The power of social media

When I put up my last post regarding my war with K-Electric a lot of my friends and colleagues told me that I was wasting my time, that nothing would come of it.

That post was read by 1200+ people within a few hours, several people shared their experiences; the Facebook status I put up was shared by 36 of my Facebook friends; several people tagged people they knew at K-Electric.

The result was that I was contacted by half a dozen K-Electric staff offering to help resolve my issue – two of them actually at senior level – a Deputy GM and a Director. Within a few hours my Rs. 40,000 bill was revised and I received a bill by email for close to Rs. 8.900. I was told that unfortunately there had been an error in generating the bill and an apology was rendered.

I responded by email making enquiries regarding some of the lingo used on the bill and a very patient and polite Deputy GM actually phoned me and clarified each of the reservations I had. He also offered to send a mobile unit to check out the meter and replace it if it was necessary.

Appreciative though I am for the immediate resolution of my problem, I am left to ponder on whether this is the power of social media or is it because I have a certain profile online that I received this special treatment? One lesson I did learn through all of this was that one should at least try and redress the problem and not just take it lying down.

Nonetheless thank you K-Electric; thank you Taha Siddiqui and thanks to all the people who empathized with me and shared their stories and experiences.

 

May 28, 2016 at 11:08 am 2 comments

On the warpath with K-Electric

logoI thought they were getting better. The guy who handles social media for them is prompt at addressing complaints. The SMS complaint chat works. Breakdowns are handled as quickly as possible most of the time. And although I am still upset that I should be the victim of load-shedding despite paying my bills regularly, I have learnt to live with it since there seems to be no-one able to solve that problem for me.

However, when I get a bill for Rs. 40,000 I am absolutely dumbfounded. How is that possible when my air conditioner broke down two months ago and it is only a couple of weeks ago that I bought a new one. There is one refrigerator and some lights and fans that are used. I am not home most of the day and the only time I use the television is for a couple of hours in the evening. So I can’t understand why I should receive a bill for such a horrendous amount. I look at the bill and I see that there is a large amount that is labeled as “Arrears”. I figure they have made a mistake so I send my office assistant to have it checked alongwith paid bills of the past 6 months. He is told that they can’t handle the enquiry at just any K-Electric office and that I have to go to the office in my area – so much for a so-called technology enabled company.

Yesterday I sent another person to the office near my home. It is an understatement to say that he was not given a fair hearing. In fact instead of listening to the complaint and trying to resolve it, the guy at the K-Electric office said to him: “Aap log kunda lagatay hein aur phir aajatay hein shikayat karnay”. My rep told him we have never used kundas, showed him previously paid bills and requested that he send someone to check out the meter. To this the response was “We know that your meter is installed inside the house so we will have no access, and you have had it turned off for a month”. Wrong!!! The meters were installed by K-Electric outside our gate and we did not have them turned off. We wouldn’t even know how to turn them off. “Come and check out the premises yourselves” he was told “or talk to my boss on the phone”. Both pleas went unheard.

The K-Electric staff member said that the best he could do was provide a revised bill breaking the amount into 4 instalments. No argument or debate or explanation was acceptable to him. He insisted that I had to pay Rs. 40,000 for the month and that was that! He also said he did not feel the need to send a person to check out my premises nor the need to talk to me. After all, who am I – just the customer!

Without any proof he made all these assumptions about a customer who pays her bills regularly:

  1. That I was involved in electricity theft
  2. That my meter was installed at an inaccessible location on my premises
  3. That I had shut off my meter for a month

Would the situation have been different if I had gone myself? Was he rude and unreceptive because the man who had gone there was visibly not someone who “looked” important enough?

Should I be intimidated into paying a bill for electricity that I know I didn’t consume? I don’t think so. I am angry and upset – and rightly so. I expect much better service from a company that is presumably run like a well-oiled machine or so I am told. Who should I reach out to? Why should I have to reach out to anyone in particular? The customer service people should treat me like any other paying customer and resolve my issue. Isn’t that how good businesses are supposed to run? Or am I living in a fool’s paradise?

May 26, 2016 at 8:35 pm 11 comments

Memories are all that’s left …

April 1 is always going to be a very difficult day for me to get through. It marks the day that I held my darling Ammi in my arms for the very last time. That was the most heartbreaking day ever. How could the person at the center of our entire universe be no more? How would we ever learn to cope without her? It was impossible to accept and yet it was something we had to face – that everyone has to face at some time in their lives. This was thirteen years ago.

Ammi on the streets of hong kongToday on the anniversary of her death it has become no easier. The pain and the emptiness are still there, as are the wonderful memories that she left behind.

