q u o t e

Sunday, March 5, 2017

can kerala srtc be saved ?

                                         can  kerala srtc be saved ?

     1. introduction
any sick unit can be revived with adequate concessions and sacrifices. so the basic viability question is whether we can afford the concessions and sacrifices required to revive ksrtc. and the answer we presume is that anything and everything should be done to ensure that ksrtc remains our long distance runner.
we will be looking at the ways and means of reviving ksrtc in the following chapters with focus retained on reliefs and sacrifices : 2. increase income 3. reduce expenses 4. infusion of capital and/or technology 4. marketing and other aspects
quantification is not difficult but is not attempted at this stage. this can be tried later based on and drawing from valuable feedback of our readers

      2.  increase income.
increase  in income is the obvious step to revive a sick unit. more so in a service industry like transportation where variable cost is negligible. all the cost is in fixed overheads incurred in advance. for example there is no way to save cost of a trip just becoz there are no passengers.
here  income goes directly to the  P&L account unlike in a manufacturing unit where only the contribution or the operating profit impacts the p&l account.
suffice to say the single most important thing is to maximise income and sustain it.
  2.1.  proper scheduling
a strange ksrtc practice is bunching of schedules or running the buses in procession or convoy mode. a minimum of 3 buses take to the road one after the other. then a big gap before the next convoy appears.
there are excuses galore. 1. the trips originate from various depots. 2. it helps to control the rush. 3. passengers will learn to wait at least in monopoly routes. none of them merits consideration.
there should be schedules evenly distributed in time. leave the long distance schedules intact. adjust medium distance routes properly. schedule local trips only if there is a vacant slot. only exception could be one rush hour slot in the morning and another in the evening.
  2.2.  ensure occupancy
it should be the joint responsibility of the conductor and the driver to ensure that each trip carries the optimum load. a little relaxation in the time allotted to complete trips, especially in local trips, can help. customer service concept can be thought of. at least it costs nothing to try and get the customer step out with a smile.
a suitable incentive system also can be thought of.
in short drop in passengers should be got explained in each trip. this should be made a compulsory item in all day end reports.
there can be problem in certain routes. like a trip from nelliampathy main to the last stop which i think is called the colony stop about 3 kms away. in one of the trips i was the only passenger. while  returning there were five or six . these routes may be grouped under essential services and exempted from the occupancy condition. and the need of each service
should be re assessed and alternatives explored. in the nelliampathy case a smaller vehicle like a jeep, even on hire, may serve the purpose.
  2.3.  no competition with train services.
for example there can be a gap in ernakulam to  trichur or kottayam schedules when it is already serviced by the railways.
  2.4.  increase fare
there is nothing sacrosanct in maintaining bus fares. the increase in cost if any has to be passed on to the passengers or subsidised in cash terms by the govt. differential pricing can of course be tried. with large increase in super fast and deluxe buses and least in the ordinary buses. the fact remains that increase in fares has to be considered as a definite option while formulating a revival package for ksrtc.
  2.5.  feeder services.
why a city service going round in ernakulam city on both directions is not there baffles me. and there is scope for a few more connecting metro stations and major bus stations . again why not short point to point service from vyttila to south rly stn or lulu mall

     3. reduce costs.
   3.1.  hold down employee cost.
though it sounds unpopular , this probably is a necessary condition to revive ksrtc. and it need not be as unpopular as it looks. hindustan organic chemicals (hoc) has not paid its employees for so many months. ksrtc empoyers are in a much better position than say graduate engineers working in private concerns. so the rationale for sacrifice by employees to save ksrtc is not that far fetched.
3.1.1.  no increase in employee cost during the rehabilitation period of say 5 years.
3.1.2.   increments and other increase due in the current year should go to the capital of ksrtc as employees contribution.
3.1.3.  discontinue checkers. replace it by encouraging passengers to report malpractices in a public website.
3.1.4.  reduce staff in admin offices
  3.2.  avoid corruption
it is street talk that purchase of spares is a big leak point. then there are many other bleeding points both direct and indirect. all should be plugged at any cost.
3.2.1.  introduce e tender for all purchases. and give wide publicity . even concerned employees can post such tenders on social media. they are not secret documents.
3.2.2.  ksrtc super fast bus flaunt the best body on the road. these bus bodies are built by in house workshops. strengthen these in house capabilities . and avoid outsourcing these activities to private parties.
3.2.3.  do not allow a ksrtc bus to lie incapacitated on the road for more than 2 hours. it is an ugly sight. make it a core responsibility of the employees to put an incapacitated bus back on the road say with in 4 hours.
  3.3.  subsidise diesel
avoid tax that state govt gets on diesel. this is the minimum any govt should do to redeem its transportation responsibilities
  3.4 restructure loan laibilities
there is absolutely no logic in continuing with high interest loans especially in the present scenario of falling interest rates. re negotiate the loans with a view to reduce interest burden which probably is the second biggest drag on ksrtc, second only to employee cost.

