Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blog has moved

I started this blog in November 2008 after being inspired from Shubham. Lot of things have changed since then. I have been thinking of revamping the design and structure for a long time. Owing to the complexity of formatting in 90 + posts on this blog, this seemed like an impossible tasks.

So, I decided to create a new one. Please visit to checkout my latest posts and read more of the background stories. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Airtel : what to expect from the biggest telecom provider of India

Note : The views expressed in this post are completely personal and do not represent those of any company or individual. Further, all the facts stated here are true to the best of my knowledge and gathered over a period of last 20 days beginning March 11th, 2013.

"What is your concern, Sir? We apologise for the concern and our team is working on it" - That's the warm response you get when you call the Airtel customer support team. But soon you realise that it is one of their standard template response. You might be calling them for the 20th time in a day - all they can do to address your concern is to keep assuring with their false commitments and deadlines - which they never meet. I feel like saying "Can't you check your records to see what my concern has been for last 15 days? Without having resolved my complaint, don't you feel ashamed in asking me the same question again?  Shouldn't it be you who should be following up on the concern rather than me trying to reach you." After getting disgusted with the quality of service provided by Airtel, I decided to list down all my concern on my blog for their reference and also in public interest.

My concern began the day I decided to switch to postpaid from prepaid. But why would I switch to postpaid, considering I had just 25 days before leaving for US. I got a call from one Miss Nalini (Ph. no. : +919686322860) explaining the benefits of postpaid. Having used postpaid earlier in UP East circle (Phone number 9793415555), I knew most details. I had only two questions :
1 . How to activate international roaming ?
Lie : "Sir, you call 121 and they will activate it free of charge."
Fact : The customer needs to pay Rs. 3000 at Airtel outlet and submit a form to get it activated. This apparently can be done only in the city where you applied for the connection.

2. What if I want to put my phone under safe custody for 3 months while I am not in India ?
Lie : "Sir, you call the customer care and they will do it free of charge"
Fact : You need to pay Rs. 200 to get this done

I was more than happy and asked her to go ahead with the formalities. Next day, on March 11th, one Mr. Putturaj visits my place (Gokulam apartments, Bangalore). This person neither knows Hindi or English and I don't know Kannada. I had hard time trying to understand his instructions on filling the forms.
Concern : Wasn't Airtel aware of my language preference from my existing connection. Why did they send a person who knows only Kannada ?

Since I have an iPhone 5, I needed a nano SIM card. He told me that I need to pay him Rs. 100 extra for nano SIM. I told him that in that case I don't need the connection. He called up Ms Nalini and she tells me that I need to pay at least Rs.50 more. I reiterated that I don't need the connection. She immediately reverted her statement saying "Sir, don't worry we will give you the SIM free of cost". What a bargain! Mr. Putturaj told me that he was not carrying any nano SIM and he would get it next day and that within 4 days my connection would be converted to postpaid.

2 days passed. I called up Mr. Putturaj and he told me that he would come in the evening. He calls me up around 4 pm asking "Sir, microSIM ?" I said I had requested for nanoSIM not microSIM. Once again it took us at least 2 minutes to convey this small information - language barrier! He didn't turn up after that. On 15th March, I get a SMS that my pre to post conversion is in process and my prepaid SIM will be deactivated within 4 hours. I panicked and called up Ms. Nalini and Putturaj again. Finally my SIM got deactivated around 3 pm. I called them up around 3.30 pm again. Finally around 4.30 pm, Mr. Putturaj comes and delivers me a nanoSIM - which was not activated. He made a couple of phone calls and told me that it would get activated in 10 minutes.
Concern : Three hours later : Around 7 pm I got impatient and called up Ms.Nalini again and told my phone no. Her response : "Sir, what is your concern?" I told her that my prepaid was deactivated and postpaid was not yet activated. Then some knowledge dawned onto her, "Sir, actually there is some problem with the SIM. Please tell me the SIM no." Nothing happened. What was she doing all this while and why did she not call back to inform the same ?
I started messaging on twitter to @Airtel_Presence. After some conversation and contact exchange, got a reply "We will try to activate it by tonight or by tomorrow 11 am".

