Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Indian system, a disaster and a mockery

My father logged in with his Airtel online account and checked all available plans and packages. He selected myplan of Rs. 299 which includes 8 free packs. We spent about 20 minutes to finalize what exactly my father needed and started making alterations to his existing plan on Airtel website. Upon completion of the entire process when we clicked the last Next button, website prompted "Save the changes". We did as prompted but to our surprise, nothing happened. I thought perhaps, our internet connection dropped or something went wrong so we clicked Save button again but again nothing happened. After few attempts, I gave up and tried to find out how can I proceed and complete the plan changes to switch over to new plan rates but unfortunately, there was no way around so we then called 121 which is Airtel 24x7 customer support number. After a wait of almost 4 minutes a voice came from the other side "Namshkaar, Airtel upbhokta service mein aapka swagat hai, main aapki kya sewa kar sakta hoon" (Hello and welcome to Airtel Customer Support service, how may I help you?). My father tried to explain the support representative that he was trying to change his plan on Airtel's website but he is not able to complete it. To his question, customer support representative replied, "Sir aap website per sirf plans ki details dekh sakte hain, change nahi kar sakte" (Sir, you can only view the details of available plans on website but you cannot change it). When I heard this from my father, I at first laughed and then out of frustration said, what is the use of giving a form to make changes and then prompt to Save on website if that is all to view and not to change anything? Customer support represenative then said, to contact Airtel Service center and they will help  you.


My father and I went to Airtel service center and explained the entire saga again and the Airtel representative working there punched in couple of keys on his computer and looked at us and said, we cannot help you. Your connection is a Corporate connection and you will have to contact our on call support 121 and get it changed from them. We were annoyed and frusturated to this unprofessional behavior of both on call 121 customer support service and service center represenative response. I was about to burst at the service center person that is this a joke or what? Are we a ping pong ball that you and customer support are tossing here and there? But I knew that there will be no solution to this. We called customer support number 121 again and this time we got connected to a representative after holding for 2 minutes. I asked my father not to explain the entire situation again this time but simply mentioned that he has a corporate plan from when he was working and he wants it to be moved to his name as personal plan and so he needs help with that. The on call representative didn't even think twice and responded by saying that Sir, you will have to get a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from your company to get this changed. Why do we need a NOC for this? I mean my father is retired now and no company would have objection to transfer an account from corporate to individual that too for a retired employee. Why is this unnecessary paperwork needed? Airtel service center representative said, Sir, I will give you a blank paper, just write a requisition letter on it which will act as a NOC and then you will have to apply for a new connection for the same number and provide additional documents like Photo ID, Photo and an Address proof. Once you submit the application, you will have to pay Rs. 25 for SIM card change and the new SIM card will be activated in 2-3 days and while it ets fully activated, you current SIM card will become inactive which means we will have no cell phone connection for about 24-48 hours. My father and I were absolutely irritated by this time because of all this stupid process. First of all why do we need to submit all this documentation again when we are simply saying that we want to change plan. Secondly, why can't we simply go online, login to our account and get the plan change ourselves? Thirdly, earlier on call rep said that you need to get NOC from company and now Airtel rep says, just write a requisition letter that will act as a NOC. This clearly means that there is no need and importance of NOC for this process. Well, we knew this discussion is not going anywhere so we decided to fill the form for new connection with same number and provided Driver's license as Photo ID, a photo and license again for Address proof as it contains our residential address also. Airtel rep said, Sir, Driver's license cannot be used as address proof as it is written on the back of it and when we turned the driver's license, it indeed said, "document cannot be used for address proof". What the hell, if DL cannot be used for address proof, why does Government put address on it? What is the use of address on card if it cannot be used as address verification document? Ultimately, we couldn't get our plan changed and returned our home to get all documents.

We drove back to Airtel service center to submit all forms and needed documents at 9 AM but the service center was not open. Official opening time is 9 AM but the watchman outside mentioned, it is all upto them, they can open at 10 AM or 11 AM. We'll be on another round post noon to see what will happen next.

Things are never easy in India no matter how small or big they are. What I fail to understand is that how can a multi million dollar company like Airtel not do a good job in building a good website where customers can log in and do little things like checking bills, payments and making plan changes easily. What is the use of spending so much money in running a website if it is mere a way to display information. For that, I can write 5 pages of HTML code too and host a website with static pages containing all information any customer would need. Another thing that I fail to understand is that why is it so cumbersome process for existing customers to make any alternations or avail new services. Why do they have to go through the hassel of form submission again and again for every single thing they have to do, why cannot customer support help customers in 1 call and satisfy them, why cannot service center representatives listen patiently and politely and try to help customers? Why is getting anything done in India such a harrasment for people?

Definitely, India is not growing and not progressing in anyways if the internal structure and process of the country is not proper. We may be driving Audi and Jaguars, dining in five stars, spending thousands on shopping a trouser and shirt but the truth is we are one of the under civilized communities of the world because we lack in basic civic sense, community service, human ethics and inter personal respect. We have not, we are not and we will not change anytime. We bring more disgrace to ourselves every day. I always confronted people and fought with them to defend my pride for my nation, India, but I feel sorry and sad today to see that our nation and everything in it are moving towards an end which has only negativity and ill fate.

Friday, October 25, 2013

We will never change

This blog has been dead for over 10 months and the reason is my monotonous life. I must have logged in to my Blog probably 100 times in these 10 months but never had the enthusiasm to pen down something but finally I have mood, time and content to write.

I must keep traveling to keep my mind busy and thinking and this is exactly what happened 2 days ago when I boarded my flight for India. It was a mixed feeling with excitement of meeting family and friends but at the same time anxiety of 23 hours of journey with 7 hours of layover at Holland.

For sure I was not looking for this long journey but you don't have much choice when you live in another corner of the world, do you? Well the journey started as usual with me being 2 hours early at Chicago O'hare airport and wandering around gates waiting for the boarding to start. The plane had just been in air for about an hour and the crew already started serving dinner. I was wondering, it would be too early to have dinner but if I don't, it would probably be too late to have it because in another couple of hours they will serve the second round of meal. This is one thing I certainly don't like about traveling overseas that your whole day cycle gets messed up and dinner becomes lunch and lunch becomes breakfast. Somehow, I managed to gulp my dinner and tried to get a nap which unfortunately these days I don't get much. It was early in the morning at Amsterdam Schiphol when we landed and I was having hard time opening my eyes and digesting the fact that it is breakfast time for this part of the World when I should be tucked in my cozy comforter at home. I asked for a Koffie (coffee) at the Food Court and the lady replied, is that it? I smiled at her and said, well, it's just past midnight for me so this should be enough to kick my engines and keep me running for next 7 hours at the Airport.

During the layover, I spent time in comfy Meditation Lounge on upper level in the Airport, got a back and neck massage for 15-20 minutes, wandered around several shops and did some nice window shopping at Swarvoski, Rolex and duty free Liquor shops. Finally, I gave up everything after 4 hours and went to my gate to sit and retire. As the staff for my India flight arrived and announced the boarding procedure, I regained my energy and put myself in place and order to hop in for another 7 hours of torturing travel. Staff had just announced for passengers requiring special assistance and every single person at the gate stood up and walked towards the door for boarding. I was standing at the back and thinking, why do we Indians always do this? The members of KLM staff requested all passengers to please take their seats at the gate and only walk through when they are called upon but still, people cared less. The two ladies from KLM flight requested again and again and again and as far as I can remember and count, they requested for about 6-8 times but at the end, it was the game of numbers and lack of understanding and civic sense in the passengers that won and KLM staff surrendered. They let everyone simply walk in and manage their boarding themselves. Now I don't need to tell what happened next, you all know what would happen when you leave herd of Indian people in jungle with no rules and regulations. It started with a bit of chaos and then the restless crowd as always managed to find their way in and settle down. I along with few other Indian folks and almost every single non Indian community person stood behind everyone patiently to find space and move. I knew that very moment, I will have to fight for my baggage space once I am in and to no surprise, I was right. All the overhead cabins around my seat were packed and people had their sweaters and jackets in place of carry-on bags. I was a bit disappointed by the behavior of people who by the way now belong to a very well disciplined society and was irritated because of the long travel and layover so I looked around, took out one of the sweaters and jackets from the overhead cabin and asked people sitting around my seat, "whose are these?" No reply for couple of minutes so I figured that it must be of some passengers sitting far from my seat and they must have stuffed them in here finding some vacant space. I pushed my hand bag in the cabin and adjusted their sweaters and jackets on the sides and finally settled on my seat. Luckily the guy sitting next to me was from Atlanta and a young chap who cared less about anyone around and he passed into his dreamworld pretty soon after the plane took off. I kept trying to get some sleep but couldn't for a longer duration. We touched New Delhi airport about half hour early but again, people and their restless attitude gave us no advantage of landing early. Everyone started taking off their bags and stood up in the aisles to clog them for good 20 minutes. My mind was continuously thinking why can we Indians not behave in a more civilized manner for once, why can we not think about others and surroundings for once, why are we always in hurry and in a race to win when we all know that everyone will get his or her chance.

Honestly, we will never change and even if we want to, we won't be able to because the truth is that we live in a world of chaos and the only thing we know is to add more complexities around us and whine about everything and everyone and yet contributing a bit or a byte of trouble to that chaos.