetarian items turned out to be .

Brunch Menue

Other Activities

Interestingly, Intercontinental has setup specialized Kids buffet counters, organized culinarysession on food arts with few of the MasterChefs and even setup a designated play area called Planet Trekkers. Kids also get to do some balloon arts and painting tattoos.
Adults get a complimentary access to the swimming pool and the private beach.
We also got to hear some classic old tracks played by some artist at the venue ( Couldn't catch his name though)


Intercontinental Location Details

Intercontinental Resort is located just 500 metres away from Crocodile Park, Chennai. So you don't really have to drive all the way to Mahabalipuram for this.
Address: No. 212 Nemelli Village, Perur Post Office,, E Coast Rd, Chennai,
Phone: 044 7172 0101

Disclaimer :
As stated above, I was invited by the wonderful guys at the ICC Resort and PassingPorts. However the opinions expressed are completely unbiased .

Monday, June 05, 2017

Tata Tigor Styleback - Selfie Contest


A few months back, you may have read my review of the latest launch from Tata Motors, namely the Tata Tigor, The car was one of its kind with style and design as its core elements and was even referred to as the Styleback car.


A completely refreshing and a revolutionary design, Tata Tigor seemed to really turn heads during its launch. With a premium sedan look in the front, a stretched out design , twin barrel headlamps and of course the large boot space made it  even more special and stand out from its competitors.

Barely few months later, Tata Motors has now launched a kickass 'Selfie' contest for the Tigor Styleback, which can help you to win some exciting prizes that even include "Zara" vouchers !

What you need to Do?


  • Sign up a simple form to do an awesome test drive of the Tata Tigor, the StyleBack.
  • Also get a chance to click a nice selfie with the Tigor.
  • Once done, just upload the selfie and tag Tata Motors on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram(links are provided below) with the hashtag  #TigorStyleback .
  • Do mention in the above post, your Name, City, Dealer Name name along with the selfie picture & hashtag
The official handles of Tata Motors include


Top Prize :  Randomly selected winners from these entries will be announced in the Tata Motors FB/Twitter page


So what are you waiting for ? Head to the nearest showroom and start clicking your selfies with the #TigorStyleback


Saturday, June 03, 2017

House of Cards S05 - The Underwoods are back

The most awaited political thriller and drama, House of Cards is back on television this year with its fifth season. Luckily, I managed to catch the first of the 13 episode season and I can confidently say, the show has certainly managed to come back in its true form, just where it left after the fourth season.

House of Cards Season 5


Note : This is a spoiler free review!

House of Cards SO5E01 - A Glimpse

Power games played at the highest levels of office in Washington, manipulating people at its worst and frankly doing anything possible to get to the top, House of Cards is everything you'd expect in a political thriller. If the first episode is any indication of what's going to happen in the remainder of the fifth season, be assured of a thrilling binge-worthy show, that could just keep your weekends fully busy. Be it the complex relationship with his wife, upcoming elections that may just seal his fate, and criminal allegations that he tries to defend, Frank Underwood may have caught himself in a lot of things. The season opener has just shown the door to various other twists and suspenses, that you might have not seen it coming.

Frank Underwood : Greatest President on TV Yet?

Kevin Spacey screen presence

Though I wouldn't go too much into the details (to retain the spoiler-free experience) , be prepared to expect some power packed acting from the master actor, Kevin Spacey. Almost getting transformed into the role of Frank Underwood,this can definitely be one amongst his greatest performances in his career. An impeccable screen presence, brutal power shown through his eyes and his legendary acting can just make anyone glued to the Tv screens.


HOC S05 - Drawing Parallels in 2017 ?

In the first episode, you can't help but wonder at the startling similarities between some of the scenes and the actual current administration at the White House. In both cases, the country seems to be unsure of what's really happening inside, while an air of unrest lingers around. Frank Underwood may not be the most popular person in the country, but certainly has several tricks up his sleeve to retain his Presidency, votes and of course the Congressional support. As the scenes unfold in rapid moments, Frank Underwood yet again manages to come out of the scene, and talks to the viewers in his trademark style. Truly gives me the chill everytime. Every single time ! Do we even need any more reasons to watch the rest of the season?


