Western Coalfields tides over conventional problems with unconventional approach
Puja Bhattacharjee | April 28, 2016
Western Coalfields (WCL), a CIL subsidiary, was making profits till 2009-10. But it had to scale down its production due to extra safety precautions following a labourer’s death in a mine mishap in September 2010. It resulted in five years of negative growth in production and dispatch. For three consecutive years, the company made losses and was about to be referred to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR).
When Rajiv Mishra, then director (personnel), Central Coal Fields, joined WCL as chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) in October 2014, he inherited a heavily demoralised workforce and a sick company. “At that time there were 42 projects, none of which were viable. I could start work on 36 projects out of them by making some technical and parameter changes,” he says.
It was necessary to motivate the employees before focusing on ground problems. Mishra found that a whopping 70 percent of the workforce was due to retire by 2019-20 and WCL will have to depend largely on relatively young people. He summoned about 500 employees – from management trainees to assistant managers – and asked them to imagine WCL in 2020. “I told them that their dream will be their vision and they have to create milestones to achieve those dreams,” he says. The positivity quickly percolated to other employees.
WCL made ‘Samvad teams’ in each location comprising people from labourers to general managers and delegated powers to them. “We told them to decide whatever they considered the best in that area and implement it. They could get my approval post-facto,” he says. Mishra was also a member of these teams which gave the lowest rung workers access to him. Following these measures, the company turned around in three months.
In 2014-15, WCL achieved a growth of 3.6 percent and made a profit of Rs 161 crore. In a year’s time, WCL was heading for a growth of 10 percent. Mishra then focused his attention on resolving issues on the ground. Acquiring land for projects was of course a major hurdle. WCL teams visited about 50 villages in two months and engaged with villagers. Once resettlement and rehabilitation policies were modified, WCL was able to launch one project every month. “We lined up all 36 projects in 36 months. In 11 months we have opened 11 projects – and have fixed a timeline of all 36 projects,” says Mishra.
The CMD uses social media to bond and keep in touch with the employees. “We have formed WhatsApp groups with workers. I am a member of those groups and that’s where decisions are taken,” he says. Any major decision taken by the board is immediately shared over WhatsApp to keep everyone in loop.
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