Thursday, March 27, 2014

Solving Nepal’s bus ticketing system


Bus is primary mode of transportation in Nepal. Geographically, most of the country is covered with hills and mountains. This makes other means of transportation very difficult. Indeed, this might be quite strange for outsiders that Nepal doesn’t have rail network.

I needed to travel from Kathmandu to Baglung. I have to book ticket, and for that there is no way but have to go to Bus Park ticket counter. No, travel agencies don’t sell bus tickets except if it is tourist bus, which is luxurious and bit costlier than normal ones.

In the morning, after an hour of travel on local bus (which always faces traffic jam in the valley) I reach ticket counter. There are four guys selling tickets. I book a ticket, and reconfirm my seat number and bus details.

I pack my bag and go to Bus Park in the evening. I try to board in the bus. I see another guy sitting on my seat. I ask him if he has ticket. He says he has, I reluctantly request him to show his ticket. That’s right. He has ticket. I recheck my ticket. Damn, two tickets were issued for same seat. Bus is full by now, those who didn’t buy tickets were standing on the passage. I tell the bus helper either to arrange seat or to refund my ticket money. He looks helpless, and tells me to adjust in packed bus. I travel adjusting whole night without sleep, furious in everything I see. I feel something is quite not right about this whole thing.   

After few days, I plan to travel back to valley. This time I book on bigger bus, hoping this might be better with folding seat where I could actually fall asleep. Luckily, I get a seat. But this bus also had same problem that many passengers had to suffer, multiple tickets for same seat.

There are many other problems our primary mode of transportation has, making millions of traveller’s life worse. Booking ticket itself is difficult that only specified counter sell tickets. The fact that many people travel without ticket shows that getting ticket is ridiculously uneasy. Most of the time, buses are either over packed or almost empty. In case of former, many passengers travel by standing or sitting on passage even in long routes. Since passengers don’t have tickets booked, they charge whatever amount the want. When I see people travelling in horrible situation even after paying money, little bit of humanity dies in me every time.

That bus nightmare actually made me think how we could solve the problem millions of Nepalese face everyday. Is there any solution to problems we described? I don’t know, but I propose one below.

Better bus ticketing system: electronic booking

Electronic booking system, where people can book bus tickets on their computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. All they need is Internet connection. This might sound like crazy idea for most of the Nepalese who know nothing more than Facebook, I think this is most convenient and advanced way of solving above problems.

How does it work?

Basically, passengers can go to for eg. http://nepalbus.com and enter their details (i.e name, place, destination etc). It will show the ticket price. Passengers pay the ticket money via bank account, debit card, credit cards, online transfers etc. Even though many people might not have all those payment methods, a nearby travel agent can easily provide that facility.

Wherever a passenger books from, all the data is stored centrally. So there is no chance of repeated booking unlike doing it manually in current system. For example, if a passenger books a ticket in Pokhara with seat no. A1 on bus ABC, same information will be stored in central server and that information will be available everywhere immediately. So whenever someone in Kathmandu tries to book on bus ABC, seat no. A1 will be shown as taken and it can’t be booked anymore.

Advantages

While most of advantages of electronic booking are apparent, I document some of them below.

1. Booking bus ticket from home.
With electronic booking, I don’t have to travel hours in jam packed traffic to get my ticket. I can book from convenience of my home using my electronic device. This also enables me to do advance booking to get desired seat and bus.

On the larger note, this would enable easier access to tickets that they would not travel without ticket.

 2.  No multiple tickets for single seat
Machines are so good at it that the multiple ticket for same seat issue can be virtually wiped out. As I explained before that since all the data is stored centrally and every information is updated instantly everywhere that there is no possibility of multiple tickets being issued. Book ticket, travel in peace.

3. Better occupancy management
When I was travelling to Baglung, our bus was totally pack, there was no space even on passage while second bus was almost empty. If people had information that second bus had empty seats, they would book for that one.

