postheadericon TECH TALK: 2 New Nepali Sites, and One Old Favorite

I rarely say anything nice about Nepali websites, but I think it’s time to give credit where credit is due. I discovered two cool sites the other day, and was pleasantly surprised with how non-Cybersansar-ish they are: Harilo.com and Payway.com.np. Both these sites share two important traits; they are both simple in design and rich in usefulness.

Harilo, an online “shop-in-America” site, was reviewed in this paper back in April, but just in the past month or so has started to catch on(line). Harilo.com is now getting over 3,000 visits each day, and as for the shopping activity, well, just see for yourself by going here: www.harilo.com/latest. Folks are buying laptops, guitars, phones and even furniture. This is how it works: you order anything you want from America by just finding the online sales link (URL) for a product. For example, go to Amazon.com and pick out a product, and then paste that URL into Harilo. Your account is created instantly, as well as a promise of a quote that gives you the total Nepali price of the product shipped to your door here in Nepal.

I tried it out for a fancy USB microphone I need for my podcasting work (USA Price: Rs 7,674), and within 17 minutes I got back a quote from Harilo for a total cost of Rs 9,250, which reflects no domestic shipping charge (as you can pick up shipments at their Kantipath office) and just Rs 512 for international shipping + Rs 1064 VAT. Payment options included using a PayPal, Google, or Amazon account, as well as a VISA/MasterCard. Heck, you can even pay by old-fashioned cash or check!

Harilo shipping costs vary by weight, of course, and Customs may slap duty on certain items (for shoes it could be as high as 20%) and some items can’t be ordered at all (firearms, drugs, etc.) but this has to be the best way to get products from America to Kathmandu - short of having cousin-brother Samir fill his carry-on bags on the way home. Two thumbs up for this site on usefulness, and for a clean uncluttered website design - complete with social networking features (connection to Facebook, avatars, and all of that).

Another new site worth praising is www.payway.com.np. Pay Way is the Nepalese version of the famous Paypal.com, which allows users to send and receive money online, shop online, and to also create a Nepali gateway for their own online store. There are very moderate fees associated with transactions, but compared to PayPal, they are very reasonable. Having a Pay Way account is your way to pay for goods at any website incorporating the Pay Way gateway (the list of merchants is rather small right now, but sure to grow as more merchants discover this service). Pay Way says they will soon offer other services, like a debit card for department store shopping and connections to dozens of international banks, so stay tuned on that front.

Important to note: this is a BIG leap in tech here at home, as now Nepal’s merchants can easily jump on the online bandwagon, and accept Pay Way payments from Nepali customers who want to shop from their living rooms and offices (like everyone else in the free world is doing). After finding this site, I began to feel like I was living in the year 2010, instead of 1950. And like Harilo.com, www.payway.com.np is designed clean and clutter-free, with an interface that your hajurama could understand - if only she could master the mouse and keyboard.

Besides these two new sites, there is one favorite of mine that I want to share, and this site is for the coffee lovers here who want fresh roast at a great price, delivered right to your front door. Topoftheworldcoffee.com is not a fancy nor perfectly designed website (reminds me of a typical NGO website), but it’s lack of glitz and polish is made up by owner Dale Nafziger’s dedication to service and quality. They deliver over 1000 kg of fresh coffee each year to Valley denizens, and you can get beans of any type – even organic. You also get great prices compared to the local market (trust me, I drink alotta joe). And on my last order, I even got a free coffee cup!

You pay when the delivery arrives, often to Dale himself, and if there is ever a problem with your order, this company will bend over backwards to make it right. But what I really find right about Topoftheworldcoffee.com is that you can have the best organic homebrew - without every leaving your front gate. YES!

Now when merchants like Topoftheworldcoffee and Harilo get together with payment gateway providers like Pay Way, you are going to see a radical change in the way that we shop here in the Doo. Instead of slogging through monsoon mud to get our necessities and niceties, someone else will be doing the slogging and delivering those items to our homes and offices. Our personal accounting will be online and accessible, and we will truly be part of the consumer revolution taking place elsewhere in the world, where consumers are discussing their purchases, rating their experiences with vendors, and overall becoming better and even more intelligent shoppers.
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postheadericon TECH TALK: Are U a MAC, or Are U a PC?

In this introductory blog post on tech, I decided to pull out all the stops and start with a new-age (but old) controversy, ru a mac, or ru a PC?

Up until a few years ago in Nepal, it was not even a question. But  now this question is relevant, as the iPod generation has established itself firmly within the KTM valley, where even Samir, an older local cab driver hanging out in Bagdol, can be found ear-plugged in and iTuned out all day long.

But in the west, the controversy, the personal conundrum, and the often prestige or social climbing self-image driven decision for: “Do I buy a shiny new Macbook or do I go with a shiny new Sony Z?” is as common a question as “What phone should I buy, an iPhone or an Android?”

These dilemmas have not bothered the typical Nepali in the least...perhaps up until now. You tell me. Are you debating with yourself over your next college or business purchase...should you get a Mac or go cheap with a new netbook instead?

Years ago when I first arrived in Nepal, I was toting a huge Sony Vaio, bought just for my travels in Asia, thinking if I ever ran into trouble, at least I had a prayer of getting parts and new software for a Microsoft-based computer  - vs. having something Apple and no hope of finding the software I needed at a Nepali Department Store.

My logic turned out to be horribly wrong about the hardware, as when my Vaio did break within the warranty period, I got no relief from the Sony shop on Kantipath, or anywhere else within the Valley. So I turned to Digitek in Durbur Marg to purchase some inexpensive no-name Singaporean import for half the price as any Sony or Acer replacement, and surprisingly, I got much better service there - better then if I had stayed in America with a Sony.

So it was years ago in Nepal: cheap computers, and anybody would try to fix something broken, using baling wire and duct tape as they say. There was not much justification in the minds of my local friends to buy anything more then barebones, Chinese, or just the flat out cheapest computer on the market. And we all know how cheap software is down at Kasha Bazaar.

So the question was a non-issue, until today - this I propose. Look, I already have a few jet-setting Nepali friends who have made the jump to Apple, perhaps not for practical reasons, but instead to look cool at Bakery Café whilst sporting a new aluminum Macbook or MacBook Pro and sipping a coffee drink.

Even the more practical-minded Nepali partners of mine here at our A/V studio, voted to oust all PCs and purchase all new Macs to run our business. Initially the outlay of cash was almost 2 to 1, meaning we could have bought 2 HPs or 2.5 Acers for the price we paid for one Mac. But that was almost 3 years ago now, and my bet is we are coming out on top cash-wise, and here’s why:

No viruses. We have not had a single virus cause trouble on our Macs. No down time, no reformatting, no pulling your hair out, or no embarrassing moments with a client when a virus warning suddenly pops up. And we even run Windows XP and Windows 7 on all our Macs, with no problems there as well.

Another reason we are saving money is that our investment is still running strong, still valid, and still relevant tech-wise. A dual-core Macbook Pro with 4gb RAM and a decent-sized hard drive rivals any workhorse workstation bought on Butterfly Road. We use them for even the most grueling of work, such as audio and video production.

A Mac is (somewhat) built to last, and when it breaks, KTM is fortunate enough to have a world-class service center for all things Apple, the Neoteric F1 Center on Teku. I’ve even gotten home-delivery and house calls from these guys and gals...try to get that in California! (Forgettaboutit.)

So if you are seriously shopping for a new computer, I highly recommend looking at the Apple line up: Mac Minis, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, iMacs, and heck, even the new iPad when it becomes available in Nepal.

You could actually save pisa (over the long haul) and look cool - all at the same time!
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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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