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Just a cry for help!
If you have had some bad experience with the Nokia Customer Care, leave a comment.

If you can help me by getting my phone fixed under warranty, please, please do let me know.
My phone *IS* actually under warranty but those dumb nuts at the Nokia Care Center are out to rip me off!

Thanks again.

If you do not fall in either one of those categories above, you can safely skip this post.
Though a dig post would be useful ;)

Here goes:

Nokia is an excellent phone company. It really is.
We have had about 6 Nokia handsets in our house – and all of them have been rock solid and given brilliant performance – even under severe conditions.

I just love the UI of the phones. They are not over the top – just simple, intuitive and gets the job done bloody well. I’m a fan for life and would not dream of getting any other phone.

But that’s where the honeymoon ended a while ago.
God forbid something happens to your phone – you will be at the mercy of one of the worst customer care units you can experience in your lifetime. Even the government run BSNL customer care units are friendlier and more informative than the morons that populate the Nokia Care service centers.

I purchased 2 Nokia E51s for me and my dad last Feb in 2008. The phone is a gem.
It’s a perfect business phone and there is nothing that you cannot do on it. I fell in love with it the moment I read the feature list on the back of the box.

However, this phone has also been the reason for much pain and suffering.
In June the same year (2008), the message key of my phone suddenly stopped working. It just wouldn’t respond. I ignored the problem as I was not using that key anyways and continued to use the phone – I was able to live with it.

The problem really took off later when by September 4 of the number keys stopped working completely. They would start responding erratically every now and then – but mostly they wouldn’t work at all. So, I was stuck with a brand new 15,0000 bucks phone with the number 5, 6, 8 and 9 keys not responding at all. I could not message any longer – nor could I add contacts to my address book or even dial numbers not within my address book.

I decided to take it to one of the Nokia Customer Care centers (Kaustubh Telecom at Golibar Maidan) in Pune. After checking the piece, to my utter shock and surprise, the guy informed me that the phone was no longer under warranty as the problem I was facing was due to water getting into the handset.

I assured the engineer that no such thing had happened as I was extremely careful about keeping the cellphone dry. It had never gotten wet in the rain and what he said was impossible.

When I told him to show me the water damage, he refused to do so.

He however told me that he would try to fix my phone using one method which would cost me 350 bucks. The other method would be to replace my keypad which would cost me 1200 bucks. I opted for method 1.
He took the phone inside, tried something but could not fix it.

When I later called the manager of the shop and asked him to fix my phone under warranty, he started arguing with me. He hung up on me yelling that his engineers were trained and if they said there was a water problem, there was one.

I left the center completely disillusioned. When I got home, I realized that the engineer had even managed to crack the body of my phone by screwing in the screws real tight.

I kept using the phone as it was – just receiving calls and making calls using the address book.

I later learnt that there were a number of Nokia Care centers in Pune and that Kaustubh Telecom wasn’t the only one.
I decided to go and try another one – at F.C. Road.

On showing the handset there, the engineer informed me that the base plate of the keypad has been scratched by a very sharp object and hence will need to be replaced.

This will definitely not come under warranty as there is a physical damage to the internal parts.
On informing them that I had shown it to Kaustubh Telecom – their own Care Center branch, they told me to take it up with them – which I am sure is going to be of no use.

One more shocking thing is that these Nokia Care centers refuse the warranties of 90% of the phones which come to them on the grounds of water seepage.

Their modulus operandi seems to be:

  1. Accept the phone under warranty.
  2. Open it up (or pretend to do so).
  3. Report a water problem and then charge the hapless victim large amounts of money to do nothing at all.

I am completely angry and disillusioned with this entire episode and my faith in Nokia has gone down quite a bit. Not because they make bad phones – but their after sales service is so pathetic that you would be better off throwing off your 15K phone and getting a new one than get aggravated and cheated in chasing around these Customer Care people.

This is definitely one place where Nokia can learn a lesson or two from the Sony Erricson guys and Motorolla guys. These people atleast honestly repair your handset if it is under warranty even if they charge astronomical sums post warranty.

But I guess it’s the model which Nokia has chosen to follow – that of franchising the service.
There is no non-static room to speak off – their engineers work out in the customer area, they (engineers) also seem completely uneducated, freshly graduated students and their main goal seems to be “ripping off the customer as much as they possibly can”.

I bet they even have a “Ripper of the month” contest going on to see who can extract how much money from an unsuspecting customer.

Feels like your dentist doesn’t it? But believe you me, this one is a lot more painful.

My advice now is – buy a Nokia phone if you really need to – but pray that nothing ever happens to it.
That will probably be your worst nightmare!

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After a lot of thought and deliberation and musings, I have concluded that:

“The value of a life is directly proportional to the number of people it touches in a good way and inversely proportional to the number of people it touches in a negative way.”

When you are gone, the summation of the loss which a number of people feel is equivalent to the value of your life.

Any thoughts on this?

[Update 1]
Modified the definition to take care of all the bad guys :)
See comment 2 below.

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Startup hiring …

Yes we’re hiring …

There are millions of blogs out there on startup hiring which preach on the dos and don’ts of startup hiring.
I’m not trying to preach anything here – just sharing my experience with the first batch of hiring activities that we’ve been upto …

Hiring they say – is difficult – even more so with a startup.
We guys keep getting a decent amount of resumes every week which we religiously archive. So when we decided to get a couple of people, thats where we decided to look in first. We’ve had a multitude of resumes from various different segments (all computer related of course) – quite a few freshers and people with a year of experience and looking to change a job and some even with 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of experience. (Yes. We were shocked ourselves when we found out that people with so much experience want to ride the uncertain-startup-waves). But its definitely a good sign to see people wanting to not work in a multinational company, take a little bit of risk and do something extremely exciting at work.

The first thing that I personally check for is the to field of the email.
All people interested in joining ThinkingSpace, need to mail in their resumes at careers [at] thinkingspace.in.

It is unbelievable how many people bulk send their resumes to various companies and put all those addresses in the to field. C’mon people! Give me a break. If you cannot take the trouble of personally emailing a company you’re looking to join (something you will be investing the next 2 – 3 years of your life in) then I am not going to bother calling you for the interview – no matter how impressive your resume is.

As a matter of fact, the resumes of such people are not that great anyways – so this is a good quick filter.

The smarter ones bulk email putting you in the bcc field – better – but I still know you are bulk mailing. So out goes your resume. Learn how to use a mail merge next time.
Bulk mailing also indicates how desperate you’re to get a job and that you’re not particularly interested in the company you wish to join.

So far, we have been calling people directly for an interview – which works out decently well for us.
Except that some people are unprofessional enough not to show up and not inform you. Then they email you and tell you something to the effect of – I have my certification exam – can I come back next week. Yeah right!

The first inteview we do, we generally try to check whether the guy is right for a startup and whether a startup (particularly our startup) is right for them. So far, all the people we interviewed knew what a startup was like and gave decently convincing reasons as to why they wanted to join one.

After this is over, we generally start the technical process – which involves a few coding challenges and a rapid fire technical interview. I know we are doing this in the reverse order (first HR and then technical) – but it works for us.

There is no sense in spending time, money and effort in doing a technical – getting a good person and then finding that they didn’t even know what a startup was and what will be required of them.

The technical round is another shocker. It is amazing how many people over rate themselves.
The question – “On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest) – where do you rate yourself in XXX” always gives an excellent picture of where the guy actually is.

The good ones generally tend to rate themselves much, much lower than the bad ones.
Its also shocking to see how many people with their basic computer fundas all mixed up think they can code well. I’m guessing this trend has something to do with the larger companies (read Infosys, Wipro, TechM) picking up large number of people with no coding skills and then training them.
People have become complacent knowing that if they have decent aptitude skills, they will make it.

