One lakh customers of six Indane distributors to benefit; Bharat Gas to follow suit in April

Disgruntled LPG consumers in Anna Nagar will soon have the option of switching to another distributor, albeit of the same company.

A day after the Central government launched the LPG distributor portability facility, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) have decided to roll out the web-enabled scheme for cooking gas consumers in the city.

An IOC official said the facility would be launched by January 17.

Move aimed at improving service

An official of BPCL said the company is likely to provide its consumers the option of changing distributors — a move expected to intensify competition and thereby improve customer service — sometime in April.

With Chennai in the list of 25 districts across the country where the online option will be made available in the coming financial year, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation too, has asked its distributors to be prepared.

It is, however, market leader IOC — supplying Indane cooking gas — that is ready with a plan involving six distributors, catering to an estimated one lakh customers in Anna Nagar.

Cluster approach

The IOC official said the facility, which will empower customers, is built on a cluster approach. A set of distributors catering to a particular locality will make up the cluster.

In the case of the proposed cluster in Anna Nagar, there are agencies catering to customers in Mogappair, Ambattur and neighbouring areas, but the online distributor portability option will be available, for the time being, only to households in Anna Nagar.

The six Indane agencies that will be part of the pilot project in the city are Maruthy, Sree Ma Kirupa, Ganesha, Varalakshmi, Park Town Cooperative Society, Anna Nagar East, and Park Town Cooperative Society, Anna Nagar West.

Since cooking gas agencies cater to several localities, there is a possibility of an agency figuring in more than one cluster when the facility is extended to customers in other parts of the city.

Under the facility, the customers, however, have the option of switching only between distributors of the same company. An official release issued at the nationwide launch of the facility in Chandigarh said, “To start with, it will be within each OMC (oil marketing company)… will graduate to across companies as well.”

Online facility

Customers who wish to change their connection to another distributor can log on to the respective website — for IOC, for instance, — and register their request for a change.

The existing distributor will then get two days to change the consumer’s mind, failing which, the agency must prepare the voucher transferring the connection to the consumer’s preferred distributor.

At the heart of offering the portability option online is the need for a system that will motivate distributors to provide better customer service.

Since it is web-enabled, distributors will not be able to deny the option to customers. Helping them with their decision will be a star-rating system for distributors, based on the number of days they take to supply refills.

Mylapore next

The Indane official said, after Anna Nagar, the facility would be made available in Mylapore.

BPCL is likely to launch distributor portability for consumers in Anna Nagar and Mogappair on April 1, an official said.

The number of Bharat Gas consumers to be covered under the pilot project in the city would be around 70,000. For distributors willing to go the extra mile, the “entire market will be theirs,” the official said.

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