IOC begins test run of the facility

Households in Chennai using the Indane brand cooking gas will soon get a common booking number – 8124024365 – to place orders with their distributors for refill cylinders.

The bookings can be made round the clock, even on holidays, and also by sending a text message. On Wednesday, Indian Oil Corporation began the test run of the facility at Sree Navaneethalakshmi Agency, one of its distributors located on K.B.Dasan Road, Teynampet.

Eventually, this would be the number all 18 lakh Indane consumers in Chennai would need to call for booking a refill. The facility would be extended to all the nearly 110 Indane distributors in Chennai and its suburbs, say sources in IOC.

Apart from benefitting the consumers in many ways, the IVRS-enabled/SMS booking system would also help the oil company and its distributors.

For households, the common booking number is bound to provide relief as one of the major complaints of the consumers are the hassles associated with booking a refill. For the consumer, who is already facing problems in terms of the time taken to get a refill, the existing system is time consuming, says T. Sadagopan, consumer activist. Since the telephone lines at the cooking gas agencies are either busy or the calls are not attended to promptly, the consumer has to set aside time to book a refill amid their chores. The consumers find the response of the counter staff wanting, he added.

This is expected to be addressed with the common booking number as there would be no human interface. Starting with registering their personal mobile number, when they call the first time, the customers need to go through a few simple steps on the IVRS to book the refill, including identifying the distributor by dialling the agency's landline number with STD code.

Sources in IOC say customers would get text messages, on the registered mobile number, confirming their booking with a reference number for the order placed and when the bill is generated and after the supply is made.

For customers, who register their mobile number, the process become simpler from the subsequent refill bookings. When they call from the registered mobile, the system would identify them. Such customers would also get SMS alerts when some other phone is used to book refills. This would help in preventing diversion of the cylinders, sources say.

A fixed wireless phone, connected to the booking system, would be placed in every Indane agency for use by customers who do not have a phone. They, however, need to come to the agency and book the refill.

As regards the distributors, the common booking number would help them reduce expenditure on maintaining multiple telephones lines at the showroom. Subsequently, IOC is planning to extend the scope of the booking system to accept complaints.

For the company, which has engaged Idea Cellular for the project, the system is expected to provide greater control over the distributors, information to address the issues and more transparency in the operations. IOC expects a large number of customers to register their mobile on the booking system.

  • Customers need to go through a few simple steps on the IVRS to book the refill
  • They will get text messages confirming booking with reference number