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Issue of July 2005 
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IT for a powerful future

Tata Power Company’s 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.

Strategic IT

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 support
Eruch R.Batliwala, Deputy General Manager, TPC

TPC’s 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 cycle times.

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,” comments Batliwala.

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.

Managing change

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.

TPC’s early days

TPC was founded in 1910, and its business portfolio covers power generation, distribution and transmission, broadband communications, and strategic electronics.

The company, headquartered in Mumbai, has over 30 units in the Mumbai area and nationwide including generating plants, electrical receiving and distribution stations, warehouses and depots. The company has also commissioned power projects overseas in the Middle East and Africa.

Opines Batliwala, “We constantly try to increase motivation levels, provide new challenges, build new skills and try to ensure that our personnel remain with us.”

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 at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

Newly Paul can be reached at newlypaul@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
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