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Bharti Airtel & the potential 1 rupee scam & fraud that could run into millions

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I have an airtel connection and there has been several instances of ‘unwanted & unasked for’ services that have been activated on my mobile phone and 1 rupee of 2 rupees deducted without notice. This gives rise to several questions on the ethics of airtel & the potential fraud /scam that might be.

Here is an example of an SMS i received which showed an unwanted/unasked for service being activated on my mobile and 1 rupee being deducted.  Some time later in the evening, I again get an SMS, this time for 2 rupees deducted this time around. I then call airtel where I am charged 50 paise to speak to the agent to talk about this issue.

When I talk to the agent, she tried brushing this under the carpet and said that i can cancel this if I want. She had no answer to why & how this service was started in the first place. I could clearly make out that the agent would have been getting several calls like that as she did not seem surprised at all and neither did offer any insight or intention to look into why such service was started without subscribers permission. She did not even offer regrets that this has been done and forget about offering refund and credit of the amount back.

Now below could be a very realistic situation:

This kind of a micro 1 rupee scams being played on millions of airtel subscribers and potential fraud being committed by cheating customers.

The reason I suspect this is that:

  • Many people may just ignore this considering that this is just 1 rupee thing.
  • Many people may stop this service and forget about this and not escalate this to airtel thinking why waste time on 1 rupee
  • Many people not even coming to realize that such 1 rupee amounts are being deducted from their accounts

Anyone has idea of where this could be escalated and brought to notice for investigation.

It is really painful that a company run by Mr Sunil Mittal, who espouses to be the torch bearer of corporate ethics operates in this manner of cheating the customer — however the small the amount maybe. to notice. Anyone else facing such issues?

This is a breach of trust and trust once lost in a brand, by such behavior, is lost forever.

EDIT: A quick Google Search on this subject showed that this is indeed an issue voiced by many of the customers on various forums on the internet

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Can organizations be designed like the rain forest? What can we learn from Rain forests?

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These days, GREEN is the ‘in-thing’. Just like innovation; GO-GREEN, Eco-Friendly, etc are words that one would find in most organizational mission statements.  The irony is that just like innovation, organizations seems to be clueless on what this whole ‘GO-GREEN, Eco-Friendly’ thing really means — beyond the rhetoric.

I would say that the first step towards that could be to learn from the natural environment around us. These natural surroundings are like living universities and can teach lessons that one can’t study in all the IVY league business schools combined. We just have to observe these natural surroundings and be ready to absorb, learn and apply those principles in business.

Seemingly remote natural systems like the rainforests can be a great place for organizations to learn from.

So, what can organizations learn from rainforests?

Some 15 years ago,  Tachi Kiuchi (Member of the Board of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation), gave a keynote address to the World Future Society on July 19, 1997 around this topic that I regard as the best pieces of literature around learning from Rain Forests and what organizations can learn from rain forests.

Read it here:

http://www.isss.org/primer/asem30tk.html

Key Points that  Tachi Kiuchi makes are:

  • See & understand how a rainforest operates. How can organizations operate like the rainforests?

A rainforest is an example of a place that excels by learning to adapt to what it doesn’t have. A rainforest has almost no resources. The soil is thin. There are few nutrients. It has no productive assets. Yet rainforests are incredibly productive. They are home to millions of types of plants and animals, and more than two-thirds of all biodiversity in the world. Those plants and animals are so perfectly mixed that the system is more efficient, and more creative, than any business in the world.

  • It consumes almost nothing. Wastes are food. Design is capital.

Today’s fast-changing business environment requires that we be alert, and responsive. Agile, and creative. To do so, we must structure our company so we are a learning organization. Not top-down, but bottom-up. Not centralized, but decentralized. Not limited by rules, but motivated by objectives. Not structured like a machine– which cannot learn– but like a living system, which can.

  • Rainforests are a model of the perfect learning organization. 

 How can we begin? By operating less like a machine, and more like a living system. An Industrial Ecosystem.

  • The most important Natural capital is its design. Its relationships.

 In Japan, we have two terms to describe this: omote and uraOmote is the surface or front of an object, ura is its back or invisible side. Omote and ura . External reality and underlying reality.

When I visited the rainforest, I thought: As business people, we have been looking at the rainforest all wrong. What is valuable about the rainforest is not omote — the trees, which we can remove. What is valuable is ura — the design, the relationships, from which comes the real value of the forest. When we take trees from the forest, we ruin its design. But when we take lessons from the forest, we further its purpose. We can develop the human ecosystem into as intricate and creative a system as we find in the rainforest. We can do more with less. Grow without shrinking.