The other issue is, when a bus ABC travels from Baglung to Kathmandu, there are passengers who booked up to Pokhara. Say if 10 people booked ticket for Pokhara, there are no ways to know in current system that how many seats are available from Pokhara.

In electronic system, it would clearly show that 10 seats are available and can be booked. Better occupancy.

4. Efficiency and cost effective
Electronic booking can be very fast and fact that I don’t have to go to bus counter makes it no brainer. It is also better to reduce human manual errors.

And since people can book tickets themselves, this can be huge cost reduction to bus operators.

5.  Better travel planning
When I visit Europe, I do all the travel planning at least two weeks in advance. Why? Because I can book ticket online, get all the route information, the time it takes, costs and any modes of transportation etc.

When I landed in Kathmandu, I had no idea where I could go and where I couldn’t on my limited holidays. There is no way to know route information, timing, costs etc unless I go to counter or call my old friends who travel frequently in any specified route. And we brag about being tourist friendly country?


All in all, I think this can be really good solution. The whole write up is solely based on my experience. It’s really difficult to get actual data about the issues I mentioned above. After some more time, I plan to add challenges to implement such systems in present context in Nepal. Please feel free to comment, correct and brainstorm.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Notes on Europe Travel - 2013


I was in Europe this March and April. I really wanted to write about everything. Looks I was a bit busy, so could not hit the keyboards.

Anyway, this is summary of all the things I wanted to write. There might be too generic things for people who are already immersed in western culture. But for a guy from developing country like me, almost everything was interesting, mind blowing or shocking. Also, so many things can be similar to other developed countries. Finally, most of it is my personal observation.

  1. The Background
    I mostly spent my time in The Netherlands, city of Delft to be precise. It is in southern part of the country, near Dutch government town The Hague. Delft is small very old and beautiful university town. From most of what I saw in The Netherlands, it is very clean and really well maintained even for European standard I guess.. City is quite small (with total population around 90,000). Everything is within walking distance. I loved it.

    One random weekend I visited Delft University of Technology, which is one of the major Dutch university for technical degrees. The huge library within the campus is very beautiful. Also probably because of the university, I could see too many Chinese people all around city (And less Indians to my surprise).

    There are canals everywhere. I loved walking on road parallel to canals (except when it's windy, obviously :D). City reflects the old architecture, with numerous historic building. It is perfect example of well maintained city.

  2. Schengen Agreement to European Union
    I got visa stamped. BOOM. Now I can travel to 26 countries in Europe, no checking, no questions asked. Just go wherever you want to (except UK). This is probably the most awesome thing about Europe. I can't be grateful enough to person who came up with this idea.
    Apparently I traveled five countries – The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Germany. Yay :)

    Schengen Agreement was done in 1985 to abolish passports and immigration controls in common borders. The agreement only deals with travel, which allows a person to travel to another member country without visa. Later, I think Schengen Area was absorbed into European Union. You know about EU – free market zone consisting 27 countries.

    * Yes except United Kingdom – Schengen Visa doesn't cover it. Policy makers there still think that it has some kind of golden soil and everyone will flock there if they liberalize border controls. You might have heard about UKBA.

  3. Observation: Labour is expensive
    This is probably the most interesting thing I saw – labour is very expensive. It sometimes funny the way economics works. In India, there are 2/3 people in all big buildings pressing the buttons inside lifts. Yes, their job is to press button and taken the automatic lift up and down whole day. Parking spaces are more ridiculous. At Inorbit Mall in Pune (there so many malls like one) there are more than 20 people just doing nothing but allocating parking space. In petrol pumps, there are three guys – one for filling petrol, another for collecting cash and yet another for collecting payment via cards. Same with restaurants, helpers etc.

    This is exact opposite there. Almost everything is automatic. I travelled by Eurolines bus. Checking passenger tickets, doing check-in/check-out, handling baggages, driving – for all of these there was only one guy – driver himself. This is too generic I guess, but for me it was weird at first. Ditto with petrol pumps, parking spaces etc – that you have to fill petrol yourself, none is there in parking space. These are just examples. Labour is too expensive. Automate everything. Welcome to machine.

  4. Amsterdam: Sex, Drugs and the City
    I hate to give above title to city of Amsterdam. I really do. Amsterdam is beautiful cosmopolitan city with lots of canals, nice people, many public parks etc . Let me write more about the city. Soft drugs is legal, so is prostitution. Most of the locals I spoke to were a bit sad about it. One reason might be that everyone takes city wrong way.

    But, let's face it. Every city has some form of prostitution. And every city is not drugs free (except Singapore may be – I hear you get death penalty for that. Very costly.) So, all other countries are making their citizens criminal by making illegal to do prostitution and drugs (along with so many consequences). Holland is making it legal, and collects taxes. I liked it.
    But it is very tricky. You can sell drugs, but you can not produce. (I guess you can produce small amount of it for self use). So, where the hell does it come from? Thanks international drugs cartels.

    Place where drugs are sold is called coffeeshop (yes, together two words. And place to find coffee is Cafe :D) So, when illegal drugs enters one of the many coffeeshops, it becomes legal. (too much magic here :D)

    De Wallen is most famous red light district in Amsterdam. And this is also most crowded place in Amsterdam. No, all the people don't go for sex. In fact most of the people you see there are tourists who came to see scene which nowhere on Earth they could see. It's spectacular and very well managed. Quick google search must give you glimpse of the area.

    So, let's talk about city. So everyone does drugs? And goes to those red windows? This is what most people think after they hear it's legal. Answer is No and No. In fact most of the locals don't really care about it. City is perfectly normal as any other city until you head to De Wallen or some other red light districts. Drugs there is like cigarette elsewhere. Some might smoke, most of population don't.

    Another most interesting thing to me in Red Light District after Red Light District itself was that all the other normal business activities are adjacent to window girls. In fact, world's oldest stock exchange, Amsterdam Stock Exchange is next to De Wallen. Same with so many fast food joints, shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and any business activity. And there is one big church in the center of De Wallen. At the end, prostitution is also normal business activity like massage parlor elsewhere.

  5. Income Tax rate is very high.
    This is another unique thing about Europe. Income tax rate is very high. In The Netherlands it can go up to 52% - which means sometimes you pay more than half of what you make to Government. Every country has similar rate – look at higher end tax rate in three biggest economies in Europe, Germany – 45%, France – 41%, UK - 50%.
    The reason for high tax collection is partly because Government functions as public benefactor. For example, Government takes care of you if you can't make enough to survive. Except in UK, education is virtually free. In fact, In Netherlands government pays money every year to students who go to college/university. I said high income tax, but people who have low wage pay way less tax. These are few example. Basically, system is more geared towards what you expect from socialist state. But with increasing debt, I doubt they will continue big public spending in future.

  6. God Save the Queen
    Fuck you, but God will save the queen and that's all it matters.
    If you grew up in republic state, I am sure you have read about French revolution. Not so with so many EU member states. In Netherlands, Queen's Day or King's Day (their birthday I guess) is biggest festive celebration every year. This again felt strange. May be just because I am from republic state.
    Next hint: Listen to national anthem of United Kingdom.

  7. Let's brew beer in Monastery
    If if think beer means all about those few internationally well known brands, you seriously need to visit Belgium. It's has more than 800 beer brands and about 178 breweries. That was indeed mind blowing.

    I hadn't really heard about Belgian beer before I went there, reason is simple – that most of those brands are not big international brands. Also, monasteries in Belgium brew beer, brand them and sell them. So, some of the great beers I tested were brewed in monastery. I heard monasteries there are self sufficient and don't need funding from state or public donation. What an idea.

  8. EU doesn't like US
    People in Europe don't like America. Generally we think that all the developed countries are similar. I was plain wrong. There seems to be lots of differences between two.

    It's true that US is notorious to some degree all over the world. But, that's limited to political sentiment. It's different in Europe. Except among technical and startups people, if you praise something about US, you will be frown upon. I was just too dumb to think all of the western world is same.    

    That's all I guess. Speaking English will do just fine everywhere (except in French/Roman dialect  speaking area may be. I had difficulty ordering food there) Weather was cruel than what I expected. On the other hand, people were more friendlier than expected. Overall, I had a great time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why doesn't Facebook allow status (post) edit?

Update: Facebook now allows to edit your status.

Facebook is now everywhere. I don't like that part. I just like social part of it. But, people use it for all sort of things, and many use it for discussion. That's worst thing about facebook. 

Recently, I am noticing that so many people want to edit status or posts they make on facebook. One by a friend today on her status.

What’s the logic when Facebook allows you to edit your comment but not your status message?
I am sure she must have made some typo mistake or something like that while using it form her phone. Now to change that she has to remove the status and type it all again. (Just a guess :D)

So, here is my answer.

Well, that's facebook product design decision. 

Say if a guy says to you 'Would you like to join me for coffee?' on his status. You like it and say 'Yes, definitely.'

But the guy edits his status after a while to 'Will you be my Valentine?'

BOOM. You got the answer. 
Yeah, that's exactly what I answered.

I again posted here since Facebook is closed network. I know so many people are asking about it. Now this answer is on open web. Yes, I hate this part of Facebook.

PS. For wiser and better answer this 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ye the smart one, thy shall listen.

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
-- Charles Bukowski

Be stupid while not losing your intelligence. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Explore. Dream. Discover.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain
Since few years, this quote by Twain has been my guide. Whenever I can't decide, I just go through it. It's like flipping coin for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letter to my old communist friend

Dear Comrade
{Some place}, South Asia

You know life is miserable in this part of the world or may be it is not for you. It's been long time that we haven't talked. Today I have some good news for you.

Probably you are still advocating 'Free Education for All'. How is it going? If it is not going the way you wanted, forget it and take some rest.  I have really a good news for you.

Your fight is finally over. You are winner. Your dream of education for all is finally fulfilled. Interestingly, it is not fulfilled by any other comrades you might have heard/known.  The initiative is taken by our own dude, The Internet. (Note:  Please, finish this letter even if internet is evil for you/your ideology. )

It's been few years I have known the dude. Believe me she is awesome. She has done hell a lots good to the world. I can not brief all the things she has done on this short post. I just want to mention 'The Free Education for All'

Yes, Coursera, Udacity, University of the People, Codecademy and few others offer education for free. And you know what, this is just start. You don't need to pay single penny.  You get education from some of the world's best professors .  You can take classes at your convenience. Courses are updated, forget about our age old university curriculum.  I am taking few of the courses myself, and it is just great. I feel happy that I was born in this time of history.  I know my parents' life was more miserable than mine.

Now I request you to come up with fresh mind and rethink. Instead of fighting at university campuses for free education, you should seriously think how to connect all the people with the dude, Internet.  The world is changing in a way that you and I never thought  of. The dude is changing the way we used to live in this world.

And again  It's victory for you.  Rethink. Internet is not evil.

Regs,

Friday, February 3, 2012

Star Wars: In love with Science Fiction

Few weeks ago, I was at @tossedsalad book club meet. We were discussing about books. I met Aditya Rao (@adityarao). He said his favorite books are science fiction. It quickly caught my attention.

I wanted to explore science fiction and I have read few written by Issac Asimov after high school. Don't really know when I moved to other things since then. Now, reading books will take time which I don't have. So, instead of books I opted for movies.

I knew Star Wars series is best science fiction movie ever made. So, I downloaded 'Star Wars - Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace'.  A friend replied on Twitter "Have you watched IV, V and VI?"

