The Tesla of Online Airline Ticket Booking is Virgin


The notorious flag glooming over most airline ticketing portals is hanging on a price pole. Commissions are held back like a receding hairline. I’d rather shave it than wax nostalgic sporting a comb over.

Hemmed on that flag are the letters “FUCK” in big bold letters, underlined, enclosed in a starburst, catching a welfare fluff.

“It’s got to be fucking cheap bro! Fucking cheap as fuck,” the users or travellers have you believe. Like, calm your tits mate.

There are experts, who’ve swam the seven seas doing only what I can imagine to be a cocktail of playing cabin tease and conveyor belt burlesque, while navigating the broken and hidden treasures of depleting hairlines.

(No, seriously… respect bro.)

Past the barrage of crappy and overwhelming experiences I found comfort, trust and connection in the following four places. Clear indicator of commitment issues, however, doesn’t stop me from having a lover.

The first two examples are my favourite followed by two I have recently discovered and found to have an instant infatuation for because, let’s be honest, everything else is visually and functionally haemorrhoid-inducing.

I intend to focus on the experiences and not the cheapest fucking fare. Although all of the shortlists do that very well. In this blog we will explore the first two. I will spend some time on the following two and come back with my observations and two fucking cents in part two.

“Hey Paul! They have shareholders, people, bills, product strategy and there’s an audience for what they are selling. And they seem to be doing well,” you say.

They aren’t bad people. You know what, good on them for trying. But, guess what, it’s my party so let’s dive into an adolescent-pee-free pool for a change.


1. Cleartrip
The best user experience hands down. Form meets function rests here. The website, iPhone app and Apple Watch app work so beautifully every-single-time. Platform agnostic 101. UX and UI gods have spoken.

Everything is intuitive and where I want it to be. No crappy banner ads punching you square in the chin, anywhere.


A log of your trips is available from an icon at the bottom of the screen, the Expressway feature makes booking Uber-like easy and the Passbook entry one gets on making a booking.


Every little ding dang whoosh is a tease. Ok, maybe I got carried away there but I can balance it out by cracking a whip on the logo dressed in To Do List overalls. Visit Cleartrip.


2. Virgin America
The only (which I’m aware of) brand-and-user-led (not just user-led but bringing the brand voice into context is so fucking rare) non-template design comes from approaching the entire experience from scratch. Kind of like Tesla’s approach to building electric cars ground up and not trying to retro fit electric motors into a chassis meant for gas engines but for websites.

Same level of epic cool.

Work & Co (a digital company) approached the design with the following framework focusing on the purchase path.

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 1.34.20 PM

Joe Stewart & Felipe Memoria talk about Virgin America’s new site.

You can watch the clip here and read the case study here.

They also talk about experimenting with their agency model and working collaboratively by setting up an outpost at the client’s office. And no presentations. In another article Joe talked about exploring Pentagram’s model where Partners lead projects. Another elaborate discussion on why the current agency model is broken for a future blog.


Did you catch that? Let me just pause you here for a second. These two products are great examples of the former when design is user-function-led and the later doing all the above but also bringing brand (Virgin) into context.

That is fucking key. The brand voice is not an aesthetic layer but deep-seated- a part of the function and behaviour- a compelling story for the user to experience.

The lack of brand in the digital universe is cringe worthy. More on that in a future blog.

Adioso and Kiwi reviews and impressions coming in part two. We request all passengers to fasten their seat belts and hang tight.

Be sure to checkout my #365 Day Project on


I think I’ve been watching a lot of Bill Burr. Fuck.


How I got my first job in advertising (Third and final part)


Read part one and two first. While I stood in one corner of the room, by the balcony, overlooking Thane, my friend lay lazy in bed. We were brainstorming ideas to get me a foot in the door at an advertising agency. He was hosting me for the weekend while I was in-between places. He worked full-time, as a copywriter.

