PSU fuel retailers go the extra mile to enhance customer experience
When IT executive Shalini Gupta drove into an Indian Oil petrol pump in Delhi recently, she was greeted in English by a smart executive. The attendants tanked up her car, wiped the windshields and offered her a discounted car wash on the following weekend. Shalini was amazed at such customer-pampering from a PSU outlet.
Such things have become common at retail pumps run by the public sector oil marketing companies–Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL). These government-owned companies, which operate more than 50,000 pumps against just 3,000 by their private peers, are leaving no stone unturned to enhance customer experience at their fuel stations and not letting any chance to companies such as Reliance Industries, Essar Oil or Shell to take away their customers. IOC, BPCL and HPCL’s push for ‘customer satisfaction’ has intensified post-diesel prices deregulation in October 2014. Petrol was freed from government control a few years back in June 2010.
B Ashok, chairman of IOC, said there has been a modernisation drive across all the IOC outlets. “Now, you can see that all Indian Oil outlets across all states look similar. Outlets in 24 cities have been completely automated,” Ashok told FE. IOC is the country’s largest fuel retailer, which runs about 24,471 fuel stations as of December 31, 2014, including 6,219 rural retail outlets. It sold 6,114 thousand metric tonnes (TMT) of petrol and 20,976.8 TMT of diesel in the last fiscal year.
Automation is being implemented across all retail fuel outlets to monitor their working. There are nearly 11,900 retail pumps selling more than 100 kilolitres of fuel every month. Of this, automation has been done in about 10,550, and in 8,676 pumps a unique system of no automation-no operation (NANO) has been implemented as of January 1, 2014.
The government has set out a ‘vision document 2015’ for petrol and diesel consumers, which envisaged better facilities for truckers, vehicle servicing stations along with rest areas or dhabas on the national highways at every 50 km; fleet tracking station on all national highways; provision of a retail outlet within 15 km for all citizens; automation of any retail pumps selling more than 100 kl/month; and installation of GPS on all fuel and kerosene tankers.
“A professional training initiative for customer attendants–project Chetna is being launched. Various mobile applications were also launched such as X-Sparsh for enhancing dealers’ productivity and X-Snehash for providing relevant information on-the-go for retail customers. Such unique initiatives of IOC are part of a profit-oriented approach”, explained Ashok.
In 2013-14, India’s PSU retailers sold 17.13 million tonnes of petrol and 68.73 million tonnes of diesel. For increasing the coverage of retail outlets in rural areas, the concept of Kisan Seva Kendra (KSK) was introduced in 2004-05. These are low-cost retail outlets in rural or agricultural markets to distribute diesel and other petroleum products along with non-fuel products such as pesticides, vegetables, banking solutions and stationary items. There are nearly 5,774 KSKs across the country as on January 1, 2014.
With a view to overcome erratic power supply and replace polluting generator sets, solar photo voltaic systems have been installed at IOC retail outlets from 2011. Within a span of three years, over 2,400 retail outlets and Kisan Seva Kendra outlets across India have opted for solar energy. To motivate the resellers, IOC has devised a scheme of soft loan for its dealers to migrate to solar power.