ICICI Bank gives worst customer experience

This Saturday, I went to ICICI bank for reducing my housing loan tenure. In first place, in the attempt to keep the EMI (Eqauated Monthly Installments) same, the bank had increased my tenure to something as unpractical as 470 months (Over and above ~2 years of repayment I already did). Now that meant that I will be repaying my home loan till I become 80. Now why was the bank so sure that I will be able to pay my EMI till that age? I found it impractical in first view itself. Anyways… I though I need to get this updated ASAP. Meanwhile bank also sent me letter that they are not able to keep the EMI at same amount and have increased it marginally. I should go to the branch and take corrective action.

I reached the bank at 1:00 PM. The waiting area was full with nearly 70-80+ people. But since there is only one branch for the whole Pune city, I had no option but to wait. Having nothing to do, I started observing which counters are taking housing load queries. It is easy as the token number has specific prefix for such queries. I found that there were about 3-4 counters where these queries were attended. But soon after two of the counters stopped appearing in the list. Thinking that it must be lunch time, I looked at those counters. To my surprise, I found that these two counters were attending only one customer. I had to leave the bank by 3:30. I went to the help desk and got a reply that customers have lot of queries and the executives can not shorten the time taken.

Finally at around 2:15 the customer on first two counters moved out. Then there were two customers but still no movement till 3:00 PM. Meanwhile, there was a real rough fight between one senior officer and a customer, where the officer asked customer to “Get Out of the branch”. Words you will hardly hear from an officer. But I thought this guy seems to be controlling situation. I went to him and asked him:

  1. Is there any SLA for the executives attending the customers?
  2. I found the two ladies attending the housing queries taking one hour per customer. Although customers have queries, is it justified at such rush hour to take so much time?

Unable to answer my queries, he did the best he could. Allowed me to jump the queue. He asked one of those ladies to take up my work as soon as their work in hand was over.

This lady to my surprise was trying to cross sell me another product in the guise of helping me reduce my interest rate. She told me just by paying 20K, I would reduce my loan tenure by 100 months which was still impractical. But the catch was that I had to invest into ICICI Bank product for getting that benefit. C’mon when you have so many customers waiting, you can’t do such cross selling across the counter. She could have handed it over to a phone banking executive to do later. While I was being attended to, the lady at the other counter shouted… “this customers waiting time is 3 hours!!!” She had just called next customer. I said in my mind… “that means poor fellow is just fourth in the queue since morning”

Had the cross selling not been there, I would have finished my work in 10 minutes, which took me 20 minutes. But still I helped them improve their SLA. 🙂

Can Pune Municipal Corporation Sustain CYG Beautification

With the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008 Pune Municipal Corporation got ample funds to improve the roads and infrastructure. There are lot of traffic signs everywhere, streets are beautified, reflectors, lane stripes are now clearly visible. The city has a refreshing look. All good work so far.

Now the question is, for how long will this last? Does PMC has enough funds to maintain this? Or will it be the same story again within few months? We in India have habit of painting our homes on festive occasions like Diwali. Later all that enthusiasm goes down and we keep pushing the maintenance to lower priority till the next festive season.

Apart from PMC’s responsibility, do the citizens of Pune feel themselves responsible in maintaining the infrastructure that is also a big question. This responsibility includes not to misuse, keep watch on PMC and it’s contractors, not allowing general public to misuse. All this expense has been done out of tax payers pockets and that means everyone in the country. Not just income tax payers. Everyone pays taxes indirectly.

Let’s make all, who are part of the city or visiting the city, aware that it is in our interest to maintain this infrastructure so that the income is spent to improve/ add new infrastructure and not just maintain the existing.

Bomb Hoax in Pune

India has no doubt one of the most craziest people in the world. Just a few days back one person walking on Pune roads saw two young men riding on a bike dropping a packet on the sides of the road. The bike apparently did not have a license plate. Cautious due to recent bomb blast modus operandi of the terrorist, he alerted the police. They in turn called the anti-terrorist squad(ATS). The story is normal till this point.

In most of the Hollywood movies we have seen this hundred times that one of the bad fellas or a cop fires gun and the crowd in the public place starts running around, scared to get killed. We never thought this is wrong. This is normal human reaction.

But here is what sets India apart from the rest of the world. When the Bomb Difusal guys arrived at the scene in Pune, instead of running away from the place to save their lives, there was a huge crowd to see how they guys defuse the bomb. Really… this is not a fantasy. People actually did not think twice before gathering at that place. Have you ever seen such people elsewhere?

However, as the mob expected the so called bomb turned out to be leftovers from some student’s kitchen.

Traffic Improvement Awareness Campaigns

While the traffic situation in Pune is still not improving, lot of volunteers and NPO (Non-Profit Organizations) are coming forward to improve the situation. Government and traffic police department is also spending a lot in creating awareness.

