Pro Bono

Excuse me for feeling privileged, or entitled, as some like to say.

I believe businesses that deal with consumers, or individual customers like me, reserve their choicest services for my exclusive use.

OK I exaggerate. Exclusive is a little over the top.

My recent experience with Payoneer, that describes itself as a “financial services company that provides online money transfer, digital payment services and …” has only served to confirm my suspicions.

There is some business consulting and freelance writing work I do with a couple of overseas businesses. When you work on a commercial basis, there is a financial angle that becomes a part of the deal. A European client prefers to remit the money to me through Payoneer, one of the many ‘fintech’ companies that have emerged in the last few years, giving a run for their money, pun unintended, to the seemingly change-resistant big old banks.

Being in India, which is an exchange-controlled environment, where one cannot freely buy and sell foreign currency, receipt of foreign currency requires some regulatory compliance. The one that I daringly got involved with Payoneer for is the obtention of the Foreign Inward Remittance Certificate (FIRC). In simple terms, once you have an FIRC mentioning you as the beneficiary, it is certified that you were responsible for the receipt of that amount in foreign currency, resulting in boosting the foreign exchange reserves of the nation. You also become eligible for certain relaxations, like Goods and Services Tax (GST) compliance for such receipts.

The saga commences with my email of 27th June to Payoneer, after a reasonably fruitless phone conversation that yielded no results.

27th June – My email

Hi, I have not received FIRCs for the last 3 months.
Can you please make them available.

30th June – Email from Payoneer

Thank you for contacting us. My name is Adrian from Payoneer Customer Care.

We apologize for the delayed response.

We are aware that it might be long for you, and we would like to reassure you that we do everything we can to improve our timeframe.

We have taken note of your request and we are delighted to assist you.

After verifications, I confirm that you have received by email the FIRC’s corresponding to the last payments.

Please check the notification emails sent to download the documents, or you can contact your bank to provide them to you.

Thanking you for your understanding and cooperation.

For any further information, do not hesitate to contact us.

Silly me. He is right. For payments listed on my Payoneer account I have the FIRCs. My issue is the payments not listed on my account. Going back with a response on his ability to confirm what I have received and what I have not received will need to wait.

1st July – My email

Thank you for your response. I will disagree. 

Sharing an example: I have received the following message yesterday re. a transfer:

(payment message enclosed)

I confirm the credit in my account. However, this transaction is not reflecting on my Payoneer account. Neither is the FIRC. There are many other transactions not reflecting.

Can u help.

5th July – Email from Payoneer

Thank you for contacting us. 

Your request is not clear as you keep providing us in this case with different information. 

The screenshot you provided us does not match your request for the FIRC, as the email you are referring to is not regarding FIRC but when the withdrawal should arrive to your account. 

Once you clarified the request we can review is and assist accordingly. 

Have a nice day!

Silly me again and even more. How dare I confuse them.

5th July – My email

Sorry that you found it confusing. Here is a clarification:

In your message dated 30th June you stated: “After verifications, I confirm that you have received by email the FIRC’s corresponding to the last payments.”

In my message dated 1st July I disagreed with the above statement. I provided your message dated 30th June as an example to challenge your statement. I meant to say that my account is not showing all payments sent to me through Payoneer.

The question, once again, is: Please tell me why the payment of Euro XXX, as per your message enclosed with my response on 1st July, is not reflecting on my Payoneer account.

Call me impatient. Call me foolish. Not receiving a response for 4 days induced me to open up another front in the battle. Imagine one of the parties in a battle locked in a hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, suddenly finds that the same person is coming at them with a raised sword from the left. Would you not be unnerved? To their eternal credit, Payoneer remained unfazed and responded with an email which still gave no evidence of trying understand or solve my issue.  