Concern : I had to attend two important meetings next day and I didn't have any mobile connection. Somehow I managed to coordinate with my cab driver by calling him from Skype on my iPad. (Note : this was just a call out number). At the same time I was trying to provide alternate contact numbers (basically phone nos. of the people I was meeting) to Airtel folks. Once even I got a call on my friend's phone but I was in the middle of an important video shoot and I could not take the call. He told him to call after sometime. I kept waiting at his place for next two hours but didn't get a call.

Concern : The day passed and nothing moved. Next day, March 17th, I was supposed to pick up my Mom from airport and once again I had no mobile connectivity. I tried to get a new prepaid connection and I was told that it would take 48 hours to activate it - so it was of no use. All this while I had already tried to call Nalini 10 times but she did not pick up the phone. Once again I coordinated with my Mom from Skype and told her "Mom, welcome to Bangalore. Unfortunately, your son, CEO of an IT company has't been able to get his phone running in the IT city of India by the best service provider, Airtel".

Concern : March 18th, Monday morning, I start calling up Ms. Nalini but no response. I travelled all the way to Koramangala Airtel outlet - some 12 kms - to get it resolved. The store manager, Mr. Ganapathy tried calling up Ms. Nalini too and after 1 hour of effort and sending a couple of text messages, she picks up the phone. He told me that they had activated some other SIM by mistake. I asked him to either get my old (prepaid) SIM activated or give me some other temporary connection till my problem is resolved. After another half an hour of effort and talking to the manager of store where Ms. Nalini works, he assured me that my phone will be activated in half an hour and I should proceed for my meetings in Malleshwaram. He asked me for an alternate contact no. and I gave my Mom's phone no. as she was with me for some more time. Concern : I left the store around 1.30 pm. And obviously nothing changed till I called up Ms. Nalini again around 7 pm. She iterates the same old story - "Sir we are working on it, we are unable to reach you .... " I asked her how was she trying to contact me and turned out that she was trying to reach a landline number at my home. I lost my cool and asked her why was she calling that number when I gave my Mom's mobile number in the morning. She tells me that I have to call a particular number from my landline number to activate the SIM - why ? because Mr. Putturaj had given that number as my alternate number in the form he filled and she wanted to do some address verification. Concern : When Mr. Putturaj had visited my place in person what was the need of this secondary address verification. If at all, why was I being told about this 1 week late. I asked her to escalate my call. I was connected to her HR manager Ms. Priya (Ph. no. 9972056446). She told me the same story and said that she would make sure that my phone becomes active within 15 minutes after I made the call. I reached home and I realised that the number she asked me to call was out of service. I called her again and she arranged for a call back and finally in another half an hour, SIM got activated.

I asked her to activate a 3G Data pack on phone. She told me that there is 400 MB pack for Rs.100. I asked her to activate that. Concern : 3 days later, March 19th, While going through Airtel website I realised that there was no such pack as 400 MB for Rs.100. I called up 121 and lodged a complaint for giving me wrong information. I got 2-3 phone calls asking "Sir is your connection working well ? Your plan details are so and so." I asked them to register a complaint and compensate me for the wrong information - but it was never taken up.
I came to Lucknow on March 25th. Concern : On March 26th, all of a sudden my phone started showing "Invalid SIM". I called up Airtel and I was told that my SIM probably has got physical damage. Probably the nano SIM which was not even 10 days old didn't like flying too high. I was further told that I either need to go back to Bangalore or authorise someone in Bangalore to collect a new SIM after paying Rs.100.

The photo of the SIM which apparently has been physically damaged

Next day, March 28th I got a call from Ms. Narinder Kaur from Airtel nodal office, apologising for the inconvenience and taking down my request for a new SIM. She took sometime and asked me to collect a new SIM from Airtel store in Vijay Khand (5 km from my home). She even put me in conference call with the store staff and gave me directions. I was very delighted. I asked both of them "Are you sure, this SIM will work despite being from a different circle". Both said "It will work guaranteed". Concern :  I started from my home and half way through I got a call from Ms. Narinder saying that there was some problem with their stock so the SIM won't work! She said she will arrange for a nano SIM to be shipped from Bangalore. I asked her to register my request for a compensation for my losses during all this process. She kept telling me stories and said she would update me on the same soon. I haven't heard from her since then.

