So my wife Chelsea and I are buying our first car. We run Immersive Trails, which is a purpose-driven immersive cultural travel business. While applying for car loans we have been getting more than usual scepticism from the loan officials. They try to ask, often in roundabout ways, about how we are still in business over the last 2 years of COVID19 related disruptions in the travel business. They ask for our business bank statement and business IT filing, to make sure we are indeed in business and raking in the moolah. A Toyota dealer had also audaciously asked whether the secret of my identity and finances lay accross the border in Bangladesh. To understand why Bangladesh, and not a Swiss Bank or Lichtenstein or Cyprus, you need to be aware of the current talking points in right wing politics in India. I leave it to you to explore that in your own time.
I just got off of a similar phone call with an Yes Bank loan executive, where I was asked to provide the reference of the transport company owner from whom we generally hire cars for our tours. They wanted to verify if our tours and our company were indeed business! If they just looked at our website, and seen how we innovated and pivoted to immersive Virtual Experiences in the last couple of years, it would have saved a lot of their, and our time. That is what I tell them- just check our website!
Anyway, all of these conversations and “struggles” to get financing for our first car made me super damn proud of my small team and a community of customers who stuck with us, and are helping us innovate and chart a new future for tourism through Immersive Trails despite immense roadblocks we faced throughout the pandemic. We did not just survive, we survived it well by innovating and staying ahead of the curve, and we plan to keep on doing so.
If you do not know about us yet, look us up here now, or wait a few months when you cannot but notice us change the face of travel. Anyone wishing to back us financially to bring new disruptions in COVID tourism and beyond, we are open to talk and welcome you in our community!
Update (8th Jan 2022)
So this happened last night. After quite a bit of grilling about how we are staying in business despite COVID19, the Car Loan Manager at Yes Bank decided that we will not be able to pay ₹10,000 (US$134) per month as EMI, despite Immersive Trails being profitable through COVID19 and despite the flat we rent to live in costs ₹32,000 (US$430) per month, which we have never missed paying. Remember this is just a suspicion on one person’s head. She did not call me to ask even more questions to get clarity- it would have been annoying, I agree, but I would answer them. She did not reach out to us with a reason of rejection. In fact we still do not know why our loan application was rejected, and the Loan Manager has blocked my number. The car dealer- Maruti Suzuki, has no clue either, but they are not letting us cancel our booking and refund the booking amount because they have to meet their end of the financial year targets. This is all a mess.
But this is not the first time it happened to me in India. How dare a guy from a poor family go against the flow and study archaeology abroad? How dare he then leave the relative security of academia and become an entrepreneur? How dare he run a travel business successfully through the pandemic? How dare he try to buy a car? In a country where the classic “starting from scratch” story is a Ritesh Agarwal or a Byju Raveendran where they had enough capital to start with, and where the businesses they run have questionable ethics and zero empathy, are celebrated, there is no place for someone like me. Someone who really started from scratch. Someone who dared to be different and climb the ladder. Someone who always pays loans back. Loans are not for people like us. Trusts are not for people like us. They are only for the Nirav Modis and Vijay Mallyas of this country.
Further Update (9th Jan 2022)
I talk about my #MentalHealth struggles openly, because it is important:
Our dog Kochuri saved my life. The whole Yes Bank and Maruti Suzuki Arena rejection of car loan and telling me that I don’t belong to an address where I lived since birth, and suspicious about the business that is making money took me down a rabbit hole of #depression. I felt like trash just like I was made to feel in school.
I don’t know how it happened but instinctively picked up a kitchen knife. That’s when Kochuri barked frantically, and it brought me to my senses and woke Chelsea McGill up. If you’re a Child Abuse survivor like me trigger of bullying is everywhere. And this was one such.
There are real life consequences to child abuse. I’m grateful to Kochuri that she yanked me out of self harm today. But what if she wasn’t here? Bank officials, customer service people should think twice before treating people like trash. Treating people badly because they have dared to dream and built up something from scratch, starting for poverty. There are real life consequences of these and businesses, especially muscular Indian banks, must understand that.
I am calling out Abir Gupta and Shanu Hazra of Maruti Suzuki Arena, who has conveniently neither responded to our repeated emails over the last couple of days or LinkedIn messages to answer for their role in this, and also refused to refund the booking amount we paid for the car. I am also calling out the incompetence of Himadri Dolui of Yes Bank because they haven’t been reachable either. If our dog was not there and I ended up in the hospital, or worse today, because of your bullying, you would have been solely responsible.
There’s another thing that I would like to expose of Yes Bank’s incompetency- in Kolkata most major roads have more than one name (name changes with political regime). These guys couldn’t wrap their heads around it, and they’re working in Kolkata. They’ve used this as an excuse to reject the loan application, accusing me of address discrepancies. My permanent address is Maniktala Main Road, which is also Satin Sen Sarani, and also CIT Scheme IV, and my current address is Southern Avenue, which is also Meghnad Saha Sarani. How is this the customer’s fault?
More Updates (10th Jan 2022)
Many bank/car/high end lifestyle dealerships officials in Kolkata have a disdain for Bengali clients. Their brain is hard-wired to think that Bengalis are permanently lower middle class & what we call “chhaposha” or gullible.
As an anthropologist I play a trick on them. I dress up to look non Bengali, speak in my now natural Trans-Atlantic English accent and always get a better respectful & professional treatment that all customers irrespective of their ethnicity deserves.
I made a “mistake” going to the Maruti Suzuki India Limited dealership and met the Yes Bank executive in my general casual Bangali get up. Today it went swimmingly at another dealership of another car company because I intentionally dressed up up not look Bengali. This makes me incredibly sad. The state of customer service in this country is at its lowest now, and that speaks volumes about customer service trainers in various companies who train these employees.
Maruti Suzuki Arena Cancellation Saga (10th Jan 2022)
Since our loan application was rejected by the Yes Bank financing team attached to Maruti Suzuki Arena’s Dewar’s Garage showroom, for reasons known to themselves, Chelsea and I chose another car from another company and are going through the application process now. But what about the ₹10,000 booking amount we paid to book the WagonR in the first place? Any person in their sane mind would want a refund, right? After stonewalling us for the last several days, finally we received this rather stupid email below about the cancellation and refund process. See it for yourself. This is from the office of Abir Gupta, the General Manager of Maruti Suzuki Arena.
Let’s analyze another example of customer service train-wreck:
Send documents courier including government attested ID proof? So, you are telling me to visit our local legislator or a gazetted officer to attest the ID proofs I send, the ID proofs that you already have, and have already verified while taking the booking and loan application, amidst the third wave of COVID19? Also making a customer visit showroom at the time when COVID is running riot in Kolkata is a very responsible decision? You already have all my documentation and you already verified them with the original when taking the booking amount, why the harassment for just ₹10,000. I think I should just put myself in a packaging box and ask Chelsea to courier me to the showroom!
Finally, why on earth do I need to share my credit card statement? Why did you assume I own a credit card? I did not pay the booking amount through credit card. I paid it via cheque instead.
This is what you get from incompetent, badly trained, unethical managers who cannot run a proper team. I see Abir Gupta’s LinkedIn profile says he is #OpenToWork. Please consider twice or thrice before hiring him. This man and his company had almost pushed me to self harm because of their and YES BANK official associated with their financing team’s harassment a couple of days back.
Do you want him in your team and want that to happen with your customers?