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North Delhi Power Limited

Power Billing in New Delhi

New Delhi Power Limited has developed a homegrown solution that restructures its billing system and has the potential to impact 8.5 lakh people across Delhi. Let's take a closer look at the billing system that won the Computer Associates Intelligent Enterprise Award. by Deepali Gupta

The intelligent edge

Project: Automatic Meter Reading and Spot Billing Machines
Date Started: July 2002
Date Completed: March 2004
Project Cost: Rs 5700 lakh
Project Objective: A less person dependent billing system, transparency of processes and quick, quality service for customers.
Benefits Accrued: Faster, transparent billing process and services and constant tracking of business goals thanks to the online MIS.
Innovation: The speed of implementation, Automatic Meter Reading techniques and the spot billing mechanism.

North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) is a joint venture power distribution company between Tata Power and Government of Delhi. When Delhi Vidyut Board privatized in mid-2002, NDPL took over power supplying functions for one third of the Delhi population, in North Delhi.

"It also inherited a network comprising two computers," said Akhil Pandey, HOG IT & Systems, NDPL. The only bright side, it seems, was that NDPL had a clean slate to start work on.

Pandey and his team began work on several fronts after the IT department in conjunction with the business laid down some guiding principles.

In the course of revamping and modernizing the systems, Pandey perceived the need for a less person dependant billing system. NDPL therefore implemented a totally homegrown Decentralized Billing System for its 8.5 lakh customers.

The system today is the backbone for NDPL's entire operations. And the IT initiatives have won it the Computer Associates Intelligent Enterprise Award in the Government and Utilities category.

What's Innovative?

As part of the self-developed billing system, NDPL has provided users with the facility to log and track complaints online. The complaint management system is quick. It thus helps the company to function better, and fulfills the primary goal to satisfy the customer.

The billing and metering system deploys an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) function. AMR is a remote controlled device that collects the meter reading and uploads it into the company billing servers automatically. This prevents manipulation of data, even at the stage of reading the meter.

NDPL also has a spot billing facility. Meaning that with the use of a spot billing machine, the bill can be generated instantly after the meter reading. Hence, the customers see the bill generation process and can make the payment from home itself.

Small parts of a big whole

Here are some of the features of the Intelligent Enterprise.

Connection Management: For any new connection, the consumer now only has to log onto the Internet, and file a request on NDPL's website. The follow up activities then are upto the NDPL executives. This bypasses the middlemen who contributed substantially to the delays in new installments prior to the solution.

Billing and Metering: With the help of the AMR, Common Meter Reading Interface (CMRI) and hand held devices the field staff collects consumption data which is then uploaded onto the billing system. The spot billing machine then makes it possible to instantaneously generate a bill.

Bill Payment Options: Every user's bill and consumption data is uploaded onto the Internet. So, a consumer can view the entire billing history and consumption pattern from July 2002 from the home.

Nominees

Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation for its 'Citizen Facilitation' centers because they are:

  • Effective and efficient service delivery applications
  • A complete complaint acceptance and redressal system with dual monitoring of the helpdesk.

Directorate of Information Technology, Maharashtra for its User Information System because it has:

  • Single stop access for information related to government
  • Association of schemes & related forms at one place
  • Decentralized management & ownership of content

The website also comprises an energy calculator where the customer can enter the number of appliances, bulbs, and energy consuming devices with the number of hours each one runs. The calculator returns an approximate value of the customer's bill. For the customer it is a good way to check that he/she is paying the correct amount.

The NDPL website has the standard online bill clearing options for some banks, and is in the process of installing automated kiosks at its cash collection touch points.

MIS: A side functionality added to this setup is an online MIS system, that allows all employees on the move to track relevant information regarding billing cycle, consumer complaints, and so on. The company performance and means to improve it are thus always in sight.

Victory Talk
"When the business gave guidelines and set up the guiding principles it realized that the entire system had to be driven by IT. We have worked hard on this project with time and machine dependence in mind. This award is a prestigious moment for us. It is a recognition of our efforts."

Action Reaction

The biggest advantage of the decentralized billing system is the transparency it has brought into the power billing cycle. And since everything is electronically managed, commercial losses have reduced and are more easily tracked.

"When reading the meter, a person may be tempted to take a wrong reading," said Pandey, "Now the computer will not allow that."

Furthermore, he insinuates, in the earlier system for connections or to get work done, bribes were required and energy theft accounted for 60 percent of the cost, which the fully automated system will eliminate.

Money matters

In this project, that took almost two years to complete, NDPL invested Rs 5700 lakh. Although it has not given a value to the cost reduction, it does claim that the system has resulted in an 18 percent increase in revenue, which translates to Rs 19,125 lakh.

People in the Process

The system has definitely changed the way the 2000 NDPL employees work. And special efforts were taken to make the system employee-friendly.

"We started with a Linux environment, but we wanted to capitalize on the fact that most graduates today are familiar with Windows. So later we switched to Windows," said Pandey.

In India you'd still think that the largest number of people would not have access, or would not be aware of how to use the Internet. That would amount to a certain amount of redundancy of the online billing system.

To that however, Deepak Konnur, AGM IT & Systems answered, "Those with access the Internet are the bigger users of the energy. So, with the system we are addressing 70 percent of our clientele." Till date NDPL claims the initiative has impacted 20,000 customers.

Hurdles at Hand

Development comes with a set of challenges. Migration of old data to the new system was the first according to Konnur and Pandey. Since the customer is billed once every two months, but readings and calculations are done on an ongoing basis, the data requires specific sorting, which wasn't done in the data already available.

Formatting documentation and records was difficult too. And finally, with any new implementation comes change of the business process. The way NDPL dealt with that change was awareness drives, continuous interaction, and trainings conducted by the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) group.

Future Roadmap

"We have to further and develop aggressively," said the motivated Pandey. He already has a planned roadmap. The projects in the pipeline are:

Sakshat: An application designed to provide a single centralized consumer view. It is targeted to present all the information regarding a customer across the database to be presented in a single attempt.

An Energy Club: It will conduct mass education programs among consumers to guide them on controlled, careful, and eco-friendly usage of power. It will also sponsor an e-newsletter and e-group of energy friendly users.

Performance management system: To monitor and overall performance and efficiency of every distribution zone.

Sandesh: An SMS based alerting information service for customers.

GIS Implementation: "Establishing a GIS map for every house, could result in many exciting renovations," Pandey said.

Extras: Pandey and Konnur are also working on establishing a Disaster Recovery site and an SAP implementation. They are also evaluating RFID and Isometric technologies to further automate the functions of the organization.

Deepali Gupta can be reached at: deepali@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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