Customer Refuses Help From Muslim Representative, Airtel Responds

After facing severe backlash from across the country for allegedly giving in to a customer’s demand for a Hindu customer care representative, Airtel India on Wednesday, 20 June, issued a detailed statement explaining how customer service works in the company and how it absolutely does not differentiate between its executives or customers based on their caste or religion.

Here’s How it Began

Airtel India landed itself in controversy on Monday, 18 June, after it seemingly agreed to a customer's demand for a “Hindu representative”. Pooja Singh, an Airtel direct-to-home (DTH) customer expressed her displeasure on Twitter over the behaviour of a service engineer assigned by the company.

Responding to Singh's query, a customer care executive from Bharti Airtel India, said that the company would take a closer look into her complaint and get back shortly.

However, the fact that the customer care executive appeared to be a Muslim from his name, Shoaib, prompted Singh – who has over 10,500 followers, including Delhi BJP spokesperson Tajinder Singh Bagga – to demand a "Hindu representative", for she had "no faith in his working ethics".

"Dear Shohaib, as you’re a Muslim and I have no faith in your working ethics because Kuran may have a different version for customer service, thus requesting you to assign a Hindu representative for my request. Thanks (sic)" - Pooja Singh

A screenshot of the Twitter conversation between Pooja Singh and Bharti Airtel India.

Hours later, another executive, Gaganjot, contacted Singh, expressing the intent on behalf of the company to assist her.

At the time, the telecom company didn't raise any objection to Singh's demand for a Hindu representative. It was only later in the day, after facing scathing criticism for not standing up to bigotry, that Airtel responded to Singh saying, “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.”

A screenshot of Airtel India’s response. 

However, by that time the damage was done. Historian Irfan Habib said that he can't believe this was for real.

Airtel India told The Quint that it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of caste or religion and explained how the customer care executive changed between Pooja’s initial complaint and the consequent demand for a Hindu representative.

"If a customer contacts us for an ongoing service issue, then the first available service executive responds in the interest of time. We request everyone not to misinterpret and give it unnecessary religious colour. The said customer has been responded to,” the company said.

‘Want to Port My Number From Airtel’

However, not everyone was convinced with Airtel India’s justification, asking why didn’t the next representative (Gaganjot) raise an objection to Singh’s request and inform her of the company’s said policy against discrimination.

After the incident, many unhappy Airtel users made it clear that they would be porting their numbers to other networks.

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