Around 3 pm same day I went to a local Airtel outlet in Lucknow. I thought this process might take long so I applied for a new prepaid connection for Rs.200. Concern : When I was almost about to exit the store after giving the form and docs, the lady at the desk tells me "Sir, you haven't signed here, you haven't signed on the ID copy as well". She was already dealing with four customers at the same time and not even one of them went out of the store satisfied. All she knew was how to collect money from customers and tell them that their connection will become active within 48 hours.

Concern : March 30th evening - I didn't get any update on status of my postpaid connection nor did the new prepaid SIM get activated. I tried calling Airtel customer care (9935199351). Some executive picks up the call and very innocently tells me "Sir, we can not activate your connection because your documents have not been submitted. We can not help - please contact the outlet you applied for the new connection". This was the limit of shamelessness and irresponsibility. Airtel executives claim not to be responsible for what is happening at Airtel outlets. She did not even bother to ask my address details and the outlet where I had submitted my docs.

March 31st : Another round of conversations on Twitter follows : "Sir, what is your concern? We apologise for that. We will get back to you in 30 mins." Six hours later, around 11.30 pm, I get a twitter message : "Hope your concern has been addressed adequately. Thanks...". I fired back on Twitter. To my surprise, I was told that my concern has been resolved and Rs.55 has been credited to my account!!  I got lucky. Within 10 mins, I get a call from Mr. Aaftab apologising as usual and assuring quick remedial. After that he told me that he has 4 of my alternate numbers in his record and he had just called a friend of mine (whose contact I gave on March 17th for call back) at 12 in the night! He pulled up my records and told me that according to some imaginary conversation I had with Narinder she had credited my account.

I just don't understand, is Airtel - the biggest telecom provider in India - living with such primitive
systems that they do not maintain logs - the information is misplaced. I asked him again to register a complaint and send me a copy. To which he said that he did not have access to that system. He tried to help me or at least pretended to do so by saying he will swap the services of my new SIM to work as my postpaid number - but nothing worked. He then asked me to mail him a copy of my ID proof and he would activate my SIM.

April 1st - I mailed my ID proof at 10 am and since then I have been trying to get any update from Airtel. And again, all I get to hear from Airtel is:
"Sir, we apologise for inconvenience."
"We will get back to you in half an hour"
"We are unable to get through to you. Provide alternate # or best time to call"

I even got a call once from some executive and I asked him why does it show that my complaint has been closed - as I can see online. I was told that the concern has been escalated even further so it is closed at their end. This time they can not even give me a complaint no. - probably because after so many conversations it has ceased to be a concern and become a routine conversation with them.

I asked for a compensation again, if there is any further delay in addressing the issue and she gave me another innocent response : "Sir, we can give you 10% discount on next three months bills". First, I am not going to be in India for the next three months. 10% discount for three months would probably amount to Rs.150 while during all this mess I have already wasted Rs. 300-400 trying to call up airtel and being put on hold. Add to that 10 hours of cumulative time waste trying to convince airtel that my problem is genuine and the loss I have suffered in my business being unable to connect to others.

Concern : I am without connection for the last seven days while half the team at Airtel has been trying to address my concern. Neither are they able to activate my prepaid connection (8175836437) nor my postpaid connection (9902275625).

Following are the screenshots of my Twitter conversation with Airtel :


Some more interesting insights into Airtel system :

Update 1 : April 2nd, 2013 :
I called Airtel social media time (the ones responding on twitter) last evening around 7 pm. I was told that Mr. Aftab who was handling my complaint and had promised to resolve it with guarantee had gone on leave. Others present there who were answering me did not even have courtesy to connect me to someone else from the team - rather he kept saying "Sir, he is on leave, I don't know, it's too late, where did you get this number from etc.. " After some persuasion he connected me to Lokesh from twitter team. I told him the story again. He put me hold and then I got a couple of more call backs and of course no one had any significant information other than "Sir we are working on your concern". Then after some time I got another call from Mr. Rajan who "promised" me that he will update me with the status by 9 am today morning and get it resolved at earliest. Needless to say I never got a call. I messaged on twitter around 3 pm and got the same template reply - "We are arranging for a call back" - but never did.

