nareshovの日記

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Archive for the ‘Work Life’ Category

Customer Service in Bangalore

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I’ve had the privilege of experiencing customer service first-hand as a customer over the past year with multiple service providers — consumer banking, internet, mobile, and online/offline retail. In this post, I’ll describe my experiences and point some fingers.

Consumer banking.

Back in early 2011, ICICI’s netbanking barely worked during the day. One had to use it early morning or late at night. It’s come a long way now and the customer service has been quite satisfactory.

Since late 2011, I’ve had to deal with HDFC bank. Enabling a taken-for-granted service such as paying bills through its netbanking portal requires one to submit applications manually. Netbanking (third-party transfer, specifically) didn’t work for me on a couple of occasions and when I vented out on twitter (that’s normal right?) somebody from HDFC spotted that and got in touch from me.

That was a pleasant surprise. It appears there’s a dedicated department that proactively scours the internet and tries to mend the damage caused (if any) called "HDFC-talktous <talktous@hdfcbank.com>."

The second point of comparison is the over-the-phone customer service. While ICICI can be annoying with their long-winded IVR process, HDFC bank gets you in touch with a real person quite quickly. But the quality differs (that’s probably a tradeoff: automate and use few good people or don’t automate and use a lot of not-so-good people; perhaps different target audiences too). Couple of the HDFC folks I spoke to over the phone had trouble comprehending and were just too quick to a "I understand, sir." Fortunately, the talktous@hdfcbank.com folk are quite open to listening to you.

While on phone with the customer service, it takes a couple of hops with ICICI to reach a person who knows his stuff (example: 4-digit CVV codes of Amex vs. 3-digit Mastercard/VISA) whereas in the case of HDFC, the hop hasn’t happened the first time and always through the talktous@ folks.

Internet.

I’ve posted about this extensively in the past. To quickly summarise, Airtel has been a disappointment. Reliance has turned out to be quite reliable — in fact, so reliable that I haven’t had to call their customer service up since I got a connection from them back in September.

Mobile.

I’ve been with Vodafone for nearly 8 years now. They’re the ones who used a dog in their TV adverts while every other mobile service provider used some movie actor or a sports champ. Their ads were simple, modest, and most of all, not annoying.

After procuring an iPhone 4S, I had to get a micro-SIM. Walked into a Vodafone outlet at Koramangala on a Saturday evening. Got a queue-token from the token vending machine, gave a 5-second description of what I wanted, got a light-looking, large-fonted form with limited fields to enter details into that I managed to fill in under 20-seconds, went over to the other counter and got a micro-SIM right there (for free), submitted the stamped form back to the person who gave me the form and was told that my number would move onto the new in an hour’s time. And it did.

A friend’s friend had experienced weird issues with the 4S and other service providers’ networks, my experience with Vodafone’s so far has been smooth. (Too bad they tie up with Airtel for 3G in B’lore, but that’s another story.)

My respect for Vodafone has only increased with time.

Online retail.

Flipkart has been a growing name over the past few years and I’ve made several purchases. I’ve had no complains except for one case where the steam iron had a scratch on the ironing surface. Wasn’t so bad that it had to be replaced but I expected at least a QC pass. There are multiple online retailers cropping up now. Naturally, in the sea of mediocrity and poor service, I expect only the best to survive (is that too obvious?)

Offline retail.

Some of the household names such a BigBazaar when they first arrived stocked up all sorts of stuff. With time, the range has definitely come down. There are newer brands of supermarkets that crop up here and there, they all face a similar challenge. I don’t have much to say here.

Shoppers’ Stop provides these cards where whatever you shop – regardless of the branch – gets accounted into a central database. To relate an experience, I purchased a trackpant at the Koramangala branch, noticed a stitch-issue couple of days later, took it to the Bannerghatta road branch and produced my card so they could confirm that this was bought by me (I wasn’t carrying the bill with me) and got it mended there for no additional cost. Experiences like these are pleasant (and a new thing) to many in these parts of the world.

Conclude

Back at college, the prof. who spoke about competition in the organisational psychology class was right about many things. What we have here is a large population where providing good services makes it profitable only when there are multiple competitors. Had there been just One Internet Service Provider or One Big Bazaar this definitely wouldn’t have been the case.

