Established in 2013, Vadodara Gas Limited (VGL) is a joint venture between GAIL (India) Limited and the Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan. Currently, VGL operates nine compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, which produce more than 65,000 kg of CNG per day, catering to the automobile sector in Vadodara and its adjoining areas. The CNG network includes two mother stations, one online station, six daughter booster stations and 13 km of steel pipelines. To cater to the increasing needs of the automobile sector, VGL plans to add three mother stations and six online stations in the next five years and lay a 50-km steel pipeline network.
VGL also caters to the piped natural gas (PNG) requirements of its customers in the domestic and commercial sectors. Currently, it has about 76,000 domestic and 2,800 commercial PNG connections, and serves them through a 75-km long polyethylene pipeline distribution grid and seven district pressure regulating systems. The utility plans to add 0.5 million domestic, 2,000 commercial and about 1,000 industrial connections over the next five years. The tariff rates of VGL are Rs 54 per kg for CNG customers, and Rs 28.50 per standard cubic metres (scm) and Rs 52 per scm for PNG domestic and commercial connections, respectively.
In an expanding operational network, technology deployment plays a crucial role in improving customer reach and experience. Traditionally, gas bills were paid at authorised payment collection centres by standing in long queues. To ease this process, VGL has introduced several bill payment options, including a mobile application and an online payment mechanism with several gateways.
Mobile application for bill payments
The Vadodara Gas Limited mobile app can be downloaded for free from Google Play. Once the application is installed, users are required to register using their unique customer number and a valid email address, a link to which is sent thereafter for verification. Post the verification, the users can build a profile on the application using their name, phone number, address, and area mentioned in the gas bill. This initiative is aimed at improving customer convenience. PNG connection holders can use the app to make bill payments, obtain their bills, ask questions, track consumption, download duplicate bills, etc. They can view their current and last few PNG bills, get details of the payments made, find locations where payments can be made (offline), track their billing cycle and make payments online.
Other bill payment options
Besides the mobile application, VGL provides an online payment platform through a secured gateway on its website. To avail of this option, a seven-digit unique customer number is required. Customers can view their current bill and last bill receipt. There are various modes of payment available for consumers. These include net banking, debit cards and credit cards. While payment through net banking and debit cards does not attract any transaction fees, credit card payment entails taxes in addition to the transaction processing fees. Besides, VGL has registered itself with Paytm, which can be used by consumers to pay their gas bills.
Moreover, to facilitate online bill payment, VGL has registered itself on Bharat Bill Pay. PNG customers can use this to make safe payments from their bank accounts, non-bank websites, or bank mobile applications. To use this platform, a mobile number and a customer number are necessary, while an email-id is optional. The popular banks on Bharat Bill Pay are State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, ICICI Bank, Punjab National Bank, HDFC Bank and Canara Bank.
Further, VGL offers offline payment options to its customers. The company has several authorised payment collection centres where payments can be made. The collection centres are located at Dandia Bazar, Nayamandir, Akota, Fatehgunj, Nagarwada, Subhanpura, Gotri-Vasna Road, Varasiya, Allembic Colony, Gotri Road, Sardar Nagar, Manjalpur, Station Road, Karelibaug and Old Padra Road.
The way forward
To provide a customer-friendly experience, VGL has introduced several bill payment options to its PNG customers. This initiative has cut the long queues at payment collection centres. In addition to the mobile application, VGL has online payment gateways in place.
Going forward, as everything is moving towards the digital space, online and mobile payment options are expected to gain traction. Further, it will not only save time and effort of customers, but will also help in resolving grievances in a systematic manner. Further it will serve as an example for other city gas distribution bodies, which can implement such systems in their jurisdiction.