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Unethical telecom companies in Bahrain – VIVA as an example

Unethical telecom companies in Bahrain – VIVA as an example

VIVA is an unethical telecoms operator in Bahrain, avoid at all costs.

Update: I received a reasonable refund from VIVA after they heard my complaint. Their management contacted me personally to resolve the issue and offered a way to stay as their customer. I appreciated their offer but demanded a refund for the over-charging which they satisfied. I have now moved back to Batelco. I hope my experience with them now will compensate for the experience I’ve had with them previously. With competition, they seem to be improving but there is plenty of scope for them to rise higher.

While it’s a fact that telecom companies are nothing but glorified automated billing systems, why aren’t they forced to let their customers know of the expiry or anniversary of their contract?

At the moment, VIVA, and I suspect the others too, carry on with their completely unethical practices of not notifying their customers that their contracts have ended, and continue with full unethical intent to charge them ad infinitum the very same charges per month even after their customer have fully paid their smartphone packages.

When I questioned VIVA why this is the situation when my iPhone contract expired in Dec 2013 and they continued to charge me nevertheless, their reply was that it is not their policy to inform their customers that their contracts have expired. I pursued the matter further to try to get a refund to no avail.

I thought I would take this to the telecom’s governing body, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and submitted the following:

Mobile number: xxx

Operator: VIVA

Type of complaint: VIVA did not inform me of the iPhone package plan expiry on the anniversary of the original contract (Dec ’13) and kept charging the same amount beyond that until Feb ’15 when it was discovered.

Type of resolutions requested:

  1. Refund the difference in charges from Dec ’13 to date
  2. Force ALL telecom operators to inform their customers on the anniversary of their purchased packages; either offer an upgrade or downgrade by customer choice

I’m available to meet to submit all correspondence with the operator to gain an equitable resolution.

I believe that the action of the telecom operators in this regard is unethical and should be corrected. All telecom operators around the world are essentially automated billing systems, it is their ethical duty to program those systems to inform their customers of the expiry of their contract and offer competitive packages to retain them. It is not the responsibility of a simple customer to keep track of these dates.

I look forward to your response.

The TRA’s response was not slow in coming, I just received a telephone call from them to inform me that they cannot accept and progress the complaint because it is up to company policy how they deal with this issue. When I asked them how I can escalate this matter, the response was that they didn’t know, effectively blocking any further action. To say that this was the response of the governing body is very disappointing. To me, this situation is taking advantage of customers in a completely nefarious manner. The bait and switch con doesn’t have anything on this.

There are two ways I can take this issue forward now: one is to go to court and the other is to get a member of parliament to sponsor a bill forcing a correction of these cons. I don’t have much hope of success on the first because of the necessary time and funds, and the second is equally as bad because parliament seems to be more interested in municipal, rather than legislative affairs.

What’s the solution then? How might a person effect change in this country whose very bodies that are supposed to protect citizens rights aren’t doing the jobs they are designed to perform?

I’m in the process of switching away from VIVA, hopefully never having to go back to them for any further service.

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Hey there. How’s it going?

Hey there. How’s it going?

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The thing that truly disturbs me about attempting to write anything, in my blog here or elsewhere, is the necessity to censor myself, and thinking twice, thrice or more about just about everything I write. The environment in Bahrain at the moment isn’t conducive to free thought or speech. Everything – it seems – is construed as traitorous, or at least unpatriotic. The political views are so far apart now that there is no hope of rapprochement. It’s a zero-sum game; for a side to win, the other has to lose. It’s absolutely ridiculous. You open any paper now and what you read are threats and exclusionary politics.

Until when? I’m tired of this situation. Both sides are waiting for the other to give up and until then, they will use whatever tool available to pressure the other side without any regard to the people caught in the middle. The only winners here are the brown-nosers; selfish twats who’s only way to gain anything is by feeding on the misery of others.

How should this situation be resolved? Here are my thoughts:

  • The common denominator must be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Inculcate social justice. Yes it’s difficult, but this is something that must be set at a very high priority to get us out of the quagmire we’re currently in.
  • Evolution rather than revolution. As we’ve seen in other places around the world (Iraq, Iran, Syria, and other locations) abrupt change to the status quo is very painful for all concerned and is unrealistic. Methodic change anchored to clear goals and timeframes is a much better option.
  • The way to arrive at resolution must be through a meaningful dialogue whose outcome must be binding on everyone.
  • The method of governing must change; the current iteration was a good experiment but obviously the experiment did isn’t a complete success by any means. There is vast room for improvement.
  • Call things by their name. We can reach a better future together by stopping the practice of idolising individuals and by identifying wrongs. Create a proper accountable structure and reward and penalise on merit, rather than allegiance or any other criteria.
  • Don’t take criticism personally and don’t demonise those who you disagree with. You only succeed in belittling yourself if you do.

I’m sure there are other factors to consider. However, this short list might go a long way in finding an equitable solution that everyone aspires to.

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2014 Reflections

2014 Reflections

Where has the time gone? For goodness’s sake it feels like Jan 1st, 2014 was just yesterday! Never mind. Let me recap the goals I set for myself for 2014 and see how I did. Here goes:

  1. DONE: Run the Athens Half Marathon (read the “down side” below)
  2. DONE: Maintain weight at or below 91kg – I’ve actually averaged 86kgs with 83.5 being least and 89 max
  3. DONE: Go the gym 5 times a week. Nailed this one, I go 6 times a week now
  4. DONE: Read one book a month. I’m averaging more than 2 books a month actually. I’m burning through the iBooks store and that one hour on the bike in the gym 6 days a week is a big contributor to that.
  5. DONE: Make a short movie; I’ve done several with the start of the Mahmood’s Garden Shows initiative as well as several others. Nothing narrative though.
  6. DONE: Get a comprehensive health check. All A-OK.
  7. DONE: Get one international client for GB

Here are the goals I did not reach 🙁

  1. Read 4 fiction novels in the year. I just read Wilbur Smith’s Vicious Circle. Disappointing story that was too.
  2. Dedicate Sundays and Wednesdays to no TV. Yeah sure!
  3. Organise a photography exhibition
  4. Start a Yoga Studio
  5. Start the GB Saudi brand in Dammam
  6. Get a massage every 6 months

So overall, I think the progress was okay. Let me share with you some of the other accomplishments:

2014 Accomplishments

  1. My Self
    1. Health
      1. Completed the Athens half Marathon
        1. The down side of this was having to undergo an ORIF Hip Surgery on 30 June with three 10cm screws. My right femur’s neck fractured probably because of the double whammy of planned drastic reduction in weight, and training for a full rather than a half marathon (I downloaded the wrong app, one for a full marathon training rather than half which doubled all distances etc. I didn’t realise that for a while but when I did, I threw caution to the wind and went with it. Bad move!
      2. Completed the Al-Areen 10k Challenge
      3. Maintained weight at 86k – down from 116.5kg
      4. Maintained approximately 10,000 steps per day
        1. over 4,000,000 done
        2. approx 3,220 km logged
    2. New and Scary Things done
      1. Spoke at the EO Rule Breakers Event in Munich, Germany
      2. MC’ed the Think Pink 10-year anniversary Gala
      3. Did the iFly thing in Singapore
    3. Gardening
      1. Overhauled and replenished a lot of the garden
      2. Seed nursery for the first time in 3 years – good results
      3. Started a weekly(ish) Gardening Show: The Mahmood’s Garden Show at mahmoodsgarden.com
      4. Built a deck in the front garden
    4. Travelled to my 42nd country – Ireland; list of countries travelled to in 2014:
      1. Dublin, Ireland
      2. Singapore
      3. Penang, Malaysia
      4. Munich, Germany
      5. Cologne, Germany
      6. New York, USA
      7. Washington, DC, USA
  2. My Family: I asked them to give me some feedback a couple of days ago (Arif chose to stay in NY this Christmas, so his answers are still to be emailed, when he surfaces from the various celebrations no doubt!) here’s some of their contributions:
    1. “More understanding this year, checked your temper at the door” – Amna
    2. “You brought a lot of kindness to the table this year” – Amna
    3. “Given a lot of emotional support to the family” – Hanan
    4. “You opened another opportunity for me going forward in my life” – Hanan
    5. “You provided emotional support to help me support the kids” – Frances
    6. “Kept everyone afloat financially” – Frances
    7. “We’ve done a bit more together this year” – Frances
    8. “You’re not tormenting the animals as much!” – Frances
  3. My Business
    1. Gulf Broadcast
      1. Another profitable year
      2. Exceeded 2013 turn-over
      3. Inducted one new member of staff (Ryan Andrews)
      4. Inducted our fourth intern (Latifa Algosaibi); the most successful so far!
      5. Signed new employment agreements with three new staff members to start in Jan and Feb 2015
      6. Re-envisioned the company’s mission, vision and core values
        1. Core Values: Risk Taking, Innovation and Learning
        2. Purpose: Helping Businesses Thrive (this one was unanimously decided just this afternoon!)
      7. Re-envisioned our product line and will be relaunching a refreshed offering in Jan 2015
  4. My Community
    1. EO
      1. Successfully managed EO Bahrain
      2. Handed over a thriving Chapter
      3. Successfully held the EO Majlis regional event
      4. Attended Penang University
      5. Continued as the Internal Awareness Chair at the Global Communications Committee
        1. Nurtured and launched the Translation Initiative which will have a major impact on the globalisation and growth efforts of EO
        2. Nurtured and launched the EO Nation Conversation / Transparency initiative, the inaugural event was held at the Great Hall of the United Nations in Switzerland during the EO Geneva University
      6. Inducted as a member of the EO Path of Leadership global subcommittee

