How to Choose Your DTH or Digital Cable TV Channels Optimally? (TRAI Channel Selector & Optimizer)

Note: Be sure to read till the end of this article to understand the new system thoroughly. This will really help you save some money on your cable bill. You may skip to the Channel Optimization section, if you already already know how the new TRAI regulation works.

The Government of India (TRAI) has come up with their new tariff policy for the DTH and Cable TV operators in India. This new TRAI regulation enforces uniform pricing all across India for the paid channels or broadcaster packages. We, the consumers (subscribers), are supposed to be empowered with this new move as one just needs to pay for what is chosen. However, the reality is far from that ideal world. The monthly subscription fees of most subscribers have shot up dramatically while some channels have disappeared in many cases!

One of the main reasons behind this issue is the lack of awareness on how to optimally choose your channels or packages! This post is an attempt to make you – as a DTH or Digital Cable TV subscriber – understand what to do in order to get the most bang for your buck! At the end of this article, I am sure to save you some money on your monthly TV subscription charges.

What is the New TRAI Regulation all about?

The following list outlines the rules by TRAI which are to be complied by all broadcasters and DTH / Cable TV providers. For the sake of brevity, I am mentioning only the most important points that are applicable to most of us as consumers.

  • All DTH or Cable TV providers (e.g. Tata Sky, Hathway) must provide an easy selection mechanism to their subscribers. This can be via apps, websites, manual forms etc but should help consumers choose the channels they want to watch
  • All providers should at the least offer a base bundle of 100 FTA (Free To Air) SD channels, in all geographies in the country. This base package will be charged uniformly at Rs.130/- plus GST (18%) across India. This comes to Rs. 153.40 with GST
  • The above base bundle must include the set of 25 Doordarshan channels that are mandatory. The consumer has the right to opt out of the other 75 free channels to make room for their other choices. These choices can be either Free or Pay Channels. Unfortunately, This is a rule that’s being violated by many service providers till now and hence cheating the consumers!
  • In addition to the base package, the providers can offer any number of customized packages for their consumers. These bundles too must include the mandatory DD channels
  • The base charge of Rs.130/- (153.40, with taxes) is called the Base NCF (Base Network Capacity Fee). This’s the minimum amount any subscriber has to pay to remain as a customer. Even when he/she hasn’t selected any additional channels, that is
  • For every additional 25 channels, above 100, a Network Capacity Fee (NCF) of Rs 20/- + GST will be added to your bill. For example, if you have chosen 110 SD channels from your provider, your total charges will be the Base NCF + NCF 1 = 130 + 20 = (150 + GST)
  • For calculating the network capacity, each HD channel will be treated as equivalent to two SD channels. For example, in the calculation above, if you add another 10 HD channels to your list, this will be treated as 20 SD channels. Hence your total will be now 100 Free channels + 10 SD channels + 10 HD channels x 2 = 130 Channels (Not 120). Accordingly, one more NCF charge will be added for you (as you crossed 25 limit of NCF 1)
  • If you opt for any pay channel, the subscription fee of that channel will be added to the above total. TRAI has ruled that no pay channel can charge more than Rs.19/- per month
  • In addition to the free to air (FTA) channels, and individual pay channels (a-la-carte channels), the broadcasters (e.g. Zee, Sony India, Star Network, Times Network etc) can provide packaged products known as Broadcaster Bouquets. A bouquet is nothing but a bunch of channels bundled together for a fixed price – which is usually much less than the total prices of the individual channels in the bundle.
    For example, the Times Network has a bundle called Times Bouquet 3 which contains 5 x HD Channels and 3 x SD channels and they have priced this bouquet at Rs 20/-

In short, a consumer has the option to choose either a package (usually not very optimal) from the provider or pick and choose what he or she wants to watch. In either case, a typical consumer will end up having a combination of the following:

  1. Mandatory 25 Doordarshan Channels
  2. Zero or more free to air channels (Usually it’s never zero)
  3. Zero or more a-la-carte (pay) channels
  4. Zero or more broadcaster bouquets

The billing amount has three components: (1) The NCF charges, as explained above, (2) The total price of the paid channels and broadcaster bouquets you opted for, and (3) 18% GST on the total of the above two.

How to Shortlist Your Channels?

Now, this is where things get trickier. If you decide to continue with all those 100s of channels you have been receiving till now, your new subscription charges are sure to shoot through the roof. But then the question is ‘have you ever watched all those free channels that have been aired your way?’

