by Shardha Subramanian

How CESC Leveraged SMAC to Become a Digital Organization

Sep 16, 2015

Riding on SMAC, CESC has gone from a company submerged in legacy to a completely digital one in just a year. Here’s how the company transformed. 

The Victoria House in Kolkata’s Chowringhee Square is a marvel that’s steeped in history. The building is home to CESC (Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation) since 1933. Set up by the British in 1897, the company, now a part of the SP-Goenka Group, is over a 100 years old.

Everything about CESC dates back a century—or so. For any company, that’s a milestone.

But in the IT world, too much history isn’t a virtue. It spells that nasty word that modern day CIOs dread: Legacy.

Legacy systems are like a loathsome set of tattered hand-me-downs that CIOs don’t want. But one CIO is taking that challenge head-on.

Debashis Roy, VP-IT, CESC, along with his IT team, has created a digital strategy that has transformed the company from an organization submerged in legacy systems to one that’s sailing with the power of digitization. “We are a 100-year-old power utility in the private sector. We are in the business of generation and distribution of electricity. In the last couple of years, we have started focusing extensively on customer-centricity. From this evolved our digital strategy,” says Roy.

He started off by revamping the company’s corporate website. CESC has six brick and mortar regional offices. “We changed the look and feel of our website and positioned it as our 24×7 virtual regional office,” he says. That isn’t a minor tweak, it actually kicked off CESC’s digital journey.

For starters, a digital strategy could just mean going mobile. But Roy believes in aiming high. While most CIOs are just talking about SMAC (social media, mobility, analytics and cloud), Roy has gone ahead and made SMAC the foundation of CESC’s digital strategy.

SMACking It Up

SMAC has a zing to it. It sounds like those yuppie, new, things that are contagious. But one element of the SMAC stack is more infectious than others: Mobility.

Roy realized that and figured that mobility, along with other technologies in the SMAC stack, will help the company get closer to its goal of ensuring customer-centricity and delight. To do that, instead of taking the beaten track of outsourcing mobile app development, Roy took the bold move of building mobile apps in-house.

Not many companies take that route due to a lack of skill sets and the complexity involved in building mobile apps. But Roy had faith in his large team and training them would take care of that. “We have a large IT team, with over 60 people. We trained some of our people and built the apps,” says Roy.

Roy and his team built two types of apps: Employee-facing and customer-facing. The consumer app provides customers with the same functionality that’s available on the company’s website. “From the app, customers can avail all the services that they expect from a power utility company, like, pay electricity bill, change address or names etcetera from the comfort of their homes,” says Roy. The app, launched last year, was the first mobile app from the house of a power distribution company in India. The app has already been downloaded by over 10,000 consumers from the Google Play Store alone.

But what’s more interesting is CESC’s employee-facing app. The company’s billing cycle is monthly. Every month, 30 lakh meters need to be read. Meter readers used to carry bulky meter reading books and go to the consumer’s premises to read meters. “We have done away with those bulky meter reading books. Now we have smart tabs that have mobile apps. These apps help them read meters,” says Roy.

Now, meter readers take smart tabs and go to the consumer’s premises and invoke the mobile app. Once the app is opened, the master—that has customer information and history—is loaded. What’s fascinating about the app is that meter readers have an option of either keying the amount of units consumed or send a voice command to the smart tab. “For example, if the reading is 288, he just has to say ‘288’ and it goes directly to the server via GPRS. And the server immediately generates the bill,” says Roy.

This has improved the meter-to-cash cycle, which is crucial for any power utility, in terms of efficiency, productivity and accuracy. Both apps can be downloaded from the company’s website and is also available in the app stores on Android, iOS and Windows.

But that was just the beginning of CESC’s digital journey.

The next stop in the company’s digital journey was social media. Savvy companies have realized that being on social media is not just about getting on the bandwagon but reaching customers and making your presence felt.

To do that, Roy and his team have built a company-specific Facebook page and a Twitter handle. They encourage their consumers to visit the page and express what they think about CESC’s services. To keep consumer interest alive, CESC also introduces contests. “We also launch exciting contests. A lot of consumers come and participate. We pick and react to these conversations,” says Roy.

He says the company has created a dedicated team to monitor social media activity. It has introduced a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) and a call center that’s taking care of all social media conversations.

But what about analyzing all that data? No digital journey is complete without analytics. And CESC is not leaving that out. Roy says the company is collecting real-time data on the field and analyzing it. This helps CESC understand consumers’ power usage patterns, among other things. This also helps them cater to its customer needs better. And all that is running on a private cloud.

And with that, the company’s digital strategy has ticked all the boxes in the SMAC stack.

The company’s digitization story was so impressive that it won the Digitizing India Award, instituted by CISCO and NDTV under the category New Age Service Provider of the Year. Over 300 companies had applied for the award.

Now that’s something. At a time when most organizations are struggling to wrap their minds around SMAC, CESC has already implemented the entire stack and is reaping benefits.

Roy’s advice to CIOs struggling with SMAC? “These are exciting times for people who are adopting digital technologies. It just takes these organizations to another level. Organizations that don’t embrace digitization would become extinct,” says Roy.

You don’t want to be one of them.