     4. infusion of capital and technology
additional capital is an unavoidable input if a sick unit is to be revived. accumulated loss should be compensated to a reasonable extent before attempting revival. technology like wise is a great input which often succeeds in making operations viable.
   4.1. employee contribution
employees are the most important stake holders in ksrtc. with private parties ready to fill the gap , even the govt can afford to opt out and let the corporation die. but employees past and present can't think of it. employees should therefore make up their mind overriding political line and trade union pressure to contribute to the capital of ksrtc . one option of investing any incremental salary is already discussed elsewhere. employees should think of other avenues to raise funds to augment capital
   4.2. state contribution
state should finance revival of ksrtc by pumping in money either by way of capital or some form of budget allocation
   4.3. cng instead of diesel
cng buses are already running in many places like delhi. ksrtc should try and get cng buses . centre may have some programmes under which they supply such buses to state free or heavily subsidised. petroleum companies like bpcl should be approached to get a few of these buses sponsored either under its csr projects or marketing initiative.
   4.4. internet for monitoring operations
ksrtc offices like the one in puthencruz just for monitoring the movement of buses can be dispensed with. all tracking and monitoring of buses on the road can be done thru internet.
   4.5. feed back
a website can be created and thrown open to public to voice their suggestions, concerns and grievances. these should be followed up and replied to.

      5. miscellaneous
  5.1. diversification
diversification is basically for putting to additional use the resources of the corporation , both physical assets like buildings and buses and soft assets like man power reputation etc
5.1.1. courier service
a good initiative but for reasons not known not implemented at all
5.1.2. advt on buses
great opportunity but for strange reasons only talk and no action
5.1.3. hiring out excess rooms in own buildings
excess space has to be identified by reorganising office space properly
5.1.4. tourism
there is scope for doubling ksrtc offices as tourist guidance centres. what tourists are essentially looking for is dependability. employees can also do tourism promotion work during free time
5.1.6. lottery
whether lottery tickets can be sold from buses need to be studied
5.1.7. monthly coupons.
worth trying though may not help much in revenue addition
  5.2. reorganisation
ksrtc has essentially two functions. one is to connect far flung areas. this is an essential service and should be treated as such.
the other is commercial service which can be treated as profit centres.
5.2.1. essential service unit
this is basically a function of the govt. govt should therefore make good the losses.
5.2.2. commercial operation.
all the modern business tools should be used effectively here. no excuses for not making profit in this segment should be accepted. if private parties can generate profit , so can ksrtc.  
 5.3     misc
5.3.1. man power is probably wasted on cash management at ksrtc offices. this can be assigned to the banks by an appropriate programme to remit cash directly to a bank account either in the branch or thru cash accepting ATMs. ticketting machines are capable of generating amount to be remitted automatically . provision can also be made to upload this data directly to the controlling office.
5.3.2. route planning can be automated. buses can also be tracked individually using a gps enabled system. some man power can thus be saved.
5.3.3. differential pricing can probably be given a try. like a surcharge for confirmed seats in long distance buses. those who are ready to stand need pay only the normal charge. advance booking for super fast and higher services can be introduced with additional charges. position of the bus and expected arrival time at the booked spot can be arranged to be informed electronically to the passenger , preferably on his mobile phone.

        6. conclusion
ksrtc needs to be revived. it can be done with the active participation of all the stake holders
   6.1 employees
6.1.1 forego any increase in remuneration
6.1.2 contribute to capital
6.1.3 ensure sincere participation of all employees
6.1.4 expose and fight corruption at all levels
   6.2 govt
6.2.1 ensure professional management
6.2.2 finance operational losses of essential service routes on an ongoing basis
6.2.3 contribute to the capital
6.2.4 forego tax on diesel
6.2.5 coordinate with other agencies
   6.3 management
6.3.1 employ modern management tools and ensure that the commercial division routes generate profit
6.3.2 elucidate various cost saving and additional income generation suggestions
6.3.3 study and implement diversification proposals
6.3.4 liaison with all stake holders
   6.4 others
6.4.1 banks should reduce interest burden past and future
6.4.2 bharat petroleum can think of sponsoring cng buses
6.4.3 petroleum companies can think of discount to this bulk user
6.4.4 public should keep vigil on the implementation of the revival package and its smooth running

ksrtc can't be allowed to die so it should be saved .