Phone Companies – Bah!

02 Jul

This is something I actually thought of writing on my return from my Indian vacation, but somehow never got around to doing! Today, while catching up on some old posts marked “unread” in Bloglines, I came upon this gem by Aishwarya. Rather than spam her post with comments, and make her wonder why someone would comment 17 days after a post, i thought i’d write here about my experiences.

Reader Warning: 3 Rants follow!

Rant 1: 

On my arrival in Mumbai, we went and bought a pre-paid Hutch mobile connection. We were promised that it would be activated in 5-6 hours, i.e. before 8 p.m that night. Next afternoon I visited the shop to ask about the status, and was told that it would be done that night surely, since the contractor (!) had taken the connection documents “that day only”. That night, no sign of connection. So, the next morning the shop gets another visit. We are told that the documents were not in order. Apparently, some issue with guarantor’s signature etc. We ask for the form, and are told it’s gone missing, and would we please fill up another form. We do so, chase up twice the next morning, and the connection is activated.

The next evening we had to leave for Indore. On landing in Indore, we switch on the mobile to discover “no signal”. Fair enough, we thought, maybe the pre-paid connections don’t have roaming (although they should, but you notice how charitable we become during holidays!)

We return to Mumbai after 10 days, and still “no signal”. That’s odd! Decidedly odd!

So we pay the shop another visit, and are told that the documents were not in order. (Excuse Me!) This time it’s an issue with our proof of residence! We ask for the form, and are told it’s gone missing, and would we be nice to fill it out again (I know…sounds familiar doesn’t it?) By this time, the accommodating Mr. M (a short-lived avatar at any time) has disappeared in the mumbai heat! We ask for our money back, threaten the shop owner, and switch to an Airtel connection which gets activated that evening! Fanatastic.

Next afternoon, the phone gets disconnected. Some issue with guarantor’s signature (???!!!) Anyway, by this time the shop owner doesn’t want to see us, so he fights with the airtel call center telling them they must have lost the papers, gets the connection restored, and hopes fervently we never visit him again!

1 night before we leave for UK, the phone is disconnected again. We’re told some problems with documents, and so the phone is disconnected to prevent misuse! After I have refilled it twice, and spent 1000 Rs.?!?!?! We don’t bother getting another phone since the balance was only about 6-7 rupees. But we do vow not to have anything to do with pre-paid connections after that!

Rant 2:

The whole incident reminded us of our time with MTNL Delhi, where when we went to get the phone disconnected & pay them Rs. 500 which was the outstanding balance, we were told to visit some other exchange, meet a few people & fill out 3 forms. Oh, and after doing all this, they refused to accept cheques, and told us they would send us the last bill & we should only pay after that! 3 years on, we’re still awaiting the said bill!

Rant 3:

What is with those forms that they make you fill out anyway? 3 pages of bullshit! Your name, dad’s name, address, proof of address, proof of identity, guarantor’s name, guarantor’s id, age, sex, marital status, official id, education, permanent address, etc etc. What has that got to do anything with a pre-paid connection, for %$£%’s sake! When you ask, you’ll be told it’s to “prevent misuse”, or “govt. requirement for national security”. As if a terrorist would be hindered by the minor hassle of getting a ration card!

The pain worsens for people who’ve seen other countries’ systems. In the UK, for example, you can walk into a shop, pay £5, and get a pre-paid activated connection in 60 seconds flat (of which you spend 40 seconds indulging in the national pastime: queueing up). The sim card comes loaded with £1.50 of talk time, and buying more talk time is equally easy.

To buy a post-paid connection, you can queue up & fill out a 1-page form, or do it online, or (and this is really the best part) call a toll-free number, where someone will ask you your details, including bank account number, and send you an activated sim card (with a free phone) by first class post, alongwith a pre-filled form (basically instructions for your bank to set up a direct debit) for you to sign & return (postage paid by the phone company).

Basically, the difference seems to be of attitudes of the government & phone companies in India Vs. the West. In India, we treat our people with suspicion. The whole attitude is of preventing something evil from happening. Whereas in the West, until you are caught doing something wrong, you are given the benefit of doubt! And the focus is on making your life as a paying consumer easier!


Posted by on July 2, 2006 in Biz/Tech, Thoughts


5 responses to “Phone Companies – Bah!

  1. Deepak Shenoy

    July 5, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    I think the reason why there are so many issues with prepaid connections is really security regulations. Some terrorists supposedly used prepaid phone connections in Delhi once, and a rule was born to ensure photo ids, address proofs and all that jazz.

    Later they introduced a rule that required Internet Cafes to have a visitor book (name/address of all people who visited). This is easily faked, of course.

    There are way more honest people than terrorists, who would anyhow not be dettered by such rules. They have sat-phones to communicate in J&K because the army shuts down cell phone services routinely there. The honest folks are the ones troubled the most, for something that does little to raise the bar. Our government is, put mildly, stupid.

    Good post though!

  2. Just Mohit

    July 6, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Deepak,

    I understand the security regulations reason. However, we indians seem to be paranoid about security, and a fat lot of good it does us.

    The terrorists seem to be able to bomb any part of the country, attack army barracks, ambush patrols, with precise planning & coordination. But a tourist or citizen is not allowed to photograph bridges, dams or power station.

    Moreover, while the terrorists manage to get sat-phones in J&K, as well as get mobile sim cards elsewhere, the common man has to go through these hassles.

    It’s not as if the terrorist threat is any lower in UK or USA. But for some reason, even the indian tourists in these countries have more rights than the indian citizens in India!

  3. Aishwarya

    July 6, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Oh dear. You really have suffered more than me.

  4. Just Mohit

    July 7, 2006 at 5:54 am

    Thanks Aishwarya.
    As they say “apna apna dard”.
    Let’s just say indian phone companies & I have a long relationship (too long by my count)

  5. siddharth

    January 18, 2008 at 4:13 am

    I can relate to all these experiences too … Billing with reliance is a big pain too … we disconnected one number ..however still getting bills … Is there any way we can do more than just posting it on our blogs …take them to print ?


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