Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to reissue your passport in India

I recently had my passport reissued and it was a very tedious experience given the nature of the process and since we have a very horrible police verification system.

Re-Issue your passport

Below are the steps that a person can take if he wants his passport reissued.
Location : Hyderabad
Background : I live in Hyderabad for my work but am from a different state so my permanent and temporary address were different.

Step 1 : Fill in the online Passport Application form 

It all begins with filling in a form online and making the payment on the passport website here. You can save the form and keep editing it till you don't make the payment but please note that you cannot edit the City from where you want your passport reissued - so it's best to think out where that will be. The validity of the online form is one month, so you will need to make the payment and submit it before that.

Also another important thing to take care of is to ensure that you have the correct Police station selected as you can't change it later.

Step 2 : Make payment & book an Appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK)

Once you are sure you have made all the changes, you are ready to make the payment for 1500 Rs for regular passport. Make sure you opt for the SMS service as it can prove to be very helpful and convenient. Also in case you do not opt for it, you will be able to view the status of your application online. 

As soon as you make the payment, you will get an option to Pick a Date for your appointment at the PSK. In Hyderabad, the earliest date available for a regular appointment was 2 months away - I chose one that was the most convenient for me. However, do not waste time on selecting a date and chose one as quickly as you can as in some cases the dates may get full and you may have to wait another day.

Also, keep the printer handy as you will be given a confirmation receipt when you pick a date that you will have to print. You can even print the same at a later date if you so wish.

Step 3 : Appointment at the PSK

The PSK is managed by TCS and compared to other government organizations it's pretty well managed. You will only be allowed to enter the premise 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time, so just plan accordingly. There is no point reaching there very early as you will not be allowed to enter.

The PSK in Hyderbad have paid parking space nearby so finding parking space is not a problem if you are planning to drive down like me.

Documents required for Passport

The list of documents required for the passport are given here. Please note that the passport office are very firm in terms of the required documents and will not accept any lapse. However, the good thing is, in case you do not have a document they give a few days to procure them. So in my case, since I did not have a few documents, I was given 3 weeks to procure the document and come again next time with the required documents.

Step 4 : Appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra - Window A

On the day of your appointment, if you have all the required documents, you will fist have to go to Window A (at least in Hyderabad). Your documents are verified and they are put in a folder by the person present there. Normally, the process works this way:
- You give the person the documents
- He asks you to wait at the side for sometime
- He files them in a folder and then shouts out your name in about 10/15 minutes
- He will give you the folder and ask you to move on to the next section

Step 5 : Photograph

Once you complete Step 4, you will be given a token number. This number will flash on the screens that are put up along with the window number you need to go to for further processing.
Normally, this is the next room that you need to enter after going through a turnstile. In this section, all your originals entered in the folder by the previous section are verified again and then they take a photograph using a webcam.

Personally, I felt that using a WebCam gave them a very poor quality/low resolution photograph but it is what it is and you can't do much about it. Please note that this photo will be the one that will come on your passport.

Also, in case you have registered for SMS services, you will need to pay 30 Rs here for the facility. Note that they will ask for change so make sure you carry that.

Step 6 : Previous records

Then you move to the next section where any history associated with your Passport is verified and they inform you if you will require police verification or not.

I was pretty impressed by the fact that they were able to pull up an ECNR request I had filed 8 years ago from Kolkatta - the fact that surprised and impressed me was that even at that time these records were maintained (or alternatively, these records had now been digitized).

The lady there confirmed to me that I'd require a police verification as my previous passport was issued in Gujarat and there was an address change compared to my previous passport.

Also in this section, they stamp your old passport with a stamp that says, Cancelled and give it back to you.

TIP : In case you are reissuing your passport, always use the same address you had as on the earlier passport. Saves you the trouble of having to go to the police station - the most corrupt and rude office in the whole process.

Step 7 : Exit from the Passport Seva Kendra

You will need to fill in an exit form which asks for feedback on any of the steps you found to be a hassle or in case any employee was rude. This is a good exercise as it helps to provide authentic feedback - does TCS action it or not is a question I have till date.

Step 8 : Police verification

This is the most corrupt and problematic section of the whole process. I had police verification post issuance, so I got my passport within 15 days from my request, however I still had to go for police verification as I had a change in address vis a vis my previous passport.

I got a call from the police station mentioning the time when I had to visit. I will write a separate blog on the same, however for issue free verification below are the general rates and threats the police guy will make (over and above the insulting way they talk).
- In case all documents are present : Pay 100-300 Rs as processing charges (else we will visit your home for verification at the time you are not at home and send a Police Verification Failed Report)
- In case a document is missing : Pay 3000 Rs or more (no need to submit documents - we will manage it at our end is what the police officer will tell you)

As a hint, in all probability, you will be asked to pay a bribe pretty blatantly. Always negotiate on the bribe amount asked. I saw quite a few people successfully negotiating the amount to half or more.

