The best cabin crew uniform in Indian skies August 17, 2010Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Travel.
Tags: Air India, Air India Express, Cabin Crew, GoAir, Indian, IndiGo, Jet Airways, JetLite, Kingfisher Airlines, Kingfisher Red, Livery, Paramount Airways, SpiceJet, Uniform
Close on the heels of JetLite unveiling their new cabin crew uniforms, IndiGo has decided to go for the PanAm designer look and shake up the skies.
Let’s have a fun contest today to find out the best cabin crew uniform in the Indian skies.
Who looks the sizzling best? Feel free to vote for your favorite airline uniform in the poll that follows the pictures. I pick Jet Airways.
* (Apologies for the ‘poor’ GoAir pic! Do share if you find a better one!)
Why customer feedback matters for an airport. The case study of Cochin International Airport. August 16, 2010Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Aviation, India, Marketing, Travel.
Tags: Airport, CIAL, Cochin International Aiport, customer feedback, Customer Service, Kerala, Kochi
One of the reasons I like Cochin International Airport (COK) is because of its large spaces. A lot of airports I have been to in India or in the Arabian Gulf region are bursting at the seams or are under a constant state of development.
Opened in 1999, Cochin International Airport has all the whistles and bells of a modern airport. Larger spaces. Faster check-in. A great view of the tarmac from the gates. A reasonable duty-free selection. And the airbridges, which means no bumpy rides in the bus to the plane or no getting wet in the rains. And yes, a bookshop will be open soon. I’m told that the newly opened international terminal at Trivandrum (TRV) is catching up with Cochin and I can’t wait to check it out soon.
I was recently traveling through Cochin and with a couple of hours to kill for my flight to Muscat, I chanced upon a register placed in a corner of the Departure Terminal under a board that said ‘Feedback on Airport Security’. I couldn’t help but glance through the feedback book and what I read is going to be the crux of this post.
1. Airport security needs be more friendly.
Majority of the people complained about the cold, indifferent attitude of the airport security staff. Someone wrote: “The airport security should learn to speak proper English; English being the ‘national language’ of India.” I don’t know if the airport authorities can influence behavioral changes among the security staff. I think airport security is managed and run by CRPF, a central government agency whose functioning is outside the purview of the airport management’s control. But yes, there was almost universal criticism of their ‘customer service’ skills and their general approach to dealing with travellers. Now some of you may ask, shouldn’t their focus be on airport security than being nice to people in an age of heightened terror and security risks, but isn’t it better to have pleasant people skills no matter what your job.
2. Please smile, Mr. Immigration Officer.
The immigration officials at the airport came under fire too. Someone had written – Can someone teach these people to smile? Or getting them to smile is like asking for the moon… something in that lines. Frequently traveling through airports in India, I know this is true. It doesn’t matter that the immigration official is probably one of the first people you come across in a new country, especially if you are a tourist. I have given up on all etiquette and polite manners when I submit my passport at Indian immigration. I give a cold stare and get a colder one back along with the stamped passport. On good days, I get the passport and boarding card flung at me. Oh why not, I’m being done a huge favor after all by this official who had to forgo his siesta at 6 in the morning to see the back of planeloads of travelers bound to the Arabian sands. This is where I admire the immigration officers at Muscat International Airport. They never forget to wish you, enquire your well-being and heartily welcome you to their country before stamping your passport.
3. “Can Cochin Airport have a dedicated smoker’s lounge?” What really impressed me about this request was not the request itself, but the sincerity and manner in which it was expressed.
“More than 60% of travellers and tourists around the world are smokers and hence this airport should make convenient arrangements for smokers to light up in peace without going out of their minds and troubling fellow passengers.” A feedback suggestion that is always substantiated with a fact has a better chance of going through. (In this case, the ‘60%’ fact).
4. A gentleman requested for a separate prayer room for gents as well as ladies… fair enough.
5. A traveler to Houston made the brilliant observation regarding the absence of a single clock in the entire boarding gate area. True, there are giant screens showing flight schedules, but it would be wise to have the local time on them as well.
6. A tech-savvy traveler requested the airport authorities to provide passengers with Worldspace Radio… a couple of them demanded a better selection of TV channels on the airport TV. I guess Asianet or Surya is not everyone’s cup of tea.
7. One of the ultimate requests was by a couple of travellers who requested a bar in the terminal; nothing like a neat Scotch on the rocks before departure. Full marks to that. And no points for guessing that they were Malayalees.
8. Almost everyone complained about the lack of decent dining facilities in the departure terminal and the exorbitant price of tea & coffee. A cup of coffee costs 50 rupees. (A passenger wrote that the price of coffee was more scalding than the coffee itself). And COK Airport Coffee takes the crown as one of the ultimate listless coffees I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.
9. A passenger wrote about the how the drive-in entrance at the departures & arrival terminal wasn’t covered leading to travelers and their luggage getting drenched in the rains as they entered the terminal building. A very valid point; I came under the showers too as I was leaving COK that morning. Not a good experience to take off wet.
