I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

Bhogi is NOT a Day for Burning

Every Bhogi day makes me sad to see how humanity comes together to cause harm to itself. The smog is so thick in my village that you could mistake it for Delhi.

Bhogi is a day of transformation where all old habits, vices, attachment to material things are sacrificed. Its when people discard old things and concentrate on new things causing change.

There are so many other ways of discarding things other than burning.

This morning, I woke up to see old sarees and clothes being burned at my farm. A better way to discard would have been to use as mulch for the fruit saplings.

I wish people saw the deeper meaning of the day.

Squirm with Embarrassment – Chennai Airport

Every time I land at the Chennai Airport, I squirm with embarrassment. This filth is what you see right in front of the arrival gate. Worse, it’s right next to the police booth. The difference in maintenance between Bangalore and Chennai is poles apart. Can you help point the right place to lodge a complaint?

Story of Bharath Petroleum fuel cheat in Chennai

Incident 1

I just caught the staff red-handed at Bharath Petroleum fuel station on Mount Road. They tried stealing Rs.700 worth of petrol. I paid Rs.2000 for the fuel and as the meter reached Rs.1300, one of the guys tried distracting me by asking me for my car number. Immediately, his accomplice manning the fuel pump stopped the pump and quickly reset the meter. As soon as the guy asked me for the number, I smelled a rat and saw the pump just when the guy was resetting it. I created a scene and the crowd started to gather. Others noticed what the guy did too. The BPCL employees panicked. I took photos and videos as evidence. Definitely escalating this to the Bharath Petroleum HQ. Please be careful the next time you fill in fuel. Watch out for those distractions.

Video explaining fuel cheat

This video explains how the guys at Bharath Petroleum fuel station cheat and rob your money. This incident took place at their Mount Road outlet near the old SUN TV office ( franchisee: Ashwini automobiles)

Call From senior official (Bharat Petroleum Corporation LTD)

UPDATE: A senior official from Bharat Petroleum Corporation LTD. called and requested for a meeting this afternoon. While it looks like a PR exercise, he hinted at larger changes planned. Keen to know what those will be. Will update post the meeting.

Synopsis of discussion with Mr.Kshitij Midha, Area Sales Manager for South Chennai Bharat Petroleum Corporation LTD

UPDATE: Just finished a meeting with the official from Bharath Petroleum. Here is the synopsis of our discussion.

The social media outrage coupled with the coverage in national dailies has brought this incident right up to the CMD and top management of Bharath Petroleum.

They requested Mr.Kshitij Midha, Area Sales Manager for South Chennai to meet me in person. He is incharge of overseeing 35 fuel stations, including the one where the incident took place. He came across as a very genuine guy.

The 35 stations he is incharge of sees an average of 4 lakh vehicles (yes, four lakhs) coming in every single day.

The BPCL official did an investigation with the owner and staff at Ashwini Automobiles (the franchisee who runs the fuel station). After cross examining, they did find the two men guilty and they have been fired from their jobs.

BPCL has given a written letter of complaint to owner of the Ashwini Automobiles (franchisee) which is the equivalent of warning. I was shown the two page letter. Could not take a photo of it as it was an internal document.

The hiring of the staff is done by the franchisee and BPCL has no direct control over them. Their only point of contact is the franchisee owner. In most cases, the franchisee hires uneducated, unskilled staff who are usually underpaid.

90% of the frauds happen in fuel stations that are not automated. However, automating the old petrol pumps takes lots of investment and time. It also depends on how viable that particular location is.

Most of the cheating is done with customers who come in four wheelers because the person in the car/SUV does not bother to either get out or look at the meter.

He advised to keep looking at the meter right from ‘zero’ until the final amount and not to take eyes off it. If someone interrupts, ask them to wait until the filling is done.

Another way these staff cheat is by pressing the ‘preset’ buttons for Rs.100, Rs.500 or Rs.1000. If you wanted fuel for Rs.500, half way through, they will press the preset button which will show Rs.500 in the display but only half the fuel would be filled. So, his advice is to ask for uneven numbers like Rs.535 or Rs.1385. It reduces the cheating level drastically.

BPCL has the official complaint numbers displayed in all petrol pumps but most of the customers don’t take the extra effort to lodge a complaint. He encouraged people to complain which will keep the staff grounded.

Even though there are opportunities for the consumers to check the quality and quantity of fuel, very rarely do people take the time to conduct these checks. To check quantity, there is the 5 litre can check and for quality it is the ‘filter paper’ check.

In the end, I requested him for two documents.
1) The steps that BPCL is taking in order to reduce and eliminate these frauds from their franchisee-run fuel stations.
2) Tips for consumers to follow at fuel stations so that they can catch these frauds.
Mr.Kshitij Midha promised he will follow-up and provide these two documents.


@^$%^#! When Will Aircel Provide GPRS?

Let me tell you why I’m pissed with Aircel. They don’t provide GPRS. This means, even though I have a feature rich Nokia N93i and a new Nokia N82, I can’t use many of the features like check emails or post my photos directly to my Flickr.

Most other major telecoms provide GPRS. So, Why not shift to another provider, you may ask? Therein, lies the problem.

I’ve been having my mobile number 98415 97744 for as long as I remember. And this is the number that all my friends and business contacts have. I don’t want to go through the pain of changing numbers.

Besides, I have my family and friends in CUG (closed user groups) and thus we get to make unlimited free phone calls. Me changing the number means, either I lose out on the free calls or make all of them change service provides too, which doesn’t sound right.

It’s a classic case of getting locked in and given a raw deal. And that’s why I’m praying for the number portability scheme to get the nod. This way, I get to show my middle finger to folks at Aircel, move to a service provider with GPRS and yet retain my old number.

The new N82 has a kickarse 5 Megapixel camera and every time I take a picture, it rubs me in by asking if I want to publish it in Flickr. I’d love to if only I have the darn GPRS connectivity.

I even thought of taking a new AirTel connection just to make use of the GPRS features. That means, I’ll have to carry two phones with me at all times….one for phone calls and the other for the GPRS features. It’d make me look even more retarded.

Aircel, I’ve been a loyal customer to you. Please stop giving me a hard time. I know you recently launched things like Tamil SMS. Nice, but there are far more important things you should focus on.