A Few Questions on Indian Telecom
This little anecdote goes about 6 years back. I was studying a remote corner of India, untouched by technology or civilization. Interestingly it was overnight from the IT capital of this nation, Bangalore. Every Sunday my mother used to call me back. At that time, mobile telephony had just started off in New Delhi. Under these circumstances, I developed a keen interest in the telecom scene just to keep myself updated about the falling Subscriber Trunk Dialing rates.
As it took a long time, two years hence and during my third year I got an Airtel connection. The Short Messaging Service was a rage and it made my life a lot easier. I could stay in touch with my family and there was a drastic reduction in the long distance rates. I was made to believe that increasing foreign direct investment in the telecom sector is good for this country. Of course, I was naïve to believe this propaganda.
Before I left that place, Calling Party Pays regime had been announced. Reliance was on the verge of rolling out their network pan India. Of course much had changed since I finished my course and by now. I remember that it was a frustrating wait at the local cyber cafe with a screwed up dial up. In the middle of opening up any mail attachment, the connection used to break off in the middle. I have paid astronomical access charges for the same on an hourly basis. There in I developed revulsion for the government initiatives.
The purpose of the foregoing account is that if 6 years have passed from then until now, for me nothing really has changed in the “happening place on earth”. Naivete gave way to deeper understanding as to how these companies are intent on lining their own pockets; the customer be damned. Finally, after search for a decent platform to air my concerns, I landed up here.
A few questions that I would like to ask which mainstream media would never ask. Herein lies the power of blogging. Blogs can give voice to ordinary people like you and me. And of course an alternative platform from the mainstream media.
I would like to ask them all as to why they have signed up the “leading cricketers” for their ad campaigns? Barring BSNL, whose ad spends goes to the lowest tender? That reflects in their media exposure in terms of shoddy advertising. Is it to signify that just like the Indian Cricket team, they are not reliable when they are expected to perform the most? Almost every telecom operator pays out huge amount of endorsement fees to sign them up. In order to make the most of the deals, they end up clogging the sponsorships. Admittedly, advertising is essential. However, have you ever realized the effect of the advertisements anyway? If your highly paid MBA has reeled of statistics that number of subscribers has increased, there are few reasons for the same. First is the churn that you all hate. The second aspect is that potential customers really have no choice in most of the GSM markets. It is either Airtel or Idea or Hutch or BSNL. Is there anything major to differentiate any one of them? Except maybe the brands, the quality of services for all is pathetic.
A question to BSNL. Sir, why are you sitting tight over broadband resources? Do you feel that end customer is an idiot to sign up broadband that has a stupid 1 GB download limit? In that case, why not make dial up cheaper? We are paying out one of the highest access charges for the same. Do you know how difficult is it to get the work done out of the ordinary linemen?
In the same vein, Mr. Bharti, could you answer that why did you approach the courts asking for refund on the migration fee to unified license? Despite the fact that you knew that the fee is non-refundable? What a waste of the precious court time and litigation costs. Who benefited out of the exercise? Well, you know that one!
This one for Sify. Sir, do you know that there are a lot of “admirers” here? We have a whole forum dedicated for your antics. I am sure that getting a NASDAQ listing would have meant something. Is it that your employees have not heard of the word Customer or the word “broadband”? Sir, have you ever been to a rickety broken down iWay? Where speeds as slow as 10 kbps is called as “broadband”. What have you done that you are not hauled up under falsifying claims? I mean you have proved the saying wrong that you can fool ALL the people ALL the time!
This question for Reliance. Sir, why did you have to change the international numbers into local calls to avoid paying the Access Deficit Charge? I am sure that you can make much more money by keeping the rules of the game straight, isn’t it? In any case, let us see the lid blowing off in the face of the other operators who have silently maintained a BIG silence about the whole issue. Now everyone has become smart after Department of Telecom installed a toll free number to investigate the “breach of security”. As Business World, had carried out an article on you, about the complex financial engineering that you did putting in the Reliance’s shareholders money in your telecom venture and making huge profits out of the same. Do you feel that is a perfect case study for business schools?
This question for TRAI. Sir, with due respect, when would you start exerting yourself in the interests of the consumers? Sir, do you have any idea about the problems that we have to face while accessing telecom services? In case we have to complain against the service providers, they do not care two hoots for the customer. The promised dream that customer would be the king, has gone really sour.
This question to the media. With all due respect, to this profession, why do not you all stand up to your conscience and report the way it is to be done? I mean do you really feel that India is an IT superpower? Does money thrown in by NASSCOM or their ilk have such an influence that you are ready to give them a paid media exposure? Do you know how asinine is the state of affairs is? Try stepping in the shoes of a common man, perhaps then you would realize how supposed telecom revolution has sorely missed its mark.
I really wish that I get some word of official communication. The stakeholders do not believe in being answerable to even themselves. 5 years hence, I do not want to be even more cynical.