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2010 October 5 [Tuesday]

The Sparsh BPO's Intelenet way to defraud BSNL

20131012-Update: I changed the title of this blog post as I just came to know via Valorie that the term "gyp" has racist connotations.

I've been having DNS issues since last weekend and since my ISP has been happily outsourcing its customer service obligations to Sparsh India, so whenever the DNS conks off (which is once a month at the very least), I get to have interesting conversations very often.

[after our initial conversation when I've tried explaining the DNS problem, in vain.]

ME: I've tried changing the DNS to point to, saved and rebooted the router, etc... , can ping "random" server, can use IRC, etc...BUT cannot connect to some websites like "www.zareason.com", which gets redirected to "http://searchportal.information.com/?a_id=92438&domainname=www.zareason.com". Please reboot your DNS server as it does not resolve some domains properly.
CSR: Click on 'start button', click on 'internet explorer', ...
ME: Excuse me ...Sir/M'am, I told you I dont have windows on this machine. I use a Linux-based operating system so if you tell me what information you require to troubleshoot, I can check for it locally.

At this point I'm put on hold, ...CSR returns after a few minutes to ask if I can connect to 'google.com'. I answer in the affirmative and he/she proceeds to say the problem is because I use Linux and there is nothing they can do about it. Simply stunning.

Asking to speak to another person who knows "linux+networking" or a team leader results in them disconnecting your call. That isnt surprising. A Business line article says "Sparsh BPO, which is the domestic arm of Intelenet Global Services, put in a bid at Rs 1.15 a call for providing contact centre services...." -- The higher the number of calls to the BSNL toll-free numbers will result in more income for Sparsh. I'm not aware of the finer points in their SLA but the pattern I have observed is very very common. Calls are always dropped, sometimes mid-way, etc...

Sparshindia is a subsidiary of Intelenetglobal, meant to handle the pan-India BPO business. I am curious to know if Intelenet provides similar poor service to their US clients. Would a CSR disconnect an overseas call mid-way without solving the customers problem? Will they get to bill clients simply on the basis of number of calls handled without actually solving the problem.

http://www.sparshindia.com/opration_quality.html, states they monitor calls and have a good QA process. I beg to differ. If I call back and go through the whole discussion for the N'th time and insist on speaking to a TL, I'll be put on hold, and the same person pretends to be another person. Oh well, it takes more than changing voices and giving a fake name -- the 'trying too hard to fake it' bit that gives them away. Nine out of ten times the conversation has gone downhill when the CSR insists that you are having a DNS issue because you are using Linux.

https://www.zareason.com/  was also unable to connect and dig @ zareason.com returns the correct IP address. While I grok that every ISP out there uses a transparent proxy to save on bandwidth. Using an anonymous proxy gives me the zareason website but what if its a site you want to order something. How can the user know or trust the site if the ISP has borked DNS which just redirects you to a phishing site?

On multiple occasions I have requested to speak to any technical person who understands "linux + networking" as the DNS issue has a simple solution -- Probably the DNS server used by the proxy is broken and its is caching incorrect data. The backend technical team (whom i've spoken to just once in so many years) can reboot the server and clear the cache. This is all it takes, all of 5 minutes to reboot the appropriate server and solve the DNS issue. BUT its easier to do a shirsasana (head-stand) than get the sparshindia agents to reboot the darn dns server.

UPDATE: I called Sparsh India yet again. This time I refused all the request to give the mobile number so the outbound process would call me. Erm...I would hold on forever until the DNS problem was solved. As of writing this, its been 2 hours that i've been talking to a TL (he claimed so), who finally booked my complaint which I checked here: 'http://bangaloretelecom.com/' --it has no details of the problem. The excuse this guy gives me is 'BSNL must have blocked the site" ...hilarious, why would bsnl want to block one site peddling computers? If it were a p0rn site that argument might atleast make sense. We retraced the steps of changing the routers WAN settings and other tasks which didnt help.

Which part of the sentence "I can access websites and surf online, only some sites like zareason dont work, reboot your DNS server and solve the problem" does a person not grok?  He even pretended to not know how to spell "cache" and i could hear his co-worker giggle in the background. So I politely told him that while he was busy 'pretending to not understand basic tech terms', he was not harassing me, rather, he came across as a dumb person with zero technical knowledge. That got his attention real quick and he didnt seem to enjoy harassing me anymore. Oh, the joys of being a sexist troll !!

