IT for a powerful future
Tata Power Companys deployment of IT has boosted its
consumer base and aided smart business strategies. by Soutiman Das Gupta
and Newly Paul
Tata Power Company (TPC) wanted to expand its consumer base in order to stay
competitive. It decided to focus on achieving customer satisfaction and optimising
its resources by using IT in a strategic manner. It received many business benefits
from this, and today has the capability to build a powerful company.
TPC is both a bulk supplier and a distributor, hence per customer revenues range
from nearly Rs 100 crore per month to only Rs 35 per month at the lower end.
It wanted to broaden its customer base of 22,000 in Mumbai but restrictions
imposed by the regulator, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC),
did not permit the acquisition of customers in Mumbai.
Although this was a stumbling block in its pursuit of growth, the company was
determined to grow with the help of smart business strategies aided by technology.
With the aim of improving services and increasing profits,
Tata Power Company upgraded its IT infrastructure and deployed an ERP
system. In keeping with its customer-oriented focus, the company launched
a customer portal in April 2005
With the aim of improving services and increasing profits, TPC upgraded its
IT infrastructure and deployed an ERP system. In keeping with its customer-oriented
focus, the company launched a customer portal in April 2005. This was a pioneering
step in the utilities sector, where such initiatives were unheard of.
According to Eruch R.Batliwala, Deputy General Manager, TPC, We wanted
to adopt a customer-oriented approach. So we decided to deploy an ERP system
because it would give us organised data that could be structured and used to
focus on customer support.
TPC has also deployed a 100 Mbps ring WAN with video and audio capabilities,
upgraded its e-mail infrastructure, and introduced video-conferencing. The company
plans to introduce VoIP, Instant Messaging, Data Warehousing and a Business
Intelligence solution as well.
The company went live with SAP R/3 in March 2002 and currently uses modules
such as supply chain, financials, project planning, plant maintenance, quality
management, production planning module, and the HR module.
The IT benefits
We decided to deploy an ERP system because it would
give us organised data that could be structured and used to focus on customer
Eruch R.Batliwala, Deputy General Manager, TPC
TPCs IT initiatives have provided a number of business
benefits. Apart from optimising business processes, and aiding in governance
and compliance, IT has helped to formulate business strategies for the future.
It has also helped the enterprise to manage its personnel effectively.
The ERP has helped strengthen the supply chain and integrate business processes
effectively. Earlier, the company had large standalone systems, which have now
been properly integrated to offer reliable and efficient services.
The IT initiatives along with the ERP deployment have
enabled us to maintain our customer focus. We have ready access to customer-focused
information from various company touch points which can be used to create business
strategies aimed at better customer service, explains Batliwala.
The company has been able to identify surplus manpower, which has been re-deployed
elsewhere. There has also been a noticeable decrease in procurement and cash
A major role
The company plans to increase its power supply capacity beyond 2,300 MW and
IT will play a major role in this endeavour. TPC will use communications as
a foundation for growth. IT has made sharing of ERP information, e-mail, and
messaging applications possible for business leaders within and outside the
organisation, making geography redundant.
Says Batliwala, The company can now easily manage invoicing, billings,
and revenue. This helps to integrate financials with customer billings, which
is a big advantage. We have already built voice and video capabilities and integrated
it into the mail facilities. We want to introduce VoIP in a closed user group,
along with instant messaging, and video-conferencing.
With the help of data churned out by the ERP, the company plans to distribute
MIS from a centralised data warehouse. This will enable TPC to determine market
trends, conduct analyses, and formulate smart business strategies.
In the distribution sector, IT helps in asset management. The company has a
very large number of assets such as cables, transformers (current and potential
transformers), and equipment in sub-stations. The company can now ensure minimum
expenditure in maintenance and purchase when deploying new distribution links.
Putting customers first
In order to manage customers better, TPC launched a customer portal in April
2005. This portal provides easy access to billing information while ensuring
confidentiality, and also eliminates the need to stand in queues or keep personal
records. All these facilities are provided at a minimum cost.
The customer portal aims to provide our clientele with the means to make
payments quickly, and to communicate to the company their queries and complaints,
Behind the portal
Customer information regarding aspects such as billing, consumption, and payment
are extracted from the ERP servers and uploaded to the portal server, almost
daily. Customers can access this information and, if necessary, make enquiries
or register complaints.
The backend servers are HP ES-40 servers running Tru64, and a mix of Itanium
and Xeon processors running other variants of Unix. All the IT infrastructure
maintenance and facilities management is outsourced to a third party.
Although IT has produced a number of benefits, there are some challenges which
need to be overcome before the resources of an organisation can be optimally
utilised, including change management and costs.
The change management challenge arises because TPC is ninety years old, and
the average age of an employee is on the higher side. The earlier static work
environment is slowly giving way to a dynamic one, and the employees need time
to adapt to new challenges. This requires a process of cultural adaptation.
The company has already begun tackling these challenges and has devised means
to overcome them. Extensive training and awareness-building among its employees
have been arranged.
Opines Batliwala, We constantly try to increase motivation levels, provide
new challenges, build new skills and try to ensure that our personnel remain
Similarly, cost-related challenges can be overcome by making smart purchases.
The Tata Group uses its combined purchasing power to economise on hardware or
software license purchases. PCs, servers, licenses and so on are purchased through
collective negotiation by group companies with key vendors. Apart from this
group-purchasing method, TPC is also exploring options like adopting AMD CPUs
instead of Pentium 4s, and OpenOffice.org instead of MS Office.
It is expected that with an intelligent deployment of IT, challenges to the
company will be effectively handled and solutions will be found for maximising
profits and minimising costs.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached
Newly Paul can be reached at