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Leveraging People and Technology for Value Creation
by Srinivasan Varadarajan, Executive Director – Corporate Finance, Bharat Petroleum Limited, India
The Cash Management University included presentations from companies with operations in a variety of regions.
The Cash Management University included presentations from companies with operations in a variety of regions, including Asia and Central & Eastern Europe, who shared their experiences on how they manage common challenges. The presentation by Srinivasan Varadarajan of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) together with Indrajeet Maitra, Head of Cash Management, Asia Pacific, BNP Paribas centred around optimising collections in India, and is adapted in the following article.
The Burmah Shell Group of Companies, first formed in 1890, was nationalised in 1976 by the Government of India, and ultimately renamed the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL).The company is one of the largest state-owned oil and gas companies in India, and ranked 307 in the Fortune Global 500 (2009). Its primary interests are in downstream petroleum activities, including refining and retailing of petroleum products.
Headquartered in Mumbai, BPCL saw 2009 revenues in excess of US$30bn, and is ranked as the seventh largest brand in India. It is also considered to be a pioneer of industry in India, and its implementation of SAP in 2001 was one of the largest and most successful projects in Asia.
Bearing in mind the critical nature of our products and services, BPCL receives a subsidy from the Indian government in lieu of under-recoveries on the sale of petroleum products. However, as this subsidy falls short of the actual losses, we were facing pressure on the working capital front. In India, we have a primarily paper-based collection model (figure 1), resulting in a long cash conversion cycle with delays at each stage of the collection process of two to four days.
Furthermore, we recognised the operational risks associated with paper-based payment instruments and processes which might result in governance issues. Currently, despite the benefits of electronic payment methods, as figure 1 (‘Payment by EFT’) illustrates, electronic payments are unpopular and patchy in their implementation, often as a result of a lack of remitter information and lack of familiarity by bank branches in remote locations. Furthermore, customers are often reluctant to migrate to electronic payment methods as they lose the benefit of cheque float, and they need to change their operational processes. Consequently,until we implemented our new collection solution, only 30 of over 500 BPCL locations were using EFT, representing only 5-10% of customers.