One of the pioneers of power distribution utilities in the Indian power industry, Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL), is continuing its journey to provide a sustainable, affordable, safe and reliable quality power supply to its consumer base.
Managing Director Mahesh Singh joined in February 2019, when it was experiencing single-digit AT&C losses. However, prioritising these qualities, along with that of consumer satisfaction, means his motto “Change will follow if you lead from the front” has set the company in good stead to deal with the challenges of the past year.
“Last year, COVID was a very critical time for everyone,” Mahesh says. “Compassion towards each staff member and showing solidarity by simple measures such as wearing company uniform helped boost basic morale.” Mahesh knew that he could help even more by being out in the field.
“I decided that despite COVID, I should visit all the substations and all of the subregion offices and next-level division offices,” he explains. “So, in the span of almost 40 days, I visited all my regional and division offices.” It was no small undertaking. The company has 23 division offices and 141 subdivision offices.
“I visited all 23 divisions and 67 subdivisions. I wanted to convey that in this difficult time, top management is with you.” Mahesh adds that as a DISCOM manager, he focused on ensuring that no matter the challenges caused by the pandemic, everyone still had access to a quality service. ‘This was the vision and mission of the state government, particularly of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani,” he says. “So, naturally, this was my mission too.”
It was definitely something that motivated his staff, but Mahesh had other motivational ideas too. Having carried out a SWOT analysis, it became apparent that not nearly enough staff were being promoted and that most of the management structure was old. To rectify this, he set out to change the HR policy among his staff of 9,500.
Change will follow if you lead from the front.
“We started a fast-track promotion and promoted almost 25 engineers,” Mahesh shares. In all, more than 250 technical and non-technical staff were promoted. “In the history of UGVCL, this was the highest number of promotions in two years,” he adds proudly.
UGVCL also hired more than 700 new technical and non-technical employees to strengthen the organisation. The Managing Director also had to look at other, equally important, priorities when he joined UGVCL. In times such as the COVID-19 crisis, providing energy to medical facilities was vital, but Mahesh also concentrated on connectivity for the education and health sectors, as well as trying to fulfil the requirement of farmers.
Clean energy is another aspect of the business that is high up on his list of priorities. It’s important to all industries, but especially to energy companies. UGVCL already has success in the area. “We have gone from five per cent to 17 per cent green power in the past 10 years,” he says.
“By the end of 2025, it will be around 25 per cent. We have put a lot of emphasis on this.” The challenge is to make that change while maintaining financial stability. For UGVCL, success in this area comes down to the discipline with which it administers its billing. “We have almost a 100 per cent collection efficiency,” Mahesh shares.
Our success is down to the team. Even in the remotest areas they are achieving great results.
“We are collecting 99.5 per cent of the billing amounts every month. Our success is down to the team. Even in the remotest areas, they are achieving great results.” The upshot of this is that the company has virtually no debt and a great credit record. “We hardly need loans,” he confirms.
“We do have a project-based need that requires some funding, but in the past 10 years, we have never defaulted in paying any dues to any supplier. If we continue this approach, we’ll have a good future for the company.”
Transparent with partners
Being known as a company that never defaults in payments obviously has great benefits when it comes to working with partners and suppliers. UGVCL is transparent in its decisionmaking around the supply chain and likes to see healthy competition among suppliers. “Once your suppliers are competitive, they will maintain quality,” Mahesh explains.
“And we’re very strict on quality. We have our own NABL-accredited laboratory for testing materials, specifically energy meters. Remain transparent in your decisions and in allocating quantities to vendors, and you’ll encourage competitive habits. Make payments promptly and you’ll build a team of good suppliers.”
Once accepted by UGVCL, the vendor is what the company classifies as ‘New’. They then become ‘Regular’ on the basis of their performance, quality and delivery schedules. Infrastructure materials are also classified as either critical or non-critical, depending on how they are used in the electrical network. “Items like transformers and conductors are critical for us, but something such as cement poles or meter boxes are not,” Mahesh explains.
“If it’s a critical material and a regular supplier, we give them a greater quantity. If a new vendor supplies critical items, we give them less, just to assess their quality and their reliability of supply. Orders for critical items are given to more than one supplier at all times, to avoid trouble in case of a delay or a fault in supply.”
Alongside reliability, the next thing that the company assesses is its vendors’ capacity, something that it refers to as “vendor restriction”.
“This is basically based on a supplier’s capacity,” Mahesh reveals. “Whenever we start with a new vendor, the team from UGVCL visits their factory. They assess capacity and, once approved, the majority of their problems are over because our own team can see the quality.”
Many of the company’s partners are based in Gujarat, which has been especially important during the pandemic, although some, such as Japanese company Toshiba, are based outside the area. UGVCL is always looking to benefit from any efficiencies and innovations that partners can bring to the ecosystem. “If they bring new technologies, that is most welcome,” Mahesh says.
Just as UGVCL promotes competition among its suppliers and partners, it is competitive itself. “In this sector, we’re at the top in almost all factors,” Mahesh shares. “Like the TT index and the SF index [power supply reliability index] – in almost all, UGVCL is at the top. In the past decade, we don’t have a single low rating. This is a big achievement.”
Despite such success, the company does not rest on its laurels and indeed, an important part of its ongoing business involves seeking feedback internally and externally. “We have two kinds of feedback,” Mahesh points out.
“First, feedback from staff, because they have been working in the area for a long time. They also know a lot of things that are happening in the sector. They are interacting with staff at the field level and get to know many things about purchase policy and the purchase system. “A second lot of feedback is from the consumer side. We have introduced a system in which our independent staff randomly call consumers to get feedback, so we can tell how well our team is working.”
It’s been a tough year for most industries and bosses, especially for leaders such as Mahesh who began in their roles just before the pandemic struck. By leading from the front, however, especially in a time of crisis, he has been able to create the environment and teamwork that he desires.
Mahesh has been successful in many sectors, including water and utilities, education and the urban sector, to name but a few, and it looks like the electrical energy industry will be no different.
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