A month ago, I got an invitation to speak at The Cost Effective Advertising Conference in Kuala Lumpur. The date clashed with our 9th wedding anniversary. I sensed a wonderful opportunity to spring a surprise on my wife. I decided to take her along. I wanted to wait until the tickets were booked before I broke the news to her.
My first choice was Cleartrip. Over the last few years, it’s been the only site I’ve used for my flight bookings. Mostly domestic though. Great experience, everytime. All my international tickets, however, were either booked by clients or conference organizers. This was my first experience booking an international flight ticket on ClearTrip.
As soon as I paid Rs.24K for the tickets, the first surprise I got was a message that said that the tickets are only blocked and not booked. To confirm booking, I need to present the copy of the Malaysian Visa along with the passport photocopy. This was new to me. And they gave me exactly a day to get this done.
I rush to the Malaysian Embassy to get my visa and they throw me a stump. They said they will only issue a Visa if I have confirmed ticket booking.
Reminded me of the chicken and egg syndrome.
I tried to convince the Malaysian embassy officials of my predicament and with the rest of the documents (like invitation letter, conference brochure with my name on the speaker list etc), it was in vain. I even fixed a meeting with a senior official the next day.
The next day, I got a call from a ClearTrip support staff who said, “Sir, your online booking is now void because it is past the deadline. Would you like me to refund your money minus cancellation charges or would you pay Rs.8000 extra for booking new tickets?” I found the casual tone of the message annoying. I did not like either of the choices she offered.
I explained to her about my embassy discussion and that no embassy issues a visa in one day and told about my desperate measures to get the visa (which was a requirement for me to get tickets from Cleartrip).
That’s when she said that visa is optional. Optional?? That was not mentioned in the email I got from Cleartip. I tell her that and she replied, “Oh, that’s standard email we send out”.
Standard?? That casual tone again. Ohh!
What I did not understand was why did she have to wait until AFTER the deadline had passed. If she had called me at least an hour before the “deadline’, I would have understood that visa was not compulsory and could easily have just given her the passport copy alone. It could have saved me tons of stress.
But she shrugged her shoulders. So did her team leader. So did the manager. Each time I had to repeat the explanation. But I must give it to them for patiently listening to me.
You know, when you pay Rs.24,000 of your money, the least I would expect is to be told in advance if the tickets was going to expire.
I accept its my mistake that I did not call them up and tell them about my visa problem. At the same time, it would have been nice for someone to have called and warned me about the impending ‘cancellation’. Calling me AFTER the tickets have been cancelled isn’t helping me at all.
After much discussion, cleartrip came up with a solution. I pay 50% ( Rs.4000) extra and they will book my tickets. I hated doing it but I really wanted to give my wife a vacation. I coughed up the money.
I get a confirmation mail from them saying that the tickets have been booked. Received the PNR.
Now, here’s when the real incident starts.
On the day of departure, I land at the Chennai Airport two hours before check-in. I hand over my passport and the online booking printout to the staff. The staff took an unusually long time to process my tickets. I sensed trouble. The staff did various rounds of discussions amongst themselves. Half hour passed.
Then the official came to me and said my wife’s ticket is ok and mine has been cancelled. Cancelled?? I told him that can’t be because we booked it together. He took out a printout and showed me the dreaded word. “VOID”.
You will realize how complicated the scene is when you listen to this. I booked my flight tickets through ClearTrip.com on a Jet Airways flight, which is operated by Malaysian Airlines and handled by an Air India Staff. And each one shrugged their shoulders and said its not their problem. I called ClearTrip but their customer service counter closed at 10 PM.
Now, there was only half hour to go for the flight to take off. I get panicky. I offered to buy a new ticket, but they refused to book a new one because they close the counter one hour before departure. An airport staff said I could still book it through a travel agency outside the airport. I run across to this agency. They said they cannot book the ticket because its just 20 minutes for take off.
I rush back and the guy at the counter gave me another idea. I could book the ticket for the next day and the airline will honour my ticket for today. And so I run like a mad man across the airport to this travel agency again and booked a new ticket. By this time, it was just 12 minutes for take off.
With the new tickets in hand, we had to wade through the immigration check and the really long security check line. You have no idea the number of “please’ and “excuse us” I had used to go past the long queue.
With just 5 minutes before take off, we were the last people to enter the flight. I was panting and awash with sweat. My wife was really hassled. This is NOT the kind of experience I wanted to give her on her vacation.
I’ll update the second part soon of what took place after I reached kuala lumpur.
Today at 3PM, we will have the privilege of having Rajan Anandan, Managing Director of Microsoft India, as the guest at ‘The Kiruba Show’.
‘The Kiruba Show’ is a podcast interview series with CEOs and top brass of Indian and international companies. The show follows a friendly conversational tone. You can find the old podcasts here and the new site will soon be launched with the fresh set of podcasts, which includes interviews with SAP MD, Jeffrey Archer and many.
