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Barack Obama’s picture used to get a mobile connection in India

By  May 02, 2012 11:13AM UTC

How well are the telecom companies knowing their customers? A little too well really. A twenty one year old in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh has used the picture of Barack Obama to get an Airtel connection.

There could be two things that might have happened. The man didn’t have his passport size photo on-hand and used Mr. Obama’s picture or the people who were collecting the documents have never seen Obama’s picture. Either way it’s one funny Know your customer () story to tell.

KYC is a rigor which the Indian government is trying to establish with the diligence required to open a bank account or secure a mobile connection. Take a look at the picture below from Times Of India :

To prevent such ‘ludicrous’ irregularities, Andhra police have made some suggestions. One such suggestion is this :

The AP police have also recommended introduction of biometric system to capture the identity of the customer. It has also been suggested that the customer who wants to become a subscriber of a network provider should be physically present before the fixed centre. (TOI)

We got that covered too. The biometric system we all so wanted which already has collected biometrics for 200 million people has just issued a Aadhar card for a vegetableAn equally amusing story where a person has used a series of vegetables and greens to secure an Aadhar card (’s most ambitious project).http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/coriander-has-aadhaar-numberuid/

In most parts of India, on your way out, the chances of you getting a new mobile phone connection are much higher than you finding a packet of milk. Telcos are under tremendous pressure to rack up numbers of subscribers. Hyper-competition might be the immediate reason which should get a lot of attention but rather it’s the pre-paid nature of the business.

Close to 90% of all the mobile subscriptions in India are pre-paid. Which means telcos don’t really wait for the customers to pay the bills. The bills are already paid. This takes out the incentive to really know the customer. You pay, you talk. You don’t pay, then you don’t talk. All the telco loses is a lousy chip called a SIM card.

Coming back to the Obama picture, the stand-up comedians and late night shows will have a field day. Republicans can’t really use this though.

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