Many public sector units are increasingly leveraging IT to automate their business processes across various functions such as engineering, manufacturing, site operations, project management and production. Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) is one such company, which has been proactively adopting new technologies to digitalise its operations in order to bring in efficiency and transparency in its systems. In 1999, the company implemented MANTHAN, an enterprise resource planning solution (executed through SAP software), which has enabled it to achieve a fair degree of integration and standardisation of its business processes. An overview of some of the recent initiatives of IOCL in the digital space…

IOCL’s digital initiatives

IOCL sells liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) products, mainly gas cylinders, under the brand name Indane. It has 9,000 customer touchpoints across the country. To keep track of the various outlets, it has digitalised transaction processing on the dealer side by deploying an in-house software solution. Another key initiative of the company has been building a framework for the direct transfer of the subsidy under PAHAL, the direct benefit transfer scheme of LPG, to the customer’s bank account. Subsidies for almost 250 million customers are sent to their bank accounts through an Aadhaar-based payment system.

On the LPG distributor network side, the distributor end is synchronised with the central server for the exchange of data with consumers on a near-real-time basis. The transactions are based on the web service request/response mechanism. To ensure transparency, all the data has been made available to the public. For the benefit of consumers, the company provides information on LPG usage, booking status, refill history, subsidy availed and transferred, rating of the distributor on the basis of cylinder delivery time, customer feedback, and Aadhaar linking status. It also allows consumers to submit a request for the surrender of their connection. Under the e-SV (Sahaj) facility, IOCL issues an electronic subscription voucher, which is emailed to the customer upon the release of the LPG connection online. The subscription voucher indicates the number of cylinders and pressure regulators loaned to the customer against the security deposit.

CRM initiatives

IOCL has recently launched a project for implementing a dealer management and customer relationship management (CRM) system aimed at building customer loyalty and increasing customer satisfaction. This  project, called e-PIC (e-platform for customers), is being implemented across all the business units of the company. It performs CRM functions such as integrating and customising marketing efforts across product lines, ensuring a swifter response to customer service requests including grievances, and creating a unified customer  experience across various access devices such as mobile phones, tablets and desktops. The CRM system has a 360-degree grievance redressal system with proper social media integration. The customer today demands more than an interactive voice response system and hence, social media has become an essential part of the entire value chain. In addition, IOCL has recently launched the Indian Oil One mobile application.

Challenges and the way forward

The company faces a number of challenges in the implementation of new technologies and solutions, the most important being the threat of cyberattacks. Given that IOCL has highly sensitive data of national importance, it must proactively ensure the security of its systems.

The company has deployed robotic process automation to check incidents of licence violation. It is also switching to cloud services wherever required. For instance, its dealer management system and CRM are being hosted on private cloud. Even though the cloud is becoming an important delivery platform, IOCL does not foresee a very rapid transition to a pure cloud offering because a large part of the company’s critical applications continue to physically reside on the premises. In addition, a new data centre is being set up in Gurugram, which is expected to generate many employment opportunities.

Going ahead, IOCL plans to deploy technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, internet of things and chatbots. The company is also looking at virtual reality, which can be an excellent tool for educating and training the less educated workers.