Nope. I hadn't. I was quite surprised that Episode IV, V and VI came before I, II and III. Now, I am going to watch later three first. Hmm..it's Good Friday, whole night is mine :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What I would do if I had to start my college life again?

My college life is at the verge of extinction. I enjoyed this stage of life. I hated it sometimes. Many things I did and many things I still wish I had done. Here are the things I would do If I have to restart my college life.

(Symbol: The * sign shows things I did and # sign shows things I wish now. Without sign shows things I did but I was late or it was incomplete.)

I would:

  1. # Impress a beautiful girl on first day. Yes, I meant it. In most of times, things are on first come first serve basis. I would love/try to impress a girl.
  2. Buy a laptop. This is most essential thing in college life. Get Internet connected. World is not diverse anymore. It's divided into two, offline and online. If one indulges only in offline, he/she misses all the fun thing which comes from other.

If my major was technical/computer, I would break it down, and rebuild it. Install one of many Linux distros and ditch Uncle Bill Gay's old fashioned Windows.

  1. Get a motorbike. Need a fancy bike to ride with girls. It's hell lot of fun :D Not only for that purpose, but it is essential for commuting. Forget about school bus. That is when one is at primary school. This is the age to move fast, get things (good or bad) done. It saves time. A student can do lots of things with that time.
  2. *Watch Bollywood blockbuster 3 IDIOTS more than five times. It contains all needed inspiration for college life.
  3. Drink lots of beer. Well, there is always limit, but none seems to care at this stage. Drink lots of beer, get some joints even if it is just for testing. Try to figure out why all the big guys enjoy cigars.
  4. #From a rebel club in college which would challenge each and every beliefs we have about the individual, society and the world.

(No, I no way mean something like student union or group which would go violent.I hate students' union simply because they are all crap and they break down everything, sometimes their own backbone.

I also don't like weapons. Those are the things left alone/idle)

  1. #Join a debate club, debate about each and everything. Also, I would join a book club out of college.
  2. *Bunk lectures. I am quite sure not everything is interesting at college and it's not meant to. I would bunk lectures. There are lots of things to do rather than attending lectures with sleepy eyes. What about going for movies?
  3. *Write blogs. I would write lots of blog posts then I did. The world can read my post. I would try to challenge The Times of India. Thank you World Wide Web.
  4. Join Twitter. Facebook is for keeping track of new photo uploads from girls. Twitter is to connect like minded people. I started using it during my second year, but if I was starting college life again, I would sign up right away. Though, it is just a tool, things will change with time. But, purpose remains same. Many news Twitters are coming up/ will come.
  5. *Read history, literature, economics, business, technology and finalize my interest by the end of second year. While colleges in most of developing countries screw students on choice of subjects, we can pursue multiple interests while declaring particular major.
  6. Visit pubs, dance bars, music concerts. The world of music. The world of alcohol. The world of 'Nothing Else Matters'. Most of people who come from school don't have these experiences, in many cases we are not legally allowed to enter pubs. It's time to break some rules. They say, if you obey all the rules, you miss the fun.
  7. * Travel the cities, villages and nature. Try to understand diversity and the way it is. Spend some time with sincere people at villages. Spend hours/days just walking, stopping, laying in the peaceful places.
  8. Intern at an organization with great people. This is probably shape the life after college. And working while in college is best way to learn things. After all, we are still students.
  9. #Start a company. Yes, there is nothing risky here. If one fails, he/she can always get job somewhere as fresher. If things go right, Oh man let's not talk about that. Everyone knows about Facebook.
  10. #Play Guitar, Cricket, and other sports. Go to beach, probably Goa, do Bungee Jumping and spend some time each week/month on liberating things.
Wow, well these things seems common in many ways. Some sounds funny.

The final thing I would do is, see this list carefully once again before venturing out blindly. Big LOL.