Of Yatra, ICICI and Dependency on Internet Services [Dear Product Startups: You are in ‘Services’ Business]

There is nothing like a customer totally dependent on you to perform certain activities. It’s the most nirvana state for any business.


Internet Services : Let it Flow!
Internet Services : Let it Flow!

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I just noticed that BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Co. Ltd) has cut off  electricity connection of my house

Guessing that it was a mistake, I reached out to BESCOM to understand the issue, as I was 100% sure that the bill has been paid.

And not just mine, but almost 50% of flats in the apartment had similar issue. Interestingly, we all had a common root cause : ICICI.

That is, we all had automated the bill payment using ICICI bank and due to some reasons, the service was facing disruption for the last 2 months (as confirmed by BESCOM guy) and none of us even noticed.

Note to Internet Services

Internet services should work like a utility service  – switch ON and it’s there. Switch OFF and it’s gone (ofcourse, things are different in India 🙂 ). When a breakdown happens, inform the user. Because over a period of time, they will get totally dependent on your service and will assume that ‘it’s gonna work’.

And it’s good for the service – in fact, this dependency gets people to use more of utility services and creates value for the Internet service businesses.

Respect that dependency. Enjoy that dependency.

There is nothing like a customer totally dependent on you to perform certain activities. It’s the most nirvana state for any business.


If ICICI was facing a major issue with BESCOM integration, it’s their job to notify the end user. Post this issue, I logged into the service (after 3 months) to check out the integration and did notice that there was an issue (ICCI was carrying the alert on the homepage for logged users).

But here is a problem – ICICI expects me to visit the site to view the notification on their site and uses no other outbound channel (like Email/SMS) to inform the customer. That’s a #fail because a banking service’ most important metrics (ideally) should be the usage and moolahs being transacted (and not returning visitors/pageviews). And if users have bestowed ICICI with the responsibility, they better live up to the same (FYI: now, I removed all the connected billers from ICICI).

It’s the same issue with Yatra – imagine if you had booked tickets on the site and traveling on the same day when they forgot to renew the domain. Say at the last minute, you wanted to take a printout of the ticket (which I always do using the PNR number) and all you get to see is a parked domain page! Would you trust the service again?


Note to Product Startups : You are a Service Company

You are building a product, but what you are selling is service. A service comes with SLA and predictability level.

Repeat this 100 times ! Read : So what exactly is a product?

“Okay, let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everyone else, we DON”T CRASH EVER! If those servers are down for even a day, our entire reputation is irreversibly destroyed! Users are fickle, Friendster has proved that. Even a few people leaving would reverberate through the entire userbase. The users are interconnected, that is the whole point. College kids are online because their friends are online, and if one domino goes, the other dominos go, don’t you get that?” [Mark Zuckerberg, ‘The Social Network’]

Put BIG POSTERS in your office that you are actually a service company. You are serving a customer. This is something which geeky minds don’t relate to, especially those caught up in the superior world of “hey! we are a product company”.

Remember that one bad experience is what it takes to put an end to the relationship.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” C.G. Jung

What are your thoughts?

[Image credit: shutterstock.]

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