Axis Bank launches Thought Factory – an innovation hub for startups

The startup scenario in India is at its peak with talent pool and investors interest at all time high. Axis bank has launched an innovation and incubation hub for start-ups called, Axis Thought Factory. The Axis Thought Factory is aimed at boosting the start-up ecosystem, specifically in the Banking and Financial sector. Thought Factory will provide a global platform for Indian start-ups as they have strategic alliance with Amazon, OCBC bank and Visa.

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The all new Lava Iris X1 Selfie

A friend of mine wanted me to suggest a mobile for her. She is a college student and on a limited budget. She loves to click selfies and share on social media. She wanted a mobile with a good front camera and priced at around 6k. As she stays in a hostel, she was more comfortable buying a device from a retail store, rather than online. So this particular query put me at task and I had to visit the local stores to check for the best option. This might be a common case with many others and hence I thought, ill pen down my experience.

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After a few visits to the retail stores, I narrowed down to the Lava Iris X1 Selfie. It was priced at around Rs 6500. Not many stores near my location had a demo unit and I found one store which had a demo unit. I was happy to get a quick demo of the Lava Iris X1 Selfie so that I can be confident while suggesting the mobile to my little friend.

The Lava Iris X1 Selfie has a premium and stylish look, thanks to the chrome finish along the rim. It felt solid to hold in the hand. It was slightly heavy, but the weight was balanced and comfortable to hold. It has a 4.5 inch display protected by Asahi Dragontrail glass which is scratch resistant. Above the display is the 5 Mega pixel front facing camera with a single LED flash. The android menu keys were backlit. That was a huge relief. I have always complained about devices without backlit keys. The matte finish back offers decent grip and the rear camera is a 8Mp sensor with dual LED flash. On removing the back cover, I found slots for microSIM card, regular SIM card and also microSD card. The battery is 2000 mAh and for a device of this size and processing power, I am assuming, it could last for a day. It has a stylish look to it and I am sure it will be appealing to the college crowd.

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It has just 8 GB of internal storage and additional microSD card slot for memory expansion. It has 1 GB of RAM and powered by a 1.3 GHz quad core mediaTek processor. The performance was decent. While fidling with the mobile for a short time, it showed no signs of lag. It runs on Android 5.1, and doesn’t have any custom skinning. I like mobiles with near stock android (nexus/android-one like) experience. The UI is simple and the material design is elegant.

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Now to the selfie camera. The Lava Iris X1 Selfie has a 5 MP front facing camera and a 8 MP primary camera. The span (coverage area) of the front facing camera was really wide and the images had good brightness levels. It has a single LED flash to help you get better selfies even at low light conditions. The camera UI was simple and easy to use. The application in the mobile offers options to enhance the selfies with eye-enlargement, teeth whitening, skin smoothening, etc… The primary 8MP camera at the rear has a maxiumum aperture of f/2.0 for shooting at low light conditions. It has a backlit sensor that helps capture sharper images. The rear camera lens is protected by the scratch resistent Gorilla Glass 3.

All this for around Rs 6500 and I was convinced about this mobile. I didn’t get enough time to play with it, yet I was ready to recommend the device to my friend with confidence.

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How I lost and found a mobile

If you are reading this post, hoping to figure out a way to find a lost mobile, you are in for a disappointment. I recently lost my mobile and this is a story of how my mobile found its way back to me.

My wife was using my Lumia 1020 temporarily for a few days. She didn’t setup any password to lock it. For some medical reasons, my wife had to visit a clinic nearby, frequently. She usually gives the mobile to me and I wait outside. On this particular day, I went to get medicines and she took the mobile with her. When she came out, there was a power cut. After a few seconds the generator kicked in and the power was restored. My wife realized that she had forgotten the mobile at the doctor’s office. While she was running to retrieve it, I dialled my wife’s number and to our dismay it was switched off. I realized that we have been robbed. We searched all over the place in vain. The nurse who was attending to her told us that many people came there after her and it could have been anyone. Now this nurse is the important character in the story. So let’s name her “Cat woman”. When we checked with the management, they threw up their arms quoting their notices which says management is not responsible for personal belongings. Also the CCTV was just a scarecrow.