Hence it’s time to write down only those channels that every member of the family actually watch. I mean all those channels that everyone – from the Pogo toddlers to the Aastha oldies – watch on a daily basis, and not once in a blue moon.

Now, you may scrutinize this list once again before submitting the same to your provider (or use their website or app or other subscription means). Typically, your list now should contain 20 to 30 channels in most cases, or say 50 or so in the worst case.

If you are going ahead with this list right away, you are not going to like the final bill amount that your provider may came up with! With all those Base Charges, NCF, Paid Channel charges and GST, you are likely to pay a few hundred rupees more than you were actually paying till now!

This is where TRAI has come to your rescue by providing a Free Channel Selector and Optimizer that will help you choose some bouquets optimally so that you can save a lot on your cable TV bill.

How to Optimize Your Cable TV / DTH Bill?

With the channels list that you have got now, you may visit TRAI Channel Selector portal

Trai Channel Selector

Scroll down the page and click on the Get Started button.

It now shows some 5 steps. You can skip through all these steps by clicking the Skip button on each page, till you land on the ‘Choose Your Pay Channels’ page. I mean, you don’t really need to provide your personal information, state, language preferences, and interests at any point as requested in these 5 steps.

You will already notice that your minimum charges of 153.40/- is mentioned on the yellow bar on top.

You can now search (from the Search Box with a Lens image) for the channels you want and keep adding them to your selection. For example, you can see in the image below that I have searched for NDTV and chose NDTV 24×7 – from the three channels appeared as search results – by selecting the checkbox against it.

trai pay channels

Using the same method, you can now search and add all those Pay Channels for your family needs.

If you don’t find any channel there, you may search for the same by clicking the ‘Free To Air Channels‘ menu item on the top of the page. You can switch between this menu item and the ‘Pay Channels’ menu item any number of times before you finish choosing all your channels.

As and when you select more channels, you can see that your subscription fee along with GST gets updated in the yellow box.

To review your list, you can choose the menu item ‘My Selection‘ and click the + (Plus) buttons against each sub section (Pay Channels, Free Channels etc). You can see that in my case, I have chosen 25 pay channels, 5 free channels and the application has automatically added the 25 mandatory DD channels. My total bill as of now stands at Rs. 450.76/-

TRAI Channel Selector - My Selection

Once the list is confirmed, it’s time to optimize your choices. By optimizing what the app does is to reduce your cost by suggesting certain bouquets instead of choosing each channel individually.

You can optimize your bill by clicking the ‘Optimize’ button on top right corner of the page. You have to again click the green ‘Optimize’ button and confirm the action on the resultant page. Once it’s done with optimizing, it throws a screen as given below.

trai optimized channel list

You can see that, in my particular case, my monthly bill is already reduced by about 50 rupees by optimizing. What the TRAI Channel Selector app has done is bundling a few of my channel selections into one or more Bouquets. You can review this by clicking the + sign against the Bouquet Channels.

As you see, my NDTV individual channels have been replaced with an NDTV South Life bouquet. Similarly, HBO, Cartoon Network, CNN International etc have been bundled into Turner Family HD Plus Pack and so on.

trai optimized bouquets

You can keep adding or deleting your choices and keep optimizing until you meet your family’s requirements and based on your budget.

Please note that your savings from this optimizing process can be much more if your channel needs are higher. Once you are satisfied with this optimized list, you can send these details to your local provider. Or you can choose these optimized bouquets, paid channels and free channels by yourself using their online sevice. There is also an option to Save your selection using your mobile number and OTP. This didn’t quite work for me so far. I actually manually copied my optimized channel content for choosing my final package.

Please also note that the optimization process, at times, increases the total number of channels than your original list. But the app keeps in mind your total price including NCF charges etc during the optimization process. Hence you are only going to gain from this tool, even when the channel count goes up.

That’s pretty much about the TRAI Channel Selector and Optimizer app.

Fraudulent Activities by Service Providers

There have been numerous complaints from the consumers who are not complying with the TRAI regulations. Service providers like Hathway, Siti Cable Networks, Den Networks etc are the main culprits here. I am a victim of this rogue attitude from Hathway whereby the local service provider is messing with the rules. He is unwilling to remove the 100 free FTA channels that I don’t want and blames the system for that! These channels are mostly low quality local channels that are bundled with annoying ads. Basically, the service providers are forcing these channels on us so as to protect their revenue stream. Essentially they want to bloat up your total bill by adding these trash channels via the NCF slabs. I am still fighting this out and spreading awareness till my DTH service provider complies.