Overall Feedback

If you have all the required documents as mentioned in the list, the process is very easy at the PSK. The staff is generally helpful and a welcome relief from the otherwise impossible to deal with government departments.

The police verification piece is pretty nasty - be ready to be insulted there and get vague answers. In case you don't have any document required, don't bother about procuring it, it would work out to be cheaper bribing the police guy than trying to get the document. There are instances when some good officers may not take bribe, but those are very rare. On the day I went for verification, everyone was asked to pay up pretty blatantly (100 Rs to 5000 Rs).

As always, police are the biggest crooks and thieves in India. After this experience, I understood why its best to have the police under some political control - in case they create a lot of nuisance, you can always complain to the local Corporator and the things will get sorted.

SMS Service
In case you subscribe to the SMS Service, you'll get some of the below messages. Some are difficult to understand so below is the interpretation.

SMS Messages and their interpretation

Message 1 : Thanks for opting Passport Seva SMS Services. You will receive updates on your File No. BN071268435013 through SMS 
Interpretation 1 : Your have successfully registered for the SMS service. And the file number is for tracking purposes - you can use it on the website to track your application.

Message 2 : Passport printing inititiated for your File No. BN071268435013. You will receive SMS once your passport is printed.
Interpretation 2 : You will receive this message a few days after you have submitted the documents at the PSK. Since, mine was reissue, I got the passport before the police verification was done. Please note that for re-issue, you will have post verification, what that means is passport will be dispatched irrespective of whether your verification is done or not.

Message 3 : Passport printed for your File No. BN071268435013. You will receive SMS once it is dispatched by speed post.
Interpretation 3 : As the message says, the passport is printed and ready for dispatch. Please note, in case of urgent requirement, you can directly collect the passport from the PSK at this stage.

Message 4 : Passport No R1323432 dispatched on 07/01/2015 and can be tracked using Speed Post Tracking No. RA9454354IN
Interpretation 4 : As the message says, that the passport has been dispatched. It will take a day or two to reach your home. Please note that in case you miss the delivery the speed post guy will take the passport back to his regional head office and you need to go there and collect it within 5 days. In case you miss to collect it, it will be sent back to the PSK! Then it becomes a big nuisance as then you will have to pay bribes to retrieve it. So please make sure you don't miss it.

Message 5 : Police Verification initiated. Contact Nampally Thana, if not done in 3 weeks
Interpretation 5 : What it means is that your file has been sent to the local police station. Please note that normally the police Thana official will give you a call and ask you to come to the station in a week or two from this message. They will give you the time when you need to come on the call itself. Alternatively, you can visit the Thana in case of urgency - but be ready to bribe them to speed up your case. The police station is the most corrupt place in the whole system.

Message 6 : Police Report not yet finalized by Commissioner of Police, Dist Hyderabad City. Contact Police for details
Interpretation 6 : Now this is a very misleading message and confuses a lot of people. The police and the PSK have an understanding that the police need to submit the report to the PSK within 30 days. Since police are very lazy, they do not submit the report to the PSK in 30 days and that's why we get this automated message. You should not worry about it as normally in two weeks from this message you will get confirmation stating that your verification is completed. 

I even went to the Commissioners office when I got this message, they told me that my application was still being processed and this was an automated message.

Message 7 : Police has submitted Clear report for your current address
Interpretation 7 : Yippie. You are done. You have a clear report on your passport.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

POTUS In India

The Beast lands, Air Force 1 is prepped up, Sheraton has 157 rooms as POTUS is coming to India. For some reason, the whole theme of the Obama visit and the jargon that goes with it sounds as if we just found Santa Claus and are bringing him to India.

Agreed, Barack Obama is the President of the Unites States of America (POTUS) and technically the most important person the earth has to offer, but purely in terms of achievements a single visit can only do as much. Democracies unlike Autocracies have a long decision making process and a single visit by the president is just a large step in million other smaller steps. In terms of timeline, a Obama visit with some definite agenda and action points tomorrow will achieve tangible benefits after 1 year!

I do not blame the media from hyping it up - there isn't any other Islamic bomber around currently blowing up things so they need to hype it up. Lost for any tangible things to speak on, the focus is on Obama's car (The Beast), his hotel (The Sheraton), his sniffer dogs, the number of security cameras and his loo timings not to mention Michelle Obama and daughters.