Whats HOC all about ? (For those who haven't seen the show yet)


A ruthless and corrupt man,  Frank Underwood(Kevin Spacey), gets his way in almost everything he desires. He manages to plot a devious scheme along with his wife, to attain the greatest seat in the country. From a congressional Whip, to the President of the United States, House of Cards showcases the gripping realities of United States politics, in its true colour.

Awards and Recognitions for House of Cards

House of Cards has won a whopping 33 Emmy award nominations and also happen to be the first web-television series to win so many major Emmy nominations. These include Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Lead Actress.

When is it Airing in India?

Frank Underwood is coming to India with the television premiere of House Of Cards Season 5 on Saturday, 3rd June, 5 PM onwards, only on Zee Café! #HOConZCafe

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rafflesia, The Banished Princess - A Promising attempt in Fiction

Never judge a book by its cover . You might have heard this a million times in so many different contexts, never once in its literal meaning. Well, I had the chance of experiencing this through a recent book I received called Rafflesia - The Banished princess.


The book cover has an image of a beautiful woman (Probably resembling a Japanese girl) holding a hand fan covering part of her face. The title reads Rafflesia - The Banished princess and you'll be naturally inclined to think, this is a mythical / fantasy story. Probably a beautiful princess in a far away kingdom, banished by an evil watch for whatsoever reason and so forth.

Yet, the book is not even remotely about it , and in fact a normal fictional drama. Before you proceed reading, I'd like to stress that , this is a spoiler free review and I'm not revealing any of the main plots in the below review.

The book is a fine mix of young adult fiction and a serious drama , as the author decides to switch back and forth between the protagonist's childhood and his future. Though some parts might get a little slow and melodramatic , it still keeps the reader quite engrossed in the happenings of the story. The dialogues, experiences and events seem quite real and authentic , and the book thankfully stays away from the fictional cliches away and makes it a little enjoyable

This 400 page book may not be the kind of book , that you might be able to finish it in a day or two. It needs time, yet in the end it proves to be a delightful read. The author deliberately leaves a lot of loose strings in several parts of the story , only to bring it all together in the end.

Gautam, the author of the book, has given immense importance to the lead character,Appu and makes the readers sympathize with him and even feel sorry for him at times. The best part about this book is, its non descriptive. Unlike other authors, who takes time in describing a staircase for 2-3 pages, he gets straight to the point.

The few downsides of the book could be the numerous characters being deployed. It's almost impossible to remember more than 60% of the names being mentioned. I had to kinda make note of who's who or keep switching back pages. Additionally , you feel a sense of melancholy throughout the book and this may not be a cheerful read as you might expect to be. Even in a celebration , there's a sadness that lingers away in the background and I sometimes even wonder if this was needed at that point.

Having said that the book is a delightful slow read, a promising bold attempt from the author and would definitely recommend to people who's looking for something new.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Comments, Pods and Instagram : Do Social Influencers really buy Followers?

Blogging and Social Media were pretty much the buzzwords in 2016-17 when people suddenly realised the huge potential lying untapped in it. Several corporates and brands lapped up the concept of freelance bloggers promoting their product with reviews, unboxing, product showcasing etc. This boosted their sales conversion rates and brought in significant traffic to their website.


The Rise of the Followers

When the number of bloggers began to grow quite exponentially, there was a filtering criterion that came into place, in the name of  "followers count". A person having a large follower count was suddenly the hot choice for everyone. They started calling themselves as "social media influencers", and pretty much in demand all the time. The numbers seem to always be exaggerated (similar to scenes inside a political party).


Creation of Fake Followers  with multiple Devices

What's your story?

One school of thought says quality and interesting content drives traffic and followers. Yet, when you actual look into their blog, social media pages, nothing seemed to appear quite extraordinary. There was no "Great" magical content, that could have actually driven a lot of traffic. It was almost the same stuff, that you could have found it elsewhere, a few product reviews, sharing of some experiences, a few travel clicks and maybe a few contest retweets. The hashtags surrounding the post, however, is more than the actual post content.

The Trail of Hashtag #

Ideal scenario : A girl clicks a picture of a selfie with a dog. Hashtag reads : #AnimalLover #DogLover #Dog #Dogs #DogsofInstagram #BowBow #Puppy #Cute #blogger #Instalove #Vegan #Chennai #India #Mumbai #Bangalore and the list goes for another two pages.

You get the point here.  