At the moment it seems that Sparsh India is only interested in increasing their revenue by billing BSNL INR1.15 for each call that customers make --Not solving the problem in one phone call definitely helps Sparsh and Intelenet gain more revenue. Rebooting the server means the problem gets solved, hence less revenue.

2009 November 8 [Sunday]

Mining for money and power

This entry is an ode to our shining political servants (pun intended).

#0#. After 17 days of hardcore bargaining, Mumbai finally hosted the swearing-in of a government for Maharashtra state.

#0#.Down South, Karnataka's politicians are busy playing with the tax-payers money, while the US thinks its getting Bangalored with competition.

President Barack Obama has exhorted schools in the US to develop globally competitive standards to help students take on `folks in Beijing and Bangalore'..........engage in intrigues, mud-slinging, backstabbing and witch-hunting. They throw ideologies to the winds, ditch friends and join hands with foes. They use money and muscle power to bulldoze their way to the seat of power....

#0#. A Ranchi resident files a PIL on Koda and Co. who had de-frauded 3.6 crore rupees per day for 3 years to bid for South African mines while his wife sacrifices goats for his well-being as the ED is hot on his tail with an imminent arrest.

#0#. China sees RED when the Dalai Lama visits an Indian state while many Indian states have Naxals and Maoists on a killing spree and our national song, Vande Mataram, has been issued a fatwa by Muslim clerics.

Mera Bharat Mahan - Indians are ironically a blessed lot!

2008 October 9 [Thursday]


Vijaya Dashami (or Dashera), heralds the end of Navaratri (and nine nights of dancing :-)) and DurgaPuja. But most importantly for students dashami marks the anniversary of being one ... My respects to one of my past guru's!

Hmm,... well the correct version is : "vijaya dashami' is the first day (of learning, or vidyarambha) for any classical arts student. This is the day a new student visits the teachers home (with guru dakshina and tambula) and requests her/him to accept them as a student. A tip : on any other day the guru may reject to accept you if s/he finds you are not up to the mark, but this day is such that they will not turn any student away.

Although the ritual is small and should not take more than a few minutes, it can (and does) stretch for an hour(s) or more when hundreds of students throng the teacher's home, so one has to wait for one's turn. Students who learn dance + an instrument, or multiple forms of art have a mad rush between 3-4 teacher's homes and lotsa patient waiting :-)

The best part of it all is getting to eat 'sweet chundal' but by the time we went it was over :-(  but our guruji had made salty ones for us :-) and it tasted just like Ma makes it so I didnt care so long as i got to eat it :-) and she taught a new song [named Sarasvati, after the Raga] after we sang an old one.  Talking of music, some time ago, I had started a wiki page on NCVasanthakokilam and her song 'yen palli konder ayyaa' reminds me that i need to get out of my slumber and finish the Mohanam raga notes soon.

Sending out hundreds of dashera sms's was not such a good idea afterall ... weirdly half the messages got deferred and some group messages were just dropped ... I really dont feel like texting/thumbing again, so Shubh Dashera y'all !!

2008 September 23 [Tuesday]


Is India, increasingly portrayed as the fastest growing economy in Asia, the best place to do business with ??! What is the ground reality for a business (it could be a startup in the manufacturing industry) when a CEO is murdered in broad daylight, abetted by an inactive police. Instead of booking the murdering criminals the labour minister warns the industry ...for what ... conducting business and generating employment?? Maybe the negative impact on foreign investment will pass the message across in future. Sadly, this too will be forgotten after a few days when the media finds another juicer piece of news.

If the ministers reaction is intended to provide more spark by indirectly telling people to take law into their own hands, it works very well. What would they have done if an Indian newspaper had advertised Mandela, DalaiLama and Gandhi (will someone tell Jyllandsposten its not spelt as Ghandi) like the Nordic Jyllandsposten did??  Salil Tripathi opines that these Jyllands-Posten " life is easier, if you don’t speak up" ads are intended to send a message across to Muslims across the world that if Indians, Tibetians and South Africans around the world are not offended by the posters then they should not take law into their own hands.

