Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Interview with Col. Gowardhan - HR Director, OCW on the key challenges and future plans for 24 x 7 water supply project at Nagpur

The interview showcases the key challenges and future plans of the 24x7 water supply operator for the city of Nagpur, as told to

Nagpur 24x7 water supply project is the first urban water supply project in India. Could you, at the outset, help us understand the current status of the Project?
Nagpur comes along as the first big urban water supply project on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model. In this Project, Orange City Water Pvt. Ltd. (OCW) is to upgrade city water distribution network through rehabilitation of the existing network and laying new network to achieve 24x7 uninterrupted water supply to city of Nagpur.The work is in progress under JnNRUM scheme. The plan agreed and approved for 5 years and in last 18 months OCW has been able to lay about 250 km of pipe line and done more than 26000 new service connections. One zone is already operating on 24x7 basis and few areas will be shortly added to 24x7 list as work in 3 areas is nearing completion.  Further to that, OCW is currently working in almost 30% of the city to improve the water mains network.

Nearly 18 months into the project, what do you think are the key challenges that OCW faces today? How does OCW plan to engage the local stakeholders to help expedite the project success?
The current key challenges faced by OCW are -
  • Changing mindset of consumers : Many consumers think that water is natural resource/God’s gift so they are averse to paying for it. Presently many consumers are receiving free water and have strong opposition to the regularization process. Also, people are opposed to have a meter installed at their premises due to the fear of high water bills.
  • Improving water network : Most of the pipe line existing in the city is very old and leaking at various places. Some of the pipeline is also passing through the nallahs and along sewage lines,thereby creating a considerable threat of pollution in the water mains. Further, the unplanned urban development has also created unbalanced load on the water network, causing inequitable water distribution within the city limits.
  • Opposition to 24x7 Project : Lack of appropriate information has created an opposition to the project from some local leaders and citizens. People and local stakeholders need to be rightly educated about the benefits of the 24x7 water supply scheme and right amount of political will garnered to remove the hurdles in the successful completion of the project.
To overcome the above mentioned challenges, local stake holders education is planned and they are educated through Mohalla and Group meetings. OCW has come up with a unique concept of nominating Water Friends, who are respected persons in locality and interested in educating consumers,regular interaction with local councilors and projecting good work executed through media. OCW has also launched a website – – for disseminating information to the local stakeholders of the project.

What are the key areas where OCW has innovated in terms of adding value to the city water distribution?
With the right help of international expertise through our partner company –Veolia Water – OCW is trying to innovate in technology as well as global best practices.
The following are certain innovative methods/modern technologies currently under application at OCW

  • Leak detection machine has been deployed for locating leaks and repairing immediately so that consumer gets improved quality of water and saving water.
  • Indigenously developed cleaning machine to clean General Service Reservoirs and Elevated Service Reservoirs regularly to ensure clean and good quality water supply. Recently, OCW bagged gold medal in Pure Services Category by Quality Circle Forum of India. (Read here for more details)
  • HDD Trench Technology for laying pipe line avoids digging of long trenches and thereby quick laying and minimum inconvenience to public.
  • OCW has set up a 24x7 Call Centre with toll free number to provide quick response and feedback to consumer. The active Call Centre support has helped us to resolve more than 96% complaints in the last quarter.
  • OCW has also initiated a whole range of Quality Management initiatives for water supply quality monitoring.
  • We are the first water utility to initiate a Photo Meter Reading program to bring in more transparency in the billing system. Currently, we are using Photo Meter Reading for the main customers, and the same will be slowly rolled out for the full city. 
Do you think that for the scale up we are looking at in the urban water sector, the skill set required is available with the people looking for opportunities in the sector?
In India Water Sector is/has been working under Government/Municipal bodies. The experienced personnel are not keen to leave comfortable and secured Govt. jobs. The talent available outside is limited. Hence, selecting and retaining talent is challenging. Therefore, talent needs to be developed and nurtured. Like Power Management courses developed by many institutes and universities for power sector, education institutes have to develop courses for water management. We interacted with Vice Chancellor of RSTM Nagpur University and given proposal for the same and assured all assistance from OCW.

How is OCW planning to take up its employee development program to ensure better business effectiveness?
OCW has planned training and development of its employees through systematic and continuous training program. Every month over 15% employees are trained in soft skills/professional subject/safety.Recently, we have completed a first level “Training Needs Assessment” for our employees and special focus is put on Employee Development. We are regularly organizing safety awareness programs for our field employees as well as personal & business effectiveness trainings for back office staff. Internal and external trainers are   imparting the training.

What do you think can the utility do differently to ensure that the human capital is used to the best of its capacity so as to ensure that right quality of services are delivered to the end customers?
To enable effective functioning and efficient service to consumers, OCW is using latest technology like HDD, Leak Detection Machine, ESR cleaning pumps and also going for ERP solution to ensure optimum utilization of manpower and high standards of service.

Sir, with your wide experience in the power sector, what are the key differences you’ve observed till now in the water sector? What are the areas that you think need more emphasis for the successful growth of the water utilities PPP in the next 3-5 years?
As compared to Power Sector, water sector reforms are in nascent stage. The major differences between power sector and water sector are:

  • Tariff regulation and Billing system in power sector is fairly well defined and matured. Consumer is more aware about the regulator’s role in tariff and that to avoid disconnection; one has to pay the bill regularly in time.
  • In meters, latest technologies like AMR, pre-paid etc. are in use in power sector whereas in Indian water sector new technologies are yet to be introduced.
  • Electricity Act 2003 is quite elaborate and clear whereas water bylaws need further refinement.  
  • With the power sector, reforms have come in over the last two decades and hence sufficient talent is available. However, the water sector is relatively nascent and the talent needs to be developed.

Various models PPP, franchisee and privatization are operating in power sector and there are success stories of these models. In water sector, for success of PPP model, Government and Public Representatives support is needed. Water is one of the basic needs of human being and awareness to conserve and accounting of the same need to be raised. Private operators need to use latest technology and show the improvement in quality and service as quickly as possible to make public realize the necessity of PPP model.

About the expert:

Col. Rahul Gowardhan
Director-HR, Orange City Waters Pvt. Ltd.

Col. Gowardhan is an alumnus of Indian Military Academy and an Ex E.D.(HR) - MSEDCL.
Currently, he is associated with Orange City Waters Pvt. Ltd. Nagpur - the operator for 24x7 water supply project of the city - in capacity of Director-HR & PR. 

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