At this point I can be assured that both the leaders will say the meetings were very successful (at the end of the trip). They will say a lot has been achieved and we are all positive and gung ho about it, but purely from an engagement exercise, this visit will achieve more symbolically than much in terms of tangible benefits. I am more than inclined to ask Mr Obama to pitch in with Amitabh Bachhan in the 'Come to Gujarat' advertisement. Obama can definitely be a better tourist puller globally than Mr Bacchan.

So as things stand, Air Force One is ready for departure in 11 hours from now. Mr Obama has a long flight to India with a stop over in Germany landing in India at 10 AM on Sunday which I believe will be shown live on TV.

My 2 cents, Mr Obama, please pack warm clothes - its pretty cold in Delhi and the parade starts early :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Maggu's life till now

Its been over 6 months since I last wrote here - but I have a very good reason for it. Profound changes
Where Was I?
were happening in my life in the last 6 month : Maggu found Maggie and married her. <>

So, how did the story unfold. Well it began like how most arranged marriages would - the first date over coffee initiated by our parents. We talked a lot of nonsense over the date, but somewhere deep down you connect - you know it the moment you are done with the meeting and depart. You know it because you haven't felt this feeling earlier. You know it because you think about it. There are a billion reasons why you know it, but you do. On the other side of the fence, I thought it would be very difficult to find someone like me through 'arranged marriage', but well, turned out actually it wasn't so difficult. The only thing you need to be ready for - a long tedious process of meeting a hell lot of girl (honestly, speaking when you think of it, its something that should promising for any self respecting guy).

Once Maggu found Maggie, the story began. Late night coffee and drives through the deserted streets of Pune. A drive into the mountains just for the lack of a good place to chat. Even a visit home and to the beaches and long winding roads it had to offer - it was a very fruitful courtship period at the end of it all.

And that's where Maggu (that's me), been busy. Courting Maggie. Setting up their new Nest as one of his cousins pointed out. Of course, now as the dust settles, Maggu got time to revive his art of writing. In the days to come, I plan to write of the journey it has been till now and the journey that is called The Indian Wedding.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The first separation

'What are you doing' asked Maggie over phone on a Friday afternoon.
'Just got off a call and will be dialing into the next one in a moment' said I as I scanned a management report on my desk sitting in office.
'Oh OK. Get done with your work. I am coming to meet you at your office' she said excitedly.
I just have a nervous giggle and said, 'Sure'.
I looked at my watch, it was 2:30 pm and Maggie would be coming over in 30 minutes. That meant I had very little time to finish off the report. I quickly jotted down a few To Do items, rescheduled the call, assigned a few tasks to my team and almost jogged downstairs to meet Maggie in the cafeteria.

Now as long as I have known her, Maggie has always had a cheerful smile on her face but today was different. She was sitting on a table and just staring at her fruit plate. I strode over to her and said :
'Hey, what's up'
'Hey, how are you' said she with a sad watery smile.
'What's wrong?' I asked very concerned.
'You know, I'll be going home this weekend. This is the first time I'll be leaving you' saying so a tear rolled down her cheek.
Then I understood what it was all about and was overcome with emotion. I just stood there with a smile on my face and gave her a pat on her shoulder and said, 'Don't worry it'll be fine. I'll call you regularly'
She looked at me and with a watery smile and said 'I know this looks stupid and it's just three days but I will miss you and that's making me cry. Will you miss me?'
'Heck I will. I'll be in touch every day and make sure you don't miss me'
She wiped off her tears, gave a brighter smile and said 'I guess it's best to start our snacks. But before we do that I want to tell you again Maggu, I love you too much'

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 steps to get investors for your startup

Get Funded
Having been associated with a many software start ups across India, I have noticed a recurring issue that most start ups face - how to get angel funding. Based on the experience garnered through various pitch events, competitions and preparing countless PPTs, below is the collated list of the experiences garnered.