Please refer to this ToI news to understand what I am talking about. You may share your experiences on this issue using our comment section below.

There are also cases where the service provider only allow us to add more channels but not to drop unwanted channels. This is another way of charging more than what the customer actually consumes. In other case, no customer support is provided for customizing the channels or addressing the issues. Some of these issues are being addressed by TRAI as per this news link.

That’s pretty much about this topic. Things are improving with our systems. But the Government and the service providers need to come with a more proactive approach to solve the consumer concerns.

Let me know your opinion on the new TRAI regulation and its impact on your family’s TV routine!

Save Water via Half Flushing Technique

Our cities are reeling under severe water crisis and probably Bangalore city is the worst hit. I am a Bangalorean who is also involved in some activities related to managing water and electricity in our apartment society. Hence, I understand the exact difficulties regarding the water situation in our garden city.

Bangalore’s current supply of water from its utilities board (BWSSB) is good enough to meet only 50% of its demand. Further, the ground water in this region is depleting fast. The fact that even a 1000ft deep bore well doesn’t seem to find any water in certain places explains our current plight. The case is not too different in many other parts of India.

Water saving measures in our Society

In the past, we had undertaken multiple interventions in our community to save water using various available technologies. This included, installing water saving aerators in faucets, shower heads etc and also (non-technical) lifestyle changes of saving water via restricting car wash frequency, drip irrigation methodologies for gardening etc. However, one of the biggest spend item that’s not addressed so far is how we use our toilet flushes.

Like in the case of many 10+ year old apartments in India, even we do not have water saving dual flush systems installed in our toilets. This means that every flush spends roughly 8 litres of water and each person does 8 to 12 such flushes every day. The important thing here is that up to 8 flushes a day are typically used for disposing our liquid waste (urine mainly). This is where, I think, there’s a huge opportunity to save water.

Why Half Flushing?

In order to flush out urine, one just needs to spend 3-4 litres of water or half of what your toilet flush dispenses per flush. While dual flushes address this problem, majority of our toilets are still not dual flush type. Hence, we need to manually do a half-flush while flushing liquid waste and this is exactly the aim of this campaign (non-commercial) that I am trying to run.

Dear friends, please watch the following video and make sure that it reaches your contacts living in the Indian cities – especially apartment dwellers. We together can save millions of litres of water via disciplined measures such as half flushing technique. Typically, one can save up to 15% on your overall water consumption via this method alone. Hence please act today!

If the video doesn’t appear on this page, please click this direct link

And, if someone is interested in knowing about numerous practical ways to save water and cut down on your water bill, please feel free to contact me. This is completely free and I have no business interest whatsoever when it comes to conservation of water. I can just share a few tips with you that worked well for our apartment community.

Please start saving water today via optimizing your consumption!

My Favorite Value-for-Money Brands – The Top 10 List

I used to be a real spendthrift during my late 20s and early 30s! High income clubbed with single life abroad was like perfect recipe for personal finance disaster. It was the time when I started falling in love with designer brands that offered little value in life but made myself a self-proclaimed somebody else 🙂 I must confess that I spent a significant part of my life wasting money over those famous brand names that every one of my age group then probably wanted or were envious about.

The craving for designer brands ended once I started my married life when the reality injected some good sense into my head. That’s when I started realizing the value of going for products that offer value and quality for the price you pay. While some of these products may not be exactly cheap, they definitely do offer great value for money in the long run.

Once I started using those value-for-money products, I involuntarily started liking the brands or companies that produced these amazing products. This blog post is about the brands that have added value in my life in the long run.

My top 10 favorite brands

When I talk about a real brand (other than FMCG) that I am in love with for at least 35 years now, I have to start with Panasonic.

1. Panasonic

I first saw a Panasonic (National Panasonic to be precise) stereo tape recorder as a five or six year old child. During those days, a National Panasonic boom box or stereo was one of the most valuable things that a Keralite who returned from ‘the Gelf or Persia’ would bring in. I am talking about the pre-VCR era and post-valve radio period.

national panasonic boombox
National Panasonic Boombox - Picture courtesy:

I attached myself to the Panasonic brand from those robust boombox days itself and started familiarizing with their other products as I grew.