I’m a firm believer that the collective knowledge of the audience is far higher than just any one individual. The show extensively uses Social Media to have the readers actively be part of the program. You have the chance to ask questions and we will pass it on to the CEO on your behalf. Due credit will be given. While asking the questions, your name and your profile will be mentioned. When the interview eventually gets published, your blog, twitter and LinkedIn profiles will be linked to.
Quite honestly, I’ve been meaning to give due credit to people who contributed with your questions and I plead guilty for not giving enough credit. That’s one area that I really will be working on correcting it.
If you had the chance to meet the MD of Microsoft India, what is the one question you would like to ask him? Here is how you can pass on your questions.
Twitter: Please send in your questions as Tweets with @Kiruba.
Comment on this blog post: Just drop your question to Rajan in the comment section below this blog post.
Facebook: Here is my facebook profile. Just write your question on my wall or send a private message to me.
Email : The simplest and most effective method. Send your question to Kiruba @ Kiruba.com.
SMS: Another effective method. Send your question to +91 98415 97744.
Look forward to your questions.
Block the date, fellas. June 21st, Sunday. TwitterCamp cometh.
TwitterCamp is a one day unconference where discussions revolve around the concept of Micro-blogging and its various uses. It’s an open event. Pretty soon, a wiki will be set up where you can register your name and the topic you would like to speak on.
We have started the hunt for a venue that can hold 150 people. As of now, we have had a very enthusiastic response from US Technologies to help offer their office space as venue.
Calling good designers to help design a logo for TwitterCamp. Please let your imagination fly.
The event is the brainchild of The Knowledge Foundation, the non-profit group that has brought up BarCamp, Proto.in, WikiCamp, MobileMondays etc.
TwitterCamp is a true unconfernce, meaning that anyone can participate and help out in organizing. If you would like to offer a helping hand, please send an email to ganesh @ rupya.com.
We all know that TED is coming to Mysore, India later this year. As part of the event, TED is looking to select 100 TED Fellows.
TED Fellows are remarkable thinkers and doers who have shown unusual accomplishment, exceptional courage, moral imagination and the potential to increase positive change in their respective fields. They can be innovators in technology, entertainment, design, science, film, art, music, entrepreneurship or the NGO community, among other pursuits.
The application to apply for a TEDIndia Fellow opened on April 20th and runs till June 15th.
The TEDIndia Fellows program will have international representation with a distinctly South Asian majority, with approximately 75% of the Fellows representing the South Asian region, and 25% representing other regions of the world. South Asia is defined as including the countries of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka.
For more information about how individuals may apply for a TEDIndia Fellowship, please visit
http://www.ted.com/fellows/apply. TED Fellows may apply or be nominated by another individual.
If you know a great person who fits the bill, please do highlight them. You can either directly nominate them or mention them in the comments below. Lets aim at bringing the hidden gems out in the limelight. Great achievers deserve the spotlight.
I got a call from Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency, saying that they are doing an advertising campaign for ChennaiLive and that they would like to feature me in the advertisement.
The first question that I asked Rangesh, the head of the project, was “Why me?”. Not that I was being modest but I was genuinely interested in knowing the reason why they had picked me. He then began to explain the concept. They had selected 10 people from various fields who have made a difference to Chennai and wanted me to be there from a technology/Internet perspective.
He then began to say who the other folks were.
- Benny Dayal, a popular cine playback singer who is part of A.R.Rahman troupe. He has sung for Delhi 6, Ghajini, Ayan and many more.
- Sarath Babu, the real life slumdog millionaire who after IIM A, decided to set up a food chain. He sold idlis when he was a kid. He’s now contesting the Lok Sabha elections.�
- Venkat Prabhu, Film Director who’s two films Chennai 6000028 & Saroja have been hits.�
- Pratap, Head, Human Resources, Sony Ericsson Asia Pacific
- Taara Rhine, Cultural Assistant, Allaince Francais�
- Swathi Iyengar, Tai Chi expert�
- Murali, Gold Gym, Fitness expert�
- Mahadevan, who runs a Rs.400 crore food empire. Think Hot Breads, Planet Yumm, Wangs Kitchen, Zaras, Don Pepe, Benjarong etc.
- Chaitanya Rao,Chennai’s leading Fashion Designer,
There was this instrument that the crew was constantly using. They told me its to check the light intensity and pretty much the same thing that the cricket umpires use.
The crew in action. There was a professional photographer, a visualizer, project coordinator, light boy and the makeup man. I forgot the photographer’s name but distinctly remember him to be a very affable guy who had an amazing smiling face. While he was shooting pics, he would engage me in conversation and crack jokes to get me to smile natually.