So 2014 was a very eventful year, to be sure. To tell you the truth, though, those successes weren’t felt much because I felt that something important was missing. Something was taking the happiness energy out of all these successes. That something was some challenges with my family, and when I thought about this and talked to the kids and my wife, it was glaringly obvious that I did not prioritise them as much as they – and I – would have liked. I chose to spend most of my energy on the business and then the a large chunk of what was left was invested in my own pursuits. Although I tried to involve them, that attempt was not enough.

With this realisation, I determined to change the goals for 2015 completely and give priority to the family. I’m going to achieve this is by reducing the number of goals and consolidate them into a TOP 5, rather than go for a laundry list that will once again not allow me to direct my energy where I want it to go; strengthening my relationship with my family and enjoy our time together.

Other than setting the Top 5 list, I will also have a theme for 2015 for the first time, and that theme is going to be GROWTH. Determined and defined growth for My Self, My Family, My Business and My Community. This by the way is one of the best values I learnt being a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. Thank you #EONation and thank you Samer Kurdi for your #EO360. These concepts truly changed my life over the last couple of years.

My 2015 Top 5

2015 Theme: GROWTH

  1. MY FAMILY: Re-establish connections with my family and be more present and available to them. I intend to be pro-active in this sphere rather than reactive.
  2. MY SELF: Continue with the health journey. As in 2014, I do better when I set a tangible goal, like the Athens half marathon. The health goal for 2015 will be to climb Kilimanjaro in June.
  3. MY SELF: For my right brain, in 2015 I want to be able to play 3 – 5 Jazz tracks on the saxophone by the end of the year, and be proficient enough at it to enjoy the experience and make it a sustainable new hobby.
  4. MY BUSINESS: As to the business, I’m setting an achievable goal to grow revenues by a minimum of 30% over 2014 and also achieve budgeted financial goals.
  5. MY COMMUNITY: I’m going to continue to serve in the EO Global Communications Committee and Path of Leadership sub-committees until June. I’ll make myself available to help my community in other ways beyond June 30th.

I invite my family to hold me accountable to these priorities, and remind me once in a while to measure against them so I don’t lose track. The task now is to create quarterly tactical “rocks” to allow me to achieve the big goals of 2015. From there, I will break those rocks down to monthly and weekly tasks. Having such a conscious effort at achieving these goals will ensure a better chance at success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own lists and successes of 2014. I do not want to hear any advice please. With all due respect, if you have a personal experience you can share that will help shed light on any challenges that I might encounter with my Top 5 items, please do share that. Avoid the words “should” and “I think”!

Have a wonderful, bountiful and peaceful 2015.

Much love.

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A sure way to defeat ISIS

A sure way to defeat ISIS

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My own personal views on how to defeat ISIS or any other form of extremism:

  1. teaching-religionSeparate mosque from state. Put that in the constitution and don’t allow its reversal.
  2. Critical thinking should be the mandatory teaching methodology.
  3. Remove all instances of the “tripple-R” syndrome.
  4. Don’t teach religion in schools. If people want their children to be religiously educated, they should do it themselves. They shouldn’t be allowed to cop-out by delegating that important task to some other entity without their direct involvement and input. Getting  a cookie cutter version of a religion to be shoved down children’s throats is obviously not the answer. That method failed, quite evidently.
  5. If religion is to be taught in schools, then teach ALL religions, not just the state religion and don’t allow one to be emphasised as “the true religion” and all others are “bad” or “inauthentic” or whatever derogatory method is used to show how exemplary your religion is by denigrating the others. Encourage healthy debate, even at a young age. They’re just young, not imbeciles. One hardly teaches deep theological issues to six-year olds.
  6. Introduce real democracy as a method of rule. Yes, I mean one-man one-vote. If you want to call it “Western” then that’s fine be me. It works. Countries adopting it are way ahead of any of ours. Let people have a choice in who they elect to follow and they should be able to peacefully remove them if they fail their duties, or when their terms expire. No one person for life any more please. That didn’t work in the vast majority of cases throughout the ages. Let’s learn from history for once, rather than continue to blindly repeat it.

