Digitalisation in the city gas distribution (CGD) sector has been moving at a rapid pace. It is considered essential to cater to the upcoming demand, overcome the operational challenges, maintain revenue efficiencies and ensure uninterrupted services to consumers. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has also driven the growth of digitalisation in the CGD sector as various business activities were forced to be carried out remotely. Technological advancements in the CGD sector are being encouraged through policies, subsidies, regulations, innovations and design modifications to the existing infrastructure.
Recent trends and developments
The shift towards digitalisation has gained momentum across all industries in the past one year as Covid-induced restrictions have forced various businesses to carry out several processes digitally. The CGD sector has been no different and several key entities are now leveraging digital tools for different business processes.
Historically, the CGD sector has been monopolistic as it operated within a framework of market exclusivity. However, over the past few years, the sector has opened up for private players, thus increasing competition. In order to build a strong brand image and ensure growth in a competitive market, CGD entities are digitalising their operations to add value and improve consumer convenience.
Digitalisation is one area where the government has been providing immense support to the CGD sector. The government has been actively working on suggestions given by industry stakeholders to establish an ecosystem for digitalisation.
The shift towards digital technologies and solutions has also been a key objective of Adani Total Gas Limited (ATGL). All operations of the company involve a certain degree of digitalisation and are further being designed to minimise human intervention and develop a culture of digitalisation within the organisation. The company launched the “My AdaniGas” mobile application in 2020, which offers a one-stop solution to its customers. The mobile application enables users to receive their bills online, make payments through various gateways, register for new connections and lodge complaints. ATGL has also developed an emergency response system that responds to emergency calls from customers and third-party agencies in real time.
ATGL, as part of its environmental, social and corporate governance programme has been working towards minimising the use of paper and has been sending digitally signed bills to all its customers. The company is also planning to move towards a touchless revenue management system to eliminate the practice of taking meter readings physically. Going forward, the company is also planning to leverage its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and integrate it with different business applications to ensure that maximum benefits reach the consumers.
Currently, all CNG stations operated by ATGL have been connected with the SCADA system to ensure the continuous availability of accurate data. Further, all CNG stations of ATGL have been equipped with CCTV cameras to facilitate remote monitoring. The company is also planning to deploy various other digital technologies at its CNG stations to ensure seamless services for customers. Further, ATGL has been advocating the shift towards smart meters for a very long time and has plans to replace all conventional meters on its network. The Government of India has set up a CGD committee to address the widespread deployment of smart meters, and the regulatory board has accepted the suggestion of CGD entities to collect Rs 3,000 from consumers to replace conventional meters with smart meters.
ATGL has been at the forefront of this transition to smart meters and has also floated tenders to set up smart meters in new geographical areas. The key factor that has driven the shift towards smart meters is the ability to set up prepaid meters equipped with an automatic wall stop that ensures accurate utilisation of gas and eases the billing process for both the customer and the utility.
Digitalisation is expected to become a key component of various processes of CGD entities. Going forward, each entity will have to take a 360-degree approach and introduce a certain degree of digitalisation across all business activities. Moreover, there is immense scope for CGD entities to leverage data science and analytics to significantly enhance customer experience and provide value offerings.
In the competitive landscape of the sector, wherein customer service is paramount, digitalisation will become a critical factor in determining an entity’s growth trajectory.
With inputs from an interaction with Suresh P. Manglani, Chief Executive Officer, ATGL, at a recent Smart Utilities conference