Sringeri July 2015

 

  • Weekend trip
  • Onward: Talaguppa express (16227) from Majestic (SBC) – Pf 9 – AC coaches get added at Bangalore – in the front – next to engine. Reaches Shimoga town (SMET) at around 4:50AM.
  • We had booked a taxi from Sringeri – You can call Sudhakar at +91 94487 23382 if you want to book. Good guy. Understands Kannada and Tamil (potentially English and Hindi too, I did not try). Cost (at the time of this writing) is Rs.2250 for pick-up.
  • For staying at Mutt rooms, check in main reception (the driver will take you there).
  • Lunch and dinner were had at the Mutt. For breakfast and evening tiffin, we frequented Hotel Maruti. This has been there for the last 20 years (second generation family that I am seeing that is running it). Restricted menu items, but guaranteed not to affect your stomach.
  • We did a Hornadu visit from Sringeri and back. Takes 2 hours to get there and 2 hours back. And about an hour for darshan. We took the same cab. Rs.2250 (almost same distance).
  • Return was also using the same cab (Rs. 2250). Though the train is at 10:30PM, we were advised to leave around 6PM so that we can come to Shimoga around 8PM. Dinner places are open (and relatively less crowded at this time). We had dinner at the Mathura Paradise. Decent vegetarian North Indian food.
  • Return train is Talaguppa-Bangalore express (16228). Comes in at Pf 2. Comes in mostly bang on time. AC coaches come coupled. Train stops only for about 5 minutes.
  • Arrives in Bangalore at an unearthly hour at 4:25AM (apparently some times even earlier).

 

Tech Enabled Restaurant Experience

There are two segments to this post. First is a fictitious sequence of events in a tech enabled restaurant, that I would like to see. The second is my take on how there exists bits and pieces of this experience, but not quite the entire flow yet.

  • We walk into a restaurant. Greeted by the Maitre’D and guided to a table.
  • Waiter heads over to our table and hands us a tablet and gives us general instructions on how to use it.

ipad1

ipad2

  • Once the orders are punched in, and ‘Done’ has been clicked, the waiter comes and takes away the tablet.
  • When the food is ready, the waiter brings in the food and he exactly knows which food goes where (because he can find out from the backend version of the app)
  • After the meal, the waiter brings back the tab, where the app can either take payments by splitting the bill or one person pays the bill. The payment can be done through any of the existing online payment mechanisms or by cash.
  • Folks tip the waiter for the service and leave.

A few observations/opinions about the above experience.

  • To my knowledge, the above ordering experience is not yet present in any app/service. A slightly manual version of this exists in some restaurants. The waiter have the tablet with them and punch in the order as the guest rattles out what he/she wants.But even here, I am not sure, if the app that they use help the waiter by table position. It probably takes the order for everyone together.
  • This would improve waiter productivity immensely. Apart from the time it takes for the food to be prepared, the biggest bottleneck is the order-reciting part to the waiter.
  • A related productivity benefit is the billing part. The order is directly translated to the receipt. It results in exponential productivity improvement especially when the guests would like to split the bill.
  • With the whole tech experience, it is only natural to complete the payment also through an online gateway such as PayTM or PayU or Instamojo.
  • A side feature that could be built in from the restaurant side is the capability to get very focussed reviews from the guest (eg. how was the paneer tikka?) or getting feedback on a new menu etc.

Mock-ups courtesy the awesome online tool – moqups.com

Food on Order Direct from Rooms

I was thinking quite a bit about whether to write this as a post or to add on to the previous post, but I guess ‘new post’ won.

The one problem that a lot of service apartments face is the lack of a full fledged kitchen. There might be breakfast, but that would still be fairly minimal. In the US, when I go for a business visit, a lot of the hotels would have a menu of a near-by restaurant which would deliver ~ within certain working hours of course. Most times this is a little expensive, but there are days, when you just come back to your room and plop on your room (or the ottoman) and do not want to get up. You just want someone to come and give you the food in your room.

This should be feasible in India too right? A tie up with a nearby chain? In fact, with most of these chains going the app-way or have an online site where you can order, there exists infrastructure to make this more streamlined.