Having a great concept, great product or even a great idea is not enough if you are not able to sell it - so read on.
  1. Friends and Family
    This has to be the first place you look for funding. This is the safest and the most reliable bet when raising funds. Dig through your relatives and close friends, try to find that rich uncle in your family and see what he can offer. In all my years of experience, I have noticed that it is the most easiest way to raise funds for any start up - not only that, it is the most safest in terms of any legal aspects if your business goes sideways. Best of all, you don't need to give guarantees and do a tonne of paperwork - your word will suffice.
  2. Commercial Investors
    What if you can't find a family member to fund your dream project - in that case you need to reach out to the investor community at large - Mumbai Angels, Sequoia Capital, IAN, etc to name a few in India. The question is, how do you convert a potential investor into an actual one.
    • Persistence
      Persistence no doubt is the single most important factor. You need to identify the point man for any investor group and start following up with him. Investors are humans and like attention - give it to them. Contact them and develop a personal relationship. Getting the first meeting is the most important and persistence is the key to that. Get a meeting and 50% of the battle is won.
    • Great User Interface
      Once you have your first meeting scheduled, what next? Well, its very simple actually. Investors go through 100s of pitch presentations monthly and rarely have time to go over the details. They rarely look at the working model of the product - the first thing(and in quite a few cases the only thing) that attracts them is a great UI (User Interface). It is paramount that you get that right - a few bugs in the actual product is acceptable but a flawed UI will be reject outright. Get it right and 90% of your battle is won.
    • Prototype
      Nothing attracts an investors as much as a profitable prototype. If you have a small prototype - show it to them. It may be small in scale, all you need to show them is that it works and is profitable by itself. If you can convince them of this, your battle is won. The cheque is in hand with one last question - entry barriers.
    • Know the entry barrier to your business
      The biggest fear any investor has are other investors! What if another investor with deeper pockets starts a similar business - how will you beat him? You need to know the entry barriers to your business that can prevent competition from stopping you (atleast in the initial few years). If you can convince your investor on this final piece, you will have the cheque in hand.
  3. Crowd Funding
    If the above two options don't work for you another option to raise funds is to opt for Crowd Funding. Though personally I would advise against it especially if you are raising funds for projects in India because most people are not keen to crowd fund projects in India. Still if you have the time (as crowd funding can take over a few years) and are keen on trying, this is another option to consider to raise funds.
  4. Event Participation
    This is the last option that can help you raise funds if the ones above don't work. It is not actually an investment strategy but is more of a survival strategy (which seems to have worked for a few start ups). All you need to do is participate and win events for start ups. There is Nasscom's 10,000 start ups challenge, Microsoft Bizspark, Microsoft Code for Honour and many others which are starting to form a part of the annual calendar with handsome cash prizes. Nominate yourself in these and see if you can win the cash which can act as a great survival strategy.
Finally, a word of advise, don't make raising funds the sole aim of your life but make your product the most important piece of your life. If your start up is profitable by itself, it can bootstrap itself with no funding required. It is difficult, but will give you the maximum satisfaction. And finally, if you do get funded, remember - 2% of something is far more greater than 100% of nothing.

Back Link : http://routioneblabber.blogspot.com 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glass paininting and a flying dragon

Maggu's Color pallete
It was turning out to be a usual Saturday for Maggu and Maggie(Maggu's fiancée). They had gone out to meet a cousin in the morning then had done grocery shopping and finally some window shopping late into the afternoon.

Snack Time - Maggu's Prep
As the sun began its decent into a pleasant evening a tiny thought crossed Maggie's mind - let's do a glass painting.

Now Maggu is no expert at painting but he knew Maggie was and was keen to see how she painted so he was all for it. And so began the 'Glass Painting'.

Maggie's Color Pallette
As Maggie toiled though the evening on the piece of glass, Maggu watched in awe as a masterpiece was created out of a piece of glass and some colours. Of course this meant that he had to do all the household chores like getting the evening snack ready.

Maggu's Masterpiece
For reasons unknown looking at Maggie paint Maggu got tempted to paint his own masterpiece late into the evening. With limited skill set, a large heart and basic water colours Maggu began his own creation - a dragon.

Maggie's Masterpiece
To cut the story short, in about an hours time and just before it was time for Maggie to depart the two masterpieces were ready. Till date Maggu can't stop admiring his masterpiece and finding ways to sell Maggie's art. **wicked grin**

PS : In Maggu's defence, my imagination should be credited and the fact that now kids can know how clouds are created. Additionally, Maggu had far lesser colors to choose from compared to Maggie, so his lack of perfection and choice of colors should be excused.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to get your electricity connection reconnected

Everyone at some point or time in their life would have had to face this predicament. The wireman comes to your door step one fine morning and announces that he is going to disconnect your  electricity connection for non payment of bills.

I recently had such an experience. I was pretty alarmed by the prospect as any interaction with any  government entity is fraught with touts which extract a hell lot of money from you. But I went ahead and ultimately it turned out to be fairly simple. So I just decided to jot down the steps for anyone who needs to re connect their  electricity connection.

Step 1: Pay the outstanding bill at the nearest MSEB office. Note that you will not be able to pay the outstanding bill online as MSEB does not have that provision. Also keep the receipt of payment handy.

Step 2: The same office should provide you a re connection form. Go to the relevant department, show them that you have paid the outstanding bill and fill in the reconnection chalan.

Step 3: Take the chalan, go to the accounts section (that will be the same where you paid the bill) and pay the fine of 100 Rs.

Step 4: Then photo copy (Xerox) the 4 documents (i.e. bill, receipt of payment of bill, chalan, receipt of payment of chalan) and take it to the substation office where your home lies in.

Step 5: Submit photo copy to the substation office and you are done. The person will come and reconnect the connection in a few hours.

TIPS
- In case the wireman disconnects the connection in front of you try coaxing him into not doing it and pay the bill
- Always take the Wireman's phone number so it's easier for follow up
- There is a possibility that you may need to visit more than one office if different departments are in different locations. Be ready to travel a bit. Ideally they would be in a 3 km radius
- In case you don't have the physical copy of your  electricity bill, you can take a print out online

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My first bungee jump

And Maggu is back.

Again, for those who just tuned in, Maggu is me - a Maharashtrian from the rural heartland of Gujarat who happens to have stayed at a few places and likes to write about them. In his short life span, Maggu has explored the depths of India and a few places abroad. With a knack for doing the crazy and a penchant for the off beat Maggu is a guy full of energy and adventure. Now before his next dreamt adventure to Africa, he is reminded of a jump from a crane in Scotland.

It was meant to be Maggu's last weekend in the pristine heartlands of Scotland. He had enjoyed the treats that the Scots had to offer, from the Haggis and Millionaires short bread to playing the bagpiper and parading about. He had enjoyed the pristine countryside straight from a Famous Five novel to the hustle and bustle London had to offer.

As he sat there thinking of the last thing to do his eyes fell upon a leaflet advertising jumping off a crane nearby.

It took Maggu approximately 1 milli second to make up his mind and another few seconds to dress up, collect his maps and off went Maggu for a short train ride to the crane. The Bunjee Jump of the crane was going to be Maggu's icing on the cake of the momentus trip he had had to the country. It had everything, the thrill of adventure, the craze of madness and the adrenaline rush of a jump.

Soon, Maggu was at the foot of a crane sky high in the air dangling above the north sea. He could hear girls screaming as they jumped off the crane and guys howling as they jumped behind them. 'Ha', scoffed Maggu. Scared of a simple jump.

Tagged and strapped to a harness, Maggu was given a jump ID - Number 27. That was to be his sequence number for the jump. Prancing and jumping about he watched from the ground as person after person jumped screaming and howling. Maggu knew it would be a piece of cake for him - no howling for him he knew. He was simply too brave for it - or so he thought.

Then called the instructor, 'Count 25 to 30 you are up next, get moving on the lift'. Maggu gave a smile, finally his time was to come. He strutted over to the lift and got in in style. There he saw a trembling girl on verge of tears and her friend trying to console her. Soon on top of the crane, Maggu witnessed a beautiful view that only the crane could offer. The Scottish mild sun setting over pristine moors as cows grazed away to glory. The orange hues mixing beautifully with the grey clouds that forever threatened the skies in Scotland.

Maggu ambled around the crane as if it were his second home. Forever tied to a guard railing he could do little in terms of movement but he was at peace unlike the crying girls and the scared guys about.

'Number 27, you are next', said the instructor.
'I', said Maggu as he walked over to the end of the crane.
'Don't jump till I don't ask you to jump. And no stunts', said the instructor to Maggu.
'Sure Sure', smiled back Maggu.
The instructor sensing the sense of confidence in Maggu went ahead, 'You can look down over the edge though'.
As soon as Maggu heard that, 'He confidently went to the edge of the crane and had a look at the ocean below'.
Then reality struck Maggu. In a weak voice he whispered almost to himself, 'That's indeed a long drop down there ain't it'.
'That it is. Come on, you are ready to jump now. When I say 3, just jump'. Saying so, the instructor stepped back and Maggu was left standing at the edge of the crane.
'Ok, 1'
'2'
'2.5'
'3 - Go go go!!!'
That was the first instance in his life that Maggu felt scared for his life as he ran into thin air and fell the ground slipping from under his feet. He howled like crazy as he began his decent down. His heart was pounding and his and he stopped breathing - the only thing he remembered was the scream, the howl that he let out.

Soon it was over, Maggu lay hanging on a thin rope over the North Sea.It was the most exhilarating experience anyone can ever experience. Hanging there after a Bungee Jump looking at the Scottish moors with not a care or thought in the world.

He hung around for a few minutes after which he was pulled up - but with ofcourse the memory of the first Bungee jump forever intact in his impressionable mind.