Telecom giant Airtel said it had never agreed to the “outrageous” request from a subscriber for a non-Muslim customer service representative and vowed to “stay innocent and bereft of religious consideration”.
While Airtel came out with a strongly worded statement defending its actions, it emerged from Twitter timelines that Lucknow-based Pooja Singh had been contacted by Airtel representative Gaganjot in a routine manner in less than 10 minutes of Shoaib responding to her complaints of poor service.
Gaganjot messaged her once on her public timelines on Twitter and thrice through private direct message (DM) offering assistance to resolve her complaint, all before she tweeted seeking a “Hindu representative” as she had “no faith in his (Shoaib’s) work ethics”.
According to her twitter timelines, Pooja Singh complained of poor service at 12.09 pm on June 18, which was responded to by Shoaib at 12.18 pm.
Within minutes, Gaganjot responded to Pooja at 12.34 pm saying: “Hi let me check that out for you. I don’t want to keep you waiting another minute! Please DM your 10 digit DTH ID along with your contact number via the link here, and we will connect with you to assist. Thank you, Gaganjot.” Airtel sources said Gaganjot may have contacted Pooja in routine manner as Shoaib may have been handling different customers. This was well before Pooja made the outrageous request.
Even after being contacted by Gaganjot, Pooja, whose Twitter handle declares her as a management professional, a “Proud Indian” and a “Proud Hindu”, at 2.59 pm wrote: “Dear Shoaib, as you’re a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics because Kuran may have a different version for customer service, thus requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks (sic).” This message was responded to by Gaganjot at 3.25 pm saying: “Hi Pooja! As discussed, please let me know what time framework best for you so we can talk. Further, please share an alternate number so that I can assist you further with this. Thank you.” Pooja, whose followers seem to have grown from over 10,500 to 15,100 since the controversy broke, was unreachable for comments. She did not even respond to a Twitter post seeking a response on the issue.
Airtel in a statement today said what has been reported of the company not standing up to bigotry is “mostly, untrue and factually incorrect.” Shoaib and Gaganjot, it said, followed a dutiful course in their regular work. “When a customer writes in and one advisor is busy, the query gets assigned to the next available advisor automatically. Which is exactly what happened with Shoaib and Gaganjot.” Airtel said a customer made “an outrageous request of preferring to talk to someone of a particular religious identity” but the two service executives continued to dedicatedly work towards ensuring a solution to the complaint.
“The fact that Shoaib wasn’t logged in and that Gaganjot took up the case got read as ‘bowing down to bigotry’. The fact that Gaganjot didn’t check his colleague’s religious identity before taking up the case got read as ‘heeding to a discriminatory request’.” “We did not and we repeat, we DID NOT change the advisor because of the unfathomable request from the said customer,” the firm said. “At Airtel, we never have and never will succumb to differentiating on the basis of religion, ethnicity or caste.” Stating that it will continue to train its representatives to see the world without the filters of bias, Airtel said it will “strongly resist” attempts to check religious identities of its service representatives before attending to complaints.
“We promise you that we will try our best to let them stay innocent and bereft of religious considerations,” it said.
Pooja has been retweeting tweets supporting her. “I am overwhelmed with the kind of support I got from you all and really thankful to you from bottom of my heart. What I said was my personal choice as per my past experience and it was not a publicity stunt by anyway,” she said in a statement posted on her Twitter account yesterday.
She also received a lot of hate tweets for her bigotry. To this, she responded: “I simply made a request to change representative from Muslim to Hindu as my experience in past was not good and that’s my right as well. After that, the kind of abuses I’m facing are beyond imagination and that in itself proves that I was right at very first place.”
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.