Oil companies map retail expansion with tech – Times of India

NEW DELHI: For years, a large parcel of empty land along Coimbatore-Trichy road would attract a young IndianOil executive’s attention. Today, the site is home to one of the company’s high-selling pumps.
Cut to present. When CIDCO began developing New Mumbai townships a few years ago, the prospective pump sites were identified by IOC’s central data centre. Today, the pumps are doing well.
Welcome to the bold new world where data is the new oil.
“Today when consumers visit our petrol pumps they don’t realise there’s a digital ecosystem working in the background to ensure delivery is pure aur pura dono hee (both pure and full),” IOC chairman Shrikant Madhav Vaidya said.

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IndianOil, HPCL and BPCL, which control 90% of the market, are investing Rs 1,000 crore each in AI (artificial intelligence), cloud computing, blockchain, virtual imaging and assisted learning to optimise operations and improve service quality.
“Earlier we would look at the map and say, ‘let’s put up a pump here’ when we saw a wide gap (between pumps) or field officers would identify the sites, which many times did not give optimum results. Now it is data-driven,” Vaidya said.
HPCL chairman M K Surana said network expansion is based on economic data of location, type, vehicle population and mix etc. “AI has two aspects: machine facing and consumer facing. How do you find if a customer is leaving your pump satisfied/unsatisfied? The answer is video analysis. The same technology is also ensuring safety at our plants,” he said.
The data centre of each company continuously churn inputs from installations and tankers down to each nozzle at outlets. As a result, the meter automatically gets set to zero when a nozzle is taken off the hook and delivery for a specific amount can be set to lock the fuel and prevent under-delivery.
Similarly, a dispenser gets locked if the day’s rate is not changed at the specified time, a possibility when prices decline. Stock delivery, tank readings and sales from each nozzle of an outlet are tallied continuously to detect adulteration. Geotagged locks in tankers do not open in any location other than the designated pump, preventing adulteration or diversion.
A BPCL spokesperson said digital is more than automation of pumps. “You can make advance payment for Rs 500 worth of petrol at a pump through our app. That fuel is locked up. You can visit the pump at your convenience, the fuel will be delivered by just scanning the QR code.”
“Digital transformation is part of our long-term vision and the only way to a consumer’s heart going forward, Surana said, adding his company is integrating all operations on the “most advanced” ERP (enterprise resource planning) platform from SAP — S4/HANA — achieve this goal.

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