Such hashtags doesn't generate a thousand followers per post. Npt to mention 20K followers in say 10 - 20 posts. If this was a celebrity, like a sports person or a film star, that just happens "organically" (ok we are going to cover later on this interesting word). However, for a nobody, a stranger in the internet posting a few random pics on Instagram/Twitter, it may not have the actual propensity to gain such a large following in a short time.. So do these so called 100K followers actually exist?

Well, the answer in short is NO. They are just fake. Read on..

Analytics of Social Media Engagement

Suppose a filmstar was to have a half a million followers, you'd be seeing atleast 50,000 likes (thats roughly 10% of your followers likes your post, to say the min). Shahrukh Khan's latest picture in Instagram garnered 500,000 likes while his follower count was 7M. This is in the acceptable limits of 7-8 %. So if an "influencer" claims to have 100,000 followers but doesn't get more than 50 likes/post on an average, you know there's something fishy. Or rather in technical terms "bots" that appears like a real profile, but in fact a fake.
In other good news, I have 200 followers on my Instagram page and I still get 30 likes a post (and that's likes 15%). If you're reading this, it's a cue to follow me there :)

So what are the "non-organic' ways to gain followers?


  1. Buying Followers: 


This is something, most people prefer to not talk about but still quite a few indulge in it. Just like how a top score is vital to a student, the follower count is suddenly a symbol of status for a blogger. It matters even more, irrespective of the poor content and high bounce rate %.



So if you have to join the big league, people resort to buying followers. Now, I am not aware of the technical process that goes behind creating followers, but atleast know the sources where you can do. Here are some of the examples I have come across in sites like Twitter/FB/Fiverr.com to get this done.




  • Engage them through shady profiles in Facebook (There are FB groups for this)
  • Google search for buying Fake followers
  • Professional consultation site Fiverr.com has several people offering to improve your follower count by 1000's starting from 5$

From the posts I saw, the going rate was 10-20$ for anywhere between 1000-5000 followers.
The bots don't like/comment/share your content, but just adds up to you followers count.
In essential the page is a mirage. It seems big from the outside but when you go inside its empty.




      2. Comments and Instagram Pods

When I heard the word 'Pod', being referred in a social media context, I was quite intrigued. I thought its a Facebook group to share links and get awareness about blogs. But the objective was a whole lot different than I had imagined. I joined a few to see what's the deal is all about. The members have to post their Instagram links, and quite forcibly(without much choice) have to like 15 other profiles listed in the comments. Once done you hit like to hint at them, expecting a follow back. So in short a "like" exchange. You Follow Me, I follow you (even if both of them may have two different genres).
(Of course, an unfollow happens, once the forced follower gets bored of your content).


Honestly, I don't know how far this can be successful, but you don't gain more than 10-15 followers at any point of time. At most, you'll find yourself having 50 extra followers at the end of the month.

Social Calendars for Pods


    3. Giveaways


A sure shot of gaining large followers is giveaways. Promise a prize for the person inviting the max no of people. Make it mandatory that all of them should follow you to qualify you for the prize and share the post on their wall as well. Also, announce that the most engaging comment would win an additional prize. Want more engagement? Tell them, you should follow their Twitter page, Facebook page, Google + page, Pinterest page (each of which will give additional 1 point in the lucky draw, and increase their chance of winning).

You'd be finding yourself with so many new followers across different platform. Yet they are there just for winning the prize and might unfollow you any minute post that. At least, this still remains in an ethical line to get more people liking your page. But are they there for your content? No. Do you actually have a social influence over them (without offering a prize) : a Big NO!

Becoming successful the 'Organic' way


Organic usually refers to a way of being natural, without adding any artificial ingredients. Being an influencer, should be the same way. People read your content, share it to their circles and the net widens. They see something interesting in your content and await more such stories. They hit the subscribe button out of a willingness to read more.

Some of the top successful bloggers in the world have become popular only because of their content. They wrote about something which no-one else thought of. Their site had interesting information, tips and lots of valuable content for the users. They were honest, had something interesting about them and connected with their users. This is what a social media influencer is all about, even if he had just 500 "True" followers. Not a person with 1,00,000 followers with 0 engagements.


There are people who have grown their audience from scratch and have become powerful thought leaders in this space. Amit Aggarwal (Labnol), Neil Patel (Neilpatel .com) and so many others have shown how it's done the right way. Yet, to get more brand collaborations and aim of getting rich connect, people, indulge in such shameful acts, which leave a distaste to the true bloggers out there.

