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NEW DELHI: Full five hours after a woman customer from Uttar Pradesh made hateful comments for its Muslim executive on Twitter, Airtel, India’s one of the largest telecommunication companies, spoke and said “we absolutely do not differentiate between customers, employees and partners on the basis of caste or religion.”

Soon after the bigotry shown by one Pooja Singh, who claims to be a management professional, for a Muslim executive of Airtel who handles company’s customer care handle on Twitter, there was a sort of war on the micro-blogging site. A number of people strongly condemned the customer for her remarks and as time passed people started targeting Airtel also for maintaining silence on the issue. The woman customer had commented around 3 PM but Airtel clarified its position at 8 PM.

Chronology of Event

At 12:09 PM on Monday, the customer Pooja Singh @pooja303singh wrote: “@airtelindia pathetic Airtel DTH customer service. I raised complaint for reinstallation of DHT. but assigned service engineer misbehaved with me. His words are “Tum Phone Rakho Dobara call mt krna ” his number is+91 79-85195094. This is how Airtel is looting its customer.”

At 12:18, the Airtel executive Shoaib responded: “Hey, I most definitely appreciate you reaching out here! We’ll take a closer look into that & get back shortly with more information. Thank you, Shoaib.”

At 2:59 PM, Pooja came up with this hateful comment: “Dear Shohaib, as you’re a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics because Kuran may have different version for customer service, thus requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks”.

At 3:25 PM, rather than responding to Pooja’s hate comments, Airtel allotted a Hindu executive Gaganjot to proceed on her complaint. “Hi Pooja! As discussed, please let me know what days and time frames work best for you so we can talk. Further, please share an alternate number so that I can assist you further with this. Thank you, Gaganjot” replied the executive.

Her bigotry and Airtel’s response led to a Twitter war with condemnations raining both on her and the company.

Barkha Dutt: “Whaaat. This is awful. And if it was inadvertent rotation the company should have ticked off the bigot first. Problem with too much automation or did they surrender to prejudice?

Kavita Krishnan: @Airtel_Presence @airtelindia we too are your customers and are waiting for you to publicly clear your stand, defend your employee Shoaib who was subjected to discrimination on grounds of religion (unconstitutional), tell the bigoted customer you stand by #Shoaib

Pratik Sinha: Hello @Airtel_Presence, an employee of yours was discriminated on the basis of religion by a customer of yours. Instead of standing up for your employee, you promptly complied with such a bigoted request? @airtelindia”

Vir Sanghvi: What frightens me is how India has changed so much that people have no problems saying this sort of garbage openly & how cravenly our big companies accept it. Day after day, the instances pile up. Very worrying”.

Omar Abdullah: “I hope she gets a 16 hour Air India flight with an all Muslim flight crew. She can spend the flight screaming about their “work ethic” while trying to jump out.”

Omar Abdullah: “Dear @Airtel_Presence this conversation is genuine (I’ve seen the timeline myself). I refuse to pay another penny to a company that condones such blatant bigotry. I’m beginning the process of porting my number to another service provider & canceling my DTH & Broadband.”


Airtel Breaks Silence

It seems that when Airtel sensed that the bigotry of one customer was going to cost it high, the company came out with an explanation.

At 8:18 PM, the head of Airtel Response Team replied to the customer. “Dear Pooja, at Airtel, we absolutely do not differentiate between customers, employees and partners on the basis of caste or religion. We would urge you to do the same. Both Shoaib and Gaganjot are part of our customer resolution team. If any customer contacts us for an ongoing service issue then the first available service executive responds in the interest of time. On your query, we will get back to you as soon as there is an update. Thanks – Himanshu, Airtel Response Team Lead.”

Company’s reaction, though a bit late, has earned it some respect.

“I’m glad you’ve finally taken a stand @Airtel_Presence. Please make sure that you walk your talk and the next time some bigot demands a change of employee based on religion, you make sure that s/he either deal with the same employee or take their business elsewhere,” said Kavita Krishnan.


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