OMCs look to tap 120 million customers via WhatsApp for LPG services

Oil marketing companies (OMCs) such as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation  (HPCL) are planning to piggyback on WhatsApp’s services to reach out to customers.

The OMCs have had several rounds of discussions with the messenger service for enabling various consumer services for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  Sources close to the developments said the government wants to increase its reliance on private apps, which have maximum reach. 

WhatsApp has more than 200 million users in India. The OMCs hope to reach out to more than 120 million direct customers via WhatsApp. 

“Soon, more than 100 million consumers will be able to book LPG cylinders, track bookings and file complaints in multiple languages using WhatsApp with expected launch of this service being the next three months,” said a senior official in one of the OMCs.

Taking it a step further, OMCs are also planning to use chatbots, automated messaging services providers as well as companies that help connect with customers at mass to automate most of the processes that are at present cumbersome, labour intensive and require a lot of resources.

Sources in the government added that the OMCs are also in discussion with messaging service platforms such as Gupshup, Clickatel, Yellow Chart and Zendesk. 

 
“Soon, companies may come up with bids for such messaging platforms to provide the service,” said a government official.

The move is to reach out to rural India as a large chunk of rural consumers are also using smartphones now. “With Ujjwala Yojana consumers coming under it, this will be for the first time that the Centre will be roping in a private application or social media for reaching out to consumers of a social sector project,” said another official close to the development. 

All the three oil marketing firms put together have 247.2 million active LPG customers in the domestic category which are being served by 21,566 distributors. 

A TAP AWAY 

  • OMCs have had discussions with the messenger service to enable consumer services for LPG 
  • They hope to reach out to more than 120 million direct customers via WhatsApp
  • Oil companies plan to use chatbots, automated messaging services providers, companies to connect with customers on a large scale
  • Govt sources said they are in discussions with messaging service platforms such as Gupshup, Clickatel, Yellow Chart, and Zendesk

Last year, the US-based chat major decided to broaden its focus on monetising its services. This included buying flight tickets to delivery of updates by e-commerce companies as well as buying movie tickets as well as other things. What had started as an instant messaging and online chat service is now turning towards businesses in a big way to monetise the platform. 

WhatsApp already entered into tie-ups with travel portals such as MakeMyTrip, Goibibo and several others in India. It is planning to add e-commerce firm Flipkart on its platform, too, according to sources. 

The company is also planning to add several electricity boards, telecom players, movie ticketing firms and government utility agencies so that users can pay bills and use service assistance via the chat app. 

The idea is to make WhatsApp a full service ecosystem—from utility to entertainment, leisure to business – hinging on its chat feature, a source pointed out. According to industry experts, the American company, with over one billion users worldwide, is keen on replicating China’s WeChat model.
In addition to the normal quieries and services, consumers will also be given a chance to rate their dealers giving stars from single to five. As on October, 88.5 per cent of the country’s households have LPG connections compared to around 54 per cent in 2014-15. 

The scheme got a major thrust after the launch of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), under which 58.5 million connections have been given to below-the-poverty-line familes, so far.



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