Grab­bing a good deal, that’s what it is

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Joint edi­tor

Last week, while I was think­ing of a rel­e­vant sub­ject to talk about in this space, our man­ag­ing edi­tor for­warded a pro­mo­tional mail of­fer­ing jaw-drop­ping low fares from Air Asia. He wanted us to an­a­lyse a bit and let our read­ers know if there was any catch.

Well, gaug­ing from what ex­perts have been say­ing and writ­ing in the me­dia, the deal is a win-win for con­sumers from all an­gles. In sim­ple lan­guage, just like an ice cream or a choco­late brand does free sam­pling for you to know the taste, Air Asia wants you to ex­pe­ri­ence their ser­vices and at the same time cre­ate hype around their brand. These rock-bot­tom prices and talks around fare wars in avi­a­tion have ba­si­cally helped Air Asia in get­ting enough mileage in the me­dia and saved them mil­lions in me­dia buy­ing.

So, should you use the op­por­tu­nity to plan for the up­com­ing hol­i­days – Dussehra, Di­wali, Christ­mas, New Year?

Yes, by all means. You just need to un­der­stand that these are pro­mo­tional of­fers that will not be there for­ever. If you are get­ting an all-in­clu­sive of­fer of Rs 990, just grab it be­fore any­one else does.

The good news is that Air Asia will break the ex­ist­ing car­tel in avi­a­tion sec­tor where the com­pe­ti­tion had al­most died out af­ter the buy­outs of Air Deccan and Sa­hara Air­lines and the ground­ing of King­fisher. Achhe din for do­mes­tic fly­ers have be­gun, hope­fully.

Another note­wor­thy devel­op­ment in the last week was a cir­cu­lar by the min­istry of cor­po­rate af­fairs clar­i­fy­ing cer­tain as­pects of the newly formed cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) law. The cir­cu­lar, among other things, makes ‘con­sumer pro­tec­tion ser­vices’ el­i­gi­ble un­der CSR. Hence, com­pa­nies com­ing un­der the am­bit of the law can now sup­port con­sumer griev­ance re­dres­sal mech­a­nism, con­sumer’s health and safety, sus­tain­able con­sump­tion, con­sumer ser­vice, sup­port and com­plaint res­o­lu­tion as well as other con­sumer pro­tec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties as part of their CSR. This devel­op­ment is sig­nif­i­cant for con­sumer-fo­cused or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Voice as we will be able to con­cep­tu­al­ize and im­ple­ment fo­cused con­sumerem­pow­er­ment pro­grammes and also en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties that will make con­sumers more aware and pro­tect their rights.

Of course, it is not as sim­ple as it sounds. Ques­tions will be raised about how and what con­sumer pro­grammes should be sup­ported by the com­pa­nies – there is the risk of some overtly com­mer­cial com­pa­nies tak­ing ad­van­tage of the rul­ing and turn­ing their CSR pro­grammes into sales cam­paigns. There is also the pos­si­bil­ity of con­flict be­tween un­bi­ased or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies seek­ing un­due ad­van­tages from their so­cial cam­paigns. We are pre­par­ing our­selves for that. Pro­grammes will be con­cep­tu­al­ized for re­li­able and eth­i­cal cor­po­rate groups while the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of our ac­tions will be con­sumers across all sec­tions of so­ci­ety. Most im­por­tantly, the prom­ise of trust that we have kept for over 30 years will not be com­pro­mised.

In the mean­time, we ex­pect con­sumers to play an ac­tive role here. How about ask­ing all your trusted brands about their CSR? Write a mail, call their cus­tomer sup­port cen­tres, send queries on their Face­book pages, Tweet with the brand’s hash tag, and ask how they are go­ing to in­vest their CSR funds to­wards em­pow­er­ment of their con­sumers. While sell­ing us their prod­ucts, en­sur­ing our pro­tec­tion is their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

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