New Great Wall of China!

Resolving issues in the Modern World can be frustrating!

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In modern times, we are required to deal with many agencies both private and governmental. Some times, problems do crop up. Many times, to resolve the issues we are forced to deal with call centers or an e mail id. This can be frustrating. It is modern world’s “New Great Wall of China”. One can be very tired, frustrated and sometimes desperate, climbing it. If you are lucky, you may deal directly with a person who is actually handling this problem. But all this is not for weak hearted people.

A lady staying in Pune was drawing her government pension for last 10 years, naturally in a bank in Pune. Suddenly, somebody in the system realized that there was an error. The address in government files was from another state, Gujarat. 10 years? I think it is too long a period to not realize this error. System has made this error for 10 years now onus should be on the system to tell the lady how to correct this error. What does the system do? Simply tells her to go to Gujarat to withdraw her pension. All the large organizations, whether private or government have their own issues, some are functioning issues and some are issues where procedures are blindly followed.

Let me share with you story of  Citi bank. Jaya has been using their credit card for years. Recently when there was a directive to link Aadhar card to credit cards, we sent the documents to them. After one month, Yes! one month, she got a mail that Aadhar link cannot be done as name on Aadhar card is incorrect. We were surprised as the same has been linked to many bank accounts etc. So, we called their call center and were told the same thing. Then we decided to investigate it. Aadhar name ok, Credit card name ok, Address is ok. After going online, to check the details in Citi Bank system, we found her name displayed as P Jaya Krishna. We called the call center again; we explained the whole thing and said that name registered in their records is wrong. Name on the card is correct. We were told to send all documents again, we also sent them the passport copy. After one more month, we got the same message your KYC cannot be done due to incorrect documentation. We followed the same procedure through internet, via courier, and as a precautionary measure we went to the banks local branch and personally explained the issue to an officer. He arranged to send the documents to credit card department and wrote a mail to them in front of us. End result, zilch! We keep on getting mails that the card will be blocked if KYC procedure is not completed. What action did we take? Simple, even a better credit card from another bank was procured. If this can happen in case of Jaya, what will people who do not have resources to handle such things do? What will young people do? They have difficulty initially in even getting credit cards. This is supposed be one of the better banks!

I am by no means saying that nothing works. Some large organizations have superb methods of resolving the issues when the highest person is approached. I have a couple of good examples too. But why the problems are not resolved at the level where they should have been resolved.

One of my colleagues dealt with Amazon India. She was facing many issues during a particularly trying week. Cell phone ordered by her was not being delivered. Her order cancellations were not completed and there were issues about partial supplies. She was totally frustrated. Their call center was stone walling. When I came to know about this issue, I said lets us try extreme measures. I looked on the net and Lo! I found formal e mail id Jeff Bezos. An appropriate but brief e mail was written on that id regarding issues not getting resolved. This was done at 5 pm. On the next day from 9.30 in the morning she started getting e mails, phones and parcels. Yes, the person handling big boss’s id pushed the right keys and maybe kicked the butts!

We had booked a Maruti car, ages back. Later on, we realized that there was going to be official delay as they had strike at their plant. We cancelled the booking and I requested for the refund for Rs.10000/. The sales person told me that there will be a deduction of Rs.2500/ as processing fee. I said, ” Only tangible service you provided was some tea. You can deduct the amount for tea.” But he was adamant. I found the e mail id of then CEO of Maruti and wrote to him a brief mail. Next day at 9 o’clock, the dealer person called and said, ” Sir, I want to come to your office to deliver the cheque for Rs. 10000/. When can I come?” Problem solved.

Then there is story about now defunct King Fisher Airline, owned by Vijay Mallya. Their refund policy said that it takes 8 working days for a refund to be paid. When I called their call center, the usual dilly dallying was going on, it was already one month. In the end, I made a casual statement, “Looks like I have to talk to Vijay Mallya for this.” Within 15 minutes I got a confirmation that the money was refunded.

There are stories galore but I always wonder what happens to people who don’t have the experience of such situations, do not have contacts at high places, maybe they just don’t have the wherewithal to handle situations. What do they do? Keep on wasting their time finding a solution, or sometimes simply give up. I sometimes fear , that the systems are designed to stall, and not to solve the problems. At the call centers you cannot talk to higher authorities as they never put you through to someone else. One trick I have found, it succeeds most of the times. When you are getting connected to the call center, they give a message that the call is being recorded for training purpose. Take advantage of this statement. This statement also implies that the call center person cannot disconnect the call. When you reach status quo, tell the person that you are not going disconnect till you get to take to talk to someone else, maybe a senior guy. At least in my case in 70% of times, my issues got resolved.

When they train you in schools and colleges, they train you for many things but you are never trained to climb this “New Great Wall of China”. Share your experiences with as many people as possible and get feed backs from others on the subject. This is one skill set nobody teaches you but you are going to need the most! I am opening an institute for training in these skills. Care to join our courses?   Our call center number is 1800 xxx yyy! You may call between 9 to 6, Monday to Friday! And 9 to 1 on Saturdays!

Freedom at Midnight from Aadhar!

Aadhar controversy on individual privacy is being explained from common man’s point of view!

Supreme Court gave a decision that “Right to Privacy is a Fundamental right of an individual”. This is a landmark decision and it is said that it will change many things in India. I am no political pundit nor am I a constitutional experts, I am a common man like most. This has directly affected LGBT community, who  are enthralled that their rights to choose sexual orientation can now be converted into a law! In another case, where there is a ban on beef business in various formats, a Supreme Court justice has said that what one should eat and if someone should drink alcohol are covered under fundamental rights. These cases will now get a different treatment. But in many discussions I have read that Right to Privacy can never be absolute and needs to be checked under proper legal infrastructure.

My take in this blog is going to be about Aadhar card! (Aadhaar is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data.) When Aadhar came into being under Nilekani, ex Infosys honcho, there were the usual Nay Sayers. In a conversation with Journalist Manu Joseph, Nilekeni divided the Aadhar Nay Sayers in four groups.

  • The Privacy gang
  • The rights of the poor gang
  • Oh My God 1984 has arrived gang
  • Luddites (meaning a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology- this has old reference to British workers in textile industry having fear of losing their jobs due to technology in 19th century)

Privacy gang is those like you and I who are required to give their biometric details to the government and in return get nothing back. They don’t get any dole or any subsidy from Government. They are the most “affected” by what, god knows! This gang does not mind giving their biometrics for passport because it is an essential document for this group. Then when they go to cooler climes of Switzerland, “Oh! What do to do! For Schengen Visa you have to share biometrics!” For US visa, people will even shed all their clothes if forced! After all going to US of A is  life’s necessity! These countries are foreign governments so no harm in sharing the data with them but Indian Govt and Modi! Nah, I can’t share at the cost of loss of Privacy!” These foreign Governments have such fantastic data security, probably software written by Wipro’s and TCS’s of this world, that except Edward Snowden nobody has been able to steal the data from them! Trumpets & bugles please! Data security is definitely a concern but we have been giving data to banks, passport office, and various websites for sometime. What has Aadhar done that it makes people suddenly insecure about! Friends, I will share one example with you which might help you with the beauty of Aadhar number.  55 dealers from MP, Andhra and UP states returned their license to sell fertilizers which Government used to supply to them. Reason? They were supplied fertilizers at two rates, one with subsidy for those below poverty line and one normal rate. They would buy at low rates and sale at normal rates with huge profits. Government now made a rule that they should link the sale to Aadhar card and based on that the rate will be decided. How can Government come in our way of making huge profits? Return the license. I am sure Govt officials were also hand in glove in this chain!

Rights of the Poor gang was worried that if subsidy is linked to Aadhar, some may not get benefit as they may be too illiterate to enroll for Aadhar card. Ok, great! Courts gave a decision that if they don’t have Aadhar they should still get subsidy. So, as the Aadhar system improves more and more of these people will get Aadhar and still get subsidy. What is the problem with this gang? What this gang is worried if systems fall in place, their importance will reduce. Some of them had a gumption to tell Nilekeni that you have never lived in a village, what you know about villagers needs! (Gumption means shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness)

 “Oh My God 1984 has arrived gang” is the trickiest ones. (Wikipedia describes, Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel published in 1949 by English author George Orwell.[2][3] The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the Super state Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation.) This group of people probably thinks Government will use Aadhar data to spy on people. Government does it anyway but Privacy judgment will make Government more law abiding! How Aadhar was making this easy I have never understood! These proponents of Orwell theory, I am sure, give their latest status on Facebook, every time they travel. “Sitting in Jet Airways Gold Lounge, travelling to Egypt” or some such thing! This is  my cell number please call after two hours!  Privacy what is that!

Anyway once the human race decided to come out of jungle and live as a society, basic definition of privacy changed forever! I am always wondering what is privacy in days of internet! When filling some form can we say,  I should be allowed not to mention if I am a male or a female or transvestite! What happens to reserved compartments on trains for women? What happens to reservation for women in education? I am a private person I will not give my address, I will not tell my birthdate? Where will this lead to? So there is bound to be limit to privacy. During filling up of any form some information has to be shared, similarly more information may be needed for Income Tax purpose. Don’t forget that there is black money and terrorist angle too! To overcome lacunae in PAN card, (which people are having more than one) Aadhar is a better alternative. More controls, are most welcome but do we need Goebbels! Social media like FB and WhatsApp has already created them!

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-26 at 15.22.06

Luddites is the group which is very uncomfortable with new technology. As they are uncomfortable, they don’t believe in new technology. If you don’t believe in something how can you trust it! For such groups honestly there is no solutions.

No technology or a system is 100% perfect. These improve over a period. After using the systems for some time, may be some better additional viewpoints will come up. Systems are bound to improve but again data hacking is always a possibility. So called hacking incident that has been in discussion currently was an event, an illegal act by a bank officer. It was not hacking. Aadhar already has big base and I am sure once people understand the importance of the same, more will come forward and enroll. There is a big trust deficit with large organizations. Jio is selling their SIM cards against Aadhar card. Many Nay Sayers must be wondering, will their privacy be breached? Similarly many social organizations have axe to grind against Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. This foundation has achieved things in a few years that social organizations could not achieve in decades!

Aadhar system is a modern technology, take advantage of the same instead of thrashing it, embrace it! Bina Aadhar mat raho! Aadhar means support, “Don’t live without support”! 

 

 

 

 

Low Aim is a Crime!

This is take on being satisfied with Money earned rather than going up the value chain!

India got its independence in 1947. India missed the industrialization bus by a century because British allowed only a few benefits of industrialization to percolate to India.  Before independence educated Indians were interested in working for British, whatever work they could get, mostly they got clerical jobs; those were the only real jobs available anyway! British chose the people for senior admin positions and made them brown sahebs. These proxy Britishers were more British than the Britishers themselves.

This scenario put India under the gloom of disease of getting satisfied on achieving small things and doing mundane things. This led to metastatic mentality of under achievers; those who were trying to do something different were looked down upon and discouraged from doing anything different. Some of us from our generation were able to improve on this thought process and later generation became even more active and started taking risks.

IT sector was the first sector where India did pretty well, financially. Y2K issue was the one that gave impetus to Indian IT sector; middle class started growing faster than ever and large Indian populace started having money, living in foreign countries for work and started buying their own homes in a big way. This of course combined with official opening of Indian economy in 90’s. Effect of higher salaries in IT sector was seen in other sectors like engineering, pharma, finance and so on. But this success hid one thing from general populace and even from IT sector that the “great” work that we were doing was actually mundane work done for others as a service. This model kept on working well till about a couple of years back. Then the signals started coming that the mundane work that was outsourced to India can be automated so….

Circa 2017! Large Indian IT companies are sitting on big pile of US Dollars. This indicates their past success, financially. But it appears that these large “successful” companies were run more by accountants than by entrepreneurs! So they have made big money, hundreds of thousands of millions, many of them in dollar terms. But since the scenario started changing a couple of years back, it is obvious that if you don’t move up the value chain, you are going to come down as fast as you have gone up! The fact that these companies are sitting on a big pile of dollars shows that our mentality of mundane “services” type of work has not changed. This pile of money should not have been there; it should have been invested in going up the value chain! But even today this money is being used to buy back shares! The big bosses have not thought in terms of creating own IPR’s or products in any field, IT or Engineering or Pharma! When “services” are generating money why bother.

To give an example of how things are changing, when you “talk” to say Amazon on chat about some issues, the “Ravindra” or “Asha” who is taking to you may be a “BOT”. What is a BOT? An Internet Bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots. (This is Wikipedia definition of BOT)

How this is typically done is very similar to self-check-out counters in big departmental stores. At these check-out stations, for a group of ten such stations there is one supervisor helping, if you need any help. So what this system does is, instead ten people manning ten checkout stations, one person is sufficient. These BOTS also do the same thing. Now do you understand how the nature of business is changing? If your business is dependent on someone else’s way of working, you are in trouble if automation comes into picture.

What is the way out? Going up the value chain; but if you are a company with 100 to 150 thousand employees with “service” level skills you have tough task on hand. Basically it’s a tough call for the senior management to change its own ways from accountant based running module to technologist based running module. Who runs highly successful companies? Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, you just list such companies and will see that these are technology driven companies. Yes, finances are very important but if the company is run by accountants they will never take risks! But when you don’t take risks and try and don’t keep abreast with new technologies or create new technologies, you will never know what hit you! How many of us know that Google and Apple are spending big money on Car technology, and they are creating newer technology in cars which was never even thought of. Nvidia is already a big auto system vendor to VW’s, Audis and Mercs of this world. They have invented technologies which are forcing these Auto giants to use new technologies to remain competitive in business. Elon Musk of Tesla had the audacity to start making Electric Cars and even start making space vehicles using venture capital.

Of course there is silver lining to each dark cloud! The surprise is that the silver lining is coming not from private sector but Government sector. ISRO, Metro projects implementation, Solar Energy project implementations, highways all over India are sign of we Indians have started getting hang of the situation. On IT side one of the success stories of product selling is Tally ERP. Yes it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and is unquestionably India’s “Numero Uno” product on IT side! If Tally is doable why can’t others do it? India is the largest democracy and is the only country in the world where all elections use EVM’s- electronic voting machines! Paper ballots are Passe’ in India! The EVM’s were developed by C-DAC! Aadhar card is one such initiative that has become pride of the nation! All these projects indicate that we are slowly coming out of the Chalta Hai mentality! Chalta Hai is a phrase indicating Small achievement is good enough! We should have Sachin Tendulkar’s in each field then only we as a nation can start achieving things!

So friends we started with discussion about Indian mentality of being happy with whatever little is achieved! Will our giants survive the onslaught of market changes? They have the money but do they have the wherewithal other than money? Do they have the mind set? Do they have the technological willpower to go up the value chain? Going up value chain is real hard and smart work. I hope these giants do it, but we are still discussing US H1B visa rules, which is the backbone of current business model of sending people on site to provide services! I hope our current young generation and future generation are as audacious as Elon Musk!