|Anil Kumar Sardana, CEO, NDPL: Effecting
a turnaround is proving to be the biggest challenge of his career
10 'o' clock on a Tuesday morning, this is already Anil Kumar Sardana's
second meeting of the day. His schedule for the rest of the day
is chock-a-block too, and it looks like holding his attention for
any considerable length of time is going to be difficult. But speak
he does, fast, and yes, with a straight face, in between answering
incessant phone calls and replying to urgent emails on his IBM laptop.
If the dapper 43-year-old CEO of North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL)
seems like a man in a hurry, it's because he really is.
About eight months ago, his parent company
Tata Power picked up a majority stake in the capital's ailing power
distribution company Delhi Vidyut Board, when it was privatised
and split into three entities. Tata Power got the north and north-western
markets, and NDPL is a 51-49 joint venture with the Delhi government.
The other two entities were bagged by the Reliance Group-owned BSES
(formerly Bombay Suburban Electricity Supply), which paid Rs 294
crore for the ownership. BSES Rajdhani manages south and west, while
BSES Yamuna takes care of central and east Delhi.
Consider the mess the two power majors have
inherited: DVB incurred a staggering net loss of Rs 1,200 crore
in 2001-02, of which three-fourths was due to ''technical and commercial
losses'' (read: theft); most of its equipment is old; and it has
a bloated workforce of 18,000 whose average age is 50-plus. Sardana
and BSES, which did not speak to BT for this story, have the unenviable
job of not just staunching the annual losses and beefing up supply
quality, but also literally overhauling the organisational mindset.
NDPL'S CHANGE MANTRA
Put consumers at the centre of the business
Enhance employee skills and motivation
Think of electricity as any other consumer product
Improve system with technology and innovation
Tap new sources to match demand growth
By Sardana's own admission, turning around his
part of the erstwhile DVB is by far the biggest challenge yet in
his 20-year long career in the power sector. ''The entire exercise
of integrated resource planning was missing in Delhi,'' points out
Sardana. The official average for Aggregate Technical and Commercial
(AT&C) losses, or power theft, in Mumbai is a piffling 12 per
cent of the total power supplied. In Delhi it's a crippling 48.1
per cent. Neither did the DVB employees greet privatisation with
open arms. In fact, when NDPL took off in July last year, it did
so in the midst of a scorching summer, grid failures, and rumoured
sabotage by disgruntled employees. Eight months on, NDPL may not
have radically altered the power scenario in its markets, but a
45-year-old apathetic organisation is beginning to think like a
consumer-friendly corporation, and a few faces are already smiling
outside its customer care centres.
NDPL's three-storey corporate office in North
Delhi's Kingsway Camp is by no means plush. But the new white-wood
cubicles and the nattily dressed young executives who occupy them
are a vast improvement over DVB's Sargasso Sea of typewritten memos
and manual ledgers. ''There were just two computers in the whole
of north and north-western region that the two chief engineers used.
Now in eight months there are four hundred," boasts Sardana.
With a workforce whose average education ranges
from high school to graduate level, having the PCs alone wasn't
enough. Starting from clerks upwards, nearly 1,000 employees were
trained in computers.
"Computerisation has reduced billing errors
to almost zero from the 20 per cent under the manual system,"
says A.K. Saini, GM (HR), NDPL. The change management programme,
Parivartan, implemented by the company has seen nearly 1,200 employees
undergo 400 man days of quality and customer care training at the
company's own training centres and at NIS every month. "There
has been a sea change in the employee attitude since privatisation.
Each employee treats the customer with respect," says Rajesh
Bahl, an Assistant Manager who has spent 17 years at DVB.
Thanks to the flak that it received from the
customers during the early days, NDPL quickly realised that customer
orientation was vital for its long-term success. To make the bill
payment procedure a glitch-free experience for the customers, the
company has introduced a token system at the centres with comfortable
seating arrangements and a television to boot. When 80-year-old
Jasdev Singh had a blown fuse at his residence in the North Delhi
borough of Rohini, he decided to call the NDPL call centre. To his
amazement, a polite voice on the other side of the line said it
would be rectified in three hours. Rectified it was before time
and also Singh's baksheesh (gift) of Rs 50 to the technician turned
down promptly. A mightily impressed Singh travelled a good five
kilometres to NDPL's office to express his gratitude-in writing.
