Customer Service


I wish to write about two instances of customer service or the lack of it.

One where I am, as a customer, disgusted and the other where, I am delighted and rooting for the supplier of the service.

The first story.

Times of India, has a Pune subedition called Pune Times. This is a daily that accompanies the main paper. Pune Times contains a whole lot of stuff of interest to perhaps the page three types and the yuppie crowd.  There was a time when children used to like it for the comic strips but that has stopped a long time ago, as they have been recycling the same old stuff over and over again.

If there is one thing about the Pune Times that is of value to me, and to many of my friends, it is the daily crossword puzzle. Neither I nor my friends are spring chicken and our eye sights are not very sharp.  The puzzle simply is of too small a font size and the space to fill in, too little to make the solving of the puzzle a joyful experience.

I have written to the Pune Times by email about their recycling the comic strips and the poor get up of the crossword puzzle and they have neither taken corrective action, nor responded to my mails.

If you think that this perhaps is a local aberration and Times of India as a newspaper will behave in a more professional manner, wait till you read another experience that I had with them.

The Economic Times, recently advertised their publication, The Best Of ET 2007. As advised by them on the body of the advertisement, I went to their website from which I could have bought the book online.  The website did not oblige.  I wrote a complaint about it to the person whose contact details were given in their website’s automated response, about this aberration and till date, I have neither heard from the book sellers nor from Economic Times.

Will I root for the Times Group, where customer service matters?

I also read Business Standard every day. The first time I had a problem with missing crossword puzzles, I wrote to them and within twelve hours I got a response, explaining their problem, giving me an assurance that they would solve the problem within the next few weeks and requesting me to bear with the inconvenience caused till then.  They solved the problem to my full satisfaction within the committed time.  They too, went to a small font size for the crossword puzzle, in the process of redesigning their paper and I wrote to them again advising them about this problem and how senior citizens like me found it difficult to solve the puzzles.  I got a reply back from them, and immediate corrective action was taken too.

Business Standard too advertised their publication India 2008 and I had the same problem with their portal not proceeding further after confirmation of the order.  I sent an email to them about the problem, and within six hours, I got a response from their IT people regarding the problem and that it had been fixed and requesting me to try the portal again.  I did, this time successfully and received the book within 48 hours too!

Two competing newspapers/groups. The first one, a long established one with a great name.  The other, a new one fighting for its place in the sun.  Is it because it is fighting for its place in the sun that it provides such customer service, albeit to one cranky individual customer?  I believe that it is not. I sincerely believe that it is a matter of a culture that the latter is building in its business model. While the former is sustained by its history and does not care for its readers, the latter is building a strong service oriented culture.

What do you think?

What is in a name?

A rose by any other name "What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." – William Shakespeare.

Conversations to do with someone’s names can have some very peculiar outcomes. My name often results in some unexpected developments, new friendships are made and new insights into the whole process of naming are developed.

I was introduced to a new resident to our colony today and we went through the visiting card exchanging routine. He was promptly intrigued with the spelling of my surname, which has got an unusual “U” inserted in it. Rajgopaul instead of Rajgopal. I had to explain that this was done by my father under advise from a numerologist and all his children and grandchildren have got stuck with it.

This is not the first time that this discussion has taken place. I have had the same conversation with countless individuals. Quite a few of them have been quite disappointed that I am not a Christian! Quite a few, very happy that I am not.

For curious Europeans and Americans, I have even translated it to mean King of Cowboys, which actually it is. Rajgopal is a name given to Lord Krishna who was the King of cowherds. Naturally, I had to also explain that it was only a family name and I was not a Prince, or a Rajah!

I have also had to explain to many South Indians that my name is not Rajgopaul and that it is my surname. Tamilians have the custom of using only their given name and using their father’s name as the initials. Famous names such as Krishnamachari Srikant, Ramanathan Krishnan etc follow this system. My father however was exposed to the North Indian method and decided that he should start a clan called the Rajgopauls, and he has had his way. There are quite a few, and at the latest count the fourth generation has come into existence to keep the lineage going.

I was talking about this topic with some friends when one of them, a Sindhi who has spent a lifetime in Hong Kong suggested that I acquire myself a Chinese name and gave me a site to visit for the purpose. I did, and got myself a Chinese name, which is Ran Rui Ming. Ran, as per the Chinese system being the surname Rui and Ming being the letters of the given name meaning Sharp, Bright, Light, Brilliant and Clear. My friend from Hong Kong is very amused with the name and insists on calling me by that. For those of you who are interested, please visit You can get yourself a Chinese name too.

This subject is a fascinating one with a lot of twists and turns. More on this subject in some future posts.

I have got the worst job in the world!

I saw this cartoon in a blog during my surfing experience yesterday and wish to share it with all of you.
It says it all!

This is the universal human problem!  The grass being greeener on the other side of the fence.

I have felt like this any number of times and inevitably found someone else who had a different perceptive on the situation, or till I got what I thought would be better, only to regret letting go of the earlier job.

This cartoon however says it so elegantly!

Is it your dream life?

There is a wonderful blog called A Deaf Mom Shares Her World which I strongly recommend to all.