My opinion :

Having been in the blogging scenario since 2006, I have witnessed the entire life journey of its evolution. From a hobby to a mainstream profession, blogs have provided a steady income stream to several people. Some of the blogs I read are a true inspiration for me and also a very reliable place to get quality information and reviews. An instagram picture can never ever replace that trust & quality, I get from a blog. A blog unlike an Instagram post is forever and may end up in a search result even four years down the line. On the other hand, your Instagram post may never appear in a timeline even after a day.

A recommendation to PR's and Brands : 

  • Instagram is a popular tool with several users across the globe. But it's not going to get you the conversion. All it does, is familiarize a product, without any traffic leading to the client's site. 
  • Invest in true bloggers, who can actually make your brand rank on the top of the search result and link their site to yours , which leads to direct conversion. 
  • Don't fall for the 20,000 or 200,000 follower count in a pitch. Look for actual engagements, conversion rates and actual traffic to their site from theirs. See if they have the technical capability to rank your keyword in a Google search with their blog post. It'll then be a true Win-Win situation for all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Google Docs Phishing - What really happened & behind the scenes analysis

In the event that YOU GET a Google Doc connect in your inbox today, investigate it painstakingly before you click—regardless of the possibility that it would appear it originates from somebody you trust. A dreadful phishing trick that mimics a Google Docs ask for has cleared the web today,  You've listened "think before you click" a million times, yet this post could truly could spare you from a mess of bother. Here's a short post on the Google Docs phishing scam.




Extent of Google Docs Phishing Attack

"The significance of this phishing attack is not how it spread, but instead how it didn't utilize malware or fake sites, deceiving clients to surrender their passwords," says Aaron Higbee, innovation officer at the phishing examination and protection organization PhishMe, which dissected information from the fake Google Docs battle. "This phish worked in light of the fact that it deceived the client into allowing authorizations to an outsider application. This is the eventual fate of phishing, and each security innovation seller is not well furnished to manage it".

Google has found a way to kill this specific phish. The organization said in an announcement that it has "handicapped culpable records. We've expelled the fake pages, pushed refreshes through Safe Browsing, and our mishandle group is attempting to keep this sort of satirizing from happening once more." But with regards to phishing protection, there's dependably a component of feline and mouse. Vast scale phishing assaults and those mimicking mainstream administrations like Google sign in pages routinely stalk the web. 

Earlier Phishing Attacks

Similar Google Docs tricks have been circling since 2014, yet that doesn't make them any less demanding to spot, to a limited extent since they appear to be so genuine. Phishers can utilise genuine Google accounts and grow outside modules that can communicate with Google administrations. This can easily bait casualties through the best looking Google site pages one. 
Here are some of the means by which you can remain careful:
The Act of Phishing



This round of Google docs phishing messages works like this: 
  • You get an email saying somebody added you to a Google Do , click this connection to view it. 
  • That takes you to a true blue record screen, posting all the Google records you're signed into. 
  • From that point, you pick the one you need to use to see the archive (or sign in, in the event that you weren't at that point confirmed in your program). 
  • There, a noxious administration called "Google Docs" anticipates, requesting benefits to get to your record, your contacts, your secret word rests, your messages, everything.

A quick fix Solution:

By chance you had clicked on that connection link, immediately go to the Permissions page of your Google account , deny access to the administration called "Google Docs." 

Wellbeing First:

To help secure yourself, Google offers a device called Password Alert. This alerts you in the event you write your Google account accreditations into any page that isn't formally by Google. On the off chance, that phishers have made a practical looking fake, Password Alert in a flash recommends that you change your secret key and secure your record when you've committed the error. 

Be that as it may, this doesn't really ensure you when tricksters are controlling honest to goodness Google forms. Furthermore, it doesn't help you recognise fake sign in pages identified with other organisations' administrations.

Fighting the temptation to open remains the best course of action here. When you can spot irregularities or suspicious substance in an email like a "To" field populated by "hhhhhhhhhh", it ought to raise doubts and you should trust your gut instinct here. In any case, for the situation where a phishing email is sufficiently impeccable to persuade you, it takes a general propensity for deduction before you snap to give a shot.