  1. There could be a tablet in each room or with the reception (the first could be a premium room feature vs the latter is a normal room). ipad1
  2. Tie-ups with one restaurant for each of the four categories
  3. These would not redirect to their websites, but to potentially APIs exported by the infra from these restaurants (or an aggregator like zomato). Some restaurants and food service providers already have a good backend such as Mast Kalandar, freshmenu, spoonjoy, etc to which you should be able to link.
  4. Why not a web-site? And why API driven? I would want the tablet to be aware of my service apartment address and room number, and also, have the ability to add the bill amount to my hotel bill. So all, I would need to do is to browse, and click. End of story.
  5. Stringent SLA for delivery and quality of food can be established (failing which – you cease to be a preferred partner and will be swapped out to competition).

I sense a business opportunity here as well. This need not be something that hotel chains like oyorooms or stayzilla need to build. This could be very well be an independent platform. Well, somebody like zomato can potentially build it though.

 

Peronalized Hotel Rooms ?

There were serviced apartments that started popping up in cities like Bangalore a few years back. These were good alternatives to expensive full service hotels. A lot of frequent IT travelers liked these service apartments, because they were really good quality rooms, and they were inexpensive because they were no-frills. No service. Mostly no restaurants attached. This fit their bill perfectly.

But there was a problem. These service apartments were unorganized. You could only book them by calling them by phone. Some of them had a website, but most did not. Discoverability was a problem. This is being solved by a slew of new start-ups like OyoRooms, Ziproom, and stayzilla.

Now, allow me to add one more level of complexity into this problem – which could be a potential area where start-ups can spring up.

personalizedrooms

Personalized rooms. Seasoned business travelers love service apartments because of their no-frills approach, and are the ones who are fueling the reservation of these rooms through the new startups. But that does not mean to say that these travelers would not mind some personalization.Let me list a couple of immediate ideas that come to mind:

  1. Toiletries – For those who follow me on twitter, you would notice that this is a big peeve of mine. I am not a big business traveler, but I get irritated every time I am put through the “you-cannot-carry-toiletries-in-cabin-baggage’. This is the biggest bummer that happened after 9/11 in the US (which naturally percolated internationally). I would love to not carry toiletries at all during international travel. And you might ask – hey most hotels give you soap and some of them give you paste. I would want my brands to be there – cinthol/dettol soap + vicco tooth paste + fresh new brush + gillete mach3 razor+blade (disposable is fine) + nivea after shave gel. Now, if this is an add-on package to any of the room booking start-ups, I would glad plonk money on it.
  2. Travel – What if I can book a day cab or a cab for airport/station pickup or whatever need I have, while booking the room. Would that not be awesome? Sure, again, you might ask me, I could always use Uber/Ola/whatever to get the cabs on demand. But when I am on a business trip, I would like everything to be perfectly planned. I may sound pompous here – but I want my car waiting for me every time I want it. I would not want to be fiddling with my phone and getting a “No cars in your vicinity” message and getting stressed about it. Sure, the hotel could very well book an uber/ola on my behalf – I dont care, but I want it to be waiting for me.
  3. Food – What if the hotel can offer me a fixed simple veg meal when I return back to my room at 8:30PM. A simple Mast Kalandar HP2 would be perfectly fine. But I would not want to be the one ordering it on the way back to my hotel, and giving directions, picking it up, paying, and all of that. It would be so much value for money for me to just get into the hotel, my food is waiting ‘hot’ in the reception, for me to take to my room, and have it in peace. Sure, the hotel can tie up with swiggy, mastkalandar, urbanspoon, whatever. They can even ask me where I want the food from. But again, sounding as pompous as I can, I want the food waiting for me, when I get to my room, after a tiring day. Hey they can get fancy too – they can save my preferences, and just confirm if I would like to order the same as last time. I know a lot of travelers do that. You could get fancier, by enabling the service apartment reception to call you once just to confirm if you would be needing dinner (what if – you suddenly get pulled into a client dinner type situation); or perhaps a push notification on your phone. A lot of stuff can be done in this area.

Well, enough dreaming for now. Got to get to my boring day job. :-)

Hyperlocal for daily milk?

The current proliferation of Hyperlocal is awesome. I love it because of at least 2 reasons:

  1. I get stuff from my local area – a lot of times I am used to getting stuff from nearby where I live. These goods may or may not be available elsewhere.
  2. I get it from the local grocers and shopkeepers – so they are not affected by the so-called “e-commerce boom”. In fact hyperlocal enables ecommerce for these local guys who cannot afford to go and sell online.

Now, with that, out of my mind, let me get to a problem that every household faces. The problem of getting milk (and related items) every morning.

Daily home delivery of milk can be categorized into a couple of types:

  1. People who always order the same type of milk (full cream or toned or slim) and the same quantity every day.
  2. People who have coupons given by the milk guy for different quantities and types of milk. They drop these coupons in a bag outside the gate, and the milk guy delivers per the coupon dropped.

Even the first category guys have an on-demand requirement for other dairy and other bakery products such as curd, ghee, and bread (which, ofcourse has varieties – sandwich bread, milk bread, wheat, brown etc).

If you notice, one thing that is uniform across all the requirements is the fact that, in most times, the requirement is remembered only at 10PM the previous night and is required the next day morning. 

This is the official pain-point that is to be addressed.

Mockups courtesy the awesome moqups.com

mock1  mock2  mock3

This is not an extensive mockup, but you get the drift.

Additional features could be:

  • Location could either be the address that you signed up with, or can be configured using the GPS in your app.
  • The Date screen could have a way by which you can add recurrence. This would make it slightly more complicated, but might be useful for those who order the same thing again and again.

For best ease of use, I would recommend an online wallet. The delivery is most likely going to be very early hours in the morning, and hence could be cumbersome for COD.

Need for a new special logistic solution 

The one thing different about the logistics of this delivery problem is that, in most cases, the delivery would need to be drop into a bag/basket tied on the gate and leave. If the delivery is going to be at 5AM, this would probably need to be the case. This goes against the traditional delivery logistics of getting an ack from the customer.

This could be potentially be solved using:

Trust method. The customer trusts the hyper local delivery guy completely that he would delivery what he had asked for. He would just get an SMS or a push notification that the goods have been delivered.

Proof method: The delivery guy has some kind of a proof method that he did deliver the goods at the appropriate time. Perhaps he could place the goods in the appropriate location, click a snap with his logistics app which would imprint date/time on the snap and send it to you as part of push notification. More sophisticated RFID technologies could also perhaps be used – but I cannot think of any at the moment.

Well, @grofers, @amazonIN are you listening? Can we see this happening any time soon?

 

Solar for the home

Disclaimer: I am no expert in Solar power generation, nor am I an Electrical Engineer. So what I am about to request/propose might be the most absurdest thing – but for me, ignorance is bliss, and I shall propose.

The biggest problem that I see about solar power is that it is available only during the day and that is not the time we consume most of the power at home (work-places is a different issue – I am addressing only homes here). We need a lot more power at night to light up our homes, drive our fans and ACs, and our televisions, and routers and what not. And for doing this, we need to store this energy in batteries.

A premise that I make here is that a lot of us have inverters and they have batteries in them. But with this inverter arrangement, while we keep our batteries fully charged, we use them only if we lose power. Else it is lying unused (dormant).

1. Decouple the battery from the inverter.

2. Split wiring at home into low load and high load. For those who are using an inverter, this would have already been done by now. Keep the high load circuit on direct power (from the utility company).

3. Charge the battery during the day using solar panels. Once the battery is fully charged, divert solar power to the low load circuit to run any day time uses such as fans, TVs etc.

4. For night time power in the low load circuit, use the power stored in the battery. If the battery goes below a certain threshold, switch to main line from utility power company. If there is still power in the battery, even after day breaks the next day, continue using power from battery, switch to utility company only after battery discharges

Couple of advantages that I see here:

1. We use the power that we generate in the day time first, and then, only if needed switch to main line power in the night. So there is definitely a big component of night time power consumption that is offset. If load is low, we can perhaps offset some day time power consumption too.

2. A battery that is charged and discharged continuously lasts longer.

While a lot of this is based on my imagination, I am pretty sure this is doable in the realm of current age electrical circuitry. 

My question: Has someone done this already? Any commercial solutions?