by April 1, 2000 0 comments

My problems didn’t end
there. The bank statement showed the amount as withdrawn. Daily calls to the
bank elicited nothing more than the promise that it would be set right the
same evening. An e-mail brought forth the response that my mail was being
escalated to the concerned authority and that they’d get back to me. I’m
still waiting for that response.

Now, why am I telling you
this story? If you ponder for a minute, you’d be able to draw a parallel
with many things IT. Take the case of our ISPs. Any new ISP entering the
market promises great service and lots of bandwidth. In the early days of
the service, things are okay. But once the number of subscribers increases,
you’ll will see the strain—dial-up numbers that are continuously
engaged, no bandwidth even if you manage to get through, helpdesks that just
can’t cope with the deluge of help requests…The list of woes is endless.
VSNL is everyone’s favorite whipping boy in this regard. But experience
shows that the other ISPs are equally bad, if not worse. Sadly, competition
is yet to make an impact on the quality of service front.

It is estimated that India
currently has about 6.5 lakh active Internet accounts. By next year, this is
expected to become 25 lakh or more. And a good percentage of these would be
in smaller towns and cities, across the length and breadth of the country.
ISPs’ investments in infrastructure, training, and bandwidth are simply
not keeping pace with the growth in the number of subscribers.

The same is the case with any
product or service you can think of—PCs, printers, servers, software,
maintenance contracts…In the coming year, more of these will be sold
outside of the metros. Those who can’t provide good service in the cities
that they’re well-established in, will really be stretching it when they
roll out across the country into smaller towns, and maybe even villages.

Meanwhile a different breed
of customer is surfacing in the metros—repeat buyers. Having already gone
through poor or indifferent service, they’re going to be shrewder this
time round. And the last thing that will entice them is another price cut.
When your server breaks down, wouldn’t you rather have it back in action,
than be consoled by the fact that you picked it up cheap? Wouldn’t you
rather be able to connect to your ISP at first try and have good bandwidth,
than pay a hundred rupees less for a service that doesn’t let you connect
until you try for half an hour?

Seriously, it’s high time
that we stopped thinking only in terms of total cost of ownership, and
instead started focussing on Total Quality of Service, even if it comes at a
higher cost.

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