Sunday, June 23, 2013

China to Chandni Chowk


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.

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32 comments:

  1. Well - In international circles India is known for chaos. I was in an international cultural festival - one of my European friends was giving commentary - Indians and Pakistanis gave a joint Bangra while Chinese did a well orchestrated dance - So he was telling me how they contrasted the two cultures - one of chaos and other of complete control.

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    1. True, can't blame the government all the time. Sometimes we have to look within.

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  2. We master in keep things disorganized be it in domestic affairs or international arena:(

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    1. :( but we do so well abroad?

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    2. That is because we fear the law of that country and take things for granted in our own country... where everything can be manipulated!!

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  3. haha
    remembered the latest song from fukrey - karle jugaad karle karle koi jugaad
    The title and the content both r humorous . Like U said we are frced to buy these substandard things ! Same happens to me with RELIANCE broad band every week :(

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    1. Reliance too? No wonder. Most of them source these STBs from China.

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  4. I fully understand it as i faced the same problem with my airtel IP TV...can be really frustrating

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  5. It sure is. And someone is laughing all the way to the bank.

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  6. true... one call to the customer usually reveals how serious we are about our work.

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  7. This is punishment for watching "Chandni Chowk to China'!

    As for China, we don't call it the factory of the world for no reason.

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  8. Do you think a customer review site which isn't controlled by the manufacturer would help? Whenever we buy anything we first go online and read the grouses of irrate customers and then have a fair idea what gizmo would work best for us for the price we're willing to pay and what wouldn't. We also have a reasonably reliable magazine called "Consumer" and many weekly TV programmes like "Fair Go". Even after all that things we buy aren't always quality but some guidance is better than none at all.

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    1. The thing is that most service providers including Airtel, Tata, Reliance rely on these imported STBs.

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    2. Would they stop ordinary consumers from airing their grievances?

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  9. Yep, why indeed! Tata Sky is the answer to all your woes, Alkaji! Waise mausam toh aashiqana sach mein hai :). Ant mein, kya main aapki koi aur seva kar sakti hoon? That has me going in fits of laughter. Enjoyable post!

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    1. But Tata Sky also uses the same STBs isn't it?
      I am happy with the service of Airtel but its the STBs which cause problems.
      Rachna ji, comment ke liye dhanyvaad!

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  10. hi Alka.I am using Tata Sky for the last six years. I have not faced any trouble with the STB even once. Touch wood.!!

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    1. Good to know. I can switch over to Tata Sky.

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  11. I faced the same problem recently with Tata Sky guy.The so called engineer,came he saw the STB and Conquered my wits too."Saheb STB kharaab ho gaya hai"...Okay change it.I said ...he did the same,left me high and dry for a full week before the damn thing came to life...

    Good Post Alka...

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    1. They repair it and continue circulating the same STBs.

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  12. Frankly,I have had no problem with DEN network

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  13. A frustrating experience indeed. Customer Service is not really up to the mark in India in most cases though traditionally we have been the nation with shops proclaiming Grahak Bhagwaan.

    On your gripe about Chinese STBs, bad standards can come from anywhere. But somehow, we have started associating all bad products with China. Just coz its cheaper to get things manufactured in China doesn't mean it has to be of bad standard. Take the iPhones for example.

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    Replies
    1. Undoubtedly. But cheap need not be low on quality.

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  14. Tata Sky is the answer for you my lady!
    Oh, dont get me started on these IVRS at customer care centres. I am truly fed-up of pressing the 1, 2 then 1 and then 9 again and again at various places. And the music/messages when you are holding the call in some companies is so bad.... Gosh!

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  15. I think after you have spent a considerable amount of time on phone waiting for someone to speak, they should automatically disconnect the phone stating - Aap bahut velle lagte hain. Kuch samay apne parivaar ke saath bitayeen.

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  16. The Chandni Chowk to China journey is difficult. Big enemies come in between.
    It requires skill to handle them. You made it very well by highlighting this issue. At least someone said what is what.

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    Replies
    1. China is poking us from all angles, be it STBs or border posts. Who wouldn't like to have fun with a soft state?

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