A Safety Check to prevent being hacked

 


Downloading connections or clicking joins shouldn't be programmed even when they appear to be from your trusted contacts. Especially in case you're not expecting a message, you ought to pause for a minute to inspect any URLs. You should check if it contains a plain content tool or twofold check with your companion through another methods for correspondence and check if they indeed sent it. These fast checks can have a major effect. Some of the time a moment's look is all it takes to understand that your associate most likely wouldn't send a Google Doc to your whole organization  out of nowhere. 
This is a guest post from Rudroju Yashwanth , who owns DealsAtoZ.com

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Microsoft Surface Laptop - A Sneak Peek & Preview

Back in early 2017, if you had asked who would be launching the best-looking laptop this year, you’d probably go with Apple, HP or even Dell. But Microsoft has just stumped the world with the launch of the Surface Laptop.

surface laptop sleek design


With the launch of the Windows Surface laptop, Microsoft has basically woken the dead PC market from its ashes, quite literally.  Despite an earnest attempt earlier with the Surface 4, it didn’t really quite take off. However just a couple of years down the line, they have launched an “Apple Killer”, a super sleek device called the “Surface Laptop". Without a doubt, this can very much be the next big thing in the PC industry.

The Surface laptop comes bundled with Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10S. Only drawback of the 10S OS is the Microsoft App store dependency. So you basically have to install apps from the apps store and that can be a bit frustrating sometimes.

So what’s different in the Surface Laptop?

For starters, it’s a full-fledged laptop, as compared to the earlier  hybrid type tablet/laptop device of Surface Pro 4. They actually pretty much forced you to buy a compatible keyboard for as high as 150$. So this “non-hybrid laptop” comes as a big relief and you also get a free OS along with it.

The most striking thing is the design. The surface laptop comes with an extremely sleek 3.5mm thick touch screen and an unusual fabric finish keyboard, making the Macbook Air look like a dictionary in comparison. The base is made of a mixture of aluminium and plastic while covered with a layer of fabric of nylon. The fabric finish just makes it all the more smooth.


The base is made of a mixture of aluminium and plastic while covered with a layer of fabric of nylon. The fabric finish just makes it all the more easier to handle, as well as to type with a “softer on the hands” feel. They call this an “Alcantara” fabric.




Surface's Stunning Design

The 13.5 touch screen with the thinnest LCD display is packed with several cooling materials in the back and surprisingly even provides the capability to draw with a pen/stylus. This is something quite iconic to all surface editions and hence a designer’s favourite. One unique feature that stands out is the one hand to open option. Unlike most laptops, where you hold the base and try to open the screen, the surface actually stands its ground, while you can effortlessly open the top lid.




The battery life for the Surface is claimed to be 14.5 hours (without even a minute loss of power when you put it to sleep). This is a huge step up against the average battery life of 8-9 hours in Apple laptops and most chromebooks.

Surface Laptop - Colour Options

Just like a smartphone, Microsoft has rolled out 4 different vibrant colours for this, which includes: Burgundy, Platinum, Cobalt Blue and Graphite Gold.

Pricing & Configuration

The Surface doesn’t come cheap, given its superior premium finish and build. The pricing starts at 999$ for the Intel i5 processor variant. This comes along with 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD and a massive 2256 x 1504 resolution. If you throw in 49$, you’d get the Windows 10 Pro, which to me is quite essential to work with most applications and softwares. This includes Google Chrome, which is a glaring miss in the Windows app store.

A final word

Surface laptop could be the best thing that happened to Microsoft, when it comes to the hardware industry.  Going out of the standard "microsoft" design, they have tried something so different and it actually pays off. Given the specs, features and more importantly the design, it really warrants a 999$ price tag and wouldn't be too much to mind for most Windows users. Can we also sense a shift from Apple fans, with some aggressive marketing?

Friday, May 05, 2017

Flipkart Big 10 Sale - Top Deals, Discounts and Cashback Offers

India's biggest and most successful online retail giant, Flipkart is celebrating its 10th anniversary on May 14th. Flipkart, not only became a successful e-retail store but actually gave Indians, the trust to buy things online through never before seen schemes, such as 30-day replacement guarantee, no questions asked returns and of course rock bottom prices. Starting it as an online bookstore, just like how Amazon started, they quickly ventured to the entire gamut of online retailing and expanded quite significantly. In fact, Flipkart.com is now one among the top 2 of Indian retail industry and in due process acquired Myntra,  Snapdeal, Jabong and the likes. The second is of course the worldwide giant, Amazon.

http://dl.flipkart.com/dl/?affid=hkmuraligm


In order to celebrate this 10-year milestone, they have announced a massive Flipkart Big 10 Sale from May 14th to May 18th. The sale is supposedly much larger than all their previous sales and would be applicable on almost all products including TV's, Washing machines, Mobile Phones, Refrigerators, Clothes, Home appliances, furniture etc.


