December 2016 | Philip Chacko

Energy to spare in quality quest

Tata Power Delhi Distribution has banked on business excellence to overhaul its organisational structure, overcome challenges galore and build an exceptional enterprise

Ramshackle infrastructure, aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of over 50 percent, a disgruntled consumer base, a dispirited workforce and one antique computer, solitary in its splendour — it wasn’t much of an inheritance that Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDDL) came into at birth.

Watch this video to find out how Tata Power Delhi Distribution pulled off an amazing turnaround

That was back in July 2002, when TPDDL (formerly known as North Delhi Power) began life as a joint venture involving Tata Power and the Delhi government. The new enterprise emerged from the debris of the Delhi Vidyut Board, a state-owned institution that had proved less than successful, to put it mildly, in fulfilling its mandate of distributing power in India’s national capital. From such infancy to the strapping adulthood of today, TPDDL has travelled a long distance in a relatively short period.

An invaluable navigator in the journey that has taken TPDDL from the tumbledown juncture at its origin to where it is today — a profitable, award-winning, consumer-obsessed company that has evolved to become an exemplar of public-private partnerships — has been business excellence, in every one of its many dimensions and across all organisational functions.

TPDDL started down the business excellence road in 2004, the principal intent at that point being to inculcate the Tata culture of working in an establishment that had, in its previous avatar, not experienced anything quite like it. From employees to other facets, among them consumers, technology, leadership and strategy, TPDDL has dug deeper and gone further with every passing year to make business excellence a way of thinking and living for the company and its people.

Lighting the path in this programme of continuous improvement has been the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM). The progress made has been hard-won, there has been a truckload of struggles, and a lot remains to be accomplished, but TPDDL has shown in spades what can be wrested from the most challenging of situations when commitment to the model and its minutiae are aligned with overall business objectives.

“We have gone about business excellence step by step and each of these has been crucial,” says Praveer Sinha, TPDDL’s chief executive officer and managing director. “TBEM has enabled us to groom our processes, systems and people; it has brought about the cultural change that is required to be part of the Tata group.”

The initial difficulties were, expectedly, the toughest for TPDDL to deal with. “This was a company which had no processes; not a single process was documented,” says Mr Sinha. “We inherited one computer and that was used to draft letters. The transformation we have been through has happened because we brought in all these processes and systems. We now have 330-odd processes; our entire work has become process oriented.”

Employee ethos aside, the biggest benefit that has accrued to TPDDL from its embrace of business excellence has been the cutting down of AT&C losses. Much of this could be blamed on power theft, a perennial problem in India. The company attacked the menace in three phases: by putting up electronic meters at every consumer point, by analysing usage data to identify culprits, and by reaching out to consumers through social initiatives and commercial incentives. 

The outcome in TPDDL’s battle against AT&C losses has been remarkable. These have been brought down from 53.1 percent in 2002 — that means losing just over half of the total power distributed — to today’s 8.8 percent, which makes the company an industry leader in this regard. “That’s what our transformation journey is about,” says Ajit Maleyvar, TPDDL’s head of business excellence. “We targeted AT&C losses through concerted efforts in process orientation, customer centricity, strategy and leadership. These are all ingredients of TBEM.”

There are a variety of elements where business excellence has helped TPDDL secure advantages: on work environment and safety, consumer friendliness, the environment, social accountability, technology and innovation. Getting the different arms of the organisation to share information and insights is vital in this context. “Innovation, for instance, does not happen in only one particular pocket,” explains Mr Maleyvar. 

Integration and alignment, notes Mr Maleyvar, is the tricky bit in getting business excellence firing on all cylinders. “When we talk of processes, there’s monitoring and complying with those processes. But you have to keep a finger on how well integrated all of your processes are. That’s a challenge because no one department or function can be left behind; you have to move forward in unison.”

Ultimately, it’s the consumer that concerns TPDDL the most. “Whatever improvements we have done are aimed at upping our consumer centricity,” says Mr Maleyvar. “That’s what drives us; that’s what drives our business.” Mr Sinha is even more emphatic: “We owe it to the people of Delhi for giving us this opportunity. As long as we can live up to the promise we have made to our consumers, nothing can stop us.”

People power redefined
There is no doubt in Praveer Sinha’s mind where business excellence has had the greatest impact in the recasting of Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDDL) — its employees.

“Our people and their working culture were the biggest issues for us when the company was formed in 2002,” says TPDDL’s chief executive officer and managing director. “Many of them were in their late 40s and 50s. Changing their way of thinking and working was a huge challenge; but slowly, over a period of time, we managed to make them conversant with processes and systems, with computers and information technology, with the needs of consumers and the demands of the industry.”

To be seen as the TPDDL of today, as a friend and partner of its 1.5 million consumers, is perhaps the company’s most sterling accomplishment. The credit for this goes in no small part to TPDDL’s 3,500-plus employees, who have been reoriented to consider consumer centricity the heart and soul of the power distribution business.

This article is part of the cover story about the culture of business excellence across Tata group companies in the October - December 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Overview: Continuous improvement
Five Tata companies describe how business excellence has helped build value and reshape the business model
Read the complete articles, and more, in Tata Review
Tata Business Excellence Group: A unique model and its holistic method
As custodian of the famed Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM), the Tata Business Excellence Group (TBExG) has been helping Tata companies achieve global benchmarks in different operational spheres
Tata Steel: Mastering change
The business excellence endeavour at Tata Steel has helped the company evolve continuously to stay on course in an industry that has been buffeted by transformative trends on multiple fronts
Titan Company: The goal: To get better all the time
Business excellence has powered the rise of Titan Company, and the proof of the pudding has been its evolution into a multidimensional success story
Rallis India: Get systematic to get superior
The process is prince and protector in the Rallis India way on business excellence, which has helped carry the company from its lowest point to the summit of its industry
Tata Steel Processing and Distribution: Steely and sturdy
Business excellence has been the spark for a transformation exercise at Tata Steel Processing and Distribution, an enterprise that has matured further with every forward step