Unfortunately for them, a larger number of companies don’t have thre resources nor the time to teach people the basics of OOPs or whether private constructors are allowed by the compiler and what happens when you define a constructor to be private. Four years of an engineering degree ought to have taught you atleast these things …

It also pays to be sincere and honest I feel.
Atleast for startups. You could know a lot of things, but when you don’t – you must have the heart to admit it and the drive to figure it out yourself.

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It’s 12:20 AM and people are still out having a gala time bursting fire crackers – even though the guidelines set by the commissioner of police said it should be done by 10 PM max.
But what can you do? We’re a democracy right?

In India, I have learnt this the hard way – you just need sometimes to let go.
In a very funny sort of a way, you have to are forced to respect the collective decision of many people at your own expense even though each individual in the collective is being a selfish idiot!

Speaking about diwali, a couple of interesting incidents took place in the days leading upto the festival.

The first incident has to do with our dead telephone and the line repairman.
Mysteriously, about a couple of days from diwali, our main land-line phone went dead. I raised a complaint on Saturday but we were all pretty sure that nothing would get done until the long diwali weekend (stretching upto Thursday) was over.

Imagine my dad’s surprise when the phone magically rang on Sunday morning and the person at the other end of the line was the repair man asking whether the phone was working now. (Apparently there was a fault with the underground wiring … apparently)
My dad was so elated and surprised at the same time, that he profusely thanked the repair man for fixing the phone a day before diwali – and that too on a Sunday! He even wished him a happy diwali.

Imagine our surprise, when the repair guy says “Thank you for your wishes. I’ll come to the premises myself and meet you in person!”

Come he did, in a good 10 minutes.
And when he left, he had downed a good glass of soft drink, some exquisite sweets and pocketed an easy Rs. 51/- (diwali bakshish)

You give your little finger and pull out your entire arm :)

The other incident however was to do with our maid.
All through the diwali cleaning – which lasts a good week, my mom asked our regular maid to help out with some of the nitty gritties. Now, all maids in Pune (and I’m pretty sure in India too), look forward to demand an extra bonus during diwali.

My mom promised the maid a whole month’s pay for the bonus – provided she helped her with the extra cleaning of the place.

So today, on diwali, when my mom finally gave the maid her one month’s pay and two boxes of diwali sweets (which she had specially gotten packed and gift wrapped for her) our maid instead of graciously accepting it and thanking her, turns around and asks my mom “Where is my sari?”

My mom was completely taken aback and couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Definitely dented her trust in the human kind a bit I’m sure.

Ofcourse she didn’t get her sari. There was no talk about a sari. An extra month’s pay itself was a substantial amount. Another case of giving someone your little finger and they trying to pull your entire arm out.

But what can you do? C’est la vie!
I read that in Japan, it is impolite to leave a tip. They believe a person gets paid for doing his / her job to the best of their abilities. Expecting money for doing a better job (that they do right now) is just insulting.

Sigh …

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I spent a good hour at Landmark (which is a pretty large bookstore in our city) the other day – having nothing to do. I ended up buying two books even though I entered the shop with the intent of just casually browsing through the store and passing some time …

While browsing, I had picked up a couple of books with the intent of buying them – but later placed them back on the shelf, changing my mind the last minute.
The books I eventually ended up buying were – The Alchemist (something that I have wanted to read since a long time) and Games Indians Play (a book in which the author tries to explain why Indians behave the way they do using Prisoner’s Dilemma in Game Theory)

The books I ended up placing back on the shelf were – “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini (not the right time to jump into a large novel) and “It Happened in India” by Kishore Biyani (wasn’t very keen and would be able to borrow it from a friend later).

Anyways, getting back to the topic at hand – the reason I wrote this post – is because I was wondering — how we willingly spend money for different things.

I have never felt the pinch while spending money on books – I spent a good 400 bucks on books I didn’t even intend to buy when I got to the place.
Similarly, I never quite feel the pinch while buying computer hardware – say a new hard disk or some ram.

Honestly speaking, I have started feeling the pinch (computer hardware) a little as compared to my college days – but nothing compared to spending a similar amount on getting my bike serviced — or on buying clothes for example.