Around 6.15 pm, I called up the Nodal office and told my entire story again for the 100th time. Not to my surprise, I was told that the nanoSIM has been delivered and the case has been closed - Wow!! - it happened so quietly that I didn't even know. Finally he agreed to reopen the case and assured me a call back in 40 mins. On requesting for compensation, again he told me that he can give me 10% discount on my bills for next 6 months.  I asked him to take the request in writing but he could not and gave me an email id to write my concern to <>. I even got an automated reply from the system and a call back on the alternate number that Ms. Narender will coordinate with me on the issue.

Regarding my new prepaid connection, around 1 pm I visited the same Airtel outlet I had applied from. The agents there took some 5 minutes to figure out the status of my application. Then they told me that my application has been rejected due to a sign mismatch on front and back of the application. I asked for a refund and they were rude enough to tell me that they do not refund money. On asking further why I was not informed about it, they told me that the paper will come back in the evening and then only they will give me a call. It's 7.30 pm already and I haven't received any call. On asking why it was taking them so long when I was told that it will be activated within 48 hours, came another blow- "Sir we didn't say 48 hours rather we said it would be between 48 and 72 working hours and there was also Holi holiday in between." Obviously it must be my fault that I did not hear properly that day, and also that I did not know that if Holi is on 26th March I should not apply for connection on 28th because there might be Holi holidays anytime in the week following Holi.

Update 2 : April 3rd, 2013 :
I got a call at 11 am today morning from Airtel outlet in Lucknow (where I had submitted my docs for Prepaid connection) informing that my form has returned to their office and I should come and sign again to move it further. I told them that I would reach there in an hour. Within 15 minutes I got another call that if I don't reach their immediately their agent (who was supposed to take my form) would have gone and then entire processing might be delayed by a day. I was in the middle of some work so I told him that it would not be possible to reach their in less than half an hour. I finally went to their office in the afternoon and they got me to fill a new form all over again. Attached below are the copies of my form and ID which were rejected because my sign did not match. At least I could not figure out a significant difference between the various signatures. Now they have said that it would take another two days to activate it. This time I got it in writing from him. (See below)

Regarding my Karnataka postpaid number, I got few phone calls from Airtel Social media team and nodal office in Delhi. I was told that Ms. Garima has been following my case since yesterday and her first question was "Sir, I have been trying to activate your prepaid SIM from Karnataka circle but it's not happening - which store did you get it from". Obviously it wouldn't happen because the SIM was from UP circle. It took Airtel 5 days to figure out that the SIM was not bought from where they were thinking. She was quite confused about which SIM was postpaid and which one was prepaid. This confusion occurred despite the mail I sent them on 30th :

"Aftab, As per our telephonic conversation, attached is the scanned copy of my Driving License. Kindly activate my phone no. 8175836437 (SIM no. 8991541205032490917).
Also, could you please forward all calls and messages on my postpaid no. 9902275625 to either 9839274725 or 8175836437 (if this gets activated) ?

Then the usual mocking at me : "Sir, but you have received your postpaid SIM card from Karnataka and it is active". Then I got a couple of more phone calls that they are trying to get the SIM shipped from Bangalore. They even asked for my postal address in Lucknow to ship it - although I am very sure that they will not deliver to my address - rather ask me to pick it up from an Airtel store. I sent the message for their satisfaction anyway.

Update 3 : April 4th - 6th, 2013 :
Prepaid :
Around 2 pm on 4th, I tweeted to Airtel informing I had re-submitted my documents for prepaid - when do I expect the connection to get activated. I was told that it would be done 5 pm. I inserted the SIM around 5.30 pm and for the first time, things worked as promised. Now I wanted to activate 3G data pack through the SMS gateway. My balance as it was told on 121 was Rs. 150. However, I kept getting an error saying my balance was 0 and I could not activate. I had to make a phone call to121 (costing Re 0.50) and the executive told me that 3G is active on my phone. She manually activated the 150MB data pack and said it would be enabled within 4 hours.

