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Feb 29

In an unpredictable and unprecedented move, the Indian Govt. has retrospectively revised rules relating to EPF withdrawals which are sure to cause angst and anger among the salaried citizens of the country. The rules make it much harder for employees to use their funds before retirement and even go ahead and prohibit the withdrawal of all the funds before the age of 58.

Change 1 : No full withdrawal at the age of 54 :

“Now, the subscribers will not be able to claim their provident fund at 54, as earlier. They will have to wait till they are 57. The ministry has notified the new rules,” an official said.

Change 2 : Only partial withdrawal now allowed

Earlier employees could withdraw all of their EPF if they so desired. Now the govt. has put in a restriction that employees may only withdraw their portion of EPF and corresponding interest. Employer’s portion of EPF principal and interest cannot be withdrawn before 58. This kind of restriction is unprecedented where you cannot even withdraw the money even if you are willing to pay a penalty.

There are a few other minor changes, but there are the most major changes notified by the ministry and are extremely unfriendly to employees who may have a big expense coming up, those who want to use their savings to start a business or those who might be relocating abroad. The Indian Govt. just doesnt seem to care about its citizens. So much for Ache Din ! Worse is that there is no grace period to withdraw your money, the rule applies retrospectively paralyzing all withdrawals.


Feb 29

John Oliver has broken his silence on a floof of cheetos with a toupe wanting to become US President, John works hard to demolish misconceptions around the floof ball showing how Donald Floof Drumpf has been financing his own campaign, has good business sense or that he never lies and has good words.

Watch the video in its full glory here :


Feb 29

I usually stay away from reviews of Indian e-commerce websites since there are so many, but I would like to promote this fledgling startup offering great value on innerwear. I was looking for a particular brand of vests and couldn’t find it anywhere online except on this site. The vests were great value and the website offered free shipping. It was cheaper than what the neighborhood shops would sell it for. The value seems to be much better than Flipkart and Amazon even. Plus you dont have to step out of your house.

After you place the order, you do get a short verification call so keep an eye out for that.

Furthermore, the website seems to have a very generous rewards program, after spending only 269 on my 1st order, I was able to get 30 off on my seconds order, so sending Zotory some link love : https://zotory.com/


Feb 25

After having moved to America, I admired few things as much as the Starbuck’s loyalty program. Basically you earned a star for every visit to a Starbucks store and it took 30 stars to reach gold status. After you reach gold status, you would get a free drink every 12 stars.  It was nothing great especially when you consider that McDonald’s McCafe has a 5 drink punch card system. However it usually worked as Starbucks would often send out mailers with bonus stars etc.

Last week Starbucks announced far reaching changes to the program which reward only high spenders and make it exceedingly hard for tall/short coffee drinkers to get free drinks. As an example, if you spent $4 on an average on coffee, even without any bonus starts it would take you just $48 to get a free drink or a snack. An OK deal, not too good, but more importantly not too bad either. However under the new rewards program you would earn 2 stars for every dollar you spend. So $48 only gets you 96 stars which is short of the free drink. You must spend $62.5 to get the 125 stars needed for a free drink now. Ofcourse if you have a ton of money and didnt need the occasional free coffee anyway, the Starbucks program rewards you. When people sais they want more stars, this is definitely not what they meant. However that’s the stupid PR spin given to the change by Starbucks.

Here is an infographic showing the changes (ownership is with starbucks, please ignore copyright statement on this) :

image

Also worth noting is that the program sucks even more for new customers. Earlier on an average it would cost you $120 to become a gold customer, however now you would need to spend $150 to become gold and then spend an additional $62.5 to get a free coffee. A net expenditure of $212.5 .

What can I do to stop this change ?

Starbucks is spending big bucks to advertise this change, however there is already ton of social media backlash. You should voice your concerns online and email Starbucks about the change. Also you can call Starbucks and ask them for a refund of your gift cards since they have significantly devalued the program. This should tell Starbucks that it’s customers don’t appreciate the changes and force them to do a rethink.