I found it ironic that I could buy books worth a 1000 bucks in the morning – and cringe when my mechanic told me later that evening that I would have to change the brake liner of my bike which would cost me 250 bucks.

I really wonder why…

Maybe its because the way we are brought up.
Maybe because I had a sort of a “no questions asked fund” for buying books as a kid – that I continue not to feel the pinch now.
Or maybe I just strongly believe in the benefits of buying books.

I really don’t know – but I definitely do believe — different people do have different policies on spending money on different things. I just really do not know why.

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I met up with a friend of mine recently who is working with this big multinational company.
Lets assign this company a completely random name – just because I am too lazy and don’t want to keep typing it again and again … Umm .. lets call it TM.

Okay …
So this friend of mine – an extremely bright, intelligent and hardworking student from back in college joins TM thinking that its a big company with thousands of people – and he’ll have every opportunity to grow and learn there …

He couldn’t be more wrong …
When he met me, he was completely stressed out – and very dejected …
I couldn’t believe it was the same confident guy I knew back in college …

He was suffering from something I call – “The Big Company Syndrome”.
I’ve had so many of my friends tell me the same story this friend of mine tell me – and about this same company – TM.

Moreover, you can smell something fishy when a company asks its employees to sign a two year bond of Rs. 100,000 (or was it 200,000?) as means to retain them…

Anyways, in bigger “service” based companies such as TM, people get treated as resources.
Most often than not, your superiors don’t give a crap about you and you end up being the extreme end of the tail in which everyone above you is trying to please everyone else above them and as such, don’t bother with those below them.

A very common occurrence in companies such as these – is having no work and ending up on bench for a long, long time.
This might be extremely hard for many to swallow .. but according to me, you are already in an awesome spot.

If life gives you lemon … Make lemonade!

How difficult is it anyways?

  1. Cut the lemon in half.
  2. Get a glass of water.
  3. Squeeze each half of the lemon into the glass.
  4. Add a pinch of salt.
  5. Some sugar to taste.
  6. Stir well and drink chilled :)

My friend here, tried his best to get work – but his superiors just neglected him …
All his requests were met with a few peanut jobs – which he completed in a matter of days – and again, had nothing to do.
This, he explained, bothered him a lot – and rightly so …
When you have been hired to work, it hurts not getting any responsibilities …

But the really sad thing is that in such large companies, nobody really cares …

Unless you have a terrific team leader or project manager, you are going to be in the same predicament.
And chances of getting a great superior are very, very low …

If you are stuck in a similar situation, you have two options:

Option A
This is the more ethical and fun option to do:

  1. You type out a nice resignation letter.
  2. Pack up all your stuff.
  3. Delete all the personal files from your machine.
  4. Walk up to your manager – preferably when he is surrounded by other co-workers.
  5. Tell him what a jackass he has been.
  6. Throw the letter at his face.
  7. Storm out.

You’ll definitely get a better job. Don’t worry.
If you were good enough to be hired by this company, many other companies will take you easily.

Option B
Though I agree that this option borders on the unethical side, it is completely justified in such a situation.
Company loyalty can go take a hike.

In this option, the first thing you should do is stop asking your boss for work. That is simply the dumbest thing to do.
Come to work on time, punch in and relax.

You’re still getting paid right?
Do the work they give to you – but don’t be too enthusiastic about it – because honestly, nobody cares!

In your free time – and you’ll have tonnes of it, read, blog, write some pet hobby projects, put it up on the internet for others to use and grow yourself …

If you really get good at it, you can even consider freelancing – but this depends on how good you are hiding it during company hours.

I have heard stories of people running entire software side businesses using the company phone of TM itself.
They work as software contractors – getting work from some people – outsourcing to others – and taking a cut in the middle. They make this money in addition to also getting paid from the company for doing nothing.

This would be entirely shocking to many – but sadly, this is the way most large Indian software companies work.
You just have to learn how to work the system …

If you can’t, you’ll probably screw up your health with all the tension or commit suicide with all the depression.
And if you look at it – in the long scheme of things that is life – a couple of bad years in a bad company does not make any difference …
On the other hand, it just makes you stronger and wiser …

So when life gives you lemons, just make lemonade yaar!!! :)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 75.]

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I am generally a pretty punctual guy (though results may vary sometimes)
I do get to places within a couple of minutes of the scheduled time – and then spend 30 minutes waiting for other people to show up …
All this waiting experience, has given me qualities of a saint and one thing I can do for eons is wait for people to show up …
Though it is absolutely frustrating sitting somewhere “alone” and looking like an idiot waiting for people to show up, I guess I have gotten used to it …

Some people from my college group of friends (you know who you are) are so often, so obnoxiously late that they believe that you would be stupid to expect them to be anywhere within 30 minutes of the scheduled time. (An exception to this is Mr. Mayank Tripathi who actually turns up much before the scheduled time)

After all these years and with the friends that God has gifted me, I have learnt that it is entirely stupid of me to actually get to the place “before” time – so I am trying to devise ways and prediction algorithms to get to the place “exactly” on time – give or take a few minutes.
(In my definition a few minutes = not more than 5)

So how do I do it you ask?
Well, what I am now going to share with you are years of careful observations and conclusions …

[Step 1]
First you figure out who are you going to meet and check whether these people have a history of being punctual. If yes, keep the scheduled time as it is.
If I am meeting my school friends (who are generally mostly on time), I add about 5 minutes.
If I am meeting my college group of friends, unless I have called one of the attendees up and made him solemnly swear to be on time – so that I can have company – I add about 20 minutes.

And when you are going to meet really important people, you MUST always be on time.
This has two benefits.
If the really important people are prospective clients or people you meet for business, there is nothing more pathetic than turning up late and wasting the other person’s time …

When the really important person is not a someone from the above category, it makes sense turning up on time because when she turns up later, you can make her feel guilty for having to make you wait for so long … :)

[Step 2]
After you have properly selected your end goal time, you have to move backwards.
You first figure out how much time it would take you to get to that place given perfect roads, no traffic and no signals.
Then you add all factors in …

[Step 3]
If you are going to face bad traffic, add that much time to it.
Other things to consider:

  • Time of day (early mornings and late nights have less traffic and all signals are turned off).
  • Bad and potholed roads (reduction in speed of travel)
  • Whether you will be riding with a pillion (can’t drive like a maniac then)
  • Whether there are some excruciatingly long signals on the way
  • The vehicle you are traveling in (cars take 50% more time than bikes in traffic)
  • etc etc

[Step 4]
Once you have considered all these points, and gotten the estimated time of travel, you have to start calculating the time it will take you to get ready and leave the house.
Other factors that come into play in this scenario are whether you will be alone at home while leaving – because in that case locking all the doors and gates would throw in an additional 5 minutes before you can get out …

Putting all these steps into use (1-4) you will come across a time at which you have to stop doing whatever you were and start getting ready.

I shall explain with an example:
Say I need to meet school friends at 6:30 for coffee in Camp which is about 9 kms from my place.
Mode of travel – bike.

[Step 1] – Umm … I guess I could reach on time (some of the guys come on time) – so 6:30 it is.
If I was meeting college friends, this would slip to 6:50 (You get the workings …)

[Step 2] – Perfect roads, it takes me 15 mins to get there on bike.

[Step 3] – Adding the time of day, signals, bad roads and traffic, it would take me 8 mins more.

[Step 4] – Time to leave the chair and get ready to leave in the evening – about 10 mins.
No body at home – so have to lock up – 5 mins more.

Putting it to a total of 15+8+15 = 38 minutes to get to the place from my chair.
Rounded off to 40 minutes.
So, I gotta stop doing whatever I was and start getting ready at about 5:50 in order to make the appointment on time.

So there! Now you know …

I hope this extremely nerdy, though very insightful article will inspire some of you to get to places – more on time. (Yeah! You know who you are! Don’t make me spell it out)

:)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 84.]

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