Today, I am a big Panasonic fan and have used at least 8 to 10 of their products to satisfaction over the past several years. There are some categories where a Panasonic is simply the best – e.g. Cordless phones or Rice cooker etc. Among the
Panasonics that we have at home as of today include:

– Our Panasonic plasma TV
– A cordless phone (that I purchased 15 years back and still working)
– Two electric rice cookers
– A mixer grinder (awesome product!)
– An electric shaver
– A super silent hair dryer (latest addition)

panasonic mixer blender rice cooker

Well, the audio systems themselves underwent a lot of changes and hence I don’t know how the Panasonic stereos or boomboxes are doing now. But I definitely love their other products (may be except their recent entry into smartphones)

Philips is another brand I familiarized and started liking at the same time – particularly due to their lighting options, radios etc. However, in my mind, Panasonic still has the highest value for money.

2. Raymond’s Park Avenue

This must be one Indian brand that every working professional in this country must be familiar with and proud of for years now. I doubt if there’s a single middle class executive in India who didn’t own a pair of Raymond’s trousers in his life. In fact, I haven’t seen any cloth item that’s so durable and offers good looks at the same time for the money spent.

Further, I see that most people who went for their first suit or blazer naturally went with a Raymond’s Park Avenue.

(By the way, I do not use a Park Avenue on a regular basis any longer as I have stopped wearing formals. However, I still do have a couple of them in my wardrobe)

3. Titan (formal watches)

Okay, I am not here to talk about Tanishq, Fastrack or other late entrants from the Titan family. But a Titan Quartz formal watch is a high value for money watch and the one I own for the past 18 years still works like a charm whenever the battery is replaced in a timely manner.

If I remember correctly, I had paid something like Rs. 1200/- for this watch (in the picture) way back in 1995 or 96. Of course, I don’t use it as often as I used to do 10 years ago but even with a couple of other watches in my collection, I never forget to wear this little formal Titan once in a while.

titan formal watches

4. Zodiac – formal shirts

Zodiac is another Indian brand that I started liking after I got my first job. In fact, at one point of time, I remember ditching all other shirt brand and going outright for Zodiac when I had to relocate to US for the purpose of my consulting job.

Years down the line, while there are dozens of choices available when it comes to clothing brands, Zodiac still continues to be my favorite. I haven’t bought a formal shirt for a few years now, but when I do it will again be a Zodiac.

Their ZOD! Clubwear is another brand that needs a mention. At one point of time – perhaps 12 years ago – it was probably the only option if you had to pick a party wear for men. I still have a couple of them in my wardrobe that’s not used for quite some time now but is still in a highly usable condition apart from being the perfectly fitting shirt. Well, these shirts are not exactly cheap but serves you well (just like Raymond’s) in terms of fit and finish for a long time not to mention that they continue to equip their shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons even after several years into starting that practice.

5. Reynolds (ball-point pens)

This is no-brainer! Reynolds – among the ball-point pens – is the first one that I liked ever since we got the very first chance to switch over from those leaking fountain pens. By the way, I indeed liked the hero fountain pens as mentioned in an old post but Reynolds offered more freedom and resulted in better looking note books.

Even before Reynolds pens entered the Indian market; it was a popular name in our households – thanks again to the relatives working in the Gulf countries.

I still consider it as a value-for-money brand although the quality seems to have deteriorated a bit ever since their Indian entry in the early 90s.

6. Hitachi

Just like the brand Panasonic, yet another consumer durables brand that I like a lot is Hitachi – particularly due to their Air conditioners (and fridges too). While, one doesn’t go out and buy a Hitachi product on a regular basis, it is peace of mind once you own a 5-star energy rated product from Hitachi. Even better, they are like silent work horses that keep your mind away from regular repair related botheration.

I love Hitachi as a brand!

7. Polaroid – sun glasses

The Polaroids that one could wear even during night driving / riding have been my favorite list for the past 10 or 15 years now. In between, I switched a couple of driving glasses / fashion sun glasses but nothing offered the utility that came with a Polaroid

It is just amazing how those cool looking designer brands come nowhere close to a Polaroid in terms of real use and value for money.

8. Emami as a brand

Probably the only cosmetic item – other than my deos – I have to ever use in my life is the cold cream. And the best value for money cold cream that I have seen so far is the Emami cold cream which is priced almost one-third of typical brands like Ponds.