THE OTHER PLAYER
BSES hopes to take Delhi the Mumbai way
| The reliance industries-controlled
BSES, formerly known as the Bombay Suburban Electricity company,
is a 75-year-old organisation that made an entry into Delhi
by winning the bids for two of the three circles of the erstwhile
DVB. BSES paid Rs. 235 crore for a 51 per cent stake for south
and south west, which it has now christened bses Rajdhani and
Rs 59 crore for BSES Yamuna, which distributes electricity in
central and East Delhi.
The two circles combined, BSES controls power distribution
for nearly two-thirds of the capital. It has a consumer base
close to 17 lakh and inherited nearly 12,500 employees from
DVB. With complaint redressal cells in each of its 24 districts,
24-hour call centres, and fresh investments in equipment,
BSES too is going the whole hog to improve the customer experience.
Recently, it commissioned a massive meter inspection exercise
across its 17 lakh domestic and industrial consumers to keep
a check on the losses. Consumers are hoping that between BSES
and Tata Power Delhi's power woes would be solved.
The company has also issued close to 400 mobile
phones to even junior engineers and linemen on the field for speedy
attention to complaints. Complaints received at the 24x7 call centres
are sent out in the form of an SMS to the men in charge of the particular
region. "This has helped NDPL drive down the response time
to less than two hours from five hours, in the last six months,''
says Sardana. The company even announces its schedules for maintenance
shut down every day on the Delhi fm.
Cracking The Whip
With losses from theft alone amounting to Rs
600 crore every year, tackling it effectively is the key to the
survival of the disinvestment exercise in the capital. Not surprisingly,
a chunk of the Rs 543 crore planned in investment over the next
three years will go into putting newer equipment and re-laying cables
that are in a wretched condition now. Besides being a safety hazard
they contribute heavily to AT&C losses. One of the senior Tata
Power engineers on deputation says he was shocked at the state of
neglect of the equipment. "Ever since privatisation was envisaged,
DVB put the technical upgradations on the backburner," he says.
To further rein in the technical losses, NDPL
has armed its engineers with a thermo-vision camera with which they
can film the grids and all other installations to detect even the
smallest of troubles. The infrared image from the camera highlights
areas that are relatively hot. The rise in temperature can be caused
due to loose contacts and can result in breakdowns.
But the real challenge for NDPL is to curb
power theft. Here, the company is beginning to crack the whip hard.
The four enforcement teams comprising a meter expert, an engineer
and a technician zip around the area, just like any set of investigators,
zero in on the law breakers with the help of tip offs and their
own instincts. "Catching the offenders can be very simple.
Sometimes something as simple as the mismatch between the high sanctioned
load and low usage can be a giveaway," explains Suresh Kumar
Choudhary, the avuncular AGM (Enforcement), NDPL.
It's not that simple always, though. Choudhary
says he has come across cases where the consumers even use remote
controlled devices to get their meters running when they find the
enforcement team in the vicinity. The most common way of tampering
with meters, he points out, is to insert something as thin as an
X-ray film inside to hinder the cyclometer's rotation. Sometimes
such confrontations can get violent, and the enforcement team takes
along a bunch of private security guards just in case muscle power
is needed. Where law and order problem is anticipated, the team
even takes a posse along.
Choudhary narrates an incident in DSIDC's Narela
Industrial Area where he suspected that a plastic goods manufacturer
was flouting the rules. His team decided to go in for the kill at
midnight. The team went in a mini truck masquerading as suppliers
who wanted to unload materials required by the company. When the
unsuspecting watchmen and employees opened the gates, the NDPL officials
forced themselves to the meter cabinet and unravelled the mystery
of amazingly low units of power billed by the company. The team,
which is recovering Rs 70-80 lakh in theft every month, also takes
a camera along so that there is irrefutable evidence of the crime.
The company, it was soon discovered, had cheated NDPL of nearly
Rs 7 lakh by tampering with the meters.
The power distribution privatisation can by
no means be called a success story yet. The jury is still very much
out. ''Yes it is a small step forward but key questions are has
the quality of power gone up? Have the tariffs come down and has
the customer satisfaction levels gone up considerably?'' asks a
sceptical Harry Dhaul, Director General, Independent Power Producers
Association of India. Sardana's reply would probably be a shrug.
You see, he has another important meeting coming up that may not
solve North and North-western Delhi's power problems overnight,
but just the same will make sure that it does someday. Soon.