My mother was the most beautiful person I have ever known – both inside and out. She was full of love and warmth and was totally selfless. Everyone else’s needs took precedence over hers. Everyone’s happiness, comfort and well-being were her primary concern – especially her family’s. She could not bear to see anyone unhappy. It seemed to be her mission in life to console, comfort and reassure.

I can’t remember a time when she was not accessible to friends, neighbours, relatives, all and sundry for advice or simply to be used as a sounding board. Her mere presence was soothing.

In a family where we were never very physically demonstrative as we were growing up, Ammi was ever ready to bestow a loving smile, a warm hug and soft, reassuring words to make everything okay. I don’t know how she managed it but she did. It was magical. She was magical.

As I woke up this morning I could feel her presence. I could almost hear her laughter – she had the most amazing sense of humour. There was a calmness about her that transferred itself to everyone she came in contact with.

The first thing I did this morning was to go to the cemetery, put flowers on her grave, say a prayer for her and try to dwell on all the happy times that I had spent with her. I had already organized a meal for 40 kids at an orphanage and am donating some money in her name to a health charity. These are things she would have liked. She worried so much about orphans and about people who didn’t have access to good healthcare. She spent many an hour talking about it and trying to figure out how things could be made better.

My mother had a very good heart. She was compassionate and sensitive, caring and generous. A beautiful human being without whom this world is poorer. Rest in Peace Ammi. We love you and miss you immensely and will always try and be whom you wanted us to be.

 

April 1, 2016 at 1:43 pm 3 comments

Wish you were here Ammi

Ammi and TigguToday is Ammi’s birthday. Because their birthdays were only one day apart, each year we would make Abbaji and Ammi cut a cake together. Both of them used to fuss about not celebrating birthdays at ‘their age’ and yet when my siblings and I bought them cards and presents and sang Happy Birthday, one could see the pleasure in their eyes and in their faces knowing that they were loved and appreciated.

As I sit here this morning, I feel extremely lonely because there is no-one to fuss over, no-one to buy flowers for, to make a special meal for, to buy lavish gifts for. But much more than that, there is no Ammi to hug. Oh God those hugs were so warm, so comforting, totally priceless.

Everyone thinks their mothers are special and I guess to them they are, but my mama was extra special. I have never met a person more down-to-earth, more loving, more selfless, more compassionate and more sensitive than she was. Despite being seriously ill for a large part of her life, I can still remember that contagious, gentle smile that was ever ready to greet anyone who came across her and that sense of humor that often had us in stitches.

Her thoughtfulness, her desire to help ease the hurt you were feeling, her empathy with anyone who was going through anything remotely painful and her ability to provide the tender loving care that was needed to reduce that pain even a little, made her the go-to person for all and sundry. She was everyone’s sounding board. She could be trusted to lock away the confidences you shared with her and not to judge you for whatever mistakes you made. How could one person be so wise, so loving and giving, not expecting anything in return? And yet she was.

Ammi left us too soon but she has left an enormous bundle of memories for us to treasure and find comfort in whenever we feel alone. I can feel her watching over us from above and smiling down on us. Happy birthday my darling Ammi. Rest in Peace. We always loved you to bits and we will continue to do so as long as we live.

January 6, 2016 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

Happy birthday to the best father in the world

Abbaji in China4-2He was a walking talking, real life example of integrity, simplicity, honesty, hard work, punctuality and selflessness. If anyone needed help whether they were friends, family or complete strangers, he would go out of his way to assist them. He was a good son, a wonderful husband, a great father and an amazing mentor to many. He was my father and today we would have been celebrating his birthday if he had lived. Unfortunately less than two years ago he succumbed to a prolonged illness and joined my mother in heaven.

MA with Deng Xiao Peng, Chou EnLai, Jamil Nishtar-2The world has not been the same for us since. No matter how old you are, it is always too soon to lose someone who has been an anchor for you throughout your life. To miss him and to honor his memory by remembering him on the day of his birth is natural.

Sometimes as children we didn’t understand why Abbaji forgave everyone no matter how  much they hurt him or let him down. In fact he went out of his way to be extra nice to such people. When we asked him why, he said “Bayta one day they will realize their mistake. It’s okay.” We were cynical but he was right as usual.

My father had a large social circle – all nationalities, all religions. Some of his best friends were much younger than he was. It was amazing to see how well he got on with a diverse set of people. He had a special affinity to Chinese people having spent a large portion of his life working with the Chinese. His first job was with the Bank of China and the friends he made then stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Abbaji in a suitHe didn’t smoke, drink or gamble. In his own words, his only vice  was that he loved entertaining people. So very early on, I learned to cook all kinds of cuisine especially all sorts of desserts. He always insisted that we have at least 3 different desserts on the menu. And so we did. There were times we had as many as 5 varieties of desserts.

Abbaji was someone people trusted implicitly. He was the kind of banker whose handshake was firm and you knew you could “bank” on him. A journalist once referred to him as a gentleman banker which he certainly was. We miss you Abbaji. You were the best father any child could have asked for and we hope that we will always live up to your high ideals.

January 5, 2016 at 7:46 pm 1 comment

Surprise … Surprise!!!

Yesterday started off like any other … and I wasn’t really expecting much from it. The last few days had been tough – lots of things to ponder on; decisions to make; some disappointments and disillusionments which made me question some basic things I have always believed in.

Although I try not to let negative thoughts affect the way I interact with people during the day, there are times when my face and my status messages give me away. Suffice it to say that I haven’t been myself lately.

12238341_908376319211558_4659642227539948424_oAs I was driving to work, multiple thoughts going through my mind, I received a call from Naeem – our Office Assistant – asking when I would reach the office. I asked why and when he told me he had forgotten his keys at home, I must admit to being quite irritated. I hate it if the P@SHA office and The Nest i/o are not open on time. I hate it even more if people have to wait outside. I am usually there before 8.30 but yesterday I was running 15 minutes late because I had had a bad night.

I put my foot on the accelerator and mumbled to myself about young people’s memories – imagine forgetting your keys at home when you are supposed to open up the offices in the morning. When I got to the carpark, I saw Naeem sitting on his bike waiting for me. All the way up to the 3rd floor I lectured him – poor chap.

When I opened up t12232770_908377019211488_1829682560830410583_ohe glass door and found that the alarm didn’t go off and the airconditioners in the outer office were on, I was a little confused. Waste of energy, alarm needing to be checked out were thoughts going through my mind.

So you can imagine how absolutely surprised I was when I started to open up the shutter and balloons started to creep out from under it. That was the first inkling I had of something being up. It was dark inside but I began to see legs – a lot of legs. Suddenly the crackers went off and the lights were turned on and a whole lot of voices shouted out “Surprise”!🙂

Amidst all the noise and all these people each handing me a flower, and someone putting a red hat on my head, all I could come up with was “It is not my birthday!” which it wasn’t. My birthday falls on the 18th but I am going to be out of the country on that day so they had decided that they would surprise me with this bash.

12247957_908378095878047_4643552824532381478_o

I was blown away! As each one gave me a flower (I love flowers), I noticed that everyone was there – even people like Taaha Bin Khalid – CEO of Whisper O – who can never get up in the morning. I believe he was the Chief decorator. Startup founders from The Nest i/o batch 1 and 2 were all there. My team was all there. Jawwad Ahmed Farid – was there with his camera clicking away. All these people who never ever made it to work on time throughout their incubation, had been there since 7 a.m. putting together this surprise for me. If I hadn’t focused on the flowers and the balloons and their excitement at having surprised me, I would have burst into tears. It is the single most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done and if I didn’t love them all so much already, I would fall in love with all of them all over again. Guys and girls you’re all so very special and your love and respect means everything to me. If you had remembered to ask me to make a speech, I would never have been able to do it without breaking down so it is just as well you didn’t ask. 12240194_908378662544657_3987458758978139543_o

Then came the cake and the singing and the laughter … and the questions “Were you really surprised? Did you suspect what we were up to?” How could I possibly have suspected.

Lots of pictures and hugs and smiles followed and the Facebook timeline and Twitter feed were full of visuals of what they had accomplished together. Hey guys do you realize that this was the first ever collaboration between Batch 1 and Batch 2? Haha … that makes me so happy!12239679_10206396757211052_7942056402636315862_nThe day was not over. There were surprise gifts and cards – a cap that Riaz Ahmed’s sister Mariam made, a plethora of things from my team which for some reason also contained an ashtray (beautiful but totally inappropriate on my desk since I abhor smoking!).

As I looked at the decorations I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face for most of the day. The heart made from balloons looked great and several pictures had to be taken in front of that natch.

The Chinese delegationThrough the day things kept happening. Celebrations had to be stopped several times as we had a potential investor come in to meet with teams; as Jawwad conducted APICTA training; as P@SHA had a visit from a Chinese delegation who absolutely loved the atmosphere and went away feeling that the IT sector in Pakistan was vibrant and had a lot of potential – that these young people were the future of this country.

IMG_0566We also had visits from Sajjad Kirmani who brought a blueberry cheese cake and mentored many of the teams. Dr. Umar Saif and Nabeel Qadeer dropped in for a chat and an update. The teams who were still around were honored to meet Umar and get his feedback. All this amidst a great deal of activity surrounding the upcoming APICTA delegation, phone calls, emails, visits from people like Atif Azim who intended to be part of the surprise but was just slightly late – thanks Atif. It meant a great deal.

Knavix selling maps to Umar SaifOh … and if you think this was the end of it … after lunch I was presented with a bottle. This bottle contains 365 multiple messages on post-its from all the startup founders and the team. I am supposed to read one every morning until my next birthday. Yeah … as if that is going to happen! I am the kind of person who doesn’t even wait to slowly open a gift so the wrapping paper can be re-used! I read about 10 of the messages yesterday. They let me because we are going to be away in Sri Lanka next week.

12243154_10153151257305759_55084929842353882_nIf you were to ask me what was the best thing about yesterday, I would tell you it was the fact that all of these youngsters had been there since 7 just to bring a smile to my face … and this bottle full of messages that is bound to make me laugh throughout the next month (no it’s not going to last a year!).

This could have been a super-emotional post but I have tried to not go there. All I can say is I feel blessed to have all these new people in my life. They are thoughtful and loving and caring … and they are going to change the world. Those of us who adore them are going to sit back and take pleasure in the fact that we knew them when they were first starting out. I love you guys and girls. Please always stay this way. Don’t let the world around you change you too much. Change the world instead!

JA's gleeful smile

 

November 14, 2015 at 8:03 am 3 comments

There are times when I wish I had lots of money

Money has never meant too much to me. Of course all of us need a certain amount to live but I have never yearned for too much of it. As my father used to say: No matter how much money you have, you can only eat 3 meals a day and sleep in one bed at a time. These days you also need some form of transport, a mobile phone and a couple of gadgets … but that’s it!

My parents came from middle class families and they worked hard to bring up 5 kids. As we were growing up, I remember that our home was modest. We ate simple food and wore simple clothes. My mother was a woman who was easily content. She never made any demands. She was happy as long as she had her family around her.  Both my parents worked extremely hard to make sure we had a happy childhood and a comfortable life.

Even when we moved to Hong Kong, initially we lived in a small flat – all five of us kids shared a room. As my father climbed up the corporate ladder, we moved into a larger apartment and began to have more conveniences. But throughout the period we were growing up, we were never allowed to take our blessings for granted; we were taught to value what we had, to work hard for anything we needed. And we did!

As we grew older and started our own careers, these values stayed with us and served us well. However, of late, I have been wishing that I had more money – lots of it! I was speaking to a few friends about it the other day and trying to explain this apparent sudden ‘greed’ for wealth.

The Nestlings with JA and ShahjahanIt isn’t really greed. As we carry on our work with young people who want to experiment with ideas for creating businesses involving innovative products and services, we are happy that P@SHA’s Tech incubator The Nest i/o has provided an oasis for them, has given them access to mentors and a network that they couldn’t have otherwise dreamt of. Yet there is one thing that is still missing … that is the cause of of a lot of frustration and many sleepless nights.

As these kids prove what they can do, as they create their startups and look for investment, we can see how frustrated they are at the lack of a proper angel investment network in the country. There are a growing number of angel investors popping up but, because they haven’t seen much of a deal flow yet, they are rather risk averse.

Some of them feel the need to take a large chunk of the equity and to take control. Working intenselyA few of the startup entrepreneurs have been lucky and have found great investors  who have given them valuations that are fair and they have had to part with only a reasonable amount of equity. But there are others who want majority stake. I have watched helplessly as these young entrepreneurs have struggled with the decision to part with a larger stake of a company that they have invested their sweat and tears in to build. I have even advised some of them that bootstrapping is the best bet.. Generate some revenue, get traction and then talk to investors. What is the point of giving away a large share of your company, begin to feel like employees and lose the passion that drove you to start the venture in the first place, is my question to them.

Working out of The Nest i:oI know it is easy for me to give this kind of advice because I am not in their shoes. Some of them desperately need the funds to take their companies in the direction that they want to. I shouldn’t really interfere. They are, after all, more than capable of making these decisions themselves. Most of them are very smart, have interacted with VCs, Angel Investors, seasoned entrepreneurs, legal experts and peers so they understand what it all means.

But I can’t help it. My heart goes out to them as I see them struggling with these decisions, as I see them engaging with lawyers and investors and discussing all the pros and cons amongst themselves ad nauseum. It doesn’t seem fair that at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, instead of being full of excitement and passion, they are instead having to make compromises.

If only I had a lot of money, I would invest adequate funds in all the startups who show potential – asking in return for only a minimum equity of maybe 4-5% which could be used for a rollover fund to continue investing in more startups. It is a dream I have  that appears to be far-fetched at the moment but hey you never know. It could happen.

I believe that if free flow of funds were available to tech startups in Pakistan, it would result in creating the momentum we need to take entrepreneurship to an entirely new level in this country.

October 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm 2 comments

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