Friday, December 18, 2009

Reflections of India

A late post- half compiled in India and completed after coming back...

Wow, can't believe it's been more than a month I have been in India - This time it's been an all round experience with work and visits to Hyderabad and lots of new experiences. But I guess, a good sum up of the whole experience would be some interesting positives and negatives about India - which catch the eye of someone who gets the chance to visit this land just once every year.

As part of my trip, I visited the Oracle office in Hyderabad. It was a different experience for me, because for the first time in my life, I was actually working in India. It started off with a 6 30 am flight to Hyd via Kingfisher airways. Having heard so much about the new and improved experience, I was looking forward to it. 6 20 am in the morning, I got to my seat and saw a nice TV in front of me, and just wished for a nice cup of coffee along with something good to see.

Hopes dashed first up,with an announcement that the TV sets weren't working throughout the flight . All right, I thought, a coffee and a nap would be good. An announcement followed that due to a 'technical glitch', coffee or tea would not be served on the flight. And almost literally an icing on the cake, I was server some very oily food to just complete my experience on a wonderful flight. Later , I checked their site and found this nice picture in there .

I decided to send a feedback message to the airline complaining about the service. The reply I got was as if they were trying to console a crying baby, with a manager replying, sir , we have checked our electrical connections for the next flight.

So much for customer service - I felt. I think that this has more to do with the mindset that we carry. Quality of Service is quite a different phenomenon in India and the US,and this difference is probably caused more by the acceptance of poor service by the people. I am sure a lot of us would agree, that we are more satisfied by the politeness of the Indian consulate in US than that of the US consulate in India. It's frankly not about the people who work there, it's more about the people who take their service, and how they put their need before their tolerance.

Coming back, I think with every trip of mine, I find that India gets richer. It's still quite a mystery how there's so much money given the worldwide recession, but then that's where it is. Newer, bigger, better malls, foreign brands, huge stores, newer mobile phones, lot of money spent on endorsements, just get curios as to where the money is coming in into all this. The only good thing, is that it is generating vast employment opportunities, especially for middle class people with moderate educational backgrounds. The one interesting thing I found was also, how gadgets and popular culture go together. In a train journey from VT to Mulund, I found a teenager explaining 'email' to his friend. He was like, just 'mobile jaise address hoga'. Then 'as you fwd smses, you can now fwd emails' . What I found interesting was, that a 'mobile phone' has become such an integral part of the Indian lifestyle, which has been one of the revolutionary evolution for this decade in India. I mean, who would have imagined this day in the late nineties, that everyone from the 'kaamwaali bai' to the 'fruit vendor' would carry mobiles, and that too with full utilities ? And even more so, I can't imagine how people, who would otherwise be illiterate at most things, never falter in execution of this divine gadget.

And finally, the sad part- I always used to be proud of the fact that though Bombay was a city with heavy traffic, and less-than-great roads, the discipline of people driving made up for it. Quite disappointing this time, that Bombay is following the norm in a few other cities, of not following traffic rules, or jumping signals unless and until you see a policeman somewhere. Unfortunately enough for the city, the cheaper cars, supported by growing salaries of people, and fueled by attractive loan schemes from banks, is all leading to people leaving the good old local trains and taking their 'own' cars to work- which I fear is going to lead the city to a big mess unless steps are taken.

And this post should of course mention the one thing that has not changed, or in fact improved, and that's the reliability of the local trains in Bombay. Love them, hate them, but you can still trust them to get you on time. In fact, I think I beat my Dad in most challenges to reach home before his expectations, and the one facility that always helped me, the good old local trains :). Quite a few improvements too, newer trains, better compartments, more automatic vending machines, and a general 'Go Clean' campaign by Mumbaikars have made the overall experience a bit better. At least if you see the change over years. Kudos to these guys!