Feb 18

Visiting India is always a bittersweet experience for me. I see so many things changing but so many things remain the same. Who can forget the dud Aakash tablet ? And now hot on its heels comes the latest ‘’pretend’ to make in India product, the Freedom 251 phone. The phone launched at a price point of Rs. 251 promises that its the world’s cheapest smartphone. Boasting of 8GB internal memory and 1GB of RAM along with a 1.3 Ghz Quad core processor, the specs are no joke for the price tag. However the phone and its gaffes are super jokes unless the company is able to do some serious explaining.

For one, all icons on the phone are blatant copies of the Apple iPhone, they even copied the Safari icon for their generic browser on their Android 5.1. Most of the other icons such as music are also copies of the iPhone. A news source was quoting company sources as saying that Apple has not copyrighted these icons. Calling bullshit on that ! Even the start interface looks like Apple’s and the home button and rounded edges are also copies of the legendary Apple phone.

The company also plans to setup plants in Noida worth over 250 crores, however there is no indication of how they would actually get this money. With the 4 month delivery promise, it looks like a pyramid scheme at the moment. The Indian govt. also seems to have some shady partnership with this company with the Freedom 251 makers proposing to launch with Govt. bloatware apps like Swach Bharat and Farmer and Women Safety. The company however claims no subsidy if being given to them.

The phone also has the Indian tricolor to further impress upon the fact that its an Indian phone, however the test phones given to some media outlets had Adcom branding whitened out , and the company Adcom is just an importer of IT products. So the more someone questions and digs into this so called cheap smartphone, the more it becomes apparent that its largely a scam and the make in India part is probably just an eyewash to sell more units to those who think having a phone with the tricolor makes them more patriotic. Also the legality of putting the Indian flag on the phone needs to be questioned.

Only time will tell how things unfold, but if you are lucky enough to get this phone for 251, don’t be disillusioned, its not an example of Indian engineering, but more-so of Indian jugaad and trickery. I hope that I am wrong and this is a company with indeed good intentions and a good product, but it seems very unlikely that its the case.

With no products out till now, the following mission statement might evoke a chuckle :

Established in 2015, Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. is one of the fastest growing smartphone companies in India. We design and produce smart phones to provide a satisfying mobile experience for users, so that their valuable time is spent doing things/tasks they love, instead of figuring out ways to use the phone.

We have a complete in-house product testing set-up in India. With best-in-class features, Freedom251 is the Indian smartphone brand at highly affordable prices. We are an amazing team of smartphone lovers who collaborate seamlessly to exchange technical and qualitative inputs and create quality products, along with testing at several stages to deliver the ultimate customer experience in its category.

We convert consumers’ needs and insights into amazing products using deep requirement analysis and bridging gap by offering products with superior value through high quality and best-in-class features at an affordable price.


Jan 11

In a bizarre move HDFC Bank has decided to charge its preferred customers Rs.100 quarterly fee just for having the preferred status. The move seems bizarre since preferred customers must already put a lot of money in the bank to qualify in the preferred program. Moreover according to the website Preferred customers enjoy service fee waivers for common charges like money orders and extra statements etc. Its referred to as Program Management Fee from HDFC Bank.

To become a preferred customer you must satisfy the following criteria :

You are eligible for the HDFC Bank Preferred Programme ** if you:

  • Hold at least one Savings or Current account, sole or joint, with HDFC Bank.
  • Maintain a minimum Average Monthly balance of Rs. 15 Lakhs across all your accounts (Savings, Current and Fixed Deposits*)
    OR
  • Maintain an Average Quarterly Balance of Rs. 2 Lakhs in your Savings account.
    OR
  • Maintain an Average Quarterly Balance of Rs. 5 Lakhs in your Current account.

So despite having lakhs of rupees in your HDFC bank account, they still want to charge Rs.400 + tax to you every year in the name of program management fee.

Programme(sic) Management fee : A nominal Programme Management fee of Rs.100, per quarter is applicable per customer ID, on the Imperia (probably a typo) Banking Programme for Savings and Current Account holders, effective from Jan’16 . Services tax applicable. T&C Apply

So how does this move of charging your most loyal customers make sense ? Beats us. Some MBA probably decided that lets take our richest customers for a ride and extract even more money from them. Despite amazing profits the bank’s move to milk its best customers seems like a pretty counter intuitive move to me. I for one am going to close my NRO account the next time I visit India.

So do you have a HDFC Bank preferred account ? What do you feel about them charging you Rs.400 per year (+tax) extra ?