This blog is full of such amazing stories about a family of deaf people and what they do.

In the latest blog, the blogger asks the question “Are you living your dream life?
In my comment on her blog I said “I am a Vedantin from India. What you probably know as a Hindu. For Vedantins, life itself is a dream. It is unreal. What you probably know as Maya or inaccurately translated as illusion. In Eastern religions, there is no substance to this life and it is but a dream. This has now been kind of supported by modern physicists like Fritjof Capra. So, to your specific query, Yes, my life is a dream!”
A Zen Master tells his students that he had a dream in which he was flitting around like a butterfly. Since he woke up he has been unable to decide whether he is the master who dreamed about the butterfly or if he was the butterfly dreaming that he was the master with the students.
Eastern traditions, religions and philosophy are full of such amazing insights that one can get completely lost in a life long study. That is what happens to Sanyasis and Monks in the Eastern traditions.

In the Indian tradition, the training in such matters start from the time of the individual’s student days called the Brahmacharya Ashrama, continues during his householder days called the Grahasthashrama Ashrama, takes serious contours during his retirement days called the Vanaprastha Ashrama and culminates in his total withdrawl from society days called the Sanyasa Ashrama. While, from every stage one could jump into the last stage under the express approval of Rishis who satisfy themselves that the individual has no other responsibilities, normally, the individual experienced a full and rich life before the full time pursuit of matters spiritual.

Perhaps my answer to the blogger should have then been “As a Vedantin, my dream is to become a Sanyasi and I am on the path. I am now in the Grahastha Ashrama stage due to circumstances beyond my control, but I have every hope of moving to the other two Ashramas.” In all honesty, I cannot tell her that I am not living the life of a Grahastha as a Brahmachary dreams of.

Would she have understood it? Do you, dear reader?

Birthday gifts cartooned!

Today was my birthday. I stopped celebrating my birthday many years ago. My family and friends however insist on my contacting me one way or the other to greet me and to wish me for many happy returns. One day in a year, I enjoy that attention but still will not consent to a celebration of any kind.

The day started off with a phone call all the way from the USA from a delightful friend of 18 years who has not forgotten my birthday even once in all these years that I have known him. He chatted with me for a long time on a number of things including this blog.

My son Ranjan wanted to find out what I would like for a gift and since I did not have anything that I wanted, simply stuck a wad of currency notes into my hand and insisted that I should indulge myself!

After that, it was a series of calls and email messages. I had to go to my weekly Vedanta class and on my return, found a surprise birthday gift from a relatively new and young friend. This is again something that has not happened to me in a long time as everyone in my circle of family and friends knows that I do not celebrate and so do not send or give any gifts. This too was a welcome development for its sheer unexpectedness. When I thanked her for the gift, my friend further made my day for me by conveying to me that she found her association with me to be very fruitful and that she has benefited from it. What better morale booster can one ask for?

In the evening during our usual visit to the joggers’ park, all my friends greeted me, and people who did not know about it earlier also chipped in to the extent that it became almost embarrassing.

After such an interesting day, in retrospect, I still believe that the best thing that happened to me during the day was, this morning’s Times of India, which had a very topical cartoon by Jug Suraiya & Ajit Nainan. I am unable to download it for showing it to all of you, as I suspect that TOI does not publish cartoons in their web edition!

It shows a lady celebrating her birthday and her husband handing over a couple of bags with a satisfied smirk on his face. The lady’s expression is simply joyful with her eyes popping out and the text reads – “A litre of petrol and a kilo of atta? Wow – they are the best birthday presents I’ve got!”

Dogs as pets

This morning’s Times of India, under its regular column, “Last Word” quoted “ I dislike referring to them as dogs or my pets. This is because they are a part of me, my family and they share my every joy and sorrow. They understand me completely and there is such a big bond, such a rapport that I share with them that it moves me beyond words. Salman Khan on his two pet dogs, Myson and Myjaan, on his blog.”

Just two days ago a friend of mine came over to have lunch with us and to spend some time with us. We had not met for some time and I enquired about his son and daughter in law who were in Mumbai. He brought me up to date and told me that they have moved back to Pune with both of them getting good jobs here. He further told me that he was rather stumped with their life style as they have taken a very big loan and bought a three-bed room flat. On my expressing amazement, he continued that they now had two dogs and a dog handler who was needed to look after the dogs and so the two extra rooms were for the dogs and the handler. His daughter in law has grown up with dogs as pets in her maternal home, and she simply cannot be without dogs in her home!

We have four mongrels living in our housing society. They have adopted us and nothing that we do gets rid of them. Quite how they survive is anyone’s guess. They do not harm any body and bark at everything and any body strange coming into the society’s compound. Some Good Samaritan had taken them to the blue cross and got them neutered and I am told that this is a humane way of treating stray dogs. My query as to how they could be humanely made to shut up in the nights when they seem to take delight in non-stop barking for hours together, in concert with other stray dogs, is yet to be answered by the do gooding animal lovers.

I wonder if either Salman Khan or my friend’s daughter in law, can come up with some solution. I certainly intend asking the latter when I next meet her.