  • Differentiate. 

Be yourself, be unique. In the rainforest, conformity leads to extinction. If two organisms have the same niche, only one survives. The other either adapts, or dies. In today’s economy, the same happens. If two businesses have the same niche — make exactly the same product — only one survives. The other adapts, or dies.

So what are most companies today doing? They are trying to be the one that survives. Cutting costs. Downsizing radically. Desperately seeking the lowest cost. We think it is much smarter to differentiate. Create unique products, different from any others. Fill unique niches. Don’t kill our competitors, or be killed by them. Sidestep them instead.

Be yourself, Be. Only then — after we differentiate — is it time to reduce costs, and grow more efficient. We have learned this the hard way. We sell millions of televisions, stereos, and appliances. We cannot compete by being the lowest-cost operator. Instead, we must offer products that are different, distinctive. We must choose and fill our unique niche.

  • Be a Good Fit. 

We used to say, “Only the fittest survives”. There is only one winner. But in the rainforest, there are many winners. The same can be true in our economy. In the old, uniform, monoculture economy, only one form wins, only the most fit survives. At least until a new invader wipes him out.

In this new, diverse, rainforest economy, it is not a question of who is most fit. It is a question of where we best fit. If we fit — if we solve a social problem, fulfill a social need — we will survive and excel. If we only create problems, we will not.

That it is an eco-system and not silos. In organizations we see one department not taking t another.

Why I did not opt for the LinkedIn 30 days free job seeker package offer

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By checking this box, you agree to the following terms. Your paid account will renew automatically, unless we terminate it, or you notify Customer Service by email (customer_service@linkedin.com) of your decision to terminate your paid account. You must cancel your subscription before it renews in order to avoid billing of subscription fees for the renewal term to your credit card.

Recently, LinkedIn sent out an offer where members could upgrade their account for a job seeker package for free — for 30 days.

Nothing wrong with this offer but as a user I felt uncomfortable with the terms and conditions and did not sign up. I do not know if I missed out a good opportunity to try out that feature of LinkedIn or not. However, I was just plain uncomfortable with the words on the screen.

I wondered what if… that email of mine landed in their junk folders? What if they said that they never received the email.. What if they said that.. oh you did not send it from ‘that’ email account… All kind of worst case scenarios came to mind.

Now, one could argue that LinkedIn is doing nothing wrong is is being transparent and upfront with the terms and conditions. It is upto the users to decide accordingly after reading them. But still, as a user I felt uncomfortable. I felt as I was getting tricked into this and the whole onus of getting out of this mess will be on me.

Somehow, most companies just talk about customer satisfaction as intent but their actions don’t go beyond lip service. I had sometime back written about Fake Smiles & Customer Satisfaction

So, what would have made me take the trial offer & and upgrade for 30 days? Maybe the terms could be like this:

  • LinkedIn will send me a reminder XX days before the card will be charged. It will again send me a final reminder 1 day before the trial account expires
  • LinkedIn will also show me a message on the web application when I visit LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn will give me a web option to unsubscribe from within my account itself. The button/link will be somewhere on ‘my account/profile settings’ itself

That would have made my try the package without blinking. It would have gine beyond customer satisfaction into customer delight.

So, LinkedIn, if you are listening, please, NO EMAIL BUSINESS for cancellation. If you can build such great software, I am sure you can build a button/link/check-box for me to cancel the trial account.

What do you as readers think? Do you get wary of such T&C’s? Would you sign up or hesitate? What could LinkedIn do better?

Your Social Networth | Why you need diversity in your network(s)

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Your Social NetworksNOTE: While this post is applicable to all professionals, I am writing this specially for the young folks starting their first job — straight out of campus 

As a campus mind, these are probable the best days of your life. You have just landed your first job, through campus, and you would naturally be on cloud nine (everything needs to be cloud enabled these days you see 🙂), You would be looking forward to the start of your career and the many firsts that would accompany it – the first salary check (the most important thing, and I am sure you would have already thought on how to spend it also 🙂), your first office space/desk with a phone, your first visiting card, your first project, your first PM and so on…..  This is a great moment in your life and you should enjoy each & every moment of it.

Social networking is one area that you folks are experts at. For you all it is like second nature; having grown with online social networks around you. So, I will write about the various ‘real networks’ that you would be having & the need for diversity in your various networks.

Your Work Place Circle: This will consist of people in your circle at the workplace. Chances are that you would be joining MindTree with your batch-mates/friends from college and you would naturally move around in a group with them – have lunch with them, stay with them at a PG/rented house, go out with them, etc. These are people with whom you have spent 4+ years of your life in college and naturally the trust, the bonding, the relationship you have with them will run very deep. The fact that they are also part of the same organization as you are is like icing on the cake as it allows you to carry on the friendship at work also.

Your Social Circle: Chances are that many of your friends from college/batch-mates would have joined some other equally good IT company in your city and that would form your larger social circle in the near future. You would be either staying with them or meeting them on weekends late evenings. You would talk about your work with them, exchange notes on which company is good, which is paying what salary, how the food at the canteen sucks and what is happening at work etc etc. This social circle will be your source of stories on what is happening at which company and you will form perceptions about various organizations without having any first hand info about them.

Your Mentor/Professional Circle: Chances are that you (through your social/work circle) would be connected to your seniors from college – people who were 1-2 year senior to you — and that will form the majority of your mentor/professional circle. Here you will hear stories of how some senior of yours is getting XXX lakhs, or going to onsite, or got promoted to a PM role in just XXX years, or an XYZ domain/area being the future of things would be doing the rounds. Over time, you WILL make your career decisions based on the inputs from this mentor/professional circle.

Now, if you analyze the above circles, you will realize that almost all consist of people who have similar experience as your, are from same background, do the same things as you – basically think the same as you. So, where is the diversity in your network? I am pretty sure that almost everybody in such a network thinks the same, which basically means that there is very little diverse thinking at all and it is just like a ‘herd of sheep’s going somewhere’ — one blindly following the other.

So, why do we need diversity in our networks?

Just think of it, Facebook (or your next favorite social network) is meant to connect you with people who you already know. Not with people who you would like to know. Nothing wrong with it as this familiarity provides comfort & provides a support system. BUT, familiarity or uni-dimensionality of your network doesn’t necessarily work well for getting fresh & new points of view. New & fresh insights can also be found outside your immediate & familiar networks. So, how do you ensure you don’t miss out on those insights? How do you ensure that your network is challenging your thoughts/ideas/assumptions and not just reinforcing them — if all you do is talk to the same people all the time?

Now, not for a moment I am suggesting that we don’t have our facebook friends, our social/professional circles. As humans we are hardwired to like familiarity. We like confirmation that whatever it is that we’re doing is right. However, you should also hang out (at least for a little bit) with people who are not like you. You should break that pattern of familiarity before it becomes an echo chamber of just similar & one-dimensional thoughts. This diversity will be like oxygen to your thinking and help you immensely over time.

So, how do you bring diversity in your networks?

Work Circle: Don’t limit your friend circle at workplace to the people you already know. Try to make new friends from your campus batch – people who are NOT from your college or the place that you come from. You need to expand your workplace circle to include new people into it so that your work circle is diverse and not just one-dimensional – of people you already know. You could team up with these new people and start your pet side-projects. Join the various clubs in your organization and play an active role in them. I am sure every organization would have several clubs that you can join and expand your social circle

Social/Professional Circle: To expand your social circle & mentor/professional circle, try attending the various technology/geeky events that happen in almost every city these days. BarCamps are a perfect place to meet new, young, dynamic, enthusiastic people of diverse backgrounds and experience. It is the perfect place for you to build your “real network” (and not just your online network) and know people who you would not have met otherwise. BarCamps are a melting pot of ideas, energy, enthusiasm & a fun place to be. (I have read about people who have met at barcamps for the first time, became friends and later got married too :-)) Over time, you can reach out to this network of yours for professional advice & bounce of ideas. Apart from barcamps, you can also get involved with other geeky events that happen at IIM-B, startup circles, TiE, technology events/tracks etc . If you are socially inclined, and based out of Bangalore, then you can get involved with Janagraaha — they need good technical folks like you for various volunteering activities.

Another way to expand your social circle & bring diversity in your network is to have a passion outside of your work. Now, don’t worry if you don’t have one already. You can find one if you want to. There are tons of options from guitar classes, to salsa dancing to Shiamak Davar bollywood dance academy to food clubs, from railway travel groups to automobile freaks to weekend trekking to cycling to photography to theatre to Janagrahaa to some other equally exciting thing. You will be amazed at the number of options you have these days to get involved in various things. Amongst these, hopefully, you will find or discover your passion also. In these groups, you will meet people from all age groups, diverse backgrounds, education, professions and such network will help you give different perspectives towards various things which you could miss if your entire network is just from the IT industry & the people you already know.