April 6th : It's more than 35 hours and my phone shows no signs of 3G. Data pack of 150MB is activated but I am getting only 2G signal (EDGE) with a data rate of 150 kbps. I called up 121 executive (another Rs 0.50) to complain about this. This guy keeps telling me that he does not have an iPhone5 else he would have told me the exact procedure, "Sir please turn on 3G on your phone and it will work". He did not even bother to listen to what I was saying that I have been using Airtel 3G since the day it was started and on iPhone - the settings at my end are correct. He got puzzled and was rude enough to cut the phone without resolving it. I called up 121 again. This time another lady tells me that 3G service is not active on my phone so I am not getting the signal although 3G data pack is active. What the hell! Why does Airtel have to activate 3G service separately. Do they think customers are nuts that they want to enable 3G data pack for fun but they do not want 3G speeds. (For information, one can get 1GB of 2G data for Rs.47 while only 150MB of 3G data for same price). I have been dying to download a couple of mail attachments because of slow speeds - who is going to compensate for this ???

Postpaid :
April 5th : I got a call from Mr. Rajan from social media team - asking my shipping address again and if I have my ID  proof to receive the SIM etc. - for 10th time I guess. "Sir, this is not usually done, there is just 1% chance that it could be shipped from Karnataka but I am giving it a shot. Will update you on this". I got frustrated at hearing this. 8 days back I was promised that they would ship me a SIM. I called up the nodal office around 1 pm to find out about the status of my new SIM which was to be shipped to me 7 days back. The call started with initial nonsense - "Sir I cannot see your complaint for new SIM. I can see that you lodged a complaint about wrong information on 3G" - my goodness! Obviously they would not find the right information because they never take down a new complaint and give me a new complaint no. Then they realised something and told me that Mr. Anand is looking into the case and I don't need to call again and they will update me by 6 pm. - No news since.
I even asked the person to provide me with my Universal Porting Code so that I could switch to some other operator - as expected I was told that it could be obtained only on the phone (when it is active). So effectively I am stuck in a loop - my phone is inactive and I cannot port my number - till then my bank accounts are also frozen for online transactions and of course I am missing all other important calls. I asked her to take down a fresh request to arrange me my UPC - she kept avoiding then she said would let me know - nothing has happened on this as well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Birthday 2012

I happened to be in Gurgaon-Noida this birthday. Birthday started with Shubham's wishes at his apartment followed by Parul's SMS. Thanks Shubham for the wonderful Camera Lens Cup which decorates my work table now. The evening was spent with Manu at Gravity restaurant whit live ghazals. This was followed by the movie, Houseful 2. The youtube video below has one of the ghazals requested by Manu.


Another interesting thing which happened was that I got many automated birthday wishes; the following screenshots tell the story. Apart from these, Kingfisher was generous enough to cred 500 miles to my KingClub account.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blog hits 10,000 visitors

Stats for the last few days :

courtesy :

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Destination Goa

Mummy and Papa were going to see off Chhotu at Delhi airport on Jan 17th. Hence it was unanimously decided that they would fly to Goa from Delhi for a 4 day vacation. I too joined them in Goa. It was an amazing trip. Goa lived upto its expectation - picturesque and serene. 18th and 19th we hired a cab to take us around the place. The beaches were undoubtedly one of the best I have ever seen. Coconut trees hanging on the roads and foreigners strolling in every corner, it is a wonderful location to spend a peaceful vacation.

19th evening we left for Mumbai. It was a bit uncomfortable night journey on the ever-swaying bus. On 20th, we went for Mumbai darshan bus tour which was fun. The guide showed us all the major beaches, film stars' bungalows including Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Rajesh Khanna and Amitab Bachchan.

On 22nd we reached Shirdi. This is small town in Maharashtra which has witnessed incredible growth rate in the past couple of years. The Sai temple, market and food places were very clean and well kept.