Most of these campaigns are focusing on the safety aspects of the traffic rules. For example:

1. Wear Helmets

2. Follow traffic rules and avoid accidents

3. Don’t use mobile phones while driving

All these are good advertisements, it does not connect with me (as a common man) because I know the probability of meeting with an accident every day is not that high. Almost 99% of the time I am troubled with too much of traffic and delays due to traffic jams. Common cause for this is undisciplined drivers who do not follow lanes, do not obey traffic signals, believe that by driving on wrong side of the road they will reach early and so on…

If I have to do a campaign, I will do it to address these issues. I can use video clippings of disciplined traffic. I will focus on the cumulative benefits on time saving. I will focus on cumulative saving on oil (this is current hot topic as well).

Just to give you an example, let’s say if 4-5 errant drivers create a traffic mess to save two minutes of travel time. This would save them let’s say two rupees of petrol. Total saving for these guys would be not more than 20 rupees. Now once they land in mess, they get stuck for 10 minutes each. But they also cause a traffic jam due to other similar drivers going on wrong side of the road. This causes a delay of 20 minutes to about 200 vehicles at least. Now if each vehicle spends petrol worth 5 rupees each (roughly 100 ml) in those 20 minutes, the cumulative waste for 200 vehicles is about 1000 rupees compared to saving of 20 rupees.Is this not a reason enough for those 4-5 drivers to go a little slow and spend those 20 rupees rather than wasting 1000 rupees for all of the vehicles?

I don’t have enough connections and networking to take this up. I hope somebody reading this has. Even if they don’t, at least we can implement it for ourselves. One thing I do regularly is to give way to another person crossing my road before there is a line behind. This causes me 10 seconds may be but avoids a traffic jam or halt of 2 minutes later for at least 50 vehicles. There are many ways to improve speed of traffic on the road. Discipline can actually make traffic faster and still safer than today.

Fight for your own right

For past few days I am going to office by car rather than the company bus. More and more I travel by car, I have observed that the traffic jams in Pune are caused primarily by drivers driving on wrong side. On a 4 lane road, you are going at good pace as there are not many vehicles on your side and suddenly you find that one of the rash drivers from the oncoming side is driving on the wrong side without any provocation. I say "Hey! that’s my side you are driving on!" A typical Puneri answer you will get is "What’s the problem man? You have some much space further to your left! Why don’t you give us some space"

Am I responsible if there is so much traffic on your side, I say. I have every right to drive on my side of the road. I finally have started doing one thing. I just keep my side and stop in front of the errant driver’s vehicle. This causes lot of anger on their part but I keep my cool and do not abuse anyone or say anything. At least I am resisting and not letting these guys go. My wife says, why am I wasting my time on these people, but if no one resists, people will keep doing wrong things. Isn’t it?

This reminded me of something that we used to do when I was in school. Remember in our geometry box we have something called as divider? A small tool with two pointed needles? It was not just a tool for geography. We had wooden benches in those days. So this divider was used to divide our desktop in two halves and the bench partners would fight for their share of the desktop. I was not allowed to move my book on the other half of the desktop and I did not allow my partner to do that as well. You know… fighting for our own area was in our blood. I am sure this trend is still there in school children. Why not use that same spirit on the roads? Will this not better the situation? One of the foremost thing that needs to be implemented in Pune traffic is lane discipline. I am using my childhood learning to do my bit.

पहिली अमेरिका वारी

अखेर अमेरिकेला पोचलो. आकाशातून बघताना सगळी पृथ्वी सारखीच दिसते. पण जरा जवळ आल्यावर जे नियोजन पाहिले तेव्हाच कळले की हा देश का वेगळा आहे. (इतके मराठी टायपिंग बास झाले एका दिवशी)

San Francisco when seen from the top looks so well planned. The town planning is very well defined in blocks. Most of the blocks are pretty rectangular and the houses within the block are quite similar to each other and give a planned look to the city. Having ample land makes most of the houses about 2-3 storey tall. Even the office buildings are all spread across.

I have been in sub-urban and rural areas of South Africa and now I am seeing various suburbs in California. What struck me most was that most of these houses are just like our houses in rural India. Sloping roofs, garden in front or back, car parking etc. But what makes them far more attractive and high quality is the overall discipline, neatness, cleanliness and detailing in the finishing touches. All houses have a well maintained garden/ lawn around. Very well defined parking area, all compound walls are well constructed and complete. You will hardly find broken walls. Also the people here can easily manage with a nominal boundary. Go to the crowded areas, on the roads, between buildings you will find that just a nominal barrier is enough to maintain discipline. Rarely you will find people crossing roads at will and at any place. It is in nature to cross the road at junction or at zebra crossings. This is a diagonally opposite of Pune, where even a 4 feet road divider is not a guarantee that people will not cross the road over it.

I keep on wondering, why is it impossible for us in India to show this discipline? Why are not our rural houses so complete till final detail?

Most broken traffic rules

Breaking traffic rules is many time not very obvious to Punekar’s. They don’t even realize that they are breaking the rules and if you try to stop them from doing it, Punekar’s get very cross. However, rules are rules and five most commonly broken traffic rules in Pune are

1. Driving on the wrong side of the road when the road divider strip is continuous: When the road dividing strip is continuous, it means that you are not suppose to cross it and go on the wrong side. When it is double and continuous, it is even stricter. But still people casually cross this line.

2. Cutting the corners: While taking right turns, most of the people do not realize that they are cutting the corner short i. e. they are on the wrong side of the road. Lot of people think that if there are 5-6 oncoming vehicles from the other side, taking the turn early will help then go quickly. But in reality it happens the other way.

3. Crossing the stop line at signals: Punekar’s are always busy looking at other sides’ signal. If they are in the front row, they are so lost in thought that they slowly start coming forward when any other side gets green signal. I have never understood this. When the signal is green, the additional 10 meters that we have crossed when we were waiting hardly matters. Do we do something really significant in the time saved? Also most of the time when crossing the stop line we are preventing the pedestrians from crossing the road. These pedestrians then are caught in the middle of the traffic and cause more hindrance.

4. Driving on the wrong side of the road when the divider does not have any opening nearby: If you do not have enough money to drive extra 100 meters to go to other side of the road, why do you buy the vehicle? Should having enough money to buy the vehicle be the eligibility criteria or should having enough money to buy the fuel be the eligibility criteria?

5. Recognizing other people’s right to way: Everyone on the road has right to way. When some other vehicle is trying to cross the road or trying to take turn, most of us rush in as if we will be losers we give way to others. Many times giving way to one crossing vehicle allows everyone to go in quick time. We do the same to pedestrians as well.

Problem solving PMC way

Pune University square is one of the busiest crossings in Pune. It connects at least 3-4 major areas – Pune University, Aundh, Pashan, Senapati Bapat Road and has few major landmarks around – again the univ, Chatushringi temple, Raj bhavan, Rural Police offices, schools like Loyola’s & St. Joseph’s. During the rush hours this area is completely packed. Until few days back, the flyover work in this area was creating more chaos than what it was trying to solve. But people tolerated all this because the flyover was going to be complete soon and the speed of the traffic was going to increase.

So finally about a month back the flyover was complete and opened for traffic. Everyone was happy and then suddenly someone found out – “Hey! the traffic in this area is too fast and it is dangerous for the pedestrians”. Once again there was some noise created in the Pune Municipal Corporation and the result…

There is a speed limit of 40km/hr in this area.

You spend so much to speed up the traffic in the area and then what do you finally do? Impose speed limit! Wow! what a way to solve a problem!

Street Children – should we give them any alms or not?

Every now and then we come across the street children begging for some money. Typically these kids will go to car drivers and knock on the windows and beg for some food or money. The sheer expression on their face will make you really feel pity about them and specially if your kids are in the car, you will automatically compare their situation with your kids. My daughter when she was about 4-5 years old, started really understanding the situations these kids are into and sometimes, when she used to run around the street or busy shopping malls, we used to scare her telling that someone will abduct her and will force her to beg at signals.

Some time back a volunteer from CRY came to our residence. Some of the stories he told me about the way these kids land into the streets were really horrifying. It seems that the younger ones (1-2 years old) are sedated so heavily that they are always sleeping. The women carrying them don’t feed them properly and typically these kids die by the time they are 3 years old due to drugs. Then there are some older ones, 4-5 years onwards, who are a little bit better off as they beg independently. But then even their collection is looted by the senior beggars and poor kids end up in malnutrition, unhygienic state. They do not get chance to bath, not enough clothes to wear and so on…

But life still goes on. It makes these kids so blunt to the situation and they get so used to it that between the two red signals they play on the road dividers. So you see something like this… The small kid is playing with the other kids or is having a little fight with them over something. You are trying to rush in only to find out that the signal has turned red just two vehicles before you. You have no option to jump the signal and have to stop. Suddenly the kids who were playful few seconds back, come to your window and make such a face that most of the greatest actors would leave their business and start up another business. Yesterday also the same thing happened to me. The kid was actually throwing something really dirty below the car and I was getting angry because it looked like he was going to make the car dirty. The windows were rolled up so I knocked on the glass and in a second, the kid was making a begging face.

I am always in two minds about the beggars, especially the younger and valid lot. If you give them money that is like promoting begging. If you do not, you are not really sensitive to the poor persons situation. To give or not to give becomes a question and I end up not giving money cos, I feel the physically fit should struggle more to work and earn money. At the same time being a beggar is not really being lazy, you have to work hard to earn that money. It is also a lot of pain and suffering. You can not take bath for days even if you earn enough by begging. You have to stand on the road and fill the pollution inside your body to earn your livelihood. Also there is no guaranteed income. You have to keep searching places where you will get more money and then there is competition. Jokes apart but this is really serious business. Lot of people tell me that there is lot of money in begging. Many of them earn more than the middle-class salaried person. But then my question is, will you change your business and become a beggar if you have a choice?

I think I certainly will not; just for the sake of my self esteem. But does the situation of these beggars really has any place for self esteem, what drives one into this business? I wonder…

So the question is, should we give these people any alms or not?

P.S. I am still not somehow inclined to see the movie Traffic Signal by Madhur Bhandarkar. Lot of people tell me it is a good movie but still…