Emami is yet another Indian brand that’s synonymous to value and culture for the Indians. Their Himani Navaratna oil, Boroplus cream, powder, facewash etc are rightly priced products that understand the Indian audience well.

9. Oral B (dental floss)

Dental floss is something that I can’t live without and ever since I started flossing (at least 15 years now), I have been using the Oral B floss. Why Oral B? Because that’s the thinnest possible floss that I could find in the local market. The other brands like Colgate are much thicker flosses and very plain too while Oral B has a fresh minty flavor to it.

Overall, it helps maintain the dental hygiene at a reasonable price. I like this brand mainly because there are very few options in India when it comes to Dental hygiene products.

10. Pears soap

This is one brand that I have used for at least 90% of my life so far because even my father used the same and I have been seeing it since my birth. During my twenties, I switched to men’s lifestyle bath soap brands like Park Avenue or Aramusk but I knew that I was never going to patronize with such brands.

While the Pears bath soap has degraded a bit in its cut, shape and quality over the years, it’s still a decent Glycerine soap to help with a fresh shower.

[By the way, I just recalled an incident that took place some 32 years ago. My father, in fact, wrote to Hindustan Lever the first time they changed its shape of Pears to make it flattened and thinner. His queries were, then, answered by the customer care department in a personal letter. A couple of years from then, they reinstated the shape but the the beautiful cut was gone forever. Now, it looks like an unfinished product though the soap quality is still good if not the best]

Some more value brands

Well, there are a number of other things that I started liking at various stages of my life.

The super silent Crompton Greaves ceiling fans are one such brand that keeps me happy and amazed from the time I first saw it. We still have one in my house back home and even after 35 years of its heavy usage, it hasn’t failed even once. The regulator was damaged once but never the fan.

Colgate Pax Fresh Tea is an awesome mouthwash product that I found to be very gentle and fresh at the same time. It’s not too expensive either.

Another product I like for its pricing and quality is Himalaya Whitening Herbal toothpaste – it’s not too coarse; it is rightly priced and very effective.

As for the shaving systems, the Gillette Prestobarbara ready shaver at 22 rupees or so is a great bargain and it’s good for a couple of clean shaves.

Washing machines from Siemens are in my quality products list too, but since they are so expensive, I am not mentioning it in the value-for-money list.

The list could go on. But what I have learned in the process is that, beyond the upfront cost involved, there’s something called customer support, long term returns in terms of quality and satisfaction. That’s what make some of these products stand out.

And well, I know that you could disagree with some of my picks so let me know your list of best brands that offer value.

How To Remove Sun Film From Your Car Windows Yourself!

With the Supreme Court of India enforcing a ban on all types of sun control films on vehicles in India, car owners are queuing up in front of Auto accessory shops for sun film removal. Most of the service people charge something like Rs. 250/- to 500/- just to remove the sun film and the worst case is that you have to be in a long queue to get this simple service done. Another issue is that many of them don’t even have the patience to clean things up properly as the demand is high for their services.

Removing the sun film from your car windows is not as complicated as you think. Definitely, it cannot be as bad as installing sun films or tints. After some careful thinking I thought of doing it myself on my car and it turned to be an easier task which I did in under 15 minutes and saved me 500 bucks. And the best thing, of course, was the cleanest possible job because you are working on your own baby!

How to Remove Sun Film from Cars?

I took the help of my son Aditya and shot this video of how exactly you can remove car window tints or solar films? Well, I am talking about the ‘Indian’ way of doing it as there are simpler and neater ways (Steaming etc) of doing it if you happen to be abroad.

So here’s the video. Please go through it and let me know how your sun film removal experiment go.

Additional Tips

If you have installed some high end brands like 3M sun film, I must say that your life is a lot easier as hardly any glue stains remain after pulling out the film. If you use brands like Garware or even cheaper local brands, perhaps you may have a lot more to clean up of the residual glue stains.

Also, if you leave your car under hot sun for more than an hour, the sun film peeling process gets a lot easier.

Be very careful with the back light glass (i.e. the rear windshield) of your car. You don’t want to damage the defogger lines of your car by scraping them too hard.

In any case, all that you need to do sun control film removal are the following:

  1. Paint scraper (thin) – You will get it in paint shops and it costs Rs.5 per blade
  2. A spray bottle or old/used liquid soap dispenser
  3. 5 to 10 ml of regular liquid dish wash detergent
  4. A craft knife or razor blade

So how exactly do we do it? Please watch the video on my Youtube channel.