My guess is that there will be Indian people who will find offence with those posters because its so easy to overlook the philosophy like satyagraha, truth, no corruption or ahimsa, which Gandhi (recycled from the older B.Gita and Upanishads) propagated than deal with mundane issues like poverty and terrorism. Today, dont be too surprised to see Gandhi benignly smiling at you from the portrait on the wall he is hung on, in a government office, whilst the employee sitting under the duly garlanded photograph asks you for bakshish/chai pani (== bribe).... Welcome to modern India!!

The movie, Gandhi - My Father explores Gandhi’s role within his family and Akshay Khanna (would love to see AK pair up with Aamir Khan in the play Mee Nathuram Godse boltoy which is N.Godse's perspective on why he did what he did) brought to life what we had never learnt in school or wrote in examination answer sheets but always knew, the humane side of Gandhi -- the spectacular failure he was as a father whilst being hailed as India's Father (Bapu). How ironical and yet he has morals and a strong character and many qualities worth emulating, which are (sadly) completely absent in modern politicians.

2008 September 21 [Sunday]

Bangalore deserves better

The Airport Authority of India says that BIAL airport is already saturated and so does the experience of hundreds of passengers, a few of whom get this platform to air their grievances. Harish Bhat, COO of Titan Industries, has a very interesting take on the Bengaluru airport's toilets. Among other grievances he mentions important factors like travel-to-airport time, space, functionality, aesthetics, etc.. which press releases always ignore.

Strangely the wikipedia page on BIAL has only glowing reports and nothing negative about the company in the wikipage. It has no links to the negative press reports at all. Checking the wiki page history shows edits by just IP's and not a registered user. I wonder why????  Is this their spin doctor (PR agency : Macromedia Research And Development Private Ltd ???) at work again using fake mail-ID's to leave anonymous comments on my earlier blog entry.

In one interview to the press, Mr.Brunner, the CEO, openly states that they are looking to commercialise the 4000 acres of land given by the Indian government. So did the government give BIAL 4000 acres of land to make profits at the expense of the Indian taxpayer? He blames everyone else (ground handlers SATS, to the taxi service, other agencies, etc..) for all of BIAL's problems except perhaps their shoddy planning.  According to the CEO, "Peak-hour capacity (is what matters)" - Does that mean local airlines should fly during non-peak hours (ala 24/7), Mr.CEO?. How many Indians want to travel to Delhi, a domestic flight a 02:00 AM?

Would Mr. Brunner be able to construct an apology of an airport like BIAL in Europe and call it International?

Worse, they are now pressuring the government to allow them to charge an additional User Development Fee of Rs.675 (plus 12.36% service tax) per passenger who uses the BIAL airport. Gee, 770 bucks for an airport that does not even have adequate restrooms, charges 400 rupees per HOUR for parking charges, and has snacks bars where the average cost of a patties or pastry is between Rs.50-85 bucks. The socialist and communist political parties might tag "flying" as a luxury (its a another matter that the political class of socialist and communists jet around the country but....shh, pretend you didnt notice that) meant only for the rich, but its not. Its just yet another option of faster travel in this global age.

Since the Karnataka government found Bial airport is not up to the mark, it can restrict BIAL to only International flights and reopen the old HAL airport for domestic routes. THAT would make better business sense for domestic travellers. Even Infosys is not happy with Bial, and yet the high court stayed the August 18 order by a full Bench of the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), which had declared BIAL as a public authority covered by the RTI Act, 2005.

If infrastructure projects meant for the public, using public tax payers money are not accountable and will not come under the Right to Information Act, the best recourse is to stop the privatization of public infrastructure projects, thereby keeping the government accountable under the RTI Act. 

Indian cities dont need basic infrastructure like airports, railways and bus stations which are a few hundred kilometers outside the city limits. THAT is NOT smart city planning at all !! As citizens we need to stop absorbing accepting lies and sugar-coated words about infrastructure projects gone wrong - it is the tax-payers money, hence our money, that is being wasted by corrupt private companies, hence inexcusable!

2008 July 25 [Friday]

The Indian SiliconValley

I've had problems adjusting to life in the Indian (version of the American) silicon valley before although things like infrastructure have improved considerably, in the negative that is.