9th July – Chat transcript (Pleasantries have been deleted)

Ankur Mithal: I have received an email from Payoneer for a transfer
Ankur Mithal: I have received the funds in my bank account in India. However, the transaction does not show in my Transaction History on Payoneer.
Paulo: Hello, how are you?
Ankur Mithal: Payoneer mail dated 1st July
Ankur Mithal: Amount Euro XXX

Paulo: Thank you.Please stay on the line while I investigate this case on your account
‘The file Payoneer email of 1 July.docx (232.09KB) was received.’
Ankur Mithal: Sure. I have sent you a screen print of the email from Payoneer on 1st July.
Paulo: As long as you received the payment, then there is nothing to worry about

Ankur Mithal: OK. So here is the problem. I need an FIRC certificate for the payments I receive in any foreign currency. For payments listed on my Payoneer account, Payoneer has made an FIRC available that I can download. For money received after February, remitted through Payoneer but not showing on my Payoneer account, how do I get the FIRC certificate? 
Paulo: Hold on
Paulo: I will forward this matter to our support team for your request. Kindly wait within 24-48 hours for updates via email
Ankur Mithal: All right. Thanks for your help.
Paulo: You are welcome
Paulo: Anything else I may help you with today?
Ankur Mithal: For the moment this is all. Depending on the response I get there could be other queries. Thanks.


9th July – Email from Payoneer

Hello, this is Maia, Payoneer’s Supervisor. I hope this email finds you well.

Please find the attached FIRC documents per your request.

Thank you for your patience and have a good day.

The FIRCs turned out to be for the payments till February. I had already received these FIRCs. But at least they promoted me. I am now getting an email from the supervisor.

9th July – My email

Thank you for your message.

Why exactly am I being sent these two FIRC documents? Did I ask for them? Would you be kind enough to please share my request asking for these two FIRC documents please.

16th July – Email from Payoneer

Thank you for contacting Payoneer, this is Jes one of the representative from Customer Care. I will be more than happy to assist you. 

Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and for not getting back to you sooner. We are trying our very best to answer all of these the soonest we can.

I understand that you have inquiries regarding the FIRC document. Rest assured that I will do my best to assist your concern.

Upon reviewing the account, it appears that we have sent you the FIRC document as per your request. 

We appreciate your patience and cooperation in this case.

Should you have any questions, please let us know. Feel free to reply to this e-mail, or contact us via phone or chat so we can continue to assist you. We value your business and we make sure to support you in any way possible.

Thank you for doing business with Payoneer. Have a great day.

16th July – My email

Thank you once again for responding without bothering to understand the issue.

Can you please share with me a copy of MY REQUEST where I asked for THESE FIRCs. I have asked the same query in my earlier email as well but it appears the query has been ignored or not understood.

Two requests:

Once again, please share with me a copy of my request based on which you sent me the two FIRC documents (refer Maia’s email of 9th July in this email trail). If it was sent randomly, without my asking for it, you can just say it was an error and maybe even apologize.

The FIRC I DO WANT is for the payment of Euro XXX on 1st July. For your reference and ease, a copy of Payoneer’s email advising me of the payment is attached. 

I do hope this email will reach someone who can bother to read and make an effort to understand a customer’s issue BEFORE responding.


The wait begins once more.

Will they read my email?

Will they read AND understand my email?

Will they read, understand AND provide a coherent response?

Will I get the FIRCs that I am looking for?

And, most importantly, if a client offers to pay through Payoneer, should I offer to work pro bono?

Adventures of an Itinerant Executive

Unlike MNC jobs, where another person doing something that you thought was your job seems threatening, writing appears to be a more cooperative activity.

I am just back from a joyful ride which Rajiv Inamdar’s book ‘Adventures of an Itinerant Executive’ had taken me on, and I urge you to do the same.

Rajiv is a senior from IIM Ahmedabad. Our careers also crossed for a few years at a big bank but we didn’t. Now he is a published author too. Stop it Rajiv!

Rajiv’s journey winds its way around exotic locales including Sri Lanka, the UK and the Middle East and, of course, many places in India, peppered with anecdotes and incidents to match, written in a delightfully humorous vein. It helps that these stories are personal, with Rajiv playing a part in many.

Even his parents are not spared! The book begins with the story of a shipboard romance between his parents that took place on a cruise from the UK to India in the 1950s.

History follows him as he navigates his way around roles in advertising, brand management and market research around the world, including the challenge of setting up Sri Lanka’s first market research company at the tender age of 25 during the worst ethnic riots that the country has ever witnessed.  In mid – career, he makes a switch to banking in the unlikely territory of Saudi Arabia where he lands smack in the middle of the Gulf war!

‘By mid-November, the Americans had sent in 230,000 troops to defend Saudi Arabia. General Norman Schwarzkopf, the chief of US forces in the region, made the basement of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Riyadh, next door to SAMBA ( Saudi American Bank – a subsidiary of Citibank), his war headquarters.

One evening, while playing tennis at the Saudi British Bank (subsidiary of HSBC) compound when we heard a fearsome rumbling in the sky. This sounded as if a massive thunderstorm was about to burst. It was the sound of a large number of gigantic US Air Force B-52 bombers that were arriving in Saudi Arabia to defend its residents. There were so many of them that several could not land on the airport runways and had to make do with the super-wide highways around Riyadh. We knew then that war was a real possibility and wondered what was in store for us.’

One can almost visualise Rajiv missing an easy volley as the rolling thunder of the B-52s starts just as he was positioning himself for the shot.

Or forgetting to pick up the original from the photocopier as a Scud missile sent over by Saddam thuds with almost pinpoint accuracy into the building next door to his office. ‘Almost’ because it was perhaps meant for the building on the other side of his office that housed General Norman Schwarzkopf.

‘A few days after we had been lulled into complacency by American assurances, a Scud came over Riyadh and demolished a 12-storey building next door to SAMBA’s headquarters where I worked. Saddam had obviously been aiming for General Schwarzkopf’s office in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the other side of the SAMBA building. This was pretty accurate shootin’! A day later, a Scud flew directly over our residential compound and demolished a school a few kilometres away. We were right in the thick of battle.

On one occasion, a Saudi news anchor was reading the news when the sirens went off. He was explaining how well-fortified the city was and that its residents should not panic under any circumstances. Just as he was speaking, the wailing of the siren became louder and the news anchor was seen on camera looking fearfully over his shoulder to see whether the missile was in his vicinity.’

Following  a series of adventures in Saudi Arabia, which remains an enigma to most people, he moves on to Dubai where he is put through his paces as a consumer banker working in several parts of the business including marketing, credit, credit cards, and strategy. He then returns to India to lead the largest market research organisation in the country following which he makes another interesting career switch into the field of knowledge management where he spends the last twelve years of his remarkable career.

Apart from providing insights into management challenges in many industries the book describes several hilarious incidents and exciting stories from his personal life. These include trysts with several airlines to the point that one begins to wonder whether it is advisable to travel anywhere with Rajiv. He also describes a back breaking trip to the Himalayas on a motorbike at the not-so-tender age of 51 and tells stories of golf and tennis victories. There is an almost an entire chapter devoted to a car accident the author was involved in that contains many salutary lessons for those who drive in this country.

Apart from action and thrill seekers, Adventures of an Itinerant Executive might also be of interest to management students and young business executives, as the author also manages to deliver management lessons. His hallowed alma mater would be proud!

All of the above is packed into under 300 pages and is available as a paperback and e book on various platforms including Amazon (India, US, UK), Flipkart, Kobo, Google Play and iBooks. A  Kindle version is also available.

Highly recommended!

Buy Buy

Hello, am I talking to Mr. Mithal?

Yes, you are. Who is this?

Good morning sir. I am calling from Country Bank. The Medical Insurance Policy issued by Regional Insurance Company of India (RICI), that you have purchased through your Country Bank Credit Card, is coming up for renewal next month.

Yes, I am aware. I did receive the renewal notice.

Sir, the policy will be automatically renewed on its due date. Please ensure you have sufficient credit available on your Card so that the premium debit can go through.

Sure. I will.

Sir, as I can see on your account, you and your wife are covered to the maximum limit allowed. However, your children are only covered for half the maximum permissible limit.

Yes, I am aware.

Sir, in today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure.

Thank you. I am touched by your concern for my security.

Sir, we at Country Bank would like to suggest that you increase the coverage for your children as well to the maximum permissible limit.

Thank you. As the recommendation arises out of your concern for my well-being, should I assume that there is no increase in premium for the suggested increase in coverage?

Sorry sir. It is not like that. There will be a nominal premium increase for the increased cover. Shall I go ahead and tell you the revised premium for the enhanced cover?

No, thank you. There is no need at this point.

Fine sir. I understand you don’t wish to know the revised premium. Shall I then go ahead and process the enhanced cover?

No. I don’t need it.

Sir, we understand you are a busy person and do not wish to get involved in procedures and administration. We have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the enhanced cover for your children?

No. I think I have already told you.

Sir, at Country Bank, we respect your time and decisions. We have recently introduced a Life Insurance Policy that also provides cover for Permanent Disability. In today’s world, where emergencies can arise any minute, and where medical costs are rising, we would like our customers to be secure. Would you like me to go ahead and issue this policy for you, sir?

No, thank you. There is no need.

Sir, we have made it very easy for our valued customers like yourself to buy a new policy. As a Country Bank representative, I am authorised to take your instructions on this phone line. This call is recorded and will be available for future reference in case of need. Shall I go ahead and process the new policy?

No, thank you. No need. Actually, hold on a minute!

Yes sir! Yes sir! I am so glad to hear that sir!

That reminds me. I want to remove my older son from the Medical Policy.

Stunned silence.

But why, sir? I strongly suggest you increase the cover for your elder son.

No. Please cancel cover for my older son.

Sorry sir. For cancellation you will have to visit the bank.

But why? I thought you said you were an authorised representative of the bank and could take instructions on this phone call, which is recorded.

Sorry sir. I cannot take these instructions. We are authorised representatives only for selling to customers. For all other cases, we are a vendor.

So, how do I cancel?

For that, sir, you will have to visit the bank.

OK. Can you help me with the nearest location I can go to for this purpose?

Sure sir. I believe you are located in Gurgaon.

Yes.

Sir, as I can see from the system, the only centre of the bank that handles cancellations globally is located in Alba Mons.

Nice name. Is that the name of the building? Can you tell me the full address please?

Right sir. It is located on 40.4 North latitude and 109.6 West longitude and is in the Tharsis region.

Tharsis? What on Earth are you talking about?

Mars.

Stunned silence.

It is located on Mars, sir.

Stunned silence.

I hope I have been able to help you, sir.

Stunned silence.

Meanwhile, If you are interested in buying theatre tickets, or cricket gear, or a yacht, or anything at all, please do give us a call. As authorised representatives of Country Bank, we will be able to do it for you instantly, on this recorded line.

Hello, sir. Are you there sir?

Sir, as there has been no response from your side for thirty seconds, I am authorised to disconnect this call. We wish you a pleasant journey to Alba Mons. Buy buy!

Value System

As reported in the New York Times on 19th August, 2019, “Chief executives from the Business Roundtable, including the leaders of Apple and JPMorgan Chase, argued that companies must also invest in employees and deliver value to customers.”

And if you don’t believe that such a day would ever dawn, CLICK HERE for proof, sorry URL. Is there a difference between the two?

And Pepsi and Walmart too. And not just employees and customers, suppliers too will be dealt with fairly and ethically. “While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders.

The Business Roundtable, incidentally, is a lobbying organization that represents many of America’s largest companies.

Revolutionary, isn’t it? And not a moment too soon. It is important these views are articulated because such things have never been done in the past.

After all, in a competitive world, driven by free-market principles, a business could be successful without delivering value to customers. What businesses in the free-market driven world do is not deliver value to customers. And no competitor would be ready to step-in and deliver value. Nor would customers notice the absence of value. 

The reasons customers buy from businesses are well known. At least from what we may call successful businesses. They buy because they don’t get value. They buy because they are forced to; they don’t have choices. They buy only things they don’t need. They buy because they are weak-willed with a low self-esteem and unable to withstand relentless messaging of big companies that tells them they are losers if they don’t have the product. If customers queue up overnight to be amongst the first to buy a device in the morning, it must be the fault of the maker that the offered device does not deliver value.

After all, in a competitive world, driven by free-market principles, a business could be successful without bothering to invest in employees, or worrying about their aspirations. That is what businesses in the free-market driven world do. And no competitor would notice. Nor would their employees.

The reasons employees work for a business are well known. At least for what we may call a successful business. They work for a particular business because they have better opportunities elsewhere. They work because their qualifications make them suitable for better jobs. They work because they prefer the risk of a monthly salary over the security of self-employment. They work for the enrichment of the employing business and not their own compensation and advancement. They work so that they can walk out on a whim if they get a better opportunity. This is why jobseekers claim they cannot find jobs and businesses claim they cannot find employees.

After all, in a competitive world, a business could be successful without treating its suppliers fairly and ethically and destroying value for them. That is what businesses in the free-market driven world do. And no competitor would notice. Nor would the suppliers. 

The reasons suppliers work with a business are well known. At least for what we may call a successful business. They work for a business because it treats its suppliers unfairly by paying less than what has been contracted and agreed. They work because the business will pay much later than the timeframe for payment agreed in the contract. They work because they don’t salivate at the prospect of large future orders from that business. They work because they don’t dream of some day making their business as big and successful as the business they are supplying to. They work because they are forced to. And a situation where a big company is a supplier to another big company, or a small company, just cannot exist.

The rising global discontent over income inequality, harmful products, domination that hurts competition and unethical practices cannot be the fault of our lawmakers whose job it is to ensure equity and fairness and justice. It must be the fault of business corporations since they are not representatives of the people voted into office to safeguard the interest of the common man. Since they have been able to establish themselves as a force in the world of business earning a lot of money, they can be trusted to create value for customers, invest in employees and deal fairly and ethically with suppliers. And work for the upliftment of the downtrodden in society. And world hunger. And global peace. And environmental conservation.

Can someone please tell me why we spend billions on elections in India, and in many countries around the world. If it is the large business corporation that is going to deliver value to customers, invest in employees and treat suppliers fairly, and work towards global peace and world hunger and environmental conservation, why exactly do we need elected representatives? 

In an explicit rebuke of the notion that the role of the corporation is to maximize profits at all costs that has held sway over the last hundred years, leaders of the Roundtable have ruled out obvious options like cutting executive compensation, or paying higher taxes, or increasing wage levels. They believe that their noble ideals can be achieved without doing any of these. They believe that their noble ideals can be achieved without doing anything.

But I am being unfair. It is not without doing anything their ideals will be achieved. After much deliberation, and as an example to the world of their commitment to achieving their ideals, the Roundtable has developed a Vision Statement for all members which is to be prominently displayed in the CEO’s office:

‘The purpose of our corporation is no longer to advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, we will create value for customers, invest in employees and deal fairly and ethically with suppliers. We vow to protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses and foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect. We will work for the upliftment of the downtrodden in society. And world hunger. And global peace. And…’

And now that the problems of the common man have been effectively solved by the Roundtable and its members, our political leaders are counting the days to the next election when they will be able to tell us how they will solve our problems.

Khul ja SIM SIM

The last few weeks have given me an opportunity to sample signal examples of customer service from some of the largest names in retail businesses in India.

Airtel, for instance, one of India’s largest mobile services providers.

Sunday, 7th July 2019, around 4 PM (all dates and times in IST)

My mobile stops working. I panic as it is Sunday and I am slated to travel to the US for an extended period the same night. I call the helpline and am given to understand that I would need to visit an Airtel store to get the SIM (a small electronic chip that goes inside a mobile device and is an integral component of mobile telephony on GSM networks) replaced. Fortunately, there is one not far away from my house that is open on Sunday. I go to the store in Galleria Market in DLF Phase 4.

The attendant gives me a new SIM and says it would be operational in a few hours. I give him my Driving Licence as ID proof. He says that my picture on the Licence was slightly unclear and it could pose a problem in approval. In any case, if not accepted, he would get a response within two hours, their TAT for the service. He said he would track progress of the case and let me know later. As I was travelling overseas I also asked him to activate a month-long International Roaming plan after asking him if I should wait for the SIM to be active first. He said I could get the Roaming plan activated right away as the SIM would soon start working.

On my enquiring, he also told me that in the worst case, if the SIM does not work, I would not be able to get it changed while I was in the US.

Sunday, 7th July 2019, around 7 PM

As the SIM had not started working, and as I was unable to reach the attendant in the evening, I call the Airtel helpline again who tell me that no case of SIM update was registered with them for my number.

In the meantime, I get an email from Airtel confirming that the Roaming pack costing Rs. 3999- has been activated. Activated on a number that is inactive. Hmmm.

I manage to speak to the attendant later that might, perhaps after 9 PM. He says that ‘he could see on his end’, whatever that means, that the request has been registered and the SIM would start working as soon as I reach overseas. I do not have any choice but to rely on his word as I have a flight to catch just a few hours later.

Thursday, 11th July 2019, 9:09 AM

I am now in the US. Gingerly switch on my phone. Worst fears realised. Neither my old nor the new SIM is working. And I am here for more than 3 weeks. Unable to call as SIM is not working, I send an email to Airtel with a sequence of events, and further:

“…In the meantime, you are probably also charging me for the roaming pack for the US, while you have not been able to get my SIM to work. Can you please ensure that the SIM is working in the next 12 hours. If you are unable to do that, please ensure that I do not get charged for the Airtel roaming pack for which I have no use if the SIM does not work. A confirmation of the above request will be greatly appreciated. You will need to communicate with me on email or WhatsApp as the Airtel SIM is unable to connect to any service.

Friday, 12th July 2019, 7:03 PM

Receive email response from Airtel:

“This is in reference to your email informing us about not being able to use SMS service on your Airtel mobile number 99930XXXXX post SIM change. I have gone through your account and found that your mobile number is active on a different SIM 899100090169066YYYYY.”

(My feelings: Thank you Airtel for keeping me informed about another customer who I neither know nor care for, while you try to get my number to work.)

The email went on to tell me many more things about the other customer’s SIM which I will not bore you with here.

Friday, 12th July 2019, 9:57 PM

Touched by their desire to tell me about the status of issues of other customers, I write back to them:

“Your understanding is incorrect.

  • Which part of my mail did you understand as ‘not being able to use SMS service on your Airtel mobile number 99930XXXXX’?
  • Whose number are you quoting in your email? It is not mine.
  • I am already in the US. As my SIM is not working, neither old nor new, I cannot send you an SMS. You can only communicate on WhatsApp and Email.
  • In my earlier email I have already specified the name of the location I went to and where I was given the new SIM. I don’t know why you are asking again? Can you get necessary details from them and not me. If they have been deficient in collecting documents, I cannot answer for that. I believe I have given a copy of my Driving Licence.”

Can you pls refer this request to someone who can read an email and understand the issue.
I repeat my earlier email:

…”

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 3:46 PM

Another email response, in keeping with elite standards of promptness (response received after 5 days) and accuracy (still talking about another customer’s issue):

“This is in reference to your email regarding delay in activation on your Airtel mobile number 99930XXXXX. I apologize for the inconvenience caused. Your feedback will enable us to enhance our services and service experience. Let me assure you that action will be taken to ensure that this is not repeated. I have checked our records and found that the services of your are active with effect from 14-07-209 and working fine. You may check your current plan benefits or change plan online via My Airtel App. To download the app, click http://www.airtel.in/5/nv.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 3:54 PM

The same email again with an added line:

“////Please ignore the previous mail”

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 3:56 PM

Another email from Airtel:

“This is in reference to your email regarding delay in activation on your Airtel mobile number 98104XXXXX…

I have checked our records and found that the services of your are active with effect from 11-07-2019. Please restart your mobile and start using the services. 

(My feelings: This is not fair. I want to know the status of issues faced by other customers. Why are you telling me about my issue? You have ‘found’ that my services are active from 11th July. However, I don’t ‘find’ that to be the case. What do we do now?)

We noted that the International Roaming service is already active on your number. Please restart your mobile and start using the services. Please try using a different handset and see if the issue persists.”

(My feelings: Since I asked you to ensure deactivation of International Roaming service, very kind of you to confirm that the service is active on my number.)

Friday, 19th July, 5:40 AM

I write back.

“I disagree. Service not active. I have tried switching on and off multiple times. Also tried multiple handsets. Even saying they are active from 11th July seems like an excuse knowing I will not be able to visit a store to dispute as I am already overseas. Besides, considering I visited your store on the 7th, is 4 days the turnaround you offer for Airtel customers.

Basically I am off the network now for ten days already and seems will be so till 4th August when I am back in India and can go to an Airtel store.

Once again, please disconnect my Roaming pack as it is useless for me as you have not been able to get it to work. Please ensure I DO NOT GET CHARGED FOR THIS LACK OF SERVICE.”

Saturday, 20th July, 11:45 AM

Email arrives from Airtel.

“We have activated International Roaming (IR) service/smartpack on 98104XXXXX with effect from 20/07/2019.”

(My feelings: Thank you for activating a service that I wanted you to deactivate. As you seem to deviate from the beaten path, I hope you will pay me for providing this service, instead of the norm of the customer paying a provider.)

Saturday, 20th July, 11:46 AM

Email from Airtel.

“I’m writing to you regarding your email about deactivating international roaming pack on your Airtel number 98104XXXXX. We’ve deactivated the international roaming pack International Roaming @3999 Unlimited Incoming – 30 days pack-Zone B  on your number. we understand not being able to use the services when in roaming has inconvenienced you.
 
Further, I also understand your perspective and rental to be paid on non usage of International roaming services. Please note that we are dependent on the international roaming operator to provide usage details. Currently we are unable to provide the usage details as International roaming usage depends upon the inputs received from other operators and we will receive the same with delay.
 
Hence the usage is verified by us and post successful validation the billing will be processed. However, the usage and charges will be made available on 09-08-2019 which is your bill generation date. Hence, I kindly request you to write back to us after post bill generation i.e, on 09-08-2019.

(My feelings: Finally Airtel has an employee who can do two things together; 1. Read customer communication, 2. Understand customer communication. When did things change? I can sense the prospect of an interesting blogpost slipping away.)

Saturday, 3rd August, around 3 PM

Back in India. My first conscious action, despite the jetlag, is to go to the Airtel store again. With the same issue; SIM not working. Find the same attendant who had attended to me on 7th July. He gives me another SIM and asks for an ID proof for which I again hand over my Driving Licence. I had also taken a photocopy of my Passport but he says because they use an online tool for issuance of SIM an original document is required. He then proceeds to take a picture of the DL which I suppose could not have been done with the PP copy.

He promises resolution in 15 minutes, which become 20, then 30 and then 2 hours. Not willing to let go, I busy myself in the marketplace and bought things I do not need and come back to him several times. Finally, after about 2 hours, he advises that Airtel has rejected my DL as ID proof as my picture was unclear.

Saturday, 3rd August, around 7 PM

I go back with my original Passport as ID proof. He takes it and gives me yet another SIM and proceeds with the transaction once again. He also asks me to sign another form and gives me yet another SIM, just in case the first request does not work out. On my asking why could he not directly go to the second process if that was more reliable, he says that that takes longer, hence we should stick to the first one. He says the TAT is 2 hours and I should have a working SIM by 9 PM. I put the first of the two SIMs in my phone.

Saturday, 3rd August, 7:24 PM

Email from Airtel:

“We have received your request for change in SIM No. from 899100090180337AAAAA to 899100090180469CCCCC for the above mentioned number. The same has been registered via Reference no. 21-2085434224032 and will be processed shortly.”

Saturday, 3rd August, 9:32 PM

Email from Airtel:

“Update on SIM change for your Airtel Mobile 98104XXXXX , Order no. 21-2085434224032: The SIM has been changed from899100090180337AAAAA to 899100090180469CCCCC. If you have not requested for SIM change, please call 121 immediately.”

Despite a strong flow of emails, phone still not working. Too tired to protest, I let it be.

Sunday, 4th August, 9;46 PM

I am out of town the entire day on the 4th, coming back around 7 PM. The phone remains stubbornly not working. I have planned to go to the store again the following day, a Monday.

At 9:46 PM an email arrives from Airtel:

“We have done below updation for your Airtel Mobile 98104XXXXX with effect from 04-Aug-2019
Deactivation
1) SMS Barring”

On a whim, I switch my phone off and on.

“Odyssey, this is Houston. Do you read me?”

“Hello Houston, this is Odyssey. It’s good to see you again.”

Book Reviews from Three Indie Authors

My “Office Humour” book gets a second wind, thanks to support from Jacqui Murray, my longtime e-friend, established writer, school teacher, columnist, and lots more. Thank you Jacqui.

WordDreams...

‘ve been reading a lot of Indie writers lately. Many I found in the blogosphere, have enjoyed our back-and-forth conversations, and now call efriends.  I’m going to spend a few weeks reviewing my favorites, three at a time. I’ll kick it off with a varied collection from bloggers I’ve been following for several years.

  • What Happens in Office Stays in Office is a light-hearted peek into the white-collar life of a manager in India.
  • Not By Design is a fascinating story about a woman who’s life is turned upside down just as she thinks she’s settling into adulthood.
  • Bequia Mysteries is a three-book series set on the Caribbean island of Bequia, chronicling the escapades of a man who decides to lose his past in this remote corner of the planet

What happens in office, stays in officeWhat Happens in Office Stays in Office: An Insider’s Account of What Really Happens at the Workplace

by Ankur Mithal

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Cover Reveal: To Hunt a Sub

Sharing my longtime Blog-friend Jacqui Murray’s post revealing the cover of her novel “To Hunt a Sub”. Details about the book can be found in her post. Jacqui is an endless source of knowledge and guidance for budding writers and she makes available lots of resources through her blogs. Putting out a book in the “marketplace” is a moment fraught with nervous anxiety, even for a veteran writer which she is, and I wish her all the best with her book.

WordDreams...

I’ve been preparing for this day for… years… Maybe longer. Simple words don’t seem enough to share the emotion of the event. Maybe a drumroll (as efriend Rebecca Bradley used to launch her latest book):

Or would Pomp and Circumstance be better, as I prepare for my future as a world-acclaimed breakout author:

Or maybe, Ride of the Valkyries, with its energetic march into the unknown, head up, spirit brave:

I hope this cover embraces the risk-taker spirit of my characters, their noble goal, and the danger that floats just below the surface as they try everything in their power to save a world they believe in:
to hunt a sub

An unlikely team is America’s only chance

A brilliant Ph.D. candidate, a cynical ex-SEAL, and a quirky experimental robot team up against terrorists intent on stealing America’s most powerful nuclear weapon, the Trident submarine. By all measures, they are an unlikely trio–one believes

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