Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

Discom in MP sets up ‘virtual office’app to address consumer concerns

'Smart Bijlee' allows users to make payments, submit complaints, or apply for a new connection, while sitting at home

New Delhi: In this digital age, waiting in dreaded queues for availing basic services is no longer accepted as a necessary part of life. Both the government agencies and private sector are, thus, increasingly seeking to extend their facilities via online platforms.

Following this trend, a Madhya Pradesh-based electricity distribution company (discom) is facilitating consumer services through a mobile application, ‘Smart Bijlee’, which allows users to make payments, submit complaints, or apply for a new connection, while sitting at home.

‘Smart Bijlee’ was the finalist for the mBillionth Award organized by the Digital Empowerment Foundation 2017 in the category of government and citizenship engagement.

Developed by a team at the Jabalpur-based Madhya Pradesh Poorv Kshetra Vidyut Vitaran Co. Ltd (MPPKVVCL)—a state government-owned power utility—the Android-based mobile app provides a single window to users to avail all services of the power company. The objective of ‘Smart Bijlee’, officials at MPPKVVCL say, is not only to provide deadline-based services from the comforts of home, but also to increase efficiency and transparency.

The main features of this mobile app include submission for new service connections, name change requests, load change applications, direct call to customer care executive for lodging any complaints or requests, service complaints, transformer related complaints, tracking status of complaints/requests with relevant information, and bill payment options.

Varun Vamney, manager, IT, at MPPKVVCL and one of the developers of the mobile app, says that prior to the launch of this mobile platform, MPPKVVCL consumers were required to visit the office, fill the desired form manually and make the required payments offline. This was a time-consuming process at both ends. The discom official says the mobile app has changed the entire consumer service concept in a public sector utility like MPPKVVCL, with the consumer now neither required to visit the company office, nor stand in long queues.

Vamney emphasizes that the motivation was to avoid the possibility of any mediator between the consumer and company. “At government offices, most often, people have to pass through middlemen to get services. We wanted to remove these middlemen and ensure that consumers get direct access to the company," he explains.

The idea, Vamney emphasizes, was to create a “virtual office" that ensures people need not come to the discom offices, while at the same time field officers could also manage their work through the platform.

“We have also created an administrative module for the officials on the application which allows field officials like junior engineers to receive applications in real time and take action accordingly," he explains, adding that at both officials and consumer gets intimation regularly through a tracking system.

The platform allows the electricity utility officials to monitor and analyze data at all levels. The system also makes relevant data available to all stakeholders, thus allowing a very effective monitoring of any requests. Field officials, who are supposed to act on the requests, are able to update the data online after taking necessary action while on the site. The consumer is aware of the level at which his application is pending and the contact details of the concerned official.

“Now it is also possible for the company management to monitor the status of consumer requests. The executive engineer can now talk to end consumer and concerned official for the early delivery of the request, and this expedites the delivery to consumer, which in turn increases the confidence on the system," the discom official notes.

The development team included a team of five programmers led by former managing director of MPPKVVCL Mukesh Chand Gupta, and chief general manager (commercial), Ajay Sharma. The core development team of programmers included Vamney, Sudhir Patidar, Mayank Singh, Naveen Bharati and Gaurav Soni.

The mobile app has been downloaded about 96,000 times since its launch in December 2016. To increase its outreach, the MPPKVVCL does all the promotion through social media platforms—Facebook and Twitter. The company has also made a documentary of the mobile app, which is available on the video sharing platform YouTube.

The power utility has received more than 550,000 requests over this digital platform since its launch. The discom official says the utility now seeks to expand the features of the mobile application and get more users connected directed via this digital platform.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan and mBillionth awards.

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