Enjoy the pictures. Will post separate post about my experience there.
Indian Rail Pantry Catering – one of the biggest contract in Indian Railways is possibly turning out to be the biggest pain for passengers travelling on long distance journeys. While the passenger has to trust (and in many cases has no other option) the pantry car for supplying hygienic food, the contractors are doing their best to squeeze out money and serve just bearable food. All this under the nose of the government which awards these contracts and is responsible for overlooking these contractors.
How and Why does this happens ? I tried finding during my return journey from Bilaspur to Delhi.
I was travelling in Sleeper coach as I could not get confirmed 3AC reservation. What this does is that I loose the preferential treatment from pantry guys in 3AC, I get dirty and crowded coach to sit it which is raided by vendors whenever they wish and I have to use a bathroom which I would never use under normal circumstances. Anyways, perils of travelling in sleeper coach later.
I ordered food (dinner) to the pantry boy who was collecting orders. The irregularity that I noticed was that the pantry boy didn’t show/had any menu card nor did he disclosed the price of food. The price list is not displayed anywhere except possibly the pantry car coach where its produced on demand. My food came promptly with the following items 1) Dal 2) Aloo Sabzi 3) Rice 4) 2 Roti. Not tempting for sure but what to do when a man is hungry !
Now came the bomb surprise when I was asked for Rs. 82 for the plate of dinner I had. Not only me but other co-passengers who were having the same food were surprised. Sensing our surprise and anger, he did the best thing. He went and got the bill and sat down to talk – all this to prove his innocence in all this.
So while there was no “Mix Veg” (it was plain aloo matar sabzi) and “Papad” in the food served, the same is shown in bill, still authenticating that Rs. 82 is the caterer decided price to be charged. Ironically, Sleeper ticket costs Rs. 350 for a 1000 km odd journey where you will order day and night meals and if you add to that breakfast of Rs. 50 (Yes ! They charge Rs. 50 for breakfast of 2 cutlets + 2 breads or 2 breads + omlette) it works out to Rs. 214 which is 70% of the ticket cost itself. And all this with the approval of the government who approves these tenders and these prices/menus. Does the government really thinks Rs. 82 is the right price to be charged on train for such a measly meal, moreso when there are such class of people travelling who travel in Sleeper Class to save some money. The result of all this is that they end of eating unhygienic cheap food served at station stops or vendors.
Our talk with the pantry boy revealed more interesting facts. Apart from the fact which he asserted that these are government approved rates, he acknowledged that the food quality is not good and the contractor is loosing out customers with high price low quality food. On an average per coach, the pantry car prepares 20 plates of food. For our particular train, 250 dinner plates had been prepared. Our discussion happened around 10 PM and he told us that only 100 plates were sold. What happens to the remaining 150 ? The excess food is thrown away !! Simply thrown away !! Wasted !!. Made me feel angry for such wastage of food to happen. Supposedly the contractor prefers throwing the food over selling it for lesser price. Is this really the policy under which contracts are given to contractors ?
So how does the contractor make money if so much wastage and loss of food happens. The pantry boy revealed that the cost of this food wastage is inbuilt in the food served to us which is why its being served at high price of Rs. 82. So not only are we make to pay high price for barely eatable quality food, we also are made to pay for food wastage which the contractor does just to keep the prices jacked up.
While we all ended up paying Rs. 82 for the meal, we felt cheated and more-so angry for never complaining about this to authorities. I for once decided to put out this blog-post as a complaint against this wastage of food and loot of money. I did search out on google other people who had complained on public forums. If only the government can look into it and take some action to bring such scrupulous practices to an end so that the journey on Indian Railways can become pleasurable, safe and healthy.
Three of us planned a 2 day trip to Rishikesh for the river rafting experience. Needless to say the trip was amazing. What made the trip more memorable was that it rained while we were rafting and rafting against the winds really tested the strength of the group. What further added to the adventure was cliff jumping, rock climbing and rappelling – adventure sports which can certainly scare you for the first initial moments.
Relaxing camp location next to the Ganges tributary was just the perfect location for settle down. Volleyball, cricket, bonfire and dinner in the cool alley rejuvenated the body – something which was much needed after the hectic office schedule.
Posting some pics to share the memories of the wonderful trip.
18th December and it’s the last day of the visits with only the Guest Talks remaining on 21st, we were all set for Telekom Malaysia. Having already visited Maxis, this gave us an opportunity to visit a government entity thereby comparing the strategies of two major players of Telecom Sector.
Telekom Malaysia is the largest telecommunication company in Malaysia. It has a monopoly on the fixed line network and has a considerable market share of the mobile communications market after its acquisition of Celcom and merging with its mobile operation arm, TMTouch. TM has an internet service provider subsidiary (TM Net) offering narrowband and broadband connectivity. Broadband connectivity is through DSL under TM Net’s Streamyx brand. Due to its near monopoly of the last mile connections, TM Net is now the sole DSL broadband provider in the country.
The visit began in an awesome professional style round table arrangement corporate presentation. The best thing about the presentation was the passion with which the speaker was delivering and providing us insights into the operations of Telekom Malaysia. The presentation moved to discussion mode with questions on regulatory issues and difficulties in Malaysia vis-à-vis India, the 3G services and acceptability of such services in Malaysia. There was more discussion on how despite being a government entity, Telekom Malaysia was able to give a strong competition to private players and how monopoly of Telekom Malaysia on certain services enabled it to compete. The insightful presentation was followed by a superb lunch where it was taken care that Indian Food is provided which was a pleasant sight. This was followed by a visit to a simulated “Digital Home” set up by Telekom Malaysia to show its users how high speed internet can be used to change the way of life for good.