I find the load shedding is much more regular than power supply. Boycotting summer school holidays to Chennai seems tame when compared to the current situation where a  weekday gets an average of 8 hrs load shedding (9am to 5pm) very regularly and weekends its 7am to 8pm ; but now they want to increase load-shedding till August. Nice well-planned move.

I am no apologist for capitalism but do remind me to invite Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy to live and endure the after-effects,  rather than indulging in grabbing media bytes by protesting against dams and every infrastructure development project that happens. Which is less than what I can say about the Indian elected representatives wasting time and burning tax-payers money in mindless political one-upmanship games. This when there is acute shortage of essential goods and a breakdown of communication services but our ministers are unaware of ground reality. What happens in everyday life is reflected in a larger canvas for the world to see. Not surprising that.

Looking at the situation in gest, I could assume and imagine scenarios about being in an empty bungalow (now i wish it was, but well...) and jump out of my skin each time the cell rings. Maybe improve my skills in the art of making shadows in the candle light with sound-effects, or scream in fear when a door opens/closes accompanied with a c-r-e-a-k-y sound for the ultimate realistic effect. Now all I need is to get meself a white sari and walk around the house aimlessly holding the lit candle. Gotta give that yester-year actress some competition. If only I could remember her name now.

If you thought power is the only problematic quibble point next to the favorite whipping horse called inflation, then think again. The 4 days water cut last week, including a dead phone connection for 10 days, no internet (if i am lucky its an hour in the morning), was enough fuel for a verbal/blog diarrhea about the major metro which was gonna rival an American west coast ...gah !

2008 May 28 [Wednesday]

BIAL sham

On Sunday, we went to drop MA and also to check out the BIAL airport in Devanahalli, only to find there is nothing international about it. If you are expecting another Changi, Heathrow, O'Hare or a JFK, hold your breath --- Its not even a patch on any of them, which is self-evident when you are confronted with a very smallish glass and concrete structure standing in the middle of nowhere with construction debris strewn all around for company.

For an idea of how BIG this structure is :: on the outside, you can walk from one end (departure) of this small structure to the other end (arrival) in 10 minutes flat (It being a Sunday the place was swarming in the evening with curious on-lookers with families in tow to gawk at the nondescript airport in no-mans' land).

[UPDATE1 : the 10 min is walking outside the building only, from the time you alight at the bus-stand to the arrival area, and not the time taken to alight a flight and exit with luggage in tow. Minus the Sat/Sunday on-lookers it should hardly take 5 min and less than that with no luggage. That is how small the international structure is.]

Last year when HU had come over and visited the construction site at devanahalli, i went along out of sheer curiosity. Being a weekday and peak traffic time to boot, it took 2.5 hours just to reach devanahalli. We entered via the runway and speeding on the parallel service track was sheer fun. I imagine the runway would be an F1 track (*grin*) which they ought to be. We climbed the ATC tower, got the obligatory snaps, and midway DA got bored and tired of all the exposure in the hot sun, wanted to leave asap (imagine 2 women in a construction site and you know why). I had seen the terminal then and thought there would be a separate one for international flights atleast. On Sunday, 2008May25 I realised i was wrong.

Let's start again... For a late evening flight (8pm'ish) we left home at 4pm and trudged to the nearest bus-stand, luggage et al. Yeah, driving raises my blood pressure and i dont own a 4-wheeler. So what used to be a hop-skip-and-jump to the airport in 15 min by auto, is now a torturous 2 hour fuel-guzzling environment polluting 50km unnecessary ride. I like to receive/drop my friends and family to the station/airport/bus-stand when ever they come over. That will soon change atleast as far as the airport is concerned. There are 9 bus-stands and it takes 2 hours to get there, not including the time spent idling waiting for the bus to start or the time taken to get to the bus station.

We got talking to the conductor and he said the Majestic Volvo route makes 30,000 rupees per day and other routes too get good earnings. The fares are steep -- Volvo AC bus is 150 bucks single fare one-way and a bmtc bus costs 80 bucks one-way --when you compare the same volvo AC bus from Chennai Central Train station to Tiruvanmiyur (around 25 km) costs just 25 rupees, yeah just 25 bucks ! So do the Bangalore Volvo buses have special wings that they charge three times the amount for the same distance???

The bus conductors are made to do 24 hours duty but only get paid 4 hours over-time on the basic pay and get one day off .... so they work 4 days a week 24 hours at a stretch, which seems harsh.

