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Even More Adventures in Mobile Phones

Posted by anandrr on December 5, 2007

Now this Airtel number I have is merely a transient number. Something to tide me over until I get a permanent post-paid number. If I may, a brief digression here into the word post-paid. This might be an Indianism, or it might be something that people do around the world but Indians certainly assume that the opposite of a word that starts with post- is the same word starting with pre- and vice versa. Hence, we sometimes have to pre-pone an event. Similarly, if we used to have pre-paid cell phone plans, and we want  to get a cell phone plan that we pay for after we use, we go ahead and get a post-paid plan. Never mind that the word post and the word paid are two entirely “opposite” tenses. The really exciting thing about this is that even if it is currently poor English to use the form post-paid, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes perfectly acceptable. In very short order, more people will use the post-paid formulation in India and the sub-continent than there are English speakers in the rest of the world. How could it possibly be bad English if so many people are using it exactly that way? The Queen can wince for all we care, it’s our language now.

But enough English talk, let’s talk postpaid plans. For a permanent phone number I’m going to go get a BSNL number. Only because I’m told they have the best deals. You would think instead of being told this, I should be able to verify this for myself. You would be wrong. Look at this matrix of plans available from BSNL. This is ridiculous. Never mind the studies that say that more choice is actually a bad thing and that people like to choose from a menu of 4 or 5 choices. Just from a marketing stand point, at what point does the company decide that they need to stop scaring their customers and start acquiring new ones? So all I’m going to do is ask my brother which plan I should get and go get it. Presumably after I get a few itemized bills, I’ll actually sit down and plug it into an Excel spreadsheet and figure out that changing my plans will save me about Rs 20 a month. For as long as I was in the US, I railed against the fact that service providers (cable, cellphone, you name it) rarely gave me a unbundled service or a reasonable array of service options and instead asked me to shoe-horn myself into one of 3 or 4 preset patterns. Now that somebody is actually giving me what I asked for, watch me turn and criticise them for exactly that. Brilliant!

The actual BSNL process promises to be exciting. Combine the salaried employee problem, with a complete lack of automation, with all the efficiency of a Government organisation. Neither the person servicing me nor the company providing me the service is motivated by profit. It’s a perfect storm.


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