Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wireless broadband!! Cool concept…Un-cool providers.


Tata photon + named  gadget of the year, that’s what one hears and see’s on the hoardings placed all over.   When I heard of this wireless broadband service, I thought  “Wow!", this is cool”.  I just have to sign up for a service like that of a cell phone, no Ethernet connections to bother about. Boasts of a speed of 3.1Mbps, and I thought  “Wow! this is too good”, once again.


My problems had just started with Wi-fi in India. Then it was about locating a store that would sell the greatly advertised Tata Photon + device and service. Every other roadside store which we visited advertises it, but either they don’t sell the device and service, or they are sold out on the devices. Eventually, we were able to find one store that could provide the service to us. We learnt that we were not eligible for the service, We needed to be a local. So, we took my Mom’s ID to take the service in her name which we were allowed. One needs proof of address, residence with photo ID and a passport picture. Fair enough, so all of them were provided.

Jet lagged and with half our brains working we were in for another news, there were about 120 plans (maybe a little bit exaggerated)  to choose from, and we had to select the plan that would work for us. The guy spoke about discounts and renting and GB’s none of which made any sense to us.  Later I would learn the hard way that what ever we had signed up for was not the right choice and there were other things that we had to consider like roaming etc which we were not informed about, and GB usage vs time usage.

We didn’t get to use the device until after 2 days when we find that the service is actually not active. After hours of being on call with the customer service representative It just took us another 3-4 days to get online. Then, the shocker, about the speed, when we were waiting for ever for a page to load. Eventually, we got used to the speed too. Then, one fine day, the service is de-activated. 

The young people who answer the customer service calls have no clue about the customer’s account or the customer’s requirements, they also don’t have any authority to make decisions nor accept payments. They have been trained well to use the words like “sorry” “apologize”, “will help you today” and in fact end the call by doing nothing but reading out some rules that can at most sound gibberish to a normal person’s ears.

From the umpteen calls that I made and the numerous sorry’s that I heard, I understood that I had to go to their office the next day to make some payment until which the account can’t be activated. So, next day I go to a nearest dealer to make the payment.

“We don’t accept payments madam, You’ve to go to the main office in xxxxxx”, he says.

So, about 45 minutes later, I land up in their main office. The person at the counter,  opened my account and wrote some amount on a sheet and said “Go, and pay it there”.

“Can I use a credit card?” , asking him so, I can keep the cash I have with me, trying to avoid another hassle of going through money exchange.

Smiles and says “No, only cash”.

So, I pay the cash that was mentioned on the slip.  Then I go to another counter and ask him to look at my plan and ask him why it doesn’t accept payment from my credit card when I try to pay online. Of course, it wouldn’t because the account is in my Mom’s name and I’m trying to use my credit card. Why in the world should it matter to this service company, whose credit card is being used to pay their bill. I lodged a complaint and left after being assured by the person that the service has been activated and will not be disconnected since I’ve made the payment.

Not having gotten a chance to go on the internet yet, I was returning from a Class that I have been taking my kids to, I get this call from a representative. He says

“Good Evening Madam, I am ….. from Tata Indicom. Did you lodged a complaint that you are unable to make online payment?”

“Yes”, I say

“I’m sorry for the inconvenience Madam. Can you try it now and see if it works?”

“Sir, I’m on my way home and I will try it, as soon as I get home.”

I try to login as soon as I reach home and get some time. As expected, it didn’t work. The reps are not even aware of the situation. I have been trying to make a payment in my Mom’s account with my card.

Then the next day I get a few calls from the representatives in different languages, when I am in the bathroom, shopping, eating, drinking, (I’m sure one can guess a million situations when one is not ready to answer a call) wanting to talk to me about the plan. If a button was available on my body that said “Understand Tata Indicom representative’s gibberish”, I would have used it. Anyways, I replied,

“Can you please call me at 9pm tonight.”

( I promise to not be eating, sleeping, peeing, visiting people, in transit, and will talk to you with all the time I can gather, I wanted to say.) Needless to say, I don’t get any call, but, when I sit to check my emails that night, I find my service has been DISCONNECTED again!!!

I call the customer service and after hearing to a series of apologies and promises to help me.  I start

“Sir, my account has been de-activated again. I had made the interim payment yesterday for whatever amount that had been asked of me. My payment is not due until next month.

Then he started.

“I apologize for the inconvenience..I will try to help you”

“Madam, your account shows a balance of  Rs7XXX, and after the discounts, you have crossed the limit…7200 minutes…after the discounts…the rental……..all this…..postpaid...have limit of Rs2500…have to make payment…Rs2501”

“Sir, I was at your office yesterday, and had paid whatever I was required to pay”.

“Madam, without considering your rental and discounts and have to pay Rs 2501”

“Why didn’t you ask me to pay that yesterday? Can you activate my account and I will make the payment tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry madam, I don’t have the authority to do that”

“I’m not interested in the apologies, can you help me get my account activated”.

“I’m sorry madam, let me talk to the superior and get back”

After a 3 minute wait

“ I’m sorry madam that I had to keep you waiting, Your account cannot be activated at this time. You will have to make an interim payment of Rs2501”

So, next day, I try to sign up for another service, its competitor, Reliance Netconnect , hoping that its service will be much better than the Tata indicom.

This time I went in more knowledgeable than the last time. I gave my mom’s ID, I I chose my plan with confidence then, he asks me..”Is your mom working?”

“No, she’s retired.”

“Sorry, this service is not available to Housewives, Retired Persons, College students.”

“OMG, such open segregation!!!”

On this note, another information to know that I read in the papers, “House wives have been categorized along with Prostitutes, Beggars and Criminals in the countries census, to be put in the “Economically Non-producing “ category.

Such Outrageous Classifications..”Non-productive"!!!………………..…such in-sensitiveness!!! Even the supreme court is shocked to find this. Such aware our Supreme courts are.

Back to where I was, I informed him that my Mom runs a business and I signed up for the internet service and bought the gadget. I came home that night and followed the instructions for the installation and activation. Now, what do I find?

I am waiting for ever to download my emails or the simple page. When I’m in the middle of downloading…the page spits out this message “Server not found”.  The internet connection had disconnected. I click on connect again..and 60-90 secs later just as the color of the page had started to appear, the screen changes to “Server not Found”.

Thus continues the saga of my desire to stay connected to the world, from India.


There are very cool concepts in Wireless and telecom being introduced in India but, of what use are all these if,  the service providers are not cool to work with. What of all this, if the service providers are not able to deliver it to the public. The public here seems to be very compromising and don’t demand more than they are getting. They are happy with what they receive and adjust.

Not in this way!!!


Rachna said...

Oh, that's really terrible. We saw Chinnu didi's wireless internet and that was pretty impressive with great speeds. You are right; the customer service sucks most of the time. And, no, the consumers in India are not uncompromising. Some of us even go to the Consumer Courts, but the processes are lengthy and time consuming, and the companies bank on them to offer shoddy service sometimes.

gayatri said...

Hi Rachna, You mean 'not compromising'? Sure, but that must be a handful of people who demand the best compared to the whole lot of people receiving those services. As you mentioned, consumer courts hardly help in such cases. Aren't these companies wanting recognition on the international scene, how will they achieve it, if they deliver in such a way.

Venky (வெங்கி) said...

You have to pay people to do the work for which they already get paid. The service sucks, no matter how much you pay.