Monday, December 19, 2011

How I brought my TV to India !

Who says Air Travels are boring?  I did one of the craziest thing I ever imagined…. I brought 32” LED Television set from USA to India by changing 7 flights, Passing 4 Customs Checkpoints, Check-in TV as luggage for 4 times, Check-in – Checkout in 3 hotels, Passing through 4 countries, Handling Luggage without Luggage Cart and so on…

Why and How I bought a TV in USA is another story.  But before I arrived for 2011 Budget meeting to America, the TV was arrived at my friend’s residence and apparently I have no other choice but to take TV to India.  Now, till end of Budget meeting , I did not apply my brain “How to take this TV to India?”.   So on a weekend post meeting, the great planning commenced.

Travel Route –
Bowling Green, KY ---> Nashville TN ---> Houston TX --> Quertaro, Mexico ---> Mexico City ---> Houston, TX ---> Miami, FL ---> London Heathrow ---> Mumbai, India ---> Pune, India

Airlines used-
American Airlines, Continental Airlines, British Airways

So the strategy started with “What people say” on various forums about experience, strategy, usability of TV in India etc.  Many asked questions, but no one could answer and give complete story and hence here is the blog post that may help readers.
After successful failure on understanding the experiences of TV from USA to India, I decided to fight this battle on my own.  I searched baggage information pages of Continental Airlines and British Airways.
Check-in Baggage Rules:
Continental Airlines
Normal Sized Check in Bag cannot exceed 62 inches or 157cm, in linear length (Length + Width + Breadth).
British Airways
Normal Sized check in bag cannot exceed 90cm x 75cm x 43cm (or 35.5cm x29.5cm x 16cm).
Actual Size of my 32” TV Box
65.5 inches in Linear length (exceeding by 3.5 inches for Continental Airlines)
92.5cm x 23cm x 5cm (exceeding length by 2.5cm for British Airways).

Where I contacted customer care of both airlines on flexibility to allow little excess length, both arrogantly denied my request.  I then went to collection centre of FedEx Bowling Green using hotel shuttle and requested them to help me to cut size of the box. The only officer working in FedEx Bowling Green office has never done this kind of work.   So for her as well, this was a unique experience.  We did cut the box and set the box to fit baggage rules of both airlines.  Box was cut in length by 4 cm.  All TV accessories were removed from the box.

Now, all systems are go!  According to me, all was set, ready to go, but I was still to change many flights, pass customs offices, receive check –in TV box on baggage belt at many airports.
I had to travel back to India after visiting Mexico for 2 days for business purposes.  I entered Quertaro, Mexico Airport with question on face whether Mexico customs will allow TV as duty free baggage as Mexico baggage allowance is just USD 300.  But probably due to my several visa stampings and transit stay of 3 days, Customs may have ignored my luggage.  Hence, I was relieved at first junction.

I experienced American Airlines, then Continental Airlines and then British Airways.  All airlines accepted the TV box without any complaint.  Continental  Airlines at Mexico City asked me to declare in writing that “Continental Airlines is not responsible for any damage or breakage since Box contains Fragile item and not packed in properly conditions !!!”.  I was not in mood to argue with them on this clause, but assumed that they can handle the same with care.
Next time, I will bring some sure breakable item and then would screw them.  You note this down now.
I checked-in TV box at Nashville, TN, Mexico City, Houston, TX, Miami FL and checked out TV box from Check-In luggages at Quertaro, Mexico, Houston, TX, Miami FL and Mumbai, India.  Although it was pain to pass through check-in luggage Q in busiest month of airports across the world, it was nice to see baggage condition during transit.  When I reached Pune with TV in hand successfully, it was indeed a great experience to see TV Box in “Perfect” condition on 4 airports.  At Houston Airport, the box was little wet due to rain, but it was dried up till Miami.  At Houston Airport, USA customs officer was surprise to hear journey of TV, but allowed to proceed since I had confirmed flight back to India.  At Miami Airport, a passenger tried to provoke me by telling that airlines put all luggage on TV box.  Logically, it was hard to believe that baggage handlers would throw the box with fragile sticker or put other luggage.  I ignored it and simply thanked baggage service office of Continental Airlines and in turn, she gave me a long plastic bag to protect the bag.  At Miami Airport, I saw two more passengers taking 32” TV somewhere and both accepted newly started shrink wrap service at airport.  I purposefully avoided shrink wrap or bubble wrap since I wanted baggage handlers to recognize that box contains TV set and can then hope to carry box safely.  At London Airport, I met a south Indian who was hitting computer buttons since past 5 years in USA.   I rank South Indians over Punjbis since they have survived in foreign countries on “Dahi Bhat” (Curd-Rice) and without English Tea since many years !  While next question in my mind was how to start/use this TV in India, this gentleman quickly said many Chennaians (???) take TV to India and you can get a Step down power converter as well as NTSC to PAL converter.  Although I did not understand these complex words, I thought probably something is available in India.
At Mumbai Airport, the box was received in perfect condition from British Airways.   A luggage handler tried to influence me by asking for bribe to take box out of customs.  I obviously with my “Puneri” face and expression dejected him.  Since the TV was below TV baggage allowance of Rs. 25000, I passed all luggage and TV box through screening.  Although Invoice value was below Rs. 25000, market value should be between Rs. 40000 to Rs. 50000 and I was prepared with “legal story” of showing the item as “Second Hand Purchase” for argument purposes.  A custom officer did ask me about what is in the box, but with my Puneri – “Born to rule the world, Ek damdi denar nahi, Vaidya ahe mi, Punyatla etc” face, he preferred to focus on other “Bakras”.

Reaching Pune successfully with TV was indeed a great pleasure not only for me, but also to my friends in USA who were eager to hear answer for million dollar question – “How is the TV”.  To start the TV, I have to buy this step down power converter and NTSC to PAL converter and hence I hit the electric bazaar in Budhwar Peth, Pune.  Good news was the TV model I bought LG32LV2400 do not require step down power converter since it can handle voltage upto 240.  Bad news was that NTSC to PAL converter costs upto Rs. 12000 and not easily available.  Another shopkeeper tried to sell a LCD tuner with 99% success ratio. I was nervous, but not yet given up.  Due to jet lag, I woke up at 3am and commenced my research on how to use this TV in India.   On internet forums, it was nothing less than more confusion as many were asking question “How it would work”, some expressed views that NTSC to PAL converter, many confused me on VGA Port, use of computer to connect TV, purchase of Dish TV’s TrueHD STB.   I surfed many pages, but not able to get concrete answer.  When I focused my search on use of Set Top Box and TV set, I found crazy comments like “Open Set Top Box and do this”, some opined to open TV set and so on.  But there was one smart guy and incidentally from Pune who made a comment in March 2011 that he brought TV in India and Sankalp Electronics in Kothrud installed Dish TV and the STB automatically converts PAL signals to NTSC signals.  I called customer care of Dish TV who as expected unaware of NTSC or PAL at 4.00am in the morning.  But they did explain that there is no difference in any set top box as a configuration.
Finally, I decided to install TV on my own.  Wife was called for assistance at 5.30am and she being engineer and more literate than me, we could configure the TV easily.  With some try outs and permutation-combination, the TV was easily tuned to Dish TV set top box and first channel I saw was Sun TV – best south Indian channel.  I have purchased South Family Pack only to view Sun TV.

Conclusion/ Summary –
1.       Airlines carried my TV in box pack condition from USA to India safely, un-breaked and perfect condition. You may give them instruction for your satisfaction not to use baggage belt.
2.       I carried 32” TV, but box had to be cut down to avoid oversize baggage charges, although airlines did not questioned me on the same.
3.       If value is less than Rs. 25000, you may take the TV in India without any hassle.  Else, consult me on provisions of Customs Law in India.
4.       USA TV can work in India using Dish TV STB.  Per my understanding aka digestion of technical discussion on various forums, it is normal cabel network which cannot support this TVs and hence give up your Rs. 100 per month all channels Pack of “cabelwalla” and shift to Hathway or Dish TV to become a rich citizen.
5.       I am still using Gold Pack of Dish TV with some ala carte additions and seeing no issues.
6.       Finally, it is 4.00am now, I am watching “Ye Pyar Jhukta Nahi” on Zee Premier and my TV has completed first day of his (in Marathi “To TV”) life!

Disclaimer: Writer of blog post is not baggage handler at any airport, but an accountant by profession.  All south Indians and Punjabis are great people.  Objective of this blog post is to answer all those who have written thousands of pages on how to bring TV to India and use that USA TV in India.