I should have also received the Economic Times Award

At the recently held Economic Times awards ceremony, Bharti Foundation was awarded the award for corporate philanthropy. My argument is that I along with million others should have also been given at least a citation if not the award with Bharti Foundation. I believe I and a million others had also contributed to the Rs. 200 crore corpus which Bharti Foundation spent on opening of the 500 primary and secondary Satya Bharti schools. In fact, I believe that I and a million others should have been the award for funding the Rs. 200 crore corpus while the Bharti brothers (Sunil Mittal & Rakesh Mittal of Airtel fame) should have been given the credit for managing the effort in an efficient and effective manner. Incidently, you could have even contributed towards this effort without knowing about it.

You must be wondering if I am crazy. Well, let me explain. If you are a Airtel subscriber, you must have heard of Hello Tunes. Now this is what Airtel does. You get a new telephone connection and after sometime they will start playing Hello Tunes on your telephone without your order. Most of the times you don’t get to know that hello tunes is being played on your telephone. After about a month or so, if you don’t complain about it, they will start charging Rs. 30 (I think) every month. Now usually, you don’t look at the details of the bill when you pay and you will continue to pay for months. Usually, in my case it the customer who informs us about the Jhatka music on my telephone. They usually joke with me that at my age I should be listening to gazals and not “My name is Shiela, Shiela ki jawani …” I have had this happen a number of times. I have recently found out that Airtel is charging me Rs. 30 a month on one of the new telephones that I had installed. They have done this with me on Called Id also. They installed caller id on my office phones which didn’t have caller id facility. It was just ridiculous.

Now just imagine the amount of money Airtel could be making from you and me by billing us for something that we didn’t want. Let us say that they add 1 million customers in a month. Airtel installs Hello Tunes on 50%, that is, half a million of its customers without their order. They will rake in Rs. 150 million a month. If you are lucky or as persistent as me, try disconnecting Hello Tunes from your phone and then try getting a refund. I think I had to once send a registered letter to Sunil Mittal to get my Hello Tunes disconnected. In fact, I am thinking of what to do about Airtel charging me for Hello Tunes. I am even seriously thinking of suing him and Airtel for literally taking the money out of my pocket without my consent.

So, I hope you will agree with me that you and I have contributed unknowingly to the profit of Airtel and to the net worth of Mittals without wanting to. I am assuming that part of this money is being used to fund the corporate philanthropy effort of Bharti Foundation. As such, don’t you think that our contribution should have been at least acknowledged by Economic Times as well as Mittal brothers. Rs. 200 crores is peanuts compared to the amount of money Airtel has made selling Hello Tunes to customers like me who do not want it. If you don’t believe me just do the math considering Airtel has 100 million customers.

What more. It is because of practices like this that even TRAI has stated that mobile operators should not charge for any service without the customer’s consent. But then what authority does TRAI have and what it can do with a strong telecom lobby?

You guys already know about my views on CSR or corporate philanthropy. You take money from your customers in an unethical and illegal manner and then return it them through CSR or corporate philanthropy projects like opening schools and hospitals. I am sure that Airtel would have taken Rs. 30 a month for Hello Tunes from people whose children are studying in Satya Bharti Schools without their permission.

And the worst part is that I didn’t get a photo opportunity with Minister Salman Khursid at the ET Award function.

Avinash Narula

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The view expressed is shocking. If it is true then the group owe an explanation. The matter needs to be enquired into and feed back given.


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