Airtel Thinks It’d Build Your Website and Charge You For It :-)

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Atypically this is how I’d prepare for the internet: To set up an engaging internet business (web-application), I would preferably think of companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook or Twitter to benchmark upon and search for great opensource stuff to start off my application. While to design a plain vanilla website (HTML stuff) that offers only visibility to my offline business, I would call up the kid-next-door to help me do the dust.

Surely, I will not think of Airtel for it. (And they expect recurring monthly payment for it too!).

Having received the first spam on my Gmail claiming Airtel’s new venture into web-apps, I am more or less decided to put Airtel on my holiday list (thanks to the awesome ‘mark as spam’ technology from Google). Well that’s besides the point. Even if I were to choose signing up with Airtal’s value added service, I would be prevented from doing so by their jaw-dropping tongue-tying brain-crushing registration process.

This is what Airtel wants us to do:

Step. 1:

To try their product (30 days free trial), you have to give them your Airtel DSL id and its password!

Yeah, you read it right; the DSL id and its password. And at this step you may want to recover your DSL userid/password by clicking Password Recovery link which immediately blossoms up with: “Kindly contact Airtel Customer care at 121 from your Airtel number for support.”

That’s it. It ends here. So much to help one set up a website in less than 15 minutes!

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No step 2, no step 3 or even care to understand why would anyone willing to open a 30 day trial website would ever submit the personal DSL number & password (if one remembers that is) into the Airtel’s application? But this scarcely seems to be due to a bad application design. Most of the ISP’s and Mobile services operating in India are like “I don’t care about spamming the customers and charging them for whatever they click on my infrastructure”.

Submitting DSL id & password ensures to Airtel that they can charge the individual’s landline/broadband connection through the telephone bill irrespective of any usage or not. The monthly plans are of Rs. 250, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 each along with one-time non-refundable setup fees of upto Rs. 4000 too.  It is quite expected that a lot of not-so-net savvy phone users might end up getting lured into this service and paying up more than what is possibly necessary. Albeit after successful registration only.

But not all is in vain. There are certain good things on offer too, especially for a layman businessman. They have got WYSIWYG html editor, payment gateway integration with Authorize.net, Google Checkout, PayPal and Custom Look & Feel and plenty more to open your business-website choosing designs from among 15000 templates (but what happens if twenty pharma guys across India choose the same template to sell medicines?). Last but not the least, Airtel is also serving those who wanna do a mobile website.

So this is how Airtel plans to diversify. The effort is splendid, but for the philosophy hiccups of not letting do more than 5 pages of HTML for Rs. 250 plan website, 20 pages of HTML for Rs. 500 plan and not letting people try the product for free with a simpler registration process. And there you sales guys at Airtel please stop spamming my gmail id just because I shared it with you for my bills, in a bid to save paper.

Your product can also sell abroad; so there is no point limiting yourself to Airtel’s DSL number. Wouldn’t it be lame for a business to live in such a self-denial?

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