10. Hidesign has a swanky outlet at the airport. I hope they are making money.
11. Thought to end the post: I find liquor at Cochin Duty Free cheaper than Muscat Duty Free. And the last time I checked, they were giving a bottle free with every 2 bottles of Jack Daniel’s.
A couple of thoughts on Feedback:
1. Feedback is vital.
For individuals, brands and organizations, feedback tells you what’s working right and what isn’t. Feedback is critical to customer service, product improvement, cost savings, productivity and work efficiency.
2. Feedback matters only when it is from the right person.
So I worked on this snazzy looking marketing campaign. Getting suggestions on its look and feel from my peers isn’t as good a feedback from the customers of that product or service.
3. Use the right tools to collect Feedback.
A complaint book at Cochin International Airport seems to a simple and old-fashioned method to collect feedback. But it is any day, a more effective and practical tool than a website form. The customer should find it convenient to share feedback and feedback collection should ideally happen at touch points where customers interact most with you.
4. Feedback should lead to action.
Feedback is of no good if you don’t act upon it. Also, it helps to acknowledge that have you received feedback.
To conclude, do enjoy this video of an Emirates B777 landing at Cochin.
The Secret Of Making It Work November 3, 2009Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Healthy Living, India, Marketing.
Tags: Mumbai, Passion, Work
I recently got an interesting e-mail attachment. Without much ado, I’m sharing it with you:
Suvendu Roy, of Titan Industries shares his inspirational encounter with a rickshaw driver in Mumbai:
As we set off, my eyes fell on a few magazines (kept in an aircraft style pouch) behind the driver’s backrest. I looked in front and there was a small TV. The driver had put on the Doordarshan channel. My wife and I looked at each other with disbelief and amusement. In front of me was a small first-aid box with cotton, Dettol and some medicines. This was enough for me to realize that I was in a special vehicle.
Then I looked round again, and discovered more – there was a radio, fire extinguisher, wall clock, calendar, and pictures and symbols of all faiths – from Islam and Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. There were also pictures of the heroes of 26/11- Kamte, Salaskar, Karkare and Unnikrishnan. I realized that not only my vehicle, but also my driver was special.
I started chatting with him and the initial sense of ridicule and disbelief gradually diminished. I gathered that he had been driving an auto rickshaw for the past 8-9 years; he had lost his job when his employer’s plastic company was shut down.
He had two school-going children, and he drove from 8 in the morning till 10 at night. No break unless he was unwell. “Sahab, ghar mein baith ke T.V dekh kar kya faida? Do paisa income karega toh future mein kaam aayega.” (“What’s the benefit from sitting at home and watching TV? If I work now and earn some money, it will be of use in the future.”)
We realized that we had come across a man who represents Mumbai – the spirit of work, the spirit of travel and the spirit of excelling in life.
I asked him whether he did anything else as I figured that he did not have too much spare time.
He said that he goes to an old age home for women in Andheri once a week or whenever he has some extra income, where he donates toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, hair oil, and other items of daily use. He pointed out to a painted message below the meter that read: “25 per cent discount on metered fare for the handicapped. Free rides for blind passengers up to Rupees 50.”
My wife and I were struck with awe. The man was a HERO! A hero who deserves all our respect!!!
Our journey came to an end; 45 minutes of a lesson in humility, selflessness, and of a hero worshipping Mumbai, my temporary home. We disembarked, and all I could do was to pay him a tip that would hardly cover a free ride for a blind man.
I hope, one day, you too have a chance to meet Mr. Sandeep Bachhe in his auto rickshaw: MH-02-Z-8508.
What this experience tells me is that: even the most mundane, uninspiring jobs on Earth can be made a fulfilling experience with one ingredient. PASSION. Passion brings with it the unique ability to make a difference in your own little ways. Ultimately, the secret is not to believe that you are driving a simple, humble rickshaw, but to believe that you are driving the world ahead in your own special way.
My greatest rail-fanning moments on Indian Railways January 17, 2009Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
Many years ago, when I was a budding rail-fan, I was fascinated with being a railway guard on Indian Railways. I was so enamored with how the gentleman in white at the rear of the train would lean out of his cab, sound his shrill whistle in a high pitch and gently wave his green flag to let the train move. And as the train picked up speed, his waving of the flag would feverishly increase in its intensity till the train would disappear from your sight.
Years passed and my interest turned into locomotives and their drivers (called Loco Pilots in Indian Railways parlance). Specifically Assistant Loco Pilots who perform inspection of the loco, check signals, and wave the green flag in sync with the Guard at the rear, as the Loco Pilot sounds the horn and takes the train out of the station.
The entire action of a train starting from a station is one of my biggest rail-fanning moments. For a rail-fan like me, those are moments of great anticipation.
Sometimes there is a crew change. The few minutes when the old set of crew interacts with the fresh crew taking out the train are exciting. If there is a loco change, you can bet that there will be a crowd watching to see the loco getting coupled to the train.