From the bus-station to the swanky small structure is a distance of a quarter kilometer and if it rains, which is all the time in bangalore, be prepared to get drenched. There are no rest rooms for those who come to see-off their kith and kin...there is one half a km away and if you are hungry of thirsty be prepared to shell out more than 50 bucks for a bottle of water.
[Addendum : Private taxis charge Rs 950-1000/- for a single journey. If you are wondering why they charge you the return fare, its coz they claim they have to make the return journey to the city with no passengers hence you will pay them for a journey you dont make.]

Once inside the airport its chaos, the ground-staff dont belong to the individual airlines, rather they are all contracted employees by BIAL who have not been adequately trained on how to use the computer, printer, and check-in passengers. To their credit they are polite but heck that does not stop the confusion with long queues and irritated passengers left holding confirmed tickets with no flights to board....not nice.

The inside is not very impressive nor is it spacious and departures are on the second level -- local flights to the left and international flights to the right (empty when we were there). After security check tons of floor space has been devoted to malls and shops ...you name the brand and its there. So it does seem that in all this, apparently only the promoters seem to benefit financially at the expense of the tax-paying public, money** is being thrown to the winds. After all the so-called glowing reports the reality is slowly seeping out.

[** User development fee/toll/service fee, call it whatever you like but the user (common citizens) should not have to pay ridiculous prices/fees for airport related services had the government done an iota of city planning. Instad they give away 4000 acres of real estate almost for free to a private company which is the sole beneficiary, not the government. In what way is the government earning? -- Taxes ? No, ...then its lost earnings and indirectly a waste of public money (read 4000 acres of land).]

2008 May 5 [Monday]

Cauvery? where are you?

Summer in bangalore is weird and the constantly changing weather, sudden hail and rain is grating on my nerves and left me sick and no voice to boot ! After 4 days of power outage last week, not to forget the daily load-shedding that one is subjected to, since last night there is no water....not a drop! Trudging along for a morning tank inspection confirms the worst, water kissing the bottom of the tank. Apparently Cauvery water is supplied only 3 times a week and during summer it reduces to once a week. WTF?

Most times people buy water and i have seen tanks standing in front of houses to supply water to the residents. Karnataka has the famous Cauvery lake which is renowned for its sweet water and perinnial supply, and yet the local populace has to live with limited supply. The government also fought with its neighbouring states over sharing the Cauvery water and yet does not supply enough water or produce enough power for the citizens. That sucks bigtime!

2007 December 2 [Sunday]

jammu kashmir and arunachal pradesh are a part of india

Is'nt Jammu and Kashmir (North) and Arunachal Pradesh(N.East) an integral part of INDIA? Then why does google-maps show the state of Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh with dotted lines around it ? Are they saying that these are independent seperate countries or part of a neighbouring country, hence not a part of India? I dont recall the Indian government issuing any official notification to that effect. So isn't it for the Indian people and its government(s) to decide to exclude whole state(s) from its map !

Google-map @ 2007 is provided by TeleAtlas, Basarsoft, AND, NFGIS, MapIT and Europa Technologies, who I hope have made a genuine oversight and not a willful misinterpretation of the borders. Google-Maps is used by billions of people all over the world for different purposes and this will convey the wrong message. By excluding the states of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh from the Indian map and not showing it as an integral part of India, Google is indirectly providing legitimacy to the separatist activities indulged by the terrorists who have killed millions of innocent people and destroyed lives and homes in Kashmir. All this without accounting for the Indian military manpower, finance and resources which could have been used elsewhere, loss of Indian soldiers and the lives of their family which i guess is unaccountable in mere financial terms.

Some years ago whenever the BBC channel used to report news about India, they would not show J&K in the Indian map... China has been claiming Arunachal Pradesh as theirs which is not true. Some years ago, I remember reading that many parts of the state was already illegitimately occupied by the Chinese army and although the Indian government was aware of this, they did nothing. Putting petty politics aside, I wish the Indian government would take this up with the concerned companies urgently.

Besides POK (pak-occupied-kashmir), Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are still an integral part of India and will continue to remain so !!

2006 May 19 [Friday]

the market returns

A crashed market yesterday which had R all excited at the prospect of good pickings but my feelings are mixed and i guess the party is not over yet ... let's see what happens today .....