Bank Offer in Flipkart Big10 Sale:

This time, Flipkart has tied up with HDFC to over the cashback over and above the discounts you get on the products.

The terms and conditions are as follows :
  • Offer valid from 14th to 18th May ' 17
  • Valid on min spend of Rs 6499
  • Max Discount per card: Rs 1250
  • Cashback  : 10% 



Wallet Offers : Flipkart's own PhonePe wallet is also offering a whopping 30% cashback on the same ( though max cashback amount is unknown at the moment).

Top Participating Brands in Flipkart Sale

  • Clothing: UCB, Vero Moda, Levis, Lee, W, Biba, Puma, Adidas, Reebok, Fila
  • Electronics: HP, Dell, Asus, Philips, JBL
  • Mobiles: Samsung, Apple, Mi, Lenovo

Other Major Prizes in Store : 

A fully paid international trip,  shopping vouchers every hour and even get a golden chance to do free shopping !! Here's a detailed list:

  • Play & Win – Complete simple tasks and win big!
  • Fly High Contest – Free Trip to Kaula Lumpur for top 20 shoppers
  • MakeMyTrip Gift Cards worth Rs. 2500 and more
  • Flash sale with Discounts Up to 90% Off
  • Free Shopping up to Rs. 10,000 – Top 1000 interesting entries win by answering a simple question.
  • What’s your bid? Make the lowest unique bid and win big!
  • Shop for 3 or more products. Top 10 shoppers win Vouchers every hour, worth Rs. 500
I'll try to update the deals as and when it is posted, here. So save this link to get some amazing deals!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

FictionCrate - Making books still matter

Books has always held a special place in my heart. The innumerable plot twists, the drama, the subplots and of course the surprise elements as you unravel page by page, nothing excites you more than a good old book. Despite the rise in popularity of e-readers, the undevoted love towards a physical hardcover book can never be replaced with a PDF version. Be it the rustic old smell, the ease of reading and of course as a lifelong treasure, books can be your best lifelong companion. I'm sure some other book lover in the world would have heard my voice, so as to come up with a unique "book subscription" box called Fiction Crate.



How Does this work?

So the concept is pretty simple.
You subscribe to a plan (be it a one time try or a 3-month plan) and simply mention your favourite genre. The guys at FictionCrate would select an interesting novel in that genre and send it to you in a nicely designed box aka crate. You wouldn't know what book it is, until you actually receive it and each time a nice goodie comes along with it as well.

My FictionCrate Box


I love surprise gifts, esp if it comes in the form of a nicely gift-wrapped book. Apart from this I also got a classic T-Shirt that read "A book A Day, keeps reality away".
Definitely story of my life!


The book I received was titled "Woman in Lodge 10", written by Ruth Ware and touted to be a murder mystery & thriller. Hopefully, this would give me company for the next few days at least



Pricing of FictionCrate Subscription


Their classic programme starts from 499/month which includes one surprise book and a customised goodie with free shipping as well. The 3-month plan costs 1450 and you get 1 book & a customised gift every month, for 3 months consecutively. There are also other premium plans ranging from 700 to  2050 which also carries an additional T-Shirt every month (trust me they are super classy).
I happened to notice all their books are actually priced 8$ + (500+), so technically you get to save a little bit as well.

Their site gives you a detailed split of all plans.



Note: I was part of a blogger outreach program by the nice folks at Fictiocrate and hence invited to review their program. However the above is an honest unbiased review of this book subscription program.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Wrong Turn - Book Review

As an exclusive member of the Cosmos Book club, I happened to receive a copy of an interesting book called The Wrong Turn, written by Sanjay Chopra and Namita Roy Ghose. Juding purely by it's cover, I mistook this for a romantic drama. The book cover depicts a couple in an embracing position with a caption indicating love and betrayal. However I should admit this book took me completely by surprise, given the theme, the way it was written and a quite controversial subject as well.
No more "judging" a book by it's cover :) So here you go with the Wrong Turn Book Review.