So, don’t remain a ‘frog in the well’ jump out of it. Get out of your comfort zone and make your network count..!!!

Yes, slowly but surely, the machines are making the decisions for us…

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Just like we can’t imagine a life without cellphones or internet; we can’t imagine an Internet without Google. Saying that Google is our personal window, a personal assistant to the information out there on the Internet would be an understatement. And we feel extremely ecstatic when we get the results we want to see on the first page of the Google search results. We love Google for doing all the hard work for us and showing us what we want to see…

Did you ever imagine that somewhere in this journey, Google has become more & more personalized for you and your Google & the Google of your best friend may be a lot different? Do you realize that slowly but surely, Google is taking over the gatekeeper role of what you see on the internet? Yes, even without you having a goggle/gmail account, even if you’re logged out, there are potentially 57 signals that Google might consider – location, browser, language, history, etc — which it uses to personally tailor your query results. Great, isn’t it? What more could users ask for.. You search for shopping your favorite DVD and the stores listed are near to your area, in your language…

There is an issue here and maybe we don’t realize it. All this ‘personalization’ is hard to observe, is kind of invisible to us and that’s why we don’t notice it. When was the last time you tried to check if your search results are different from anyone else’s? Google is not exactly forthcoming in how it does the personalization for us & what it means. So, this leads us to a scenario where we will see things on the internet that Google thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. Google is acting like a newspaper editor without our permission. Google is controlling what we see and read, and not the way it should be: the other way around. Google is the new gatekeeper of what we see & what information gets to us. We may no longer decide what gets in. And more importantly, we don’t actually see what gets edited out.

Maybe, those sci-fi movies where machines control the world are not far from reality after all..!!!

Read/Listen more on this subject here at a TED Video

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

Forget the rules…change the game itself

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Imagine you are an aspiring world class athlete and running marathons is your forte. You have all the necessary skills & training required from a marathon runner and there is no doubt in your capability to perform at the highest level. However, there is one BIG issue….

The race started some time ago and you are late for the start..!!!! While you are staring at the start line; rest of the runners are already 10 KMs into the marathon race. And mind you, your competitors are as skilled & trained as you are…

How are you going to win the race?? Forget winning, how can you plan your strategy to be ‘even there’ in the race?

  • Can you run faster? For how long?
  • Can you win/out run your competition by following the SAME route the runners who started before you took?

To win, to be counted, you need to alter the rules of the game or even change the game itself.

Instead of running the marathon all along the road and following a set route/path, you might have to run on the cattle trails of the mountain, cutting across hills — gaining ground for the lost time.

In a nutshell, do whatever it takes but don’t just follow. Just by following the runners before you and trying to run faster than them will not take you anywhere..!!!

PS: Europeans did this in hockey to Asians, ‘fosbory flop’ did it to high jump etc…

Effectiveness of high powered reviews

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Legend has it that emperor Akbar used to come out in the night, dressed as a beggar, roam the kingdom to find out what was ‘actually happening’ and what his people were ‘actually saying’ about the ‘state of affairs‘ in his rule.

Now consider the following two scenarios – one from a political arena & another from corporate space

Scenario 1:
A high powered minister/politician wants to go to the ‘field’ to find out what’s happening and take stock of the various projects sanctioned by his government.

We all know what would happen next.

  • The people responsible, for the ministers tour, would plan the tour in such a way that he get to travel only through those areas where work has happened
  • Some ‘patch work’ would happen just prior to the visit; in the form of road getting repaired, garbage cleaned up, whitewash of few buildings. This would also mean that significant effort/resources are diverted to make this happen.
  • Actual people asked to stay away/prevented from meeting the minister so that he doesn’t come to know of the reality and instead briefing done by planted attendees
  • And life goes back to normal after the visit & the minister believes in what he saw – progress and satisfied people…

Scenario 2:
Well meaning, with all the noble intentions, senior management decides on ‘periodic project reviews’ by a panel including the CEO and top most bosses of the organization. This is done for the senior management to get a pulse on what is happening on the ground (at a project level).
The projects are selected and a calendar published well in advance so as to avoid any last minute surprises and make the best use of the bandwidth availability of the senior management.

What do you think will happen? Have you seen anything happening, in Scenario 2, that is different from what actually happens in Scenario 1?