Written by Naresh

February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

Using Dnsmasq to serve from a central /etc/hosts

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Recently at $work, I came across a situation where: a. public DNS records are served off of a GoDaddy account and b. a couple of domain names needed a office network-wide override pointing it to IPs in the local network.

i.e.

dig +short @8.8.8.8 qa.example.com

<returns public IP>

dig +short qa.example.com

<returns private IP>

If there aren’t too many consumers for this name resolution, we could’ve done with putting in entries into /etc/hosts on each consumer host. But our consumer hosts included a lot of android phones. And we didn’t want to root them all to be able to modify their /etc/hosts.

If we were running our own DNS server in our DMZ, we could’ve configured the infamous split-DNS setup through BIND or tinydns. (Un)fortunately, we didn’t.

The first "workaround" to this was to maintain a duplicate zone for example.com on our local DNS server (the one served by our DHCP server) and override the records as required. This would soon start to suck.

A colleague of mine – who didn’t take my word that the above two methods are our only options available – persevered through the PowerDNS docs and found an option where it could serve off the host’s /etc/hosts file. Now what was brilliant about this was, adding a ‘192.168.1.223 qa.example.com’ into /etc/hosts effectively solved the problem we had!

We didn’t really needed a full-fledged DNS server like PowerDNS and I looked if dnsmasq could solve the same problem – and it does.

[root@blr-vbox1 ~]# egrep -v ‘^#|^\B+’ /etc/dnsmasq.conf
bogus-priv
resolv-file=/etc/resolv.conf.isp
interface=eth0
no-dhcp-interface=eth0
no-dhcp-interface=lo0
conf-dir=/etc/dnsmasq.d

Our ISP’s DNS servers go into /etc/resolv.conf.isp

Ensure that the host that’s running dnsmasq has only ‘nameserver 127.0.0.1’ in /etc/resolv.conf and put in all your entries to be served into /etc/hosts.

Written by Naresh

December 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Posted in LAN, Work Life

My first day to work in a bike

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Public transport that is fast, reliable is still a far-sighted goal in these parts of the world. The local government has probably lost its chance to increase the number of buses or other forms of public transport because if they do it now, there’s simply not enough road space for them anymore. There are as many cars these days as there were two wheelers in the 90s. But, no, the road space hasn’t increased.

Ever since I got back to B’lore last November, I’ve been commuting to work on a car. It’s a 2006-07 Hyundai Getz and still works quite well. What makes it an unpleasant and at times depressing ride is when one is stuck inside it in B’lore peak hour traffic. One can’t hit the second gear for an hour or more. So much wasted time sitting idle on a seat waiting on slow minds – who don’t realise how traffic rules are meant to help them be efficient on the road – to make way. Oh, but the rules themselves are harebrained in certain scenarios: for instance, traffic lights in a junction that turn green in a round-robin fashion with equal time intervals for all roads on that junction.

Last week I acquired a Trek 7.1 FX. It’s a hybrid that’s supposed to roll well on city roads. I took it out for a test spin to work on Saturday to test the waters: to see if the goal of riding nearly 12 kilometers is doable at all without sweating too much. Turns out that it’s possible.

Two years ago, at around the same time, I had acquired a Hercules ACT104. It’s supposed to be an MTB. But I didn’t know at that time that good MTBs don’t come that cheap at all. That cycle was a deadweight to ride with. The weekend before last, I had taken the ACT104 out in an attempt to see if I could ride all the way to office. I had to give up at one-third the distance. It was too heavy or just didn’t roll well. Previously at college, I was a proud owner of a BSA Mach III. I could literally glide on it at times. All this made me start looking at cycles with narrower tires.

My ride to work is nearly 11 kilometers and the ride back is almost 18 kilometers (I ride to NGV/Koramangala and then toward home). I’m not sure how tired I am as I write this, but being just the first day, I’m looking forward to improvements.

P.S. The Trek cost me my 6 month petrol bill (assuming the petrol price doesn’t increase in the next 6 months)

P.P.S. The Nissan Leaf isn’t available here. The Prius is twice the amount it costs in the US.

UPDATE on 22nd:

Some of you might be looking for details such as:

  1. I wear a dry-fit jersey while I ride and carry a casual t-shirt (which I change into while at office) in my backpack along with my laptop. I don’t sweat as much thanks to the awesome weather of BLR and I don’t have a shower at work. (Among the metros in India, I believe only BLR has this weather advantage.)
  2. The time to commute on bike almost equals that of the car. Varies a bit now and then depending on the traffic. At least with a bike one can pull it off onto the footpath and walk it up until there’s road to ride.
  3. I park the bike at the basement at work. I use a coil-like lock and lock it to something.
  4. Being the second day now, I think goggles for eye protection and a decent pollution mask are necessary.

Written by Naresh

November 21, 2011 at 9:02 pm

On Bandhs and Strikes

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I’ve started taking a liking for these, actually. A peaceful morning. Devoid of most traffic on the roads – except for buses. And because of that, the buses get a chance to run on time, too!

In other news, Babylon 5 is a good show. Vishnu recommended that I watch this show and I’m liking it a lot. In one of the episodes, there’s this surveyor who takes contracts to survey planets for various purposes and ends up at a mysterious place called Sigma 957. Suddenly, Sakai (the surveyor)’s ship encounters something never heard of before. Not in the database. Her ship loses almost all its power and leaves her exposed to a lone death – until the troops G’kar had sent for came to her rescue. G’kar had earlier warned her not to go there stating that it was a mysterious place and that Sakai would be better off not going there.

When Sakai returns and tells G’kar of what had happened:

Catherine Sakai: While I was out there, I saw something. What was it?
G’Kar: [pointing to a nearby flower] What is this?
[Upon closer inspection, an insect is visible.]
Catherine: An ant.
G’Kar: “Ant”!
Catherine: So much gets shipped up from Earth on commercial transports, it’s hard to keep them out.
[As Catherine is talking, G’Kar carefully picks up the ant.]
G’Kar: I have just picked it up on the tip of my glove. If I put it down again and it asks another ant, “What was that?”, how would it explain? There are things in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. They are vast, timeless. And if they are aware of us at all, it is as little more than ants…and we have as much chance of communicating with them as an ant has with us. We know. We’ve tried. And we’ve learned we can either stay out from underfoot, or be stepped on.
Catherine: That’s it? That’s all you know?
G’Kar: Yes. They are a mystery. And I am both terrified and reassured to know that there are still wonders in the universe…that we have not yet explained everything. Whatever they are, Ms. Sakai, they walk near Sigma 957. They must walk there alone.

And here we are. Calling out for a national bundh because of a petrol-price hike. And me enjoying the peace due to it.

Written by Naresh

July 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

Posted in Work Life, Worldly Matters

Tagged with , ,

Updates as of 3rd Sep, ’09

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On Independence Day

Time. Remember not to complain about it.

On August 15th, Terence drew something really interesting during the painting competition that was organised at our office. It was a view of our hands: the left one holding a dice and the right one holding an hourglass. I don’t quite remember the complete explanation he gave about his poster, but part of it went like this: The dice represents randomness in life and the hourglass, time. And taking chances at the right time is what we have in our hands. A simple, yet powerful message. Additional points for being wise enough to be able to distinguish between what you can do and what you can’t.

Let’s not talk about my poster.

I’m not sure how this is other dog loving countries across the world, but certain observations which I’ve made in the past few months are:

1. Most rich dog owners do not own Indian breeds – but mostly non-native breeds.

2. Far too many stray dogs.

Questions:

1. Do the other dog loving countries tend to not own their own native breeds and, say, prefer Indian breeds?

2. Are there just as many stray dogs in such countries?

Other, possibly related questions:

1. What’s with the recent trend of blonde dancers in Bollywood *cough* dance sequences?

2. What’s with the sudden influx of all the fugly Indian counterparts of North American style reality shows on TV?

3. Why am I even writing about such things on my blog?

Other

Bought a bunch of popular science books (Richard Dawkins and Roger Penrose). Yes, I’m not really a reader but I’d love to pick up the habbit. On a related note: due to poor internets at home and office, I’m hereby bankrupt in the Anime department. There are shows I’d love to watch. I guess I’ll have to wait for better times.

