Mistaken Identity

Those were the days when the state-owned telephone company enjoyed a complete monopoly and faced no competition. Mobile phones were unheard of in those days and the telephone company provided only land-line connections. Being the only telephone company, its employees were held in awe.

The telephone company used to publish a telephone directory annually. A private operator had tied up with the telephone company for publishing yellow pages. Yellow pages list businesses by categories; the business houses could insert advertisements in the yellow pages to be easily discovered. The revenue from these advertisements was the source of income for the private operator.

The private operator needed people to solicit advertisements. I applied for the job and got it. There was a big team. For a week, we were coached in sales skills. Then, the actual work began. Each of us was provided a list of telephone numbers and we had to approach the owners. If the owner happened to be a business house we had to solicit an advertisement, while domestic users could opt for a bold listing in the telephone directory at a fee.

It was a tough task! Why would domestic users opt for bold listings? As long as their names appeared in the directory, they were happy. It really did not matter if their names appeared in bold. As regards the business people, many were not keen to advertise as yellow pages were, then, something new. Let me not bore you with the frustrations we faced (the frustration was tremendous since we received no salary but a commission). The treatment that we received was also varied - some people received us courteously while most others dismissed us summarily. Anyway, that was a part of the job.

While tracing the addresses in the list provided to me, I approached a house one day. The phone number belonged to a domestic user, so there was no hope of getting an advertisement. Yet the owner had to be contacted and asked whether he would prefer a bold listing. I pressed the doorbell; the door was opened by an elderly woman. I introduced myself and she asked me to step inside. I was surprised; very few people showed even this much courtesy. Other than the woman's husband, no one else was at home.

Asking me to sit, the woman went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of water and some sweets on a plate. I was overwhelmed.

I began my sales talk and explained in detail the reasons behind my visit. The jaws of the couple fell in disappointment. "Oh, I thought you are from the telephone company," the woman exclaimed.

When the reason behind the royal reception became clear to me, I was also crestfallen. Needless to say, I did not get any business from the good couple (there was none to be expected). I left the house dejected and, yes, the sweets remained un-tasted.

Some useful links for
your career:

  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu