Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Visa stamped :)

After a couple of crazy weeks, I can afford to relax now. I have crossed two important hurdles - paying 2nd installment of tution fee and getting the visa stamped. Here's a quick recap.

I left for Indore on 12th July as I had to meet bank officials on 13th to sign my loan documents and complete the formalities. I had to take a bus as it was the only direct mode of travel between Pune and Indore that day(train runs only twice a week). The bus broke down in between and I reached Indore at 3 PM, six hours later than the scheduled time. I did not go to bank as it was already late. I met bank officials on Sat and signed some documents but we could not complete all formalities (transferring the registery of house to bank etc). My uncle, who is a manager at the bank assured me that he would take care of remaining things and I can return to Pune without worries. I trusted him but there was one thing troubling me - I had to a pay 2nd installment of tuition fee (Euros 11600) by 20th and I did not want to delay this. Because of the horrid bus journey, I took a flight from Indore to Mumbai on Sun night, spent the night there and returned to Pune on Mon morning.

I had my visa interview at Alliance Francaise de Pune on Tue morning. One of required documents for visa is a 3 months insurance cover. I had to collect the policy from ICICI Lombard's office at 9:30 and reach Alliance Francaise at 10. I reached ICICI Lombard at 9:20 and read my policy; it had 6 errors... I called the agent whom I had dealt with and he asked me to wait till 9:30 for someone to come and correct the policy. I waited, got the policy corrected and reached AF office at 10:05 for the interview. The interview was easy, no hassles there and the director granted an NOC.

During these days, I had also been thinking about Ile de France scholarship. I realized that I will find it extremely difficult to fund my studies if I did not accept it. I had spoken with some current students and they had said that normally expenses are more than the budget mentioned on college site. They had also mentioned that you can network more if you spend more (visiting schools outside france, partying etc). These are some of things I do not want to miss out in my MBA. After considering all these factors, I decided to accept the scholarship. I shot an email informing the authorities concerned that I will accept the scholarship and will not occupy the room allocated to me at HEC.

On Sat, I left for Mumbai as I had my visa stamping on 23rd. I had to reach Nariman Point at 3:30 to meet some of my future classmates. I struggled to reach there (travelling in Mumbai locals is always a problem for me) and reached there at around 4. We had a good get-together and after it was over, I went to Sion where I had to stay over at a friend's place. During Sat and Sun, I met friends in various places - pizza outlet at Nariman Point, coffee shop at Sion, domestic airport, restaurant at Parel and even while shopping at Andheri (I bought couple of bags and a Canon Powershot 710 IS digicam). People who are familiar with Mumbai would understand how much I would have travelled to be at all these places!!! I tried to meet maximum friends because I was not sure if I would go to Mumbai again before leaving for Paris.

Yesterday, I went to the French Consulate for stamping. People who had gone before me had told me that stamping is usually done instantly and that it does not take more than an hour to complete the entire process. With this image in mind, I reached the consulate at 10 and the interview counter at 10:15. I was very nervous as my L1-B visa application for US had been rejected during interview in Jan. Nothing worrying happened here, the lady asked some simple questions, checked my documents and took my passport. But to my surprise, she asked me to return at 3:30 to collect the passport. I became apprehensive as I had not expected this. When I came out, I found out that other people too had been asked to come later to collect the passport. Now I had 5 more hours to kill. I went to a book store, met another friend for lunch and reached the consulate at 3. Around 3:40, I received my passport and when I saw the visa stamped there, I was mighty relieved :)

Today, I crossed the last hurdle - The second installment of my tution fees was wired today. Another burder off my shoulder and now I am sure that I am all set to leave for Paris in September...

Friday, July 6, 2007

Airtel billing woes

I have an airtel broadband connection at my flat. I have been using their services for close to 3 months now and I am really surprised at their lack of system integration. For those who do not know, Airtel is the biggest private telecom player in India and provides a host of services - landline, mobile, corporate , broadband and they are also launching IPTV in India by the end of 2007. Their telecom services have been growing rapidly which is also reflected by the growth in their stock price (close to 650% in the last 3 years).

Coming back to the main subject of this post - billing woes. I am a tech-savvy person and prefer using internet for paying bills wherever possible. I receive and pay my electricity, credit card, dmat account and mobile bills online. I just don't like receiving bills in hardcopy and writing cheques for payment. I consider it a waste of time and precious paper. Now the problem with airtel - my billing address is my office address and so if I want to collect my bill, I have to go to another building and wade through a pile of mails to locate my bill which is something I hate. So I want my bill online. Last month, I called airtel customer care and asked them to email a copy of the bill. I received a postive response and was told that it would be done in a couple of hours. It never happened. I called atleast 5 times asking them to send the email and they just could not do it. In the end, they sent a person to my home to collect the cheque.

Today, I called them for the last month's bill. The customer service executive told me that I would receive my bill (by courier) by 10th. I asked him to email it and predictably he said that he was sorry about it and that I can wait till 10th and if I don't receive my bill by then, they will initiate the email process. Going by my last experience, I am sure its not going to happen. So now I am mentally prepared for a visit by a friendly airtel cheque collector!!!

Have you experienced something like this???