The experience was really wonderful and gave a lot of learning into the telecom sector and how the sector can contribute massively to an economy.
Check out the pics of the visit here
17th December, another beautiful morning and we gather up in front of bus after a not so good (for vegetarians) breakfast. The next visit is to Proton. Car fans among us got really excited at the prospects of getting to see magnificent cars like Lotus in real. Some even thought of a test ride [:p].
Proton is a Malaysian automobile manufacturer headquartered in Shah Alam, Selangor, with a manufacturing plant in Tanjung Malim, Perak. Founded in 1983, it was Malaysia’s only carmaker until the establishment of its competitor Perodua in 1993. Its name is a Malay acronym for PeRusahaan OTOmobil Nasional. Proton exports cars to the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia and the company is aggressively marketing its cars in several other countries including the Middle East. Besides that, Proton has also been exporting a small volume of cars to Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Cyprus and Mauritius. With the acquisition of Lotus technologies in 1996 from ACBN Holdings (a company owned by the owner of Bugatti), Proton has gained an additional source of engineering and automotive expertise.
The visit started with a corporate presentation about the company which was extended to a visit to the manufacturing facility of Proton. The facility is a mix of automated and manual processes and many of us were of the feeling that it can be fully automated. We got to see the sequential implementation of the operations and the synchronization needed. The ultimate experience was the testing zone where cars were being tested for speed upto 200kmph, stress testing, high temperature and shower testing. It was a useful experience with many of us visiting an automobile manufacturing facility for the first time.
Check out the pics here
16th December, we boarded the bus after a heavy lunch at Maxis and moved towards ABB. ABB’s history in Malaysia began when the first power generator was installed in 1904 by MFO Oerlikon. Today, most of ABB’s operations are consolidated under ABB Malaysia Sdn Bhd which was established in 1973, with its head-office based in Subang Jaya, Selangor.As a leader in the power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customer to improve their performance while lowering their environmental impact, ABB integrates high technology products from Europe and the United States of America, with cost-efficient engineering and manufacturing capability in Malaysia.
At the start we were given a safety brief regarding the visit to the shop floor which would happen later. After that, a short interactive session was taken by Ms. Nirmala Devi telling us about the importance of branding. The students were fortunate to be able to have a short interaction with one of their senior managers who brought to the notice of the students the importance of execution. The shop floor visit showed the students the actual implementation of the 5 S models. ABB has already implemented the Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke. Kanban is also implemented at ABB and Kaizen is in the phase of implementation.
It was a wonderful experience to know how a multinational company has sustained and established itself firmly into Malaysia.
Check out the pics here
16th December: Little sleep during the night (details of which to be told later 😉 ) left us wanting more time to sleep but it was time to quickly finish breakfast and start for the next visit – Maxis. Having visited Ports & Medical Industry players it was time for telecommunication and who else is better than Maxis commanding +30% market share and the industry leader. Maxis is the largest mobile operator in the highly consolidated Malaysian mobile telecom market consists of 3 major players: Maxis, DiGi and Celcom. With a total worldwide subscriber base of 10.5mn, Maxis has a presence in high growth, low-penetration markets like India, Indonesia & Sri Lanka. Maxis follow a dual branding strategy with Hotlink as a separate brand for prepaid consumers. This is due to the reasons that Maxis is a traditional brand and prepaid is mostly used by youth, thus a new youthful brand with bright red color and young name.
The Safari Group was first given a corporate presentation where we were given an overview about the journey of Maxis till 2009. This was followed by an introduction to their product portfolio. The interesting thing was to know that how much internet savvy people are becoming all thanks to e-ticketing concept brought by Low cost airline Air Asia. Ironically, the speaker said that people don’t want to pay for the internet. The data card and internet usage expenses in Malaysia are very low compared to that in India. Interestingly, they are already using 3G technologies and moving towards 3.5G & 4G. India seems to lag quite a lot in this front with issues related to spectrum allocation for 3G services still going on.
In all sense, the talk and visit was purposeful and helped us gained a valuable perspective on Malaysian Telecom Sector. From there we moved on to the next destination ABB Malaysia.
Check out the pics here
15th December, what felt like a lazy afternoon after the sumptuous meal, was the time for a visit to Simedarby HealthCare. Healthcare Industry has always been a crucial industry and of national importance given its criticality to the health of people of the country. Simedarby is one such organization which strives at providing healthcare services to national and international clients. Medical tourism has been one of the important areas for Sime Darby. It treated about 1,200 European, 600 US and Australian, and 3,600 Japanese patients in 2008 alone. All the staff seemed to be well versed in English. The hospital provides special services such as assistance in travel arrangements and Airport pick up/drop off to International patients. Our visit started with a corporate presentation by Simedarby Corporate Communications Manager. It was an insight into the operations of the Healthcare Center and also on the current standing of Healthcare Services Industry in Malaysia. We students were quite curious to know about development of Malaysia as a Medical Tourism Center and the common conclusion was that Malaysia is emerging as a possible Medical Services preferred country next to India and is gearing up to provide the latest up to date technology in Medical Sector at cheap prices. After the discussion we were taken on a round of the hospital where we visited some medical specialist. They tried their best explaining us the details of the departments but mostly the medical terms went over the head. None the less the visit was interesting as we got to see the Royal Suite reserved for the Royal Family and other dignitaries.
The visit ended with a group photograph where we learnt the new term “mani” for “cheese” when smiling in front of camera 😉
Check out the pics of the visit here