Mumbai : For the first time since 1995, the state-owned Maharashtra State Road Transport Corp (MSRTC) has come out of the red, posting a net profit of Rs.153.2 million, courtesy its more than 100,000 employees.
Hanumant Tate, general secretary of the State Transport Employees Federation, said faced with the spectre of privatisation or closure, the employees decided to get into the act and save their only means of livelihood.
For starters, three years ago, the employees “donated” a mini-fleet of 22 deluxe buses costing Rs.20 million to MSRTC to improve the quality of its existing fleet of around 15,000 buses, Tate told IANS.
The money came from the employees’ fund earmarked in the MSRTC Employees’ Cooperative Bank to be disbursed during the bank’s golden jubilee celebrations.
“Instead of taking the money for personal use, the employees’ general body meeting decided to invest it in MSRTC from which they could get long-term benefits. It was an unprecedented move,” said Tate.
Realising that MSRTC was a lifeline servicing the poorest in the state’s remotest corners, the employees decided to improve the quality of service to passengers.
“We regularly take coaching classes in our union office for the staff. We infuse into them that the passenger is a god and the bus is our temple. The ‘god’ must step into a clean ‘temple’, and the staff must be courteous, helpful and polite,” Tate said.
Employees on certain long routes voluntarily contributed to install music and television sets in 500 buses to entertain passengers.
These simple steps paid rich dividends. Qualitative changes in the service, the cleanliness of the buses and staff courtesy ensured that passengers could be weaned away from the private operators.
The employees also took to innovative marketing and branding techniques to lure more passengers. According to Tate, currently 22 different types of freebies or extra benefits are offered to the passengers.
After providing for various taxes, depreciation, provision for new buses and other statutory requirements, MSRTC posted a net profit of Rs.150.32 million for the financial year 2006-07. Tate is optimistic that MSRTC’s profits will double in the current fiscal.
With a profitable year under its belt, MSRTC is looking ahead. It will increase the fleet by providing more comfortable buses, mini buses for short routes, semi-deluxe, air-conditioned ones and Volvos for different routes. It will also gradually convert to CNG to cut costs and become environment-friendly.