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I logged into windowsphone.com website and tried to trace the mobile. But as the mobile has been switched off, it was not useful. Also my wife does not have an active data plan. So dead end there. I called up the airtel customer care to see if they can help locating the mobile. But all they could do was to block my sim card. Then I ran immediately to the police station and with little Kannada I knew, managed to file a report and get an acknowledgement. Police told me to come back in 10 days and they would block my mobile using IMEI number.

The days that followed was really stressful. Nobody smiled at home and it was like hell. We had to continue our visits to the hospital everyday and this Cat woman used to be very nice to my wife and started asking questions that triggered my suspicion on  her. She inquired if a complaint has been filed. She asked if my wife questions like: Did I get her a new mobile? Did I scold her? She was really fishy. I bluffed to her that IMEI number will be used to track the culprit. I noticed her body language and saw that she got a bit tensed. Then from that day on she never attended to my wife. Everyone in the hospital was courteous to us and empathized our loss. But the Cat woman was really fishy. 10 days passed and nothing happened. She came to my wife and again started enquiring. She told “what can you do about it?” in a very sympathetic tone. You could sense my wife’s blood boiling.

Yes, we could do nothing. I had lost all hopes. I never went to the police station again. But somewhere in a corner, my wife has hopes. She was planning to confront the nurse once the treatment is over. But before that, a miracle happened.

I got a call from the hospital manager. Let’s call him “The Dark Knight”. He mentioned that he had seen an expensive mobile with one of the hospital staff and wanted to check if it was mine. I gave him the IMEI number. The next day he told me that he had to sneak his way to the lady’s handbag and check the IMEI number but the mobile was locked. I confirmed that it was a Lumia 1020. After this he had reported it to the hospital management and they inquired her and found that the IMEI number matched mine. The mobile was confiscated.

Then the managing director called me and handed over the mobile. He spun a story that someone had dropped the mobile near the gate and ran away. Frankly I didn’t care. I thanked “The Dark Knight” and ran home happily with my mobile. I also came to know that there was a Little Robin to help him with the detective works.

Not everyone who had lost a mobile would get lucky like me. Though I am happy that I got back the mobile, I feel a bit let down. Technology, service provider and police could not help locate a lost mobile.

When the power is off, no mobile can be tracked. Service providers won’t trace the mobile. Police got the IMEI details but never bothered to lock it. Ultimately we are on our own. I learnt the lesson, the hard way.

Image credit

Driving the all new Honda Jazz on a F1 Track

The first generation Honda Jazz was introduced in India, back in 2009. Since then a lot has changed and the third generation Honda Jazz is on the prowl. It is not your average hatchback car, but it is seen as a mix of both hatchback and a premium model. Honda Jazz was only available in petrol variants so far and with the third generation, Honda Jazz has got Diesel variants introduced. Now will that give the i20 or the Swift, sleepless nights? Lets see…

Honda Jazz at BIC
Honda Jazz at BIC

I was invited to drive the Honda Jazz at India’s only Formula racing circuit, the Buddh Internation Circuit. It is one of the fastest F1 tracks in the world. I would thanks Honda Cars India for giving me the opportunity. I took the Honda Jazz 2015 for a spin in the racing track and here are my observations.

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At a first glance, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference between the previous generations and the current one. On a closer look, you would notice subtle differences. It has the design language of a Honda city and looks like a mini-MPV. The older cars looked curvy and now the new generation model has sharp and angular turns on the body design. The build quality is impressive and the car feels chick and sleek. The wheel base seems to have been improved from the earlier generations.

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Stepping into the car, the interiors are plush and minimalist. The cabin space feels large for a hatchback. But what I really loved about the Jazz, is the cup holders. There are cup holders everywhere. This is something that has been eluding Indian drivers for a long time. Also, I liked the Magic seats, where you can fold the back seats to different combinations and adjust based on your need. But unfortunately, Magic seats are available only on the top variant. Also the top variants gets a 6.2 inch touchscreen display for navigation and entertainment, while the entry levels get a 5 inch display. The steering mounted controls were each to reach and the display console for neat and easily readable.

