The web is less intricate in the land of Indus. For a country that is the helpcenter to the IT world, life in India is remarkably concentrated in the physical world. It is not that people don't use the Internet. Just that the Internet hasn't penetrated every aspect of one's waking hours as it has in America.
That said, there are a handful of websites I have found to be tremendously useful in my nearly six months in the country. So, in the hope that these are the first of many more, and that readers of Brick and Rope can point me in the direction of other such sites, here is my list of the five Indian websites I have found to be most useful in these early months back.
1. Make My Trip: I was familiar with this travel site from the times when I tried to buy tickets to India. I am realizing now that is pretty useful for domestic travel as well. Leisure travel is a relatively new phenomenon in India, but by all measures it is here to stay. Everyone I know seems to have travelled to all corners of South East Asia, and major parts of Europe. Bangkok seems to be more visited than Bangalore - and more accessible, what with the B-area's traffic problems. Make My Trip and Yatra have proven to offer decent rates, good packages, and credible vacation ideas. All power to these and their yet to be born look-alikes.
2. Book My show: The traditional Indian way to burn leisure money - Go to a movie. Book My Show has cornered the market for online ticket buying. As part of our Diwali celebrations, the entire family (including three screaming kids) decided to brave it to Rishi Kapoor - Neetu Singh's Do Dooni Chaar. When the chaotic shouting out of movie choices had died down, my brother said 'chal book karte hain'. He looked at me puzzled as I starting wearing my shoes - 'On the Internet!' he said, with a look that was equal parts exasperation, surprise and pity.
3. Bigflix: OK, so if your entertainment budget is smaller than the four figure sum that seems the norm for watching a movie in this country, look to Bigflix. This is one of those situations where it is not clear how such an obvious copy of a successful concept could possibly be legal. Either the Netflix guys don't think India could ever be a market for them, or the trademark protection laws here are made of Swiss cheese. Anyway, count me in the camp of people who are happy not to care as long as the next set of DVDs lands at my doorstep on time.
4. 20 North: They say that there isn't anything you can buy in the US that you can't buy at the local mall here anymore. The spirit of the statement is creditable, and quite believable too. But really, there are things you only get in the US. So if you have an itch to buy the latest electronic gadget that hasn't yet hit Indian stores, or your infant has an itch if he wears locally made diapers, head to 20 North. Anything that can be bought online in the US, and is legal in India, can be bought on 20 North. They offer a single price inclusive of all duties, shipping etc, and deliver it in good time. So in some ways, you actually can buy anything you can buy in the US.
5. Flipkart: After multiple disappointing tips to local booksellers, I had started getting really worried about avenues for buying good books. A good friend (and friend of Brick and Rope) had mentioned Flipkart to me some months back, and I seem to have filed away the information in my mind under the category of 'I promise I will get to you at some point'. Well, my desperation in recent weeks led me to dusting off that file, and at the doorstep of Flipkart. What can I say? What it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in the sheer size of its book collection. I maintain a running list of books I want to buy, and I tried it out on the site. Of the 47 books currently on my list, there was only one that I couldn't find here - Mendelbrot's The Misbehavior of Markets. The deals are truly hot, and the innovations around delivery are just what I would look for in India. I am unlikely to ever visit Flipkart for inspiration on what books to buy, but once I know what I want to buy - well, it seems like a no-brainer right now.
So that is my short list. The Indian websites I have found to be most useful in my time back. May your tribe grow in strength.