Late on Tuesday, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan – he with almost 25 million followers on Twitter – did something you and I do regularly. He had a problem with a company’s service, and took to Twitter to complain.
Except, of course, he’s Amitabh Bachchan. If you aren’t familiar with the scale of his popularity, see this and this.
So when he complained about bad phone network service from Vodafone, the world listened. The superstar even went on to take a dig at the operator’s pug mascot. Not surprisingly, what takes hours, sometimes days, to get sorted for people like us got sorted in one hour for the mega star.
VODAFONE WE HAVE A PROBLEM ..!! ALL SEND MESSAGES COMING FAILED .. RECEIVING SMS BUT NOT GOING .. HHEEEELLLLPPPPP !!!— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) January 31, 2017
T 2520 - VODAFONE, hiccup na ..? thankfully restored before time .. ! what happened !!?? " PUG' ghungroo baandh ... ke bhaag gaya .."! pic.twitter.com/zAMuUTc2ts— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) January 31, 2017
On the face of it, it’s just a social media oopsie moment. But this embarrassment couldn’t have come at a worse time for Vodafone, which is in the middle of a giant fight over the leadership of India’s telecoms space. Especially since rival Reliance Jio, which is taking the country’s telecoms space by storm, jumped at the chance instantly.
The company responded to Bachchan’s tweet with a super dig at Vodafone, even before the actual offender took note.
Sir, we would be happy to deliver a Jio SIM to you & activate it instantly through our Aadhaar based eKYC home delivery process.— Reliance Jio (@reliancejio) January 31, 2017
Rivalry between India’s biggest telecoms operators – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Jio has become more intense than ever. Jio, backed by the country’s richest man, has shaken up the industry with its free data and voice services plans.
Unable to stand up to competition by itself, Vodafone and Idea have recently agreed to join forces, to form what would create a new market leader.
Jio’s aggressive pricing strategies took a toll on existing carriers, forcing Vodafone to take aUS$5 billion writedown on Vodafone India last year. That prompted Chief Executive Vittorio Colao to say at the time that the market would have to consolidate.
The buyout of Idea is, in itself, fraught with regulatory hurdles. Employees are alsopanicking, uncertain what the deal would mean for the two companies.
Vodafone confirms merger talks with India's Idea
The might of social media aside, Amitabh Bachchan’s tweet only draws attention to the operational issues of the world’s second-biggest telecoms operator. Vodafone, not unlike rival Bharti Airtel, has had a long history of bad customer service. The Indian government has in the past even operators to compensate users for patchy customer service and dropped calls.
When we asked Vodafone if the social media storm has created added problems at the company, a representative referred to the tweet saying the issue had been resolved, and added that they treated the problem as a customer complaint.
For now, let’s leave it at this. Amitabh Bachchan (who is also incidentally friends with Mukesh Ambani, the man behind Reliance Jio), has the second-highest fan following of an Indian – after only Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a follower base of 26.8 million.
One simply doesn’t take social media might of that kind lightly.
This is an opinion piece.
This article originally appeared on Tech in Asia.
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