Bad news

My kittie was killed by three dogs on 14th night – the night before the Independence day. It had hardly lived for twenty days in our house. My mom, sis and I are dearly missing him. Oh, and, those three dogs were stray dogs. They’re currently employed as watch dogs by immigrant masons who’re illegally staying in the same locality where we are.

Kitten

Written by Naresh

September 3, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Updates as of 23rd July, ’09

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It’s been a long time since my long post and unsurpisingly, I’ve hardly had anyone enquire about my blogging status – barring a workmate who told me I should continue blogging. I was going to anyway. It’s just that the sweet pleasures of having a 1Gbps internet connection isn’t available anymore.

I landed in Bengaluru on 2nd June. For about a two weeks there was no internet. I looked into the various options that were available – the usual ADSL connections from BSNL, Airtel, TATA or the CDMA datacards from TATA, Reliance. I signed up for TATA’s ADSL and after getting a demo on TATA’s Photon+ (CDMA datacard), I decided to cancel the ADSL connection and go with Photon+. Pros: Good speeds for the price, cons: no scheme with unlimited downloads available.

Anyway. On 18th Jun Tirupam and I left Bengaluru for Thrissur. The occasion being Vishnu’s marriage! It was good to see familiar faces in a setting such as this. Lalit, Mitesh, Ankit: it was good to see you all again. Thrissur, as a place, wasn’t half as bad. Kerala as a state seems to be gifted with plenty of natural resources – the greenery, water, weather. Given such naturally endowed excesses, it probably makes the society somewhat mature and financially pretty well off compared to the neighbouring state – Tamil Nadu – which continues to be a large exporter of ground-level labourers (I realise that it’s not that simple, but, yes, Keralites are lucky).

Moving back to Bengaluru now, I’m still identity-less. My College’s I-card has expired, and more importantly is of no use here. I have no driving license yet. No PAN card or any of those fancy things yet. Recently, Nilekani has taken up a role in the Indian government to work on an nationwide ID card for all. I wish him all the luck and I hope I get one soon. I’ve even postponed buying that TATA DoCoMo SIM for that!

Oh, and, I’ve started working in a Free Software company now. I’ve still got a long way to go before I shed my lazy lifestyle that I had so gotten used to in college. Work needs to be done.

Lately, my blog posts have become less technical. Those Howtos and whinefests have seen a decline. I’m hoping to fix that soon as I can. I’ve been looking at how Kerberos, LDAP and ejabberd are expected to work together and since it’s taken me more than a week I think it deserves a blog post. Well, Kerberos is optional at the moment, but it’s something I’m hoping to understand why and where it’d be useful. Makes me miss Gentoo now – where I’d know exactly what’s changing. dpkg-reconfigure, although friendly, does things and assumes certain defaults which I have no idea if they’re sane or not. More on that later.

Work place is a really cool place. I had an image of cubicles and serious faces but this is kind of homely and somewhat relaxed. We even play some football on the rooftop once in a while. I miss some good folks whom I spent a lot of time with during the last few months at college – Settem, Basit, and co. and Shanks.

Last Saturday, I caught up with Tirupam and we went to visit UB City. It’s a fabulous, albeit affluent, supermall. We looked around, window shopping mostly and settled with having a close-to-authentic pizza at an Italian restaurant up there. As it turned dark, some live music lightened up the place. It’s good to see Bengaluru getting more and more musical.

A couple of days before that meet, I was looking for a music store that dealt with double bass. Lucky me. There was a place right behind my work place. Unlucky me. It costs quite a bit (he quoted 16K – which by international standards is very cheap and probably not even worth it; but I’m just a beginner – and I told him that I’d be back when I had the money). I’m having trouble deciding if I should go with a modern bass guitar or with a somewhat large and bulky double bass. Bengaluru is kind of crowded too, moving around with such a thing, in a bus, would be interesting, if not dangerous. Oh, and boo at all the affluent folk who travel alone in their cars on every-busy streets of the city.

Must get back to work.

Written by Naresh

July 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm