A Chinese electronics manufacturer, I am told, is leading the set-top box (STB) market in India as we shift to the era of digital TV. Close to seventy percent of STBs sold within the country are imported, mainly from China.
So what exactly is my quibble? Two things.
First is the ambiguity regarding the need to import such basic appliances? That a nuclear power has to import STBs is a mystery more complex than Rahul Gandhi’s marital status or Shahrukh’s urge to be a dad again. The fact is that some multi-system operators are manufacturing STBs, but with the escalation of import duty there are no real incentives for domestic production. Why wasn’t a plan in place, given the deadline of complete digitization by 2014?
It so happened that my set-top box began behaving like a temperamental teen. In the presence of guests or during an important match, it displays errors for no rhyme or reason. This was a week before the rains arrived. So the issue was purely technical and not linked to bad weather.
Second, the technological means adopted by telecom companies to register a complaint are frustrating. If you love listening to music and punching keys, lodging a complaint can be fun. If you don’t, continue taking deep breaths and slowly count till ten, while your service provider takes you on a merry ride.
‘Namaskar. XXX main aapka sawagat hai. Yadi aap Hindi mein baat karna chahate hain to kripya ek dabaye. If you wish to proceed in English press 2.’
Irrespective of what you press, you get to hear recorded messages in Hinglish. The route to speak to a live human is via inescapable recorded self-promotion. Watch Champions Trophy on X channel, watch movies on Y channel, and so on.
I am sure you are familiar with the tone and tenor of the recorded sing-song voice, which desperately tries to sound sexy but ends up sounding like a sensual witch. Jaldi kijiye, offer seemit hai.
Finally, after some more music and due process of ‘Press this and Press that’ I was able to speak to a live customer care representative.
‘Line par bane rehene ke liye dhanyavaad. Alka ji apke sheher ka mausam kaisa hai?’
‘Mausam to ashiqana hai, but set-top box is not working.’
Make note of the irony, that each time I lodge a complaint, I get a ‘Happy Code’. To be fair to my service provider, a technician promptly visited my place. But the set-top box conked off within minutes of his leaving. Again. This happened thrice in a week. By the end, I was as bugged as I was when I saw ‘Chandni Chowk to China’.
Given our reputation of hanky-panky, I reckon someone in the telecom industry is already a billionaire and someone in China is smiling all the way to the bank, while consumers fret and fume.
Why should the consumer accept substandard STBs? Last minute ‘jugaad’ technology is visible in every sphere of life, be it disaster management or technology advancement. Unfortunate.