Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Takeaways from the Vision session at IUKAN 2013

Being the first conference hosted by pManifold, IUKAN 2013 was surely exciting for all of us. I had the pleasure of being the host for the day and while all sessions brought exciting speakers together, the vision session brought together a set of individuals who brought not only experience but also - like we had expected - a clear vision for the Indian Power and Water Utility sector to emerge. While a lot of gems where shared in this session, let me take a shot to capture the most important points our speakers and guests shared with the participants that day. Here it goes in the sequence things unraveled.

Rahul Bagdia, Director, pManifold initiated the session putting forth the broad vision of this conference as an opportunity to engage stakeholders for sustainable development of Indian Utilities. He explained how the new PPP models were struggling with operationalization challenges which interestingly, to a great extent, are similar in both Power Distribution Franchisee and Water 24x7 models, and hence the convergence of these two utilities made in IUKAN conference.

Public Private Partnerships have evolved over the last many years in various sectors and the joint combination of the government working together with the private sector has seen more success than failure. Mr. Anil Razdan, Ex. Power Secretary, Government of India, focusing on the introduction of PPP models in Water and Power markets highlighted the need of bringing transparency and accountability in the management of distribution systems which will be the key role to be played by the regulators. He pointed out how for a long time the power sector has been described using the three components of Generation, Transmission and Distribution wherein the key component of the "Customer" has been missing. The renewed focus on service delivery with the need to revive the distribution systems via PPP models is just a step in the direction of including the "Customer" in the overall value chain.

Where power and water markets stand today, there was another sector in India that stood there a while back. Some of us do not even remember about it because of the changes were so rapid in that industry that we only realize now what could happen if all stakeholders come together and get going. As you may have imagined I am talking about the Telecom sector of India which stands probably at the furthest stage of its privatization bringing enhanced choice and superior service quality within the reach of the end customer and that too at a reasonable price. Speaking to this point - as to what other utilities, specially power and water can learn from Telecom - was Mr. Pradip Baijal, Ex. Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. As per him, to support the PPP models in the emerging utility markets the regulatory framework needs to build such that competitiveness of the sector is enhanced. Comparing with the telecom sector, he also highlighted the need for private operators to adopt new technology and pass the benefits acquired through them to the end consumer. This will of course have to be supported by the regulatory framework evolving in these sectors.

Commenting in general, vision speaker Dr. Smita Misra, Senior Economist from the South Asia Sustainable Development Unit of the World Bank, mentioned how the country had taken a "Infrastructure Development" focus to service delivery without much focus on the end results achieved by the introduction of infrastructure. She shared her vision for the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation sector, based on the recent World Bank Reports and the Advisory Note by the Ministry. She spoke about various global examples particularly that of HCMC, Vietnam where just a small performance based contract for NRW reduction was able to reduce NRW from 72% to 45%. Thus, pointing to the fact that small changes can really lead to big impacts. She further continued to emphasize the need for making performance linked rewards and recognition a part of the utility management culture.

The realization of the vision for basic amenities like power and water carries little practical relevance unless the center and state supports its implementation. The key stakeholder i.e. the Government has to play a pivotal role in bringing about the change required to achieve the vision.Talking on this Mr. P. K. Tripathi who was the Ex-Chief Secretary, Delhi, ex-CEO of Delhi Jal Board and has extensive experience in Municipal Governance, shared his vision for the Role of Government in evolving the Public Private Partnership models for Utilities. His key point being that the government's role like always will be to protect the rights of all stakeholders while encouraging public-private participation. Mr. Tripathi, who currently is the Advisory (Reforms and Innovation) Government of NCT of Delhi, also shared the government's perspective on the challenges using water distribution in Delhi as an example.

Mr. Sambitosh Mahapatra, Executive Director of PwC India raised a number of challenges faced by Indian Utilities particularly in the Power sector. He highlighted the fact that the Utility employees in India were much older, while the entire country was supposed to be having a demographic dividend right now. He pointed out that the investment ratios in generation, transmission & distribution globally are 2:1:1 while in India during the 11th Plan period it was proportionally 4 times lower with the ratio being 4:1.2:1. Highlighting such stark issues he called for policy interventions and enforcement of existing policies like open access etc.

The interesting session ended slightly delayed than scheduled and was the cause of a little worry for me, being the Emcee for the event. However, the delegates and speakers were kind enough to accommodate the delay and stayed with us until the very end of the conference which happened finally at 6pm that evening where we also announced the next IUKAN Conference to be held on 12 Feb 2014.

The IUKAN 2013, TV coverage, pictures, speaker presentations are available at

If you have any comments, suggestions, feedback feel free to leave a note below or write to me by email.

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