Airtel 290603 debit

Like a movie sequel , my Airtel  prepaid balance is  again being debited for  Rs 3  for Thought for the day service to which I have never subscribed.

In June I was facing this Airtel prepaid problem and after repeated follow up, I managed to get a refund.  Now in the space of  30 minutes my account has been debited for Rs 12 for a VAS service to which I never subscribed.  It seems that millions of Airtel subscribers are facing this problem,  if no immediate action is taken, it is better to go to the consumer court. They refunded the Rs 12  initially and  I switched off the mobile.

But now my account has been debited for Rs 45 since then and I continue to receive the unsolicited SMS messages from 290603. It seems all Airtel subscribers are facing this problem.  I have been trying to find out if there is a mobile phone virus which could be causing this problem,  but it appears unlikely since I only have a basic mobile phone model.  I have written to customer support and will publish the correspondence here soon.

Sending an email to the nodal officer is also not of much use. Now I am getting an error message

Your message

Subject: Mobile no **** – Incorrect billing

was not delivered to:


Error delivering to Nodalofficer Mumbai/SERVICE EXCELLENCE/Mum/Airtel/BTVL; Router: Database disk quota exceeded

One would have thought that India’s  largest mobile service provider could afford more hard disk space on their servers.  Before buying foreign companies like MTN,  why don’t they put their  VAS  and billing systems in order? I have wasted so much time trying to get a refund and there are so many customers who are facing a similar problem.

Update : After repeated follow up  and sending emails to , I got 3 refunds of  Rs 12, Rs 45 and Rs 3 each .  I hope Airtel is able to fix this problem permanently.

Startup costs

If you have an internet business which is exclusively online,  there is always a lot of competition since the entry barriers are low.  One of the things to track is the costs which other companies who could compete with you have, so I found this post (and comments ) on startup costs interesting.

In India the infrastructure is very poor , electricity goes off  up to eight times in an hour where I stay (and it is worse in other places) and internet connections are often very slow, so the only way you can compete with other companies worldwide is by keeping your costs very low.  Most start ups founders wish to maintain the lifestyle they lead when they had a job,  but if you need a minimum of  10 lakh a year for your start up, your chances of success are much lower.

If you lead a frugal lifestyle and optimize your web hosting costs,  you can easily manage an online business with even a few lakhs a year.  The advantage of having a low cost set up, is that you can reinvest a much larger amount on productive business assets, experiment more with new ideas and also be very selective  while choosing both your customers and vendors.

Corporate espionage

As this article indicates, corporate espionage is widespread in India today , and some Indian companies are very careless about their internal security systems.  With the lifestyle people lead, “integrity is the cheapest commodity that can be purchased in India today” and I will write more about it later.

In the internet sector, you will never experience it if you are:

  • An internet company catering exclusively to the Indian market , with little interest / expertise in expanding world wide.
  • Providing outsourced services like programming, content writing
  • A start up whose main aim is to get (or already have got) funding  from Venture Capitalists (they are your “minders”)
  • In your twenties , incapable of independent thinking, with little exposure to real business , foreign policy, has been brainwashed into thinking that  Google can do no evil and what ever is written on websites like Techcrunch and other similar websites is the only thing that matters.

American and European companies spend billions of dollars every year on corporate espionage. In the past 2 years , I have personally experienced corporate espionage.    At first I did not realize what was happening,  but in the last few months I have got proof of their activities.

The corporate espionage groups can be classified into 3 categories :

  • Group based in Bridgeport, CT, USA  – this group has been tracking my activities for a long time.  They sign up on forums I own, make payments from stolen accounts and generally trouble me.
  • UK based – check out all the content of the websites I own, want me to sell to them cheap, pretend to be false buyers.
  • Located in India – most of them do it for money,  their activities are sponsored by  G* (Giant Internet Company), and  I have a lot of information on them including their phone numbers and address.  They intercept and sometimes alter the content of  my email. ( I have proof of this) . Many work/ have friends in local internet companies.  Unfortunately, they are kites , paid to do the dirty work, tracking the company (or companies) who pays them will take time.

These companies also sponsor organized stalkers/gang stalkers to harass individuals and spread rumors, you can find more information about Organized / gang stalking online, it seems to be a world wide phenomenon, if  you are an outspoken individual.

The companies do this because they are confident they will never get caught or exposed, and I am writing this post to indicate all their activities and correspondence will be content for this and other websites in future.  Stealing secrets only works if your competitor has a similar organization and cost structure to yours.

Cybercrime networks

These articles on  Cybercrime networks in Mumbai and the e-crooks confirms what something that has troubled me for the last two years.  From the article

The latter two cases indicate social engineering, where the victim has been spied on and cultivated. The Pune man had to have had a reason to believe he had African property and the Worli businessman’s cheaters knew he had recently bought a BMW. In other words, they were not entirely random attacks.

These networks are very well entrenched and have their informants in all major internet companies here. At first I was surprised that this was happening, now after two years I am just trying to gather the evidence so that I have a solid case. The general level of internet literacy is low, so these cybercriminals  think that they can get away with it (and they usually do). In Europe, USA, Canada, cyber criminals have served jail terms, so it is safer with businesses there.

