Sunday, August 05, 2007

Long way to go

No doubt! The 1991 economic reforms brought magnanimous changes to Indian economy. Indian companies are going ‘global’ by acquiring foreign firms, getting into joint ventures, reporting consistent profits and become much more professional. What about public sector organizations? By virtue they have long legacy by creating a good brand image among average middle class Indians. On the other side they are facing stiff competitions from their private counterparts and ‘somehow’ learning to think about customer satisfaction. Recently I came across a couple of interesting observations.

The first one was with getting landline and internet connectivity,when I moved to a new house. I chose BSNL without doing much research and initially got a good impression by looking into their website – well designed contents; downloadable application forms, electronic billing and payment facility, rate plan details etc. Added to that, I got the landline in a week’s time without any issues. But the real face of the public sector got exposed after some time:

  • The broadband internet connection was not given. When I called up all the support numbers provided in their website (except their toll free 1500), no-one answered the phone. Finally (after much frustration) I was able to get hold of one officer who routed me to another number. But again no response from the new number.
  • I opted for electronic clearance of my bills but it was not done. When I called up their billing department I got the answer saying it will be done from the following month. Finally it was never done.
  • In order to get the status of the internet I visited the BSNL office but got one uniform answer: ‘your connection is not yet approved’. It was as if I am at their mercy and they are doing a big favor by ‘approving’ my application. When I asked the ‘why’ and ‘when’ questions, nobody was able to give any answer.

As internet is a must have especially for me to surf endlessly , I decided to cancel my landline and application for a BSNL broadband and approached Airtel. The experience was totally different.

  • The connection was provided within 48 hours of submitting the application forms. The support engineers reached my home at 9 PM in the night and did the installation. They were totally professional -- explained the operational manual completely, installed all necessary software in my laptop, provided their mobile number for immediate support.
  • The next day I got a call from their support desk asking for the feedback about installation and support engineer. After a month they called me again and explained every minute details of the first bill.
  • The line maintenance is always done in early mornings (3 AM to 5 AM) and Airtel notifies its users of the same by sending an SMS well in advance. Even though there is very little probability of using the line during that time the user is not in for a rude shock while on the net at that time.

I am a more satisfied user by opting for Airtel!

Coming to statistics, India’s teledensity (number of landline telephones in use for every 100 individuals living within an area) is 19.26% as of May 2007. Given the one billion Indian population, this presents a mammoth opportunity for telecom companies as rural India is not connected, and needs reliable connectivity. The BSNL might have got the early mover advantage in landline (by having 78% of the market share) and but has already lost ground in mobility. As remaining 80% of population needs to be connected, public sector companies like BSNL need to become extremely competitive.

Now let me move out of telecom! I wanted to enable electronic clearance for BESCOM (Bangalore Electricity Supply Company) and checked my e-banking website. I got the following information, which shows the number of days required to enable this facility:

Organization

Number of days

BESCOM

65

BSNL

45

Airtel

2

Reliance

2

Here also public sector’s reality got exposed!


In summary words like -- competition, customer satisfaction, professionalism, reliable service, adopting technology is ‘new’ to these public sector organizations. They are used to operating in the old-economy style with bureaucratic mindset. Now all of a sudden they are asked to change their mindset and operate in globalized world. They are learning in their own phase, which may not be acceptable in today’s world. They have a long way to go to attain world class excellence and I hope will not be too late.

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