What actually started off as a story set in a sleepy town around Kolkatta, becomes into a complex plot about the freedom struggle of Indian Independence. The fight led by our very own Subash Chandra Bose and his INA led army is the central theme of the novel.


We may have read about several famous wars that happened in World history including WW1, WW2, Battle of Waterloo, Hiroshima war  etc. Yet, when it comes to India's independence movement against the British, we know very little. We have probably come across only Mahatma Gandi's non violence movement and his Dandi marches. Yet there were several other movements happening across different states to fight for independent. One such movement was the INA, led by the great leader Subash Chandra Bose.

A story, pretty much untold by anyone, this book is a great revelation to get some insights and truth behind what really happened in Bengal during the period of 1943-1945. There are still so many unanswered questions such as "Was there a betrayal among the ranks?", "To what extent did it influence the overall movement for freedom", "What actually happened to Subash Chandra Bose". The book goes to the grassroots level of the actual fights and struggles INA faced while faced with such an uphill task, made even more tougher b the Indian forces that were part of the British army.
The authors has additionally woven a romantic plot triangle between three two main characters, Deb,Nishonko and the rebel lady, Aditi.

Despite being set in a fictional setting, you can't help but feel this might be almost in line to what would have actually happened during the freedom stuggle led by Netaji.

What could have been better in the book?
The author has preferred a slightly advanced language than simple English. Most words require looking up in the dictionary to get the meaning. The book is a lengthly read and could have been easily shortened. The pace is also something that requires a nudge. The book cover could also be misleading for so many people who would have been otherwise interested in the book, if they knew about the theme. But nevertheless , barring these minor things, the book is definitely a great read and a must recommend for all book lovers and history loving people as well.

The book is also soon to be a major motion picture and definitely have the potential to be the next biggest hit in Bollywood.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More Indian than Most Indians - Living life the Desi Way

When the world was busy inventing billions,trillions etc, we Indians came up with the number 0 . Yes, we can find value and meaning in anything, even in a number like zero !

The first thing that comes to mind when you refer to an "Indian" way of doing things, its most probably a "Jugaad" . Jugaad is a slang for a knack to fix something that was earlier deemed not possible to do. It's very much in our blood to "find the easiest way" to get around to do something or in some cases, not do something.

Source : http://top10wala.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/48.jpg

Around the world, the general consensus when something is broken, is to throw it away and get a replacement. Be it a relationship or an iPhone, the motto is always "lets not try to fix it, we'll just get a new one". However that doesn't apply to us. We try every possible trick in the book or even think out of the box ones to come up with something so unique, that just solves the purpose.

So what are some common situations that uses the "Indian" way to get it done?
  •  Your motor bike doesn't start? No need service mechanics. Just tilt it right and left, twice. That should do the trick.
    Source : http://media.indiatimes.in/media/content/2017/Jan/bike_4_1484043199.jpg
  • Running out of Gum to stick labels in a book ? - Just use plain boiled rice in between the labels

Source : http://www.wikihow.com/images/4/4e/Make-Rice-Glue-Intro.jpg
  • A broken pipe or tap ? - Dont get a new one. Just use a adhesive to stick it
  • Want to ban paper cups or plastics? Just go for Indian clay pots to serve tea. 
Source : http://joezachs.blogspot.in

Yet, the pride feeling of being "street smart" , trying to come up with ingenious ways to come up with quick fix solutions is always a great thing. Haven't you noticed your mother try to come up with a dish, with whatever is left in the household, than demanding the recipe items.

It isn't quite surprising, that majority of project testers and "troubleshooters"(Bug fixers) in the software companies are predominantly from India. We know to find the issues and do quick fixes on them, even before it escalates to a bigger issue. This is why we tend to remain calm even in major crisis, as we ll know we can definitely find a way out.


