Helpers that don’t help: Woes of Airtel’s terrible treatment of the elderly

Let me set the scene: my old, strong and progressive grandmother (who rejoices in FaceTiming with her children around the world) sees an Airtel ad in the newspaper with the number for Dharmender in her area. She cuts it out and carefully stores it, so that when one of her children visit, they can make the phone call to Dharmender, speak the language of 3G and broadband and get the Internet working in her home.

I show up, call Dharmender who is eager AF to make his commission and wants to show up the next hour. His commitment to his customers, company and product seemed, well, genuine! Anyway, once we agreed a time, he came round the next afternoon. He was there promptly at the hour, plugged in his demo modem, rattled off all the offers available, whipped out a new modem and hooked it up — all before my Dadi could say ‘Beta, Chai?’

Fortunately for him, we had considered all the options in advance and decided we would go for the one where you pay for six months up front. Out reached his fat little fingers and away he pocketed my money, all the while reassuring me that they would have ‘no trouble’ and that ‘Ma’am I live in Vasant Vihar — I will come if they need anything!’ Like a true NRI, I just believed him (a major blow to the little Indian street cred I thought I had).

After he left, we spent no less than two hours going over all the details, learning how to use the modem and where to look/ who to call if things go wrong. With detailed instructions for activation, and all the passwords and numbers taped clearly to the front of the device, it was unfortunately time for me to leave. So off I went, thinking that 24 hours later, my grandparents would have Internet and I could FaceTime them! Hurrah! 21st century tings and all.


Airtel would have none of that. They had our money, they know my grandparents are old and don’t speak today’s Internet language: this was an ideal situation to take advantage of.

In short, it took four days to activate their Internet, which worked for a week and hasn’t been working since. Dharmender, incidentally is nowhere to be found (either hiding with his empty promises of customer care, or conning another new customer — no doubt). My Dadi has spent an hour on the phone with Airtel everyday for the last week. Everyday, they say ‘Jee, aaj hi kissi ko bhejte hain hum’.

I probably don’t need to tell you that no one has showed up, my grandparents still don’t have Internet and some schmuck at Airtel is probably gleefully counting rupees collected from faulty connections.

This is the first angry post I have ever written, for the following reasons:

1. Airtel, your treatment of paying customers is dismal and you are taking blatant disadvantage of people who can’t fight with you and your red and white facade of professionalism.

2. Because of your ignorance, Airtel, my grandparents have not been able to FaceTime with their kids, keep in touch with family members on Facebook or listen to their Shabad on YouTube like they enjoyed for a brief moment.

3. I have called you, Airtel (and Dharmender) from London, donating even MORE money to the Airtel cause to no avail. Yes, this has left me feeling helpless, angry and perplexed at how a company as large and profitable as Airtel, can expand across Asia and Africa, but not deal with a simple house request.

Get it together Airtel.