June 2012 | Suchita Vemuri
Simple steps of a complex dance
The extraordinary story of how Tata Power Delhi Distribution — by winning hearts and changing mindsets, and through technology and commercial savvy — transformed a loss-making government entity into an efficient and profitable operation that has become a benchmark for public-private partnerships
The most easily recorded of TPDDL’s achievements are the technology and commercial milestones, but its biggest success has been in human terms. The transformation of TPDDL is a paean to its people — the DVB public sector employees who took on new roles, absorbed new processes and technologies and established high standards of quality and performance.
The TPDDL leadership team strongly believed that everything was vested in the people of the organisation. Mr Sardana underlines the point when he says, “We had to depend on them totally, especially as nothing was documented.”
|TPDDL in numbers|
|Service area||510 sq km|
|Length of network||9,952km|
|Number of customers||1.2 million households (235,000 customers for every square kilometre)|
|Load density||4,833 units per customer per year|
“Some changes had already begun to be instituted before the joint venture came into being,” says Ramesh Chander Kher, currently an advisor to TPDDL, and then the chief engineer at DVB, before he took over as general manager for commercial operations at the new company. At DVB, Mr Kher had pushed for the single-point delivery (SPD) system for connections in un-metered slum areas. “The SPD and similarly crude methods of cutting commercial losses helped bring down AT&C losses in the two years leading up to the institution of TPDDL. But there was apprehension about sweeping changes after the new company was set up.”
At a more professional level, the new dispensation got creative to build a single entity out of the two separate organisms (DVB and Tata Power), and to cement professional and personal relationships at every level. A key measure was the constitution of several forums where operational and other issues were discussed openly. The ‘direct connect’ initiatives included appointing officers from the human resources department for each of the company’s six circles. The forums discussed a wide range of issues, from problems of water and toilets at the workplace to issues of safety and — crucially — the ways and means to curtail power theft.
What made the difference
The former DVB employees found the new management approachable and proactive in dealing with genuine problems. They, in turn, responded positively. Mr Sardana, then the chief executive, mingled with all employees on a regular basis. “This really helped me understand the problems people faced,” he says.
|All-round stakeholder satisfaction|
Praveen K Tripathi, chief secretary of the Delhi government, says, “I think the success of TPDDL lies in the professional approach the company adopted; it was able to win over customers and communicate its sincerity of purpose.”
Anoop Kumar Gupta, a general manager at the Delhi Metro, which consumes about 600 million units of power per day (of which the major portion is from TPDDL), vouches for the reliability of the utility. “I would rate TPDDL the highest among power distribution companies in the national capital region in terms of promptness and quality of response when there’s a problem,” he says.
Says Praveen Verma, who is with the outage management system centre, “I was on the verge of resigning, frustrated with my job as project engineer, when I read about the discussions on the new [company]. Pushed by friends and colleagues, I stayed on to see what this may mean in terms of job satisfaction and career prospects. I’ve never stopped being glad that I did.”
Anil Sardana, former chief executive, TPDDL, and current managing director, Tata Power, says, “When we started, there was some resistance from the elected representatives. So I would personally attend meetings where discussions and decisions took place, so that I could present the company’s viewpoint and respond to queries. At first, people were aggressive but they changed when they realised that I stood by the Tata group’s value systems. What motivated me was the challenge of bringing about change; the country needed it and we needed to show people that it was possible.”
Credit for government
“The main credit goes to the government, which supported us solidly in the face of all kinds of opposition,” says Mr Goyal. “But, equally, all stakeholders can take credit for the success of this model: the regulatory authorities, the employees, the Tata management leadership team, the financial management consultants and, of course, civil society and our consumers. The idea was that it should be a balanced model that would be a win-win for all.”
|Power play in solar
TPDDL set up a 1MW solar power plant in December 2010. Comprising 5,500 solar photovoltaic panels, the plant was installed by Tata BP Solar. The crystalline silicone panels convert sunlight into power that is fed into the TPDDL grid line. Though the actual power generated by the plant is miniscule in relation to Delhi’s total peak demand, the plant indicates an important shift in the state’s approach to power. It is also a first step in the power distribution company’s proposal — submitted to the Delhi government — to install housetop solar panels (the panels are designed to last for about 25 years).
The impact of the transformation can be seen in the region’s economy: the number of small workshops and manufacturing units in the Narela and Bawana industrial areas has grown from around 3,000 in 2002 to 18,000, much of the growth attributable to reliable power supply.
|The SCADA centre
TPDDL's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system acquires, collates and records data, and monitors a transmission system of 56 grid stations. Through this system the network is controlled from a hi-tech, futuristic centre with a range of monitors. It has three-panelled computers with windows within windows, and computers with wall-sized monitors that have differently divided screens, offering up a mind-boggling range of data that allows the monitoring of localities down to every electric pole.
The SCADA system has a main server and 'hot standby servers' at the main control centre, as well as a backup control centre at another location.
Apart from generic functions like managing frequency trends and setting off alarms, the SCADA system has additional applications such as load-forecasting and load-shedding.
The outage management system and the distribution management system are components of SCADA, sending data to the network and keeping operations under watch and control.
The new company and its team of enthusiastic managers faced a serious handicap — the absence of benchmarks in India. So TPDDL looked abroad. “We began to study model initiatives from across the world and chose three companies as benchmarks: China Light & Power, Baltimore Gas & Electricity and the Mauritius Central Electricity Board,” says Mr Ghosh. The Dutch energy consultancy firm KEMA helped draw up a 10-year roadmap for technology improvements, which focused equally on non-ICT network measures.
TPDDL meets 27% of New Delhi's energy requirements — and has less than 2% of breakdowns
Technology has enabled TPDDL to improve its operations and services. “It has helped us curb both commercial and technical ‘leakages’ and also improve on safety,” says Ajai Nirula, chief operating officer and the person in charge of day-to-day operations.
It was the people factor that brought success to the technology interventions, too. “The people in the middle of the pyramid are happy to pay for rightly metered electricity,” says Mr Ghosh. Special attention, however, was needed for those at other points of the pyramid.
The TPDDL of today is looking to take its learnings and expertise into fresh areas through the establishment of a wholly-owned subsidiary named NDPL Infra, a venture that targets business opportunities outside the licensed area of the company’s power distribution activities. “We want to leverage our core competency of technology adaptation and loss reduction to provide consultancy to electricity boards, both national and international,” says Mr Sinha.
This article was a part of the cover story on Tata Power Delhi Distribution featured in the June 2012 issue of the Tata Review. Follow the links below to go to the other articles that were a part of this cover story:
|Interview with Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi|
|Interview with Anil Sardana, managing director, Tata Power|
|Interview with Praveer Sinha, managing director, TPDDL|
|Interview with Praveen K Tripathi, chief secretary of Delhi|