There you have it. Maybe by adopting these, the next generation will have a better time at integrating as human being with the rest of the world. And they can choose for dialogue as a method of resolving differences with the others rather than chopping people’s heads off.

Yalla. I’m fed up of waiting.

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Bahrain welcomes ISIS

Bahrain welcomes ISIS

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Oh yes it does.

With open arms too.

And their modus operandi is to quell the demands for democracy.

Someone should really tell those in power to be really careful what they wish for. The oft used “divide and conquer” strategy doesn’t really work in this day and age. For one thing, people are a bit smarter due to the ready availability of information. More than that, people now ask questions and read dissenting views to make up their own minds.

First, Understand that the human spirit will always espouse democracy and respect of human rights. Nothing will change that. So get that through your heads.

Second, in 2011 I have witnessed two of the most courageous decisions ever made by a Bahraini monarch. The king apologised for a citizen’s killing, and he ordered an international commission of enquiry to find out what happened in an impartial way.

Third, something happened which derailed that nobel initiative.

Fourth, for goodness sake, understand that those who derailed those initiatives are not your friends, and it’s because of them that people are suffering and unfairness rules.

Bahrain now is literally living under apartheid rule.

How is that conducive to the propagation and safe handover of rule, is beyond me.

This void must be addressed, and it will only be addressed by recognising that those machinations do not and will never work.

How is it that now Bahrain is exporting terror? With citizens actively encouraged to join the ranks of that morally bankrupt ISIS? Or any other war for that matter? How is it that we get intellectual mercenaries preach hate and are actually encouraged to do so, and do so with impunity? How is it that monsters cloaked with religiosity actively encouraging and condoning death and destructions be allowed to do so? How is it that the majority of the population be allowed to live under constant fear and subjugation? When all it takes is doing the decent thing to reverse wrongs?

What do we need to get that courage we witnessed in 2011 back?

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The Most Important Video About Israel Ever Made

The Most Important Video About Israel Ever Made

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Dennis Prager represents the the other side of the Arab/Israeli argument.

In this video, the scholar argues that there never was a Palestine, and he contents that every Arab wants the Jewish state and people to cease to exist. Citing the various other wars against Israel since 1948, and the Arab response to its declaration of statehood with their “famous three no’s: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it. He also bases his arguments with the assertion that Hamas’ doctrine is to refuse to recognise Israel. Hamas is on record to accept the existence of Israel, within the 1967 borders, so that debunks the majority of his argument.

The other is that every Arab wants to exterminate the Jews and Israel. That is preposterous of course. Speaking for myself, I never have and never will ask for that. Apart from having many good Jewish friends all over the world whom I love and respect, as I have friends who happen to be Muslims, Hindu, Atheists and every colour in between, what benefit is there from hate? Everyone has a sovereign right to exist, without having to declare that fact and without having it bestowed on them. Every human does have a right to exist. Period.

The issue I have with what Israel is doing to the Palestinians now is denying them their human rights. The Israeli government has proven time and again that if any government was bloodthirsty, it tops the bill in that department. The most unfair government there is, and certainly the only one which operates under an apartheid regime, and does so with impunity. Unjust. Unethical and completely rogue.

What started this whole war this time was the killing of three young Israelis. The Israeli government decided that Hamas is to blame, so it levels Gaza. Well, it’s been confirmed that Hamas didn’t have anything to do with that heinous incident. Yet, Netanyahu and co’s desperation for another bloodletting took that excuse to kill over 600 human beings and maim thousands more.

As tragic as it is, their deaths has not gone in vain. People now question Israel and its policies and the support it once enjoyed has certainly waned.

This conflict need to be resolved. Put down your guns and sit down and talk! Difficult as that may be, people in power need to have the real courage to do so. Having this conflict go on for tens if not hundreds of years isn’t going to benefit anyone.

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The story of an Israeli soldier

The story of an Israeli soldier

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It’s interesting to hear the experience of an Israeli soldier who questioned why. An interesting perspective and an eye opening one.

“All of us want to be at the right place and the right time when history is knocking on our door, and history is knocking now and all of you need to be at the right place now.”
Eran Efrati

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LEAVE!

LEAVE!

“Like it or not, I shall remain…”

I’m not very proud of being an Arab at this point in time. Listless and worthless. Amidst a region who spend the most on military and police equipment, yet are happy enough to exclusively direct those inward at their own people while brothers and sisters – within their ready sight – and who need their support, are being annihilated by a terrorist illegitimate state. Would they come to their help? No. They would rather call that terrorist state a friend. And why not when it’s a ready peg to hang the unfulfilled aspiration of their citizens on? Divert the attention from their lavish exuberance, their mismanagement, and the maintenance of the subjugation of “their” people. Palestinians be damned and hurray to Israel. Their thrones are of primary importance.

What is there, really, to be proud of for being an Arab? Living in the most regressive, inebriated, cantons kept at bay by designed in-fighting while unrepresentative lords continue to delude themselves for being the puppet masters while the obvious truth are they are mere, expendable puppets? Propped up by an unending river of paid-for loyalties of sycophantic morons.

Leave! I support any fellow Arab to leave. Leave to live. Leave to have a life. Leave to find respect and never look back. You won’t be missed. You will actually receive a red carpet put in your path to ease your exit. Good riddance! You’re not wanted. Leave and create a life and revel in the realisation that you’re making an acknowledged and appreciated difference in your new adoptive land and amongst your new and more caring people.

Leave! What are you waiting for? You’re not appreciated where you are and to them, you’re not worth anything. Everything around you is superficial. Whether you are sincere, passionately work for your living and try to make a difference is not the issue. They know that their imported help will suffice. You’re irrelevant. You’re unneeded. For your efforts of making a difference you’re fought with tooth and nail, you’re the enemy, you’re the trouble maker. You’re thrown in prison for the slightest infraction, for life. Fifteen years is the initial thanks you get for caring. Adding another fifteen is a simple pen push away.

Rights? What are those? Carry on in your inebriated dreams my friend. Or wake up… and LEAVE!

And you wonder why hundreds of our brothers and sisters are being currently killed, and hundreds of thousands are destitute and surrounded while the only help they can expect is the help they do not require? It’s so easy to give money from funds one hasn’t worked for. Caring enough to do something concrete about their continued plight is another. Unfortunately that will never be forthcoming.

Leave.

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Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

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I just realised that I would LOVE the opportunity NOT to post any political stuff or even think about politics. Ever. Or at least for a reasonable period of time.

Bahrain, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Syria etc are bloody tiring.

When will the day come when we can forget about strife and concentrate on living, actually living our lives rather than surviving from one conflict or war to another? At 52, I’ve lived through five major wars in the region and countless other conflicts. It’s time that we gave peace a chance don’t you think?

With peace we can prosper. We can concentrate on being creative and productive rather than storing and shoring up hatred for the other. Hate’s energy is debilitating and corrosive. It saps all creativity and productiveness from the soul and leaves one empty. And we’ve been at this state for over a century. Isn’t it time to force our politicians to create peace rather than continue to feed war? Don’t we have the courage to get that realised?

I’m fed up. Really fed up of these situations. I know it’s going to be extremely difficult for me, but I’ll try, at least for a little while, to ignore strife and concentrate on living.

I shall seek peace within myself. Starting now.

[ map ]

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The reality of doing business in the Middle East

The reality of doing business in the Middle East

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I’m doing some research into the small business environment in the Middle East with the view of introducing an innovative program to help Bahraini youth to make entrepreneurship their choice, their preferred career path. The program is part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. It’s the Global Student Entrepreneur Award, or GSEA for short. Reading some of the resources online, I came across this painful piece:

Let’s get one thing straight: doing business in the Middle East is not about enhancing profit margins or improving your skills base.

Unlike emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, this region does not have a ready supply of well-trained, hard-working people – nor are employees cheap – so if outsourcing’s your game you’d better look elsewhere. The reason? In oil-rich states around the Gulf coast government handouts and a ‘not what you know but who you know’ business ethic have removed incentives to work hard or take risks as an entrepreneur. [ source ]

Ouch!

The article is from Startup.co.uk which defines itself as

the UK’s leading independent, online resource for anyone starting and growing a business.

The article continues to rip the culture of “deservedness” in the Gulf in particular while offering grounded glimpses of what the future might hold, as emphasis is shifting in the area – supposedly – in the education field and governments are now preferring technical skills over religion in formal study. I’m skeptical about this assertion in particular. I truly believe that the best way to fix a wrong is to recognise that it’s wrong in the first place.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the article. It’s a good wake up call and provides a good platform for us to start fixing things. If not for us, at least it will be for future generations.

I hope that by EO Bahrain introducing GSEA, that’s a good step in that direction. Let me know if you know a young enterprising Bahraini who is in university and has been running his or her own business for the last six months. I’d love to talk to them. Hopefully they’ll qualify for GSEA and a future that is less bleak than that article provides.

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