Long Legs.. be happy
Long Legs.. be happy

I got to drive the 1.5L 6 speed diesel variant. I own a Swift diesel and I can say for sure that the Honda’s diesel engine is yet to come up to Fiat’s DDIS engine used on the Swift. It is noisy and doesn’t feel smooth as a Swift. But it is definitely a powerful and refined engine. The engine is very responsive and delivers instantly. Though I was driving on a F1 circuit, I never got to put the engine on 6th gear. The max speed I reached was around 120. The suspension is a marvel, but again keep in mind that I was driving on a race track and not on the real life pot holes. I would say that the handling of the Jazz was a pleasure. It negotiated turns with ease and easily picked up speed after every bends. You could blame it on my adrenaline rush, but I never faced any drive quality related issues with the Honda Jazz.

Dashboard and Steering mounted controls
Dashboard and Steering mounted controls

The immediate competitors for the Honda Jazz 2015 are the Hyundai Elite i20 and the Suzuki Swift. Also the Tata Bolt, Punto Evo, Volkswagen Polo and Etios Liva are other cars that can be considered in this premium hatchback segment. Also Honda Jazz comes in 7 color variants, and it does not come in Black. If I had to choose among these options, I would choose the Honda Jazz for its looks and performance. The petrol variant starts at 5.3 Lakhs (INR) and goes upto 7.3L (Ex-showroom). The Diesel variants are priced from 6.5L to 8.6L (Ex-showroom). Though the Honda Jazz is expensive, it promises better mileage and comfort.

Comfortable back seating
Comfortable back seating
Dashboard
Dashboard
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OVRM
Sharp lines define the design of Honda Jazz
Sharp lines define the design of Honda Jazz
Dashboard and Steering mounted controls
Dashboard and Steering mounted controls
30mm better ground clearance
30mm better ground clearance

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Renault Lodgy – A sensible MPV for Indian roads

The French Auto maker, Renault may not have a huge market share in India, but they do have a good reputation internationally. The Renault Duster is a huge success for Renault in India. The Duster is a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), meaning that it packs in more power and targeted at a different segment. It may not be your everyday drive. Renault was among the pioneers to introduce the concept of MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) with their Espace during the 80s. Now the MPV market makes sense for Indians. Most of us who own a sedan or a hatchback want a bigger car to drive with the family. But the SUV may not fit this need and at most times, it is an overkill. The auto manufacturers sensed the need and have started introducing MPVs in the market. The popular Innova may still be a large vehicle to drive around, but Maruti Ertiga is making waves in the MPV sales. Honda Mobilio is overpriced and it not hugely popular. So when Renault decided to launch the Lodgy in India, it had to fight an aggressive war to win the MPV segment.

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Design
The Renault Lodgy has a monocoque design which makes it much lighter and gives a car-like feel to drive. The monocoque design may not be a load puller, but it is best suited for a MPV which will be carrying people and safety is a primary point to consider. The shape of the Lodgy is not unique. It is not a head turner. The rear end is boxy, but Renault has used chrome fittings generously on the exterior to add style to Renault Lodgy. When I first laid my eyes on the Lodgy, I can’t help notice how small the tyres were. For a large body, the tyres were too small. It is the same 15 inch wheel as in my Swift. But then the monocoque design and small tyre, largely contribute to the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. The Lodgy is a robust vehicle and it feels very sturdy. The front of the car looks good compared to the rear. But there are a couple of design trends that the Lodgy is missing. The indicators are not integrated with the side mirrors and there is no key-less entry option. The keys look bulky and old fashion. Otherwise the Lodgy has good ground clearance and seems to have been designed with the Indian roads in mind.

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Under the hood
The Renault Lodgy is powered by a 1.5 Litre K9K diesel engine. It comes in two variants, the 84 BHP and the 109 BHP. Naturally the 84 BHP is more fuel-efficient than the 109 BHP, but the difference is small. The 109 BHP variant has a 6 speed manual transmission, which would be really helpful on long drives. Also for a people carrier, I would prefer to have that extra power tucked into the engine and can be unleashed when needed. The engine is completely noiseless from inside. It feels like a highly refined engine to drive. When I got my Swift, I first took a test drive on the Tata Indigo Vista and the noise in the car made to buy the Swift. Probably you will also feel the same, if you test drive the Innova and then drive the Lodgy. The pick-up or the acceleration response is a bit slow when you first start the engine. But as you start driving it, the acceleration response is really good. The engine smoothly and effortlessly shifts between various speeds. On the road, the Lodgy is a pleasure to drive. At high-speed, the noise from the road and air draft noise is completely silenced and you can totally enjoy the drive. The gear shift was a bit hard, but the clutch and accelerator were both smooth to operate. The Renault Lodgy claims to offer around 20 kmpl in both the variants. If it lives up to deliver something close to 16 kmpl under city conditions, it would be an eternal joy to own this MPV.

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Driving
The car was very smooth to drive, even on bumpy roads. The suspension is really effective and balanced. I have a habit of steering with one hand and my left hand is always on the gear rod. So with this car, handling and steering was very smooth, even with single hand. That is exactly why it feels car-like to drive. For an MPV with 15 inch wheels, the drive quality took me by surprise. Negotiating tight corners and steering through difficult bends was like a breeze with the Renault Lodgy. Also it has a decent ground clearance of 174 mm, which is really needed for cities like Bangalore and its non-scientific speed bumpers. The ABS brakes performs as expected. Any diesel-powered vehicle would need ABS brakes to help stop the vehicle at high speeds. I was shown a chart comparing the braking distance of Lodgy with other vehicles in this segment. I never got a chance to try it, yet I have a positive feeling towards the braking ability of the Renault Lodgy.

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Interiors
We once owned a Hyundai Santro and when we got it, it was the tallest hatchback available. It was sold as a tall boy design. The Renault Lodgy reminds me of that. It has a very tall body and the seat exactly at your waist height. So you can effortlessly get in and out of the car. Most senior citizen would appreciate it. The front row is very spacious. For the driver, the seat height is adjustable and so is the steering column. The driver seat also has arm rest, which I didn’t like as it was coming in the way of the hand break. The dashboard is not too complicated. It has all the required controls and information display placed comfortably within reach. But I didn’t like the placement of the audio controls. Why not just leave it on the steering? It does not feel very plain like in Innova, but it does not feel luxurious. The dashboard material is plastic, but it feels premium.

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The visibilty from the driver’s seat is very good. The blind spots are minimal. There is cruise control on the steering and there is a speed limiter function. Most of the interiors also feel that this car was made for long drives. But having said that, where is the dead pedal to rest your feet? The multimedia navigation console is a 7 inch touch screen. It is manufactured by LG. I tried pairing it with my mobile and it was very easy pairing and using your mobile phone from the Car’s navigation panel. However I would have preferred if they had call controls on the steering as well. The navigation system comes with 3 years free map updates. The sound system is not the greatest I have experienced. It is just the stock speaker system and it behaves like one. The display also serves as the monitor for your reverse camera. The car has 3 sensors and a camera at the back for reversing. No front or side sensors.

The middle row was spacious for me and I am 5 foot 10 inch tall. But it would be a problem if you are seating a person with a large body frame in the middle row. The middle row seats are not adjustable. This is a huge deal breaker. The middle row is going to be occupied most of the times and if the people in middle row are not happy, the car won’t get any brownie points. But as you get on to the 3rd row, you would feel that getting in and out of the third row is much easier compared to Fortuner or Innova. The 3rd row is much more spacious and comfortable than the 2nd row. It has low seating and hence you get ample headroom.

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The Renault Lodgy has a large boot capacity with the third row up. The middle row is 30:70 split while the third row is 50:50 split. The third row can also be completely removed to give a super large boot space. It is definitely a large and spacious vehicle from inside. Also the air condition can be controlled from the passenger’s cabin as well.

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The bottom line
The Renault Lodgy may not be head turner. It may not get a second look, but if you give it a second thought, you will find that it is one of the best available options as a family car. It offers good city ride as well as highway ride. It is not a classic off-road vehicle. It is available at a price starting from Rs 8 lakh ex-showroom. For the price of a sedan (or even some hatchbacks) this vehicle is definitely a great value for money. It offers good and spacious interiors compared to Ertiga or Mobilio. It is definitely a sensible vehicle and would be a sensible buy.

I was a part of the #LiveLodgycal Drive by BlogAdda.com in association with Renault India.