All this has badly hampered the growth of internet in India. If you are sure that your emails are being intercepted, will you send any important information over email?  The signature of these cybercriminals is blank calls from non existent phone numbers.  Some Indian internet companies turn a blind eye to these criminal activities of their employees, but they do not realize that in the long run, they lose both money and goodwill.  If  your customers are getting hurt financially by these  criminals,  they will spend less money with you and move their business to other vendors.

After a time, it is easy to detect these activities, the  criminals are humans and they start leaving evidence. Some of these criminal networks seem to be hired by big global companies.  Unfortunately,  some  Indian internet companies are not very cooperative and do not take any action to prevent this problem, which also damages the companies in the long term.

IT Companies

Infosys has fired 2100 employees and  a confirmation from ex-Infosys employees about layoffs.  The problem is that when you provide services to only a few major customers, your fortunes are tied to how well their business does.  Compared to developing a product, providing a service is not very risky , but is very labour intensive.  Since there are only 24 hours in a day, at some stage you are forced to hire people to scale and then manage them.

If you develop a technology or even understand it better than others, the entry barriers are very high and it is difficult to replicate it easily.  Indian IT companies have a lot of cash reserves, so could afford to take risks. Unfortunately they did not.

More on the Infosys employee firing technique – in India the employees are forced to “resign” , this is how layoffs are implemented by HR departments.   Feel sorry for the ex-employees, actually rating systems in most companies are not fair,  many employees who are good at office politics often get good ratings, though they do little work.


Though Google’s official motto is  “Do no evil” , they certainly do hire evil employees.  Internet marketer sues Google employee .

When I was using Adsense on my websites , I always felt that the code was used to track the websites  I owned , how I marketed them, how I gathered content for my website and to collect a lot of other information.  It may not be their official policy yet, but they definitely do not have good systems in place to prevent malpractices.


This recent ragging death has got a lot of media coverage.  The students who suffer the most are those who stay in hostels, usually 17 or 18 years , living far away from their parents for the first time.  Its been a long time, but from what I remember from my hostel days, those who take greatest pleasure in ragging their juniors are those who have the attributes for success in the corporate world – arrogant, brash and inconsiderate, ragging is their idea of “fun”.

It is worth noting that the to be “doctors” who committed the murder were drunk, why is drinking and pub culture considered  being “forward” and modern?

Pub Culture

So Nirmala Venkatesh has been removed from the National Commission of Women for stating what 95% (or more) of the population of India feels about the incident – in most parts of India, wearing skimpy clothes is asking for trouble.

I once met a British lady tourist at Jaipur airport, the first thing she asked me was why do people in India always want to “touch” her.  She had traveled all over the world, including Africa alone, but she had never encountered such bad behavior.  This incident occurred many years ago, but from news reports, for female tourists”Incredible India” , still remains incredibly unsafe India. Most foreign countries issue advisories to female tourists visiting India to be properly covered, why does the media not highlight it or do something to change it?

Other than people working in call centers, mainstream media , advertising and  a few other sectors, few people have the time and money to waste going to pubs. Unfortunately, they are under the delusion that they represent the entire country and blind to the fact that the majority of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day. Alcohol causes a number of health related problems, you wonder why the mainstream media is promoting pubs so much.

The other thing is the increasing isolation of the privileged in India from the reality. As an engineer, one of the first things I was told after starting my job was to wear a bindi and dress conservatively. Student trainees were told not to wear sleeveless tops, jeans and other such clothes.  You had to get your panel designs manufactured on the shop floor by workers and the trade union was controlled by the Bhartiya Kamgar Sena (affiliated with the Shiv Sena). Their attitude was very different, but the emphasis was always on getting work done quickly at the lowest cost, not criticizing or ridiculing them.  Attitudes change over a period of time.

Investment “experts”

Harvard’s declining endowment funds – shows that most investment bankers are grossly overpaid,  just because they handle the money, they get very high salaries and bonuses.  Few have the judgement or foresight to take the correct decisions.  A comment  is even more interesting (the best part of Rediff are the comments)

The worst fall-out of last few years frenzy was, making money out of thin air became an addiction. A wasted generation of brilliant minds led away from hard-core engineering. Any proposal to raise money from the public was padded up to make it a dream.

95% of the best engineers who graduated in the last two decades did not do engineering – they either worked in software companies or did an MBA and became “financial experts” . That is the real tragedy, working as a engineer teaches you to be practical and  you design for the long term. Something you design for a refinery or a power plant will be in operation for at least two or three decades, with very little downtime, you cannot afford to make mistakes.

MBAs , especially in the financial sector are about dress code and slick talk to gullible investors.  Unfortunately, due to media hype, students still want to waste 2 years of their life doing an MBA. If  you value your money, listen to all investment “experts” , but take your own decisions.

IT firms

IT firms and the Indian market –  I come from a non IT and internet background and have been very surprised how arrogant most IT and internet companies in India are. In engineering, even if you worked for the largest company in the industry and your customer was a very small company, you always tried to be flexible, listen to the customers requirement and make changes wherever possible.  I remember going to every hardware store in Ajmer searching for  a particular type of cable for wiring, after a customer had made a last minute change in location and the cable reel the vendor had bought from Mumbai was not enough. After all, the customer ultimately paid your salaries.

Looks like I am not alone, many other Indian companies face a similar problem. That is why  I don’t feel work experience in the biggest IT firms or internet companies helps, the Indian market is very different.