Astro Malaysia's Racist Policy Forces Customer of Indian / Foreign Background to Choose Auto Debit Payment or Risk Application Rejection

Madhavi Rai: After moving away from Kuala Lumpur my husband and I have never subscribed to Astro. Since we don’t spend much time at home to be able to watch TV, we were using Hypp TV. Recently, my husband and I thought that it would be good to subscribe to Astro since he misses having the luxury of watching live sports at home.

Last Monday (3/7/17) I submitted an online application via Astro’s website to subscribe and open a new Astro account.

The next day, Tuesday (4/7/17) I received a call from someone from Astro (I assume was a telemarketer) to inform me that Astro has received my application for a new account.

She then proceeded to share with me the different packages and what are the package options I have if I were to subscribe to Astro.

Now here comes the twist, of what would have been a normal sign up process.

Next she highlighted that since I’m ‘Indian’ (assumption made from my name), Astro has a policy for Indians and foreigners to compulsorily sign up for auto debit payment method. (No other payment option).

I was puzzled. The conversation went something like this…

Me: Okay… I will think about it. But I’m not an Indian neither am I a foreigner… So that means I can decide later on my preferred payment method right?

Astro: But the name stated in the application is Madhavi Rai; that means you are Indian right?

Me: No I’m not. I am of mix parentage (Malaysian Nepali + Malaysian Chinese) and I’m Malaysian too.

Astro: Okay… If that’s the case I will put you as a Chinese so you can change your mind later

Me: But why does Astro have such ruling?

Astro: I know it sounds like racism but it has nothing to do with it… Astro…err…it’s just like that.

I could sense how uncomfortable she was because she sounded like a Malaysian Indian girl over the phone because obviously this is a purely racist policy.

Next day (5/7/2017) I received a call from a Ms Devi from Astro. She told me that my application to subscribe to Astro has been rejected.

I asked her Why? Her reply was…

Devi: “Because ma’am you don’t want to pick auto debit; Indians and foreigners MUST choose auto debit”

Me: “But I’m not an Indian…”

Devi: “Ma’am you are ‘others’ right? Lain lain? Well then you are considered a foreigner”

(Lord have mercy…)

Me: “I’m not a foreigner; I’m a Malaysian!”

Devi: “Yes ma’am but you see…you are considered others as you are not Chinese or Malay or Indian so you are a foreigner”

Me: “How can you say that I’m a foreigner when I’m a true blue born and bred Malaysian? Are you telling me that simply because there is no option for my race on your application form you say and assume that I’m a foreigner?”

Devi: “Ma’am I’ve got no time to argue with you; whether you want Astro or not I don’t care”


My thoughts on this experience.

  1. it’s a shame that Astro has biased racist policies and stereotypes Malaysians based on the racial backgrounds.
  2. When the whole world is rejecting racism and racist policies, it is sad and disgusting to witness a giant corporation (Astro in this case) and Malaysia, a country that is proud of its ethnic diversity composition regress to such policies.
  3. Astro should really and I mean REALLY spend some serious time training and improving their customer service personnel.


Astro: Response from Astro:

With regards to Ms Madhavi’s feedback, we at Astro apologise unreservedly to her for the unpleasant experience. We deeply regret the incident, which should not have happened. Astro assures our customers that we would not sanction any customer promotions or policies that discriminate any ethnicity. This particular campaign offer applies to ALL new customers, and not as inferred in the miscommunication.

We take this matter seriously and are investigating what actually transpired in Ms Madhavi’s case to ensure incidences such as these will not repeat. Again, our sincerest apologies to all. Thank you.

Balamurugan Muniraju, VP of Customer Service, Astro