By midnight we had zeroed in on a unique email address. One catch-all destination for my job-hunting adventures. Wait for it. Ready? Pen is my dear at Gmail dot com. Yep! That was going to be my address for correspondence. No matter the reaction I would hold a deadpan frame reassuring folks it was “Pen. Is. My. Dear. At. Gmail. Dot. Com.” ensuring awkwardness.

Inspired by Neil French and David Ogilvy, that week, I began working on my elevator pitch. The intended impact I had in mind was “copy” nerd. I scripted several iterations and put together my first prototype. I shared it with my friends and they felt it was silly and funny.

It’s the reaction I was hoping for and the only push I needed to go all in.

After spending an afternoon, manually cutting cards, at a local print shop the copywriter’s business card was born. Armed with a new email address and business card I began to approach agencies.

paulsyng_vc_one paulsyng_vc_two

Here’s what I did differently this time around. Instead of sending emails and cold calling companies, I showed up to the agency’s door and requested receptionists to hand deliver the card to the Creative Director.

I got noticed and heard for the first time. Thus began a meaningful dialogue with the agency world. I ended up joining Wunderman to work as a junior copywriter on the airline account only to quit months later to start my own agency.

More on that soon.

Note: I made minor alterations to the artwork: Updated the email and phone no. I don’t use now.


How I got my first job in advertising (Part two)


Read part one first. Before the one bedroom hall kitchen there was a room. Not just any room. It was a classroom at the end of a hallway on the third floor of a school. Yeah, thats right. You heard me right.

The room was divided into three parts, appropriated with a bed without sheets, a temporary bathroom the size of a port-a-potty and a bucket for bathing, a little kitchenette and common area littered with plastic furniture.

There were two windows, the one in my room looked into the corridor and the one in the common area overlooked a terrace with trees for pubic hair. On days when the moon took centerstage that terrace begged to be used for dating.


This makeshift arrangement was meant for temporary guests of the school. But, by any stretch of imagination, this wasn’t anything more than a roof over my head. There were no kitchen supplies either so I’d eat “pure” vegan food and champion a glass of watermelon juice down a neighbouring restaurant.

“Bathing twice in the night to stay cool under the breath of an aged ceiling fan was my version of a wet dream. It was fucking hot. I slept topless, knickers torn.”

I’d be woken up to the incessant chatter of pubescent kids in the hallway and classroom inches from my door. On occasions, when I slept in, I’d be greeted by stares and giggles through the corridor window. With the staircase on the other end of the hallway I’d have to walk across all the classrooms on the third floor every morning.

A stretch best described to walking across a railway platform with bogeys stuffed with kids- preparing for departure. Little had they known, for some of us, the next station was beside science class.

“Did I mention schools smell funny? And it was hot and humid in Mumbai at the time. Most of my batchmates felt I was a princess and borderline pretentious. Don’t fucking think so. Pretentious one hundred percent. Back to the story.”

While I was struggling to stay afloat, my friends (who were, also like me, struggling to find work) and I had decided to keep spirits high and not lose sight of our goals. Every other evening we’d gather at The Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive for those virgin to Mumbai) to share each other’s stories. We’d laugh the hardest by the sea. It was medicative. Unperturbed by agency rejections, we’d keep our pencils sharpened at all times.

Our evening theatrics entailed fantasies of conquering the agency world, earning accolades and awards, and driving BMWs. We were a bunch of pompous kids with only chewing gum in our pockets. Those days ended at Crystal, a Punjabi food restaurant, before boarding a local from Churchgate station. I think it was Punjabi.

Kindly note only I wanted a BMW. The other guy wanted a Porsche. Trust me, you don’t want to know what the third guy had in mind. A horse. He wanted a fucking horse. Told you so.

Every night I’d show up to a deserted school with a security guard perched at the gate. We’d become accustomed to crossing paths at such odd hours. With all the kids gone there was only deafening silence. I’d walk up a flight of stairs to the third floor and walk down the hallway towards the end of my path. Spooky as fuck. I knew I had to stay strong and not let the weight of my backpack get to me.

The final part coming shortly.