Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

MNC brand? Jago Grahak!

Sunday today, I will leave for North America tomorrow evening via Frankfurt. My first destination is Montreal in Quebec province of Canada.
One of the most important things in these parts of the world is the consumers’ rights and awareness. Going by my experience, Canada stands out in this respect. Years ago, while visiting Canada, I had purchased a Polo brand shirt from Bay's - a leading departmental store. I bought it and when I put in on I found it was little loose on me but I wore it for a day. Next day I visited the shop for some other purchases and I was asked if the shirt was right for me. I said that it was little loose the shop instantly replaced the shirt with a new one though I had used it for a day. Recently, South Korea’s top automaker Hyundai Motor recalled 1.4 lakh Sonata sedans sold in the USA due to problems with the steering wheel that could cause a loss of reduction of control.
The assurance by companies, as a policy, to replace products that are defective or due to lack of customer satisfaction is quite common. Multinationals claim that they do have such policies in place, but MNC brands, of late, have adopted double standards while dealing with customers in India. Multinational global brands seem to be evolving diluted standards when dealing with the customers in Indian.
On one hand we see the Indian government's Jago Grahak awareness campaign in the media urging the customers to assert their rights, on the other hand, some of the international brands that brag great quality and after sales services to lure customers, are gaining confidence in showing their thumbs to the consumer protection laws of the country.
A recent case in Kolkata may be a wake-up call for all those Indian customers who think an established foreign brand comes with assured services and after sales support. A friend of mine, moved by the advertisements and features, recently bought a luxury car Audi Q5 3.0 TDI in Kolkata that resulted in a nightmarish experience for the couple who are still reeling from post-traumatic stress.
All this started one fine day while driving on the road, the steering wheel of the car suddenly got locked. They were unable to manoeuvre the car that was in motion to change directions in the middle of a busy road. The car was somehow stopped and shut off.
Evidently, the system of the car had crashed due to its inherent fault and / or manufacturing defects. This major safety flaw could have been fatal for the couple who were lucky to survive a busy traffic. The car, whose safety features and reliability is said to be among the best in the world, had to be towed away ultimately.
What followed was the shockingly deficient support and after sales service from the company that promised “World class after sales services rated best in the industry....”. Repeated requests to replace the car with a new car of same specs since a major safety flaw was discovered, evoked a tepid response from the company personnel. It was earlier claimed by the company, that it has a policy to replace if any manufacturing defect is found in the car or any system of the car is found to be flawed. True, most foreign multinational brands actually deliver what they promise in other parts of the world. But this was Kolkata.
My friend finally had to hire a professional firm to issue a legal notice asking for the car to be replaced. Last what I heard was that the company had made some repairs and sent an invoice for the repair costs. That much for global brand service in India. I wonder if the company's attitude would have been the same with a customer in USA, Europe, Japan or for that matter in Singapore. But here in India, the big brands are gradually veering towards the idea that things are different here and they can have the liberty to treat their Indian customers with less respect and seriousness.
It is high time the Indian Grahak wakes up.
In my last week's blog I had mentioned about deficiency of service in a Kolkata cafe in Wood Street. I was surprised to get a prompt reaction from the company taking cognizance of the matter and assuring me that they would set things straight immediately. They even invited me for a cup of coffee.
Frankly, I did not expect such a prompt action from an Indian company. But I must say I am impressed that a Chikkamagaluru-based Indian cafe chain can raise the standards bar by initiating immediate action to set things right in one of its outlet. It seems the International brands have taken to doing just the opposite – lowering the bar – for Indian customers.
The multinationals are aware of the Chalta Hai attitude and feels it can lower its standards for the Indian customers. Or they have taken the famous “Indian standard of hygiene” remark of the Commonwealth Games official seriously. Or else, how can one explain the shoddy attitude of the world-class auto brand towards its customer in Kolkata.
ess bee

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