The Jugaads Of Demonetization


When the country was faced in a ponder, after the government announced a ban of 500/1000 rs notes overnight, one would have expected a major economy slump in most countries. But we just happened to find absolutely ingenious ways to beat the system in its own way. We bought expensive international air tickets and first A/C train tickets legally and of course cancelled it for a small fee the next day. We converted the cash in terms of gold and silver almost immediately. All the pending bills and loans were paid off with old currencies. Some even found ways to get foreign exchange for these old notes. The best among the lot was this : Apple reportedly sold more than 1 lakh iPhones in a single day , all with old 500/1000 rs notes. So next time you spot someone flaunting a relatively new iPhone , do ask if it was bought with 500/1000 notes,


Order in Chaos

Any foreigner who comes to India, might be shocked at the bureaucracies. They see a large scale complex myriad system and dont know which is the start nor the end. They may not realize what's keeping the system in place , given this huge population . They find traffic jams everywhere, yet the auto wala just seem to know the right alley to avoid the full block. They dont find the system streamlined or disciplined. They see flaws and glaring inefficiencies and wonder, how does the system function?. But no one can beat us when it comes to efficiency or making full use of a product.


Source : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fsi-can-destroy-lifestyles-indian-cities-prabhakar-mundkur


We can convert even a broken CD pile into a wall hanging decor.  Stuck somewhere that even Google Maps can't help? No problem. Just ask a shopkeeper/AutoDriver/Ironing Guy and he'll exactly tell you where the house is and which street to take.

WallHanger made out of old CD

Being Indian

Though we may have found ways to beat the system or found smarter ways to do things, this doesn't really define or describe remotely what "being an Indian" is all about . It's much more. 

A country of more than a billion population with 28 states,diverse cultures and more than a 100 languages spoken. yet we remain as one of the most united countries in the world. 

We were the only country to believe in non-violence even during a world war period and gained our freedom successfully.  

We go out of our way to help someone and pridely call our fellow citizens as Brothers and Sisters.

My Indian Way to Success


To recall a particular incident of "being Indian" to being successful is quite the impossible task. When you lived as a true "Indian" in every way all your life,  its difficult to separate the two. It's like going to China and asking for Chinese food, when it's actually just "food" out there.

But if I were to define my way of success through the Indian way , this could be it:
  • I may not always have followed the strict rules laid by the government , but never once strayed from the rules of Dharma , written in our holy books.
  • I owe my success to my immediate family, who's always my main priority. I strongly believe in joint families than nuclear ones. Living with your parents even after you turn 25, could definitely be an Indian thing and I still take so much pride on that.
  • As a travel blogger, I love to visit many countries and places. Yet I implement my Indian travel jugaads to save money in the following ways:
    • Excess Baggage ? No Problem, just take a couple of tshirts and jackets and wear it during checkin. Reduces 3-4 Kg easily
    • Forced to buy water in flight? Just carry an empty bottle, fill it in water dispenser in boarding area
    • Expensive Lunch/Dinners in foreign countries ? Just take MTR ready to eat packets and get hot Indian food by just immersing in a pot of hot water
    • Expensive audio guides in Museumes? Just download audio tour guides of museums in your phone,plug your headphones and save easily 10-20 Euros/Dollars
  • As an Indian, I have always strongly believed in the concept of Athithi Devo Bhava (All my guests are treated like God, even if its a stranger). I was fortunate enough to be in the receiving end as well as the giving end when my city was struck by two disasters ( Chennai Floods and a major cyclone ) , offering shelter and food to even strangers. The entire community and city came together during a tough period, helped one another offering food, water, shelter . Never in my life can I describe the spirit of "Indian" ness than this.
The Indian way is not always about smart tricks or making the best use of everything. The true Indian way is considering everyone their brethren, showing love and care when one needs it and being there as a fellow human while seeing each other as an equal. That to me is the true Indian spirit!

On this note, I was quite delighted and surprised to see Lufthansa's effort to go the Indian way in making their flights more welcoming to us. Right from the greetings in the local language , the subcontinent/Spicy Indian food, Bollywood shows in the in-flight communication system, the whole experience is really thought of and wonderful, especially by a German airline. Naturally you'd expect a standard international airline welcome with some continental food being served. But this concept is totally a game changer and can be a real delight inside the flight and definitely feels like home.

The Lufthansa campaign #MoreIndianThanYouThink has definitely struck a chord in me. The way, they try to adapt to a "desi" like experience to beat the Indian squad at cricket is comical, yet at the same time, the concept is very welcoming. This clearly indicates India's rising influence in the global arena and how companies are trying to successfully adapt themselves in the local market.

Do watch their hilarious ad here: