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Credit cards or personal loans? nah, it’s a bigger market out there

The New Indian Express logo The New Indian Express 21-05-2019 Pallavi Srivastava
a stack of flyers on a table: Representational Image. © Provided by The New Indian Express Representational Image. a person posing for the camera © Provided by The New Indian Express

BENGALURU: Applaud as much as we may the success of 15-year-olds winning international sports medals, or 25-year-olds chucking their well-paying jobs to become stand-up comics, there isn’t really much progress we seem to have made when it comes to encouraging children to excel in anything but academics. And I have telemarketing calls to offer as proof.

Yes, these telemarketing firms think they know where the vulnerabilities of people lie. Especially if the potential customer happens to be a parent of a school-going child. The newest spam callers to have discovered my cellphone number are not banks, but coaching classes. So it’s no longer calls offering credit cards or personal loans that I am bombarded with, caller identification app notwithstanding. Now, the phone buzzes with marketing calls that target me not as a professional who may succumb to the lure of easy money, but a parent who the callers think may still have a mind stuck in the ’80s.

If the child studies in high school, the caller comes straight to the point: Would you like to enrol your ward in the coaching class? If, however, the child is in primary or middle school, the conversation comprises far more twists. Most callers begin by saying the child is among the few who have been “selected” after a screening test was conducted in the school (the child denies taking any such exam), and that these students would be offered a discounted mentorship programme to prepare them for the academic road ahead. Yup, so what if all the permanent teeth haven’t erupted yet, the child can still be moulded for competitive exams, right? A few have even talked about imparting them life skills. Now, that perhaps is something most parents could use more.

Ask the callers how they know the names of the children, the school and the class in which they study, and the answers are varied. While some say they got it from ‘big data companies’ or through their marketing team, others say they have a tie-up with the school. To parents who aggressively question consent and privacy issues, they smoothly pass on the responsibility to the school. Some parents think maybe sports or other hobby classes are where they get the details from. Or, could it be the UIDAI?

Unfortunately for the callers though, when they dial my number, they don’t know that the parent on the other side is someone who often reminds the kids how lucky they are not to be asked after each test, ‘So, tell me the highest score in the class’. And that the 11-year-old in question here fancies himself as a cricketer, a drummer in a music band (so what if the maid controls with much effort the urge to hang wet clothes on the mostly-unused drum kit on a rainy day) or an animal rescuer – or, on some days, all of them.

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