Taking a cue from their daily food-ordering habits, citybased professionals Ashish Agarwal and his brothers conceptualised Mealtree. Albeit not a novel idea (many western cities, for example Durban, have centralised helplines and ‘menu directories’), Mealtree attempts to bring in all major restaurants and fast-food chains under one roof. UPSIDE: We placed an online order (rolls from Wraps and Rolls), and promptly got a call for confirmation. The delivery took the usual time it would have had we ordered directly. What impressed us was the user-friendly menus, where you can easily order from multiple places. There was also the option of mentioning exactly how spicy we wanted our chicken roll.
DOWNSIDE: We didn’t find McDonalds on the site and all items under Garcia’s were dysfunctional.
Look up a book
Our ‘time-less’ city life coupled with the love for books prompted IT professional Hiten Turakhia and his buddies to kickstart India’s first online circulating library last year. It is ideal for professionals with five-day weeks who tremble at the prospect of visiting a library or buying expensive books. UPSIDE: We shelled out Rs 2,398 (out of which Rs 500 was refunded because of a new special offer) to opt for a plan which gives three books per month, for a year. After ‘queuing up’ for The Kite Runner online late one night, we received it the next afternoon.
DOWNSIDE: Its collection is all-English. It won’t have Stephen King’s On Writing — which your nearby raddiwala may have. Nor will it have recently-published books (like Binoo John’s Entry from Backside Only) which your bookshops will have. Also, some popular books like Maximum City, which are always in circulation, may take longer to arrive.
Book movie, play or concert tickets
Unlike some ventures of the Network18 stable, this one doesn’t seem like a strategic investment. In fact it is promoted by Bigtree Entertainment, an info-solutions provider. Good for us, we thought, since almost all the multiplex websites require boring registrations and bug you with emails forever.
UPSIDE: The portal also offers play and concert tickets. It is really simple now to make it to a play at Prithvi or Anoushka Shankar live. And we don’t even mind the extra charge. DOWNSIDE: We decided to test-drive Jodhaa Akbar and found that there were hardly any Fame cinemas on the list. Also, the site only accepted payments through credit card and not direct net-banking. However, it hurt most when they levied a Rs 15 ‘con’venience charge on each ticket. Why on earth should we pay that if the multiplex helplines were ready to book tickets via a phone call?
Book bus tickets
This one, too, has an interesting history: it was born out of the frustration of a bunch of Bangalore-based IT professionals who always suffered before travelling due to overbooking and unpredictable schedules. Today, they’ve quit their well-paying jobs and their portal boasts of a tie-up with over 250 operators across India’s smallest towns.
UPSIDE: We pretended we wanted to head to Goa overnight, logged on and printed an e-ticket in no time. We also tried the delivery, which lived up to promise and was cheaper than it’s competitor. As for cancellations, they can be done online, 24 hours before departure. What’s most impressive? You can select the boarding point nearest to you after looking up the route online.
DOWNSIDE: If only they would let us select the movie to be shown en route! We won’t have to watch films like Partner.
We checked out another site – which lets you rents cars and book hotel rooms too, but found it’s not half as good.Ticketvala’s site promises more and delivers less (we’re still waiting for a call for a request we made last week). It charges more for delivery and cancels tickets only 36 hours before departure.
Grab a DVD
Mumbai’s cinema lovers have never had it better. Today, we have many international fests, a classic movie club and a just-launched world cinema channel. This portal is among many side-effects of a booming entertainment industry in India. It says its powered by ‘hardcore couch potatoes’, but we found it does little to encourage the movieviewing habit.
UPSIDE: Still looking…
DOWNSIDE: On registration, we found out that its online store stocks only DVDs. We regret this sorely, since Moser Baer sells VCDs at a throwaway 28 bucks! Secondly, they didn’t deliver on a Sunday and shockingly showed up zero results when we searched for common retro movies like Anand and Guide. All this, after a security deposit of Rs 2,000! Not worth your while, we say.
It’s one of the better-known DVD rentals and deservedly so. It offers a million things for the film buff. It has an impressive regional-language stock and lets customers keep their DVDs as long as they want.Another DVD rental site, www.cinesprite.com, is as good and cheaper.