Having come to know from some quarters that Kerala State Road Transport Corporation is troubled and is looking for ways and means to revitalise itself ….I thought it necessary as a Corporate Consultancy enthusiast to share observations and possible solutions from my experience and view-point. Earlier I was associated with Corporate Consultancy initiatives in Bangalore city handling projects of System improvement and Re-engineering. That KSRTC has asked the help of independent consultancy institutions to find remedies which is a welcome move and also a sign that the Kerala Government is seeking professional involvement to improve and augment situations. I was listening to Gita Gopinath the other day who is on a similar mission.
My own experiences with KSRTC. As a student at the erstwhile Regional Engineering College at Calicut between 1982 and 1986 I used to use the Bangalore- Calicut service often. In 1982 me and my room mate S V Giri were stuck at the Calicut Bus Station because the 9:00pm bus was full and we did not have a reservation. We had to wait for nearly five hours to board the Karnataka SRTC delux bus at 2:00 Am. Many times on my journey from Bangalore to Kozhikode the Driver and Conductor refused to give a halt at Kunnamangalam from where REC was very close-by though I pleaded with them and emphasizing that I was a student….which means I had to un-necessarily go to Kozhikode and comeback to REC…a round about journey that could be fifty kilometers. We used to prefer private buses because they would give a halt at Kunnamangalam. On another occasion the night bus from Kozhikode to Bangalore broke down in Kengeri and I had to take a BMTC bus to reach Bangalore terminus. By and large the service was good I must say…economical on one hand and sufficient at the other at most times. Two of my recent journeys with the KSRTC has been awful. One by an Air-Condition morning bus from Kozhikode to Bangalore..the bus making rattling noise and the Air Conditioning device misbehaving in many possible ways and another night journey by a deluxe bus from Bangalore to Cannanore…hell of a noise from all sides…..bus at over speed though under full control…..full night of engine noise totally preventing sleep and had the feeling of being cattled from Bangalore to Cannanore. The reason why KSRTC is in doldrums might be hidden in my experiences mentioned above. KSRTC is novel in many ways and needs re-definition and invention.
Note that the overall area of surface transport is an exciting one and set to grow. overall economic scenario is encouraging but in many ways shows some kind of supply –chain patterns; which means the services are in high demand during some seasons and tends to dilate during the other. Such patterns can be seen during the days of the week and also note the possible increase in cargo. Lets note an interesting phenomena…every bus stop of one time is slowly becoming a full fledged Bus station and the number of commuters increasing along these lines. Roads are being widened and made more durable and new connectivity’s emerging. In such scenarios why is KSRTC under loss? The environment is encouraging but the realities pointing otherwise.
Many factors must be looked into to remedy the situation..some of these are obvious and some need analysis.But KSRTC being in the encouraging Transport sector would find it easier to emerge itself from the crisis it appears to be in unlike certain other Organizations and Institutions which are in restricted sectors and would need to be shelved or resources re-defined and distributed.
Let us look at the most fundamental equation of any Business so to say. Operating revenues must be greater than costs. Costs must be having many cost heads and less tangible but revenues on the other hand more distinctly measurable. Revenues minus the costs are profits. Either you increase the price or reduce costs are the two logical dimensions of Business. Some of these can be crudely done in some places and situations but would be complex in another. Also note increase in price would create a fall in demand. Assuming a possible marginal increase in pricing the onus of profitability falls totally on cutting costs. How could this be wisely done without effecting the values of larger society is the most important challenge facing KSRTC. May be the yearly budgets would very clearly indicate places where there is cost over-burden….some of them could be halved or totally obliterated.. which is a surgical solution which may not be palatable in a democracy.
As a professional who worked in teams for some time trying to find solutions for issues like these ..let me downsize my observations to some kind of a ten point program implemented over a period of time could give results of some kind.
1.Conduct Customer Satisfaction surveys once every three months to start with and then made bi-yearly. What generic commuters rate and state must be validated and bench marked and improved. Existing employees could be used for this purpose and Quality Circles made who evaluate the progress periodically. Every minute aspect must be worked upon.
2.Implement six sigma style models to increase customer delivery.Every Station Manager at KSRTC bus depots must ensure proper commencement of services and also study delays , failures, breakdown and accidents occurring in his jurisdiction. Technology could be introduced to improve such delivery systems. Very crisply said Zero delays..Zero accidents..Zero skirmishes of any other kind. Six Sigma type models could also be implemented to improve ticket reservation systems.
3.Study of pricing models vis-à-vis competition and also induct flexible pricing systems…which means seasonal pricing.The price increase could be marginal but could increase revenues and cushion the situation. Also study the profitability of various classes of bus services and price adjustments could be undertaken.
4.Re-engineering exercise could be initiated which would involve study of various processes and process times of all activities inside the organization. Implement drastic improvement measures where ever possible.
5.Create a comprehensive Vision and Mission statement for KSRTC and display it at all major bus depots.
6.Continuous Marketing efforts must be initiated. This would need elaborate study. Positioning of various services, public relations, Customer value, Customer delivered value ,niche markets, punch lines, product lines, Sales promotion, internet marketing, routing and the like. A separate department must be created and maintained for this purpose.
7.HR or human resources efforts must be created and maintained. This would involve periodic training modules on technical and soft skills and customer handling.
8.Study technical issues through R and D division regarding fuel efficiency of vehicles and other vehicle related Scientific and technical issues.
9.Use KSRTC services to move light cargo across destinations. This is being done to my observation but must be made more viable.
10. System standards and upkeep of all Bus Stations to world standards.