Occasionally, you will see a very faithful loco driver pray at the control stand before taking out his ride. Some Assistant Loco Pilots carry waste paper in their hands as they do their loco check. None of them wear a uniform in the place where I come from.
Almost all of them eagerly await the signal of the guard before they start waving their flags. No Loco Pilot sounds the horn till they get a ‘right’ from the Guard. It doesn’t matter even if the starter (signal) is right (green). The Guard’s gotta say ‘aye’.
Sometimes, the train moves as a family makes a last bid effort to the board the train. If the Assistant Loco Pilot spots that he asks his chief to go a bit easy on the wheel.
And I almost forgot about the locos, depending on the type of loco, be it a Diesel (WDM2, WDM3D) or Electric (WAP4, WAM4, WAP1), they all come with different horns, different looks and different take-off actions, which makes each experience different.
A few weeks ago, I created a set of videos capturing the starting of trains at Ernakulam Junction, a major railway station in Kerala. These 12 videos feature probably everything I shared about my biggest rail-fanning moments. I was plain lucky to have the same vantage point for every video, a great place to watch these amazing locos take off. They may all look the same to many. But a true rail-fan will find each journey a different beginning.
Enjoy your videos!
Finally, Golden Glory for India August 11, 2008Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, India, Pot Pourri.
Tags: Abhinav Bindra, Beijing, India, Olympic Games
1 comment so far
Abhinav Bindra today became the first Indian to win a Gold medal in an individual event (10m Air Rifle shooting) in the history of the Olympic Games. It was such a heartwarming feeling to hear the Indian national anthem being played at the awards ceremony.
No doubt, his success is the fruit of supreme persistence, dedication and commitment, including a comeback from back injury. His victory is the perfect gift for a nation that is celebrating its 60th Independence Day on Friday.
Abhinav’s win will definitely inspire cricket-crazy India to devote more energy to other sports as well. It’s about time the snoozing tiger woke up.
Rail-fanning at Bharathapuzha June 30, 2008Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
Tags: Bharathapuzha, Indian Railways, Kerala, Shoranur
Bharathapuzha or Nila is the second longest river in Kerala. Bharathapuzha means River (Puzha) of Bharathamba (Goddess mother of Bharath – India).
The allusion behind the name is that the river feeds people like their own mother – (the water is pure and can be used for drinking, irrigation or other purposes).
Bharathapuzha originates in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu and flows west through the three districts of Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram and finally meets the Arabian Sea at Ponnani.
Nila is very close to hearts of the people of Kerala, owing to its historical and cultural significance. Many of Kerala’s greatest creative geniuses such as Kunchan Nambiar (a satirical poet and founder of the Ottamthullal art form), Malayalam writers M. T. Vasudevan Nair, M.Govindan, V. K. N. and O. V. Vijayan have been inspired by her beauty.
Kerala Kalamandalam, a major learning center for Indian performing arts is situated in the village of Cheruthuruthy on the banks of Nila. The famous Ayurveda treatment centre of Kottakkal is adjacent to the Nila. It is also home to several famous Hindu temples as well. Legend goes that those cremated on the banks of the Bharathapuzha achieve salvation.
A train journey over the Bharathapuzha is a very nostalgic experience for Keralites. Many times I’ve seen travelers gaze out of the windows admiring the river that embodies the soul and spirit of North Kerala. It is not uncommon to hear travelers give impromptu lectures about the history of the river and berate the recent man-made ecological problems that have led to its drying up.
The river flows to its fullest only during the monsoon season in the last few years, and this year Kerala has had a particularly bad monsoon and you can see the river much dried up.
The British laid the current railway track parallel to the course of the river from Parli in Palakkad through Shoranur (a major railway junction in North Kerala) and up to Tirunnavaya (the last station on the line). The railway line is thus an inseparable part of the contemporary history of Nila.
I recently went on a rail-fanning trip to Bharathapuzha. It has been one of my greatest wishes to visit the banks of the river and check out the trains gliding over the majestic rail bridges over the Nila, ever since I was a kid.
Highlights of the trip included up and down rides on the Bharathapuzha railway bridges on the Ernakulam-Shoranur Passenger and Shoranur-Trivandrum Venad Express (check out video), a dip in the river beneath the bridges where I had oodles of fun waving out to passengers in the trains, a visit to a local toddy shop and finally some action packed rail-fanning at Shoranur Junction and Bharathapuzha (check out the videos of the diesel and electric action).
Needless to say, with the sun playing hide-and-seek, intermittent showers and constant rail action, the atmosphere was simply enticing. Indeed, one of my best rail-fanning journeys ever!
Enjoy the videos!
Here are a few pics from a journey over Bharathapuzha in December 2006.
Express trains on the Bharathapuzha Railway Bridge
Freight train (push-pull) action at Shoranur Junction
Parasuram Express at Shoranur Junction
WDM3D action at Shoranur Junction
WAP4 action at Shoranur Junction