Thankfully, I am not alone in not receiving signal customer service from the humongously large business community as described in the previous post. My wife receives it too.
She holds some shares of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), India’s largest private company that, primarily due to our laxity, have continued to be held in physical format, and not dematerialised (demat), as most of her other shares are.
Dividends on physically held shares have been sent as physical dividend warrants (or cheques) to be deposited by the beneficiary in his/ her account and cleared through the banking system, as against shares held in a demat format, which get electronically credited to the beneficiary’s bank account, in general, a much more efficient system.
As a continuously well performing company over several decades, RIL has paid dividends regularly. As individual investors, tracking payment of dividend by a company and its eventual receipt in the form of a dividend warrant, is not an activity that has been done very efficiently by us. A review of her account over the last five years showed that credits of RIL dividend were sporadic. We then compared with RIL dividends received in my account, as I also held RIL shares, in demat format, which confirmed that several were missing.
As we set the motion of recovering the missing dividends in progress, the fun and games began.
Second week of February, 2019
We start from a logical enough place, the RIL website, which provides contact details for investors with shares in physical format:
We were unable to reach the number provided after several attempts. After a few rings we get a helpful automated message, “Sorry, there is no reply from the number you have called.” Clearly, we would have failed to grasp this had the automated message not been there. Last checked on 17th August, and again on 19th August at 12:39 PM. Results consistent.
Being logical people, we next visit the website of Karvy Fintech, www.karvyfintech.com, as again thoughtfully provided on the RIL website. The Karvy website boldly displays on the top of their Homepage, Call Us Toll Free 1800-425-4034. Surely RIL has chosen them as registrars for a good reason.
On this number, we are welcomed by a message, “Welcome to Mutual Fund services at Karvy.” Pressing buttons on the IVR takes us deeper into the MF domain. It seems resolving issues faced by RIL investors in not Karvy Fintech’s primary job. Cannot say about bigger, but they seem to have other fish to fry as well. If we are not buying Mutual Funds, what business do we have calling them anyway?
14th February, 2019
Unsuccessful in reaching Karvy on the phone numbers provided, we resort to sending an email to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org,’ helpfully, would you believe it, provided on the RIL website again.
“…I have not been receiving information pertaining to payment of dividend for at least two years now. Kindly look into the matter and remit the due dividend at the earliest to HDFC Bank account no. 9999999999.”
They think of everything, don’t they, these RIL guys. They knew that calling the number provided will yield no results, neither will the Karvy website address, hence an investor will want an email ID. Not for nothing is RIL India’s biggest private company.
6th March, 2019
Send out a reminder to the earlier mail. Prepare drafts of the next three responses we will send after not receiving a response for the previous email.
Digging deeper into the website, we locate a list of Service Centres provided under the URL: https://www.ril.com/DownloadFiles/InvestorRelations/RIL_investor-service-centers.pdf
Forward the same email to ‘email@example.com,’ the email ID provided for the centre in Delhi. Thank you RIL for providing another go-to centre for getting our issue resolved. Another one from where we will never receive a response.
Continuing to dig deeper, we go over to the Karvy website once again, and discover a Chat option. We launch a Chat window that gets answered. Hurray! We have contact! Chat agent advises us as follows:
“We request you to follow the below mention documents.Please send the following physical documents to Karvy Fintech Pvt. Ltd., Karvy Selenium, Tower B, Plot No. 31 and 32, Financial District, Nanakramguda, Serilingampally, Gachibowli, Hyderabad, PIN – 500032:
1) A request letter which is duly signed by holder.
2) Self attested copy of PAN Card.
3) Self attested copy of address proof like Aadhar card/electricity bill/telephone bill/bank passbook copy.On receipt of the correct documents, it will be processed within 30 working days.”
Not ones to dither in the face of potential financial loss, we put together the documents asked for and send the packet via Speedpost, consignment no. EH550948992IN.
30th March, 2019
No response received from Karvy. Exercising caution, and not wishing to burden the administrative machinery of RIL and Karvy and more than we need to, as they must be having many important things to do, rather than worry about handling customers or investors, we decide to track the consignment and find that the last update on the tracker is as of 8th March, out for delivery. The poor delivery person has been out for delivery for 22 days? We hope we did not inadvertently address the packet to some location on Mars. Peeved, we shoot off an email to the postal department to an email ID we find on the website, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: though the delivery issue got resolved, I have not received a response to this email till the date of writing this post).
2nd April, 2019
March turns into April, as it invariably does, whether dividends are paid or not. No response received. Not easily disheartened by the lack of delivery confirmation on the Indiapost website, and knowing the government departments’ penchant for building citizens’ character by making straightforward transactions equivalent to drawing teeth, we initiate another Chat session with Karvy. This time taking care to save the Interaction. Chat ID ‘3455’, Agent name ‘Mutharak Nithin.’
As per established procedure, we are Initially told that documents had not been received. After providing the consignment no., receipt was confirmed and we were advised that: “The documents will be inwarded in 7-10 working days.” Inwarded apparently meant ‘scanned and uploaded.’
Heave a sigh of relief. India Post, as we had believed, was only trying to do some harmless character building by keeping us in the dark about the packet.
22nd April, 2019
First week April turns to fourth week April. Chat being the only channel that has elicited a response, initiate another session. This turns out be Chat session no. 6568. And, guess what, the agent name is ‘Mutharak Nithin.’ Either they have a very efficient agent or they ask all agents to change their name to Mutharak Nitin if they wish to work for Karvy.
I was told that “We have given request to the banker for the printing of the dividend warrants and we have not received any update from the banker.” The agent also sent a file listing details of unpaid dividend per their records.
27th May, 2019
As no update received, and now unable to connect on Chat, it seems they finally managed to synchronise, and block equally efficiently, all channels of access available to customers, we send a follow-up email to email@example.com, the email ID that had shown no signs of life on earlier occasions.
And, not leaving anything to chance, we send the same email to another email ID that we find on the Karvy website that has been provided as the contact ID for issues pertaining to Corporate Registry, which is what we believe our issue was, firstname.lastname@example.org.
28th May, 2019
Wonder of wonders!
An email is received from email@example.com. In a helpful composition, they ask us to provide all the information that we had already provided earlier in the Chat the transcript of which we had attached to our email.
Peeved, again, we send out an immediate response to this email complaining about poor service and delaying tactics: “Over a month has elapsed since my last communication on Chat with Karvy re. unpaid dividend. Now even unable to connect with Karvy on chat.”
Receive another, possibly automated, response. Thankfully, they don’t ask for the information once again.
3rd June, 2019
Manage to connect again on Chat through a crack in the edifice that they perhaps forgot to block. This Chat no. is 5166. Agent name is Executive. Understandable. We know lots and lots of people by the name Executive running around in India. I think Mutharak Nithin left.
The agent goes through the process he has perhaps been taught.
He says that documents not received.
We give reference of earlier Chat that had confirm receipt of documents.
Then he says the documents received were only for ECS updation (whatever ECS means).
We politely request him to refer to an even earlier Chat that had listed the documents required for the purpose, and politely also request him to verify that the documents we had sent were the same.
Under the onslaught of logical arguments, he caves in. He signs off with: “We will check with the concern team and get back to you soon.”
1st July, 2019
Enough is enough.
The time had come to let RIL and Karvy know who is boss.
We hit paydirt. We find a ‘grievance management framework’ on the RIL website. This is surely to fix employees who refuse to pay heed to customers. Under the URL: https://www.ril.com/InvestorRelations/GrievanceManagement.aspx,
we find the consoling words: We have outlined a framework to ensure a smooth and transparent procedure for interacting with our investors. Our values exude in all our interaction and are enshrined by the principles of corporate governance at Reliance.
It must be an effective framework, as it did not provide any clues to an investor as to the action he can take in case he has an issue which is not being resolved or responded.
We locate the ‘Nodal Officer for the IEPF Authority’ on the URL: https://www.ril.com/InvestorRelations/Investor-Contacts.aspx
Shri Sandeep Deshmukh, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We write in our best, understated manner, as he is likely to be a responsible, senior person. One does not needlessly tick off senior, responsible persons.
“Despite taking up the issue in Feb 2019 and regular follow-ups since then, I have been unable to get an update on the issue of pending dividend of the last few years. On account of inaction from Karvy, I have been constrained to compile a chronology of events for further action, which I am attaching with this mail. Approaching you as this contact information has been provided on the company website for investor grievances. I hope you are able to resolve the issue for me.”
The rest, as they say, is history. We went off on a month-long vacation. When we returned in early August, guess what? No response had been received.
In the interim
While all this excitement was unfolding, it seems we missed an email from RIL dated 29th May, which a review of unread mails revealed. Hold your breath.
Will there be a happy conclusion to the sordid saga of unpaid dividend?
Will we be unable to write a blogpost detailing the twists and turns?
An examination of the email put our worries to rest. It pertained to unclaimed dividend for the last few years, initiated from the email ID email@example.com, and signed by Sandeep Deshmukh, the name provided on the website, writing from an email ID only marginally different, a ‘.’ In place of an ‘_’.
Thankfully, it bore no reference to any of our emails or Chats over the last few months. In any case, we had written to Sandeep Deshmukh only on 1st July. Even he, senior and responsible official as he would no doubt be, could not have responded a month before we wrote to him. To further allay any other concerns we may have harboured, it boldly stated at the bottom:
This is a system generated Email. Please do not reply to this Email.
And so was born this blogpost.