Category Archives: Business

Eventually we all have to pay

This string of thoughts started when I was thinking of how to get my table back. Actually a few months ago the glass of our TV trolley crashed and our TV fell. Luckily it didn’t break. A miracle happened too that day. It was pitch dark in the room. We — Alka and I — heard the crash and woke up with a start. She got down, went to the switch board and switched on the lights. To our shock, there were tiny shards of glass everywhere on the floor. Alka had walked upon them, without a single scratch, and we consider it nothing less than an inexplicable miracle.

Anyway, ever since then we’ve been using a small table that I used to use for my work, for the TV. Today I thought if we could shift the TV onto something else I could may be get my table back and this would give me the flexibility to work from the bedroom, or my workroom, without having to shift the bigger, workroom table, to the bedroom whenever it is too hot. This lead me to the idea of purchasing a flat-screen plasma TV that we can simply hang on the wall. Of course for that I’ll need to use my credit card and the card being on standing instruction, big chunks of money are deducted all of a sudden if I’ve been careless with the spendings. So I thought, if I can get the standing instruction canceled, I can do a big spending and then pay back gradually. Of course I’m doing no such thing.

But many people do. During the recession times when governments are trying to bail out big corporations and companies I’ve read many people complaining why they should pay for the stupidities of those who don’t know how to curb their spending addictions? In America millions of people took loans and never paid them back, whatever was the reason, and this has also happened in India. There is a reason why wise people say that you should spend discerningly. When people go overboard they tend to buy things they can’t really afford, and in most of the cases, they don’t even need them. For instance, we don’t really need a plasma TV and besides, the picture quality from the cable company cannot exploit the abilities of a plasma screen.

People buy big homes, big and multiple cars, expensive clothes, latest gadgets, and keep sinking themselves into the quagmire of debt. Even the companies selling these things encourage people to take loans and use credit cards. In malls they are ready to issue a credit card immediately so that you can use it to buy their stuff, and a majority of people do find such offers irresistible. When you are using a card instead of cash, you don’t even realize how much you are spending, and by the time you realize it, it is too late.

Once Alka and I had a long discussion on the rampant consumerism afflicting the society. She says I made fun of her during the discussion but I don’t remember that. Anyway, she staunchly dislikes the idea of buying things unless you really need them. I on the other hand, had a quite liberal view. My attitude was, why the hell should I bother if you want to spend your money buying stupid stuff? As long as I’m not doing it, you can burn your money and bury yourself in debt-grave for all I care. But this is wrong. Even if you’re not directly involved, if there is an ill in the society, everybody suffers, whether you’re part of that illness or not. This is the way the society functions, in fact the whole world functions. The current recession was caused due to people who wanted to own things without earning them. People who lived within means also got caught in this groundswell of excessive greed and indulgence.

It’s like pollution. It affects all of us, whether we actively pollute or not.

What do you intend to do about that?

Kaushlendra – the power of one

As Alka says on her blog that it is uncool to talk about uncool people and here I am adding another drop to this uncoolness. But unlike her I don’t intend to berate people who pursue “other passions” because whether you do something for the self-good or for the social goodness, you mostly do something that makes your heart happy and that gives you a sense of fulfillment. Nonetheless, it requires great courage and vision to do what Kaushlendra is doing: despite being a topper at IIM-Ahmedabad he is selling vegetables on a cart. Visit Alka’s link to know more about Kaushlendra.

Today’s society is a crude society; have you seen that ad these days where the cricket player Dhoni says that you have no identity without wearing good clothes? It may sound like a silly ad but it exactly reflects the societal attitude of contemporary times. I have nothing against good clothes or acquiring materials of luxury but these days such possessions have become a maniacal obsession. To aspire, to get rich and affluent does no harm, what harms is the extent to which people go to reach there. Resisting these seemingly universal temptations and doing something for the others requires lots of grit and determination.

Airtel Is Out There To Steal Your Money

I had planned to write a post like this a few months back but at that time I thought, “Well, what the heck,” and had abandoned the idea. I’ll narrate here how Airtel — the company that provides mobile phone connections in India (and an assortment of other connectivity-related service) fleeces money out of unsuspecting consumers. The latest incident first.

For a few months I didn’t have a mobile handset so my prepaid number remained inactive during this time and consequently it was deactivated, which means neither incoming nor outgoing calls were allowed. The day before yesterday when I purchased a new handset I decided to recharge my prepaid connection. Since I couldn’t go to the shop I had sent the driver of my cab to get my phone recharged and using his best judgment he got the phone charged with a plan that gave me the maximum talk time for the amount paid.

Even after charging the phone I couldn’t use it; it remained deactivated. I was out the whole day so I couldn’t figure out why the phone wasn’t working. When I came back in the evening I called up Airtel service and the service executive there told me that even if my phone had been charged the tariff plan under which it had been charged didn’t activate the phone and in order to get it activated I would have to recharge my phone under another tariff plan. I asked him what would happen to the amount that I had already paid and he informed me that the amount would be automatically added to the new amount. I called them again to confirm this because somewhere I had an inkling that the entire amount would be reset, and even the second executive told me that the amount would be added: I just needed to recharge under another, lower tariff plan to keep my phone working for another month.

So today again when Alka got the phone recharged we thought that finally I would be able to use my new handset. When she came home and I tried to make a call I was again met with silence. Upon checking how much call time I had, to my great shock I just had one rupee left whereas I should have had around Rs. 296. I called their customer service to find out what happened to the amount I had paid yesterday? The wise executive on the other side informed me that I was given wrong information because when you recharge your phone while your phone is deactivated, and when you recharge it again to activate it, your previous amount is not carried forward that means it is reset to zero. There was no point in arguing with him because he was just giving me the information he had and he had no role in formulating the recharge policies of the company.

So the question is why was my phone recharged and I was allocated talk time when I couldn’t make a call? Isn’t it cunning on their part, especially when they are smart enough to make such a screwed up rule that resets the amount to zero when you recharge your phone while it is deactivated the moment you get it recharged in order to activate it? The executive that told me that I was given the wrong information wasn’t even apologetic, he just matter-of-factly told me that I was given the wrong information and was screwed in the process (he didn’t say the last part but his tone conveyed it). Before charging the phone why doesn’t an error message flash on the retailer’s computer screen that this prepaid subscriber’s number is deactivated and he or she should be given an option to recharge the phone under a different tariff plan that first activates the number and then allocates the talk time accordingly? What is so complicated in that?

I think this is a blatant rip-off and if many consumers are going through the same troubles than some consumer forum must take up the issue and sue this company. For instance if I wasted Rs. 333 for a recharge that was never destined to work then there must be thousands of people doing the same thing because they either don’t have the right information or the software that accepts money for recharges that are never going to work isn’t properly written. I am sure this has been done intentionally. This is pure stealing.

I don’t want to continue with my Airtel connection but Alka just reminded me that even the previous company (Hutch, now Vodafone I guess) from where I got my phone number wasn’t that great and there was a reason why I had shifted to the Airtel connection.

And now the second, the previous incident.

I use Airtel’s broadband Internet connection to do my work. I had the same broadband connection plan at the previous place where I lived — Sarita Vihar, in New Delhi. When we shifted to NOIDA I called the Airtel customer care to transfer my connection to the new place since this area too is covered by them. They instructed me to send a formal e-mail with my customer ID and all in order to get the connection transferred, which I immediately did (I was in a hurry because I needed the connection at the new place to carry on my professional commitments).

The wise guys promptly “transferred” my connection. The problem was, transfer means that my connection at Sarita Vihar should have been discontinued — that didn’t happen. They kept sending the old bill at the old house and whenever we visited the old house I used to call them up and tell them that since my connection had been transferred the old connection should be discontinued. Every time I was told that I was getting the bill due to some technical glitch and I shouldn’t bother. They also kept telling me that they would make sure that the bill wasn’t sent again and again.

Then one day after more than a year I got a call from them that I had an outstanding bill amount of around Rs. 5,000 and I needed to pay it immediately. They said that I never got the old connection disconnected. I asked them to check their old e-mails and see that I had requested them to discontinue my old connection and they told me, again, matter-of-factly, that they don’t store e-mails that are more than six months old. I was obviously quite pissed off and flatly refused to pay the amount. The guy on the other side said that legal action would be taken against me and even my present connection would be discontinued. I dared them to do the same and I also told them to send the legal notice and I would take the appropriate action but I would never pay them for the connection that according to me should have been disconnected a long time ago. Since a few weeks after this heated discussion my old handset broke and I stopped using the phone number they had in the database (the same number that I am trying to get activated now) they didn’t or couldn’t bother me again.

These are the tactics they use to exhort money from unsuspecting consumers. A few years ago I had read in the newspaper that the mobile phone companies (not the companies that give handsets but the ones that provide the connectivity) quietly add one or two rupees to the bills they send to their subscribers and consequently earn millions of rupees more in the process.

I cannot advise you to stay away from these companies because there is no other choice but I think the issue should be raised by as many people as possible so that more people are aware of these companies’ stealing techniques. They seem like a bunch of corporate crooks.

[tags]airtel sucks, airtel, mobile connection[/tags]

Working for yourself makes you richer

I know it is not everybody’s cup of tea, but working for yourself and earning money for yourself is far more rewarding, financially and emotionally, than working for a company or another individual. It is often estimated that your employer earns more than 10 times from you of what he or she pays you, or even more. So if your employer is paying you say, $2,500, he or she might be earning more than $25,000 from your services!

I’m not saying people should leave their jobs and plunge into the uncertainties of self-employment, especially when their current jobs provide them financial security and they have no idea what exactly they want to do if they start working on their own. But in case you want to leave your job and start on your own, here are a few things you need to take into consideration:

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Ebay Acquires StumbleUpon

Ebay has acquired StumbleUpon for $75 million and I wonder what Ebay is going to do with StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is a link sharing website and its home page says:

StumbleUpon is a brilliant downloadable toolbar that beds into your browser and gives you the chance to surf through thousands of excellent pages that have been stumbled upon by other web-users.

I too have installed the toolbar and through it I’ve discovered many great websites, especially literary and web development websites. StumbleUpon is a great way of getting traffic to your website, just like Digg and other social bookmarking websites.

[tags]ebay, stumbleupon, ebay acquires stumbleupon[/tags]