The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) has always been a part of lounge and office conversations across the country. The endless cycle of unannounced loadshedding, power breakdowns, ever-increasing bills, and with no one to register, respond or resolve the complaints, KESC has rarely been in the news for the right reasons. Towards the end of 2013 however, KESC again made waves, but this time for a rebranding campaign with a new logo and tagline and a change in name from KESC to K-Electric.
The reason for this transformation was to ensure that the new image reflected the changes that the company has made since its privatisation under the Abraaj Group in 2009 as well as to mark its centenary.
Prior to 2009, despite being the largest vertically integrated power utility operating in Pakistan, KESC had registered losses for 17 consecutive years (1994 to 2011), owing to pervasive corruption, mismanagement of resources and the lack of a uniform, ethical operational framework governing the organisation. The Abraaj management formulated a two-fold value creation plan (VCP), which included a change in operations to improve efficiencies, followed by the creation of a new brand identity.
The transformation entailed the setting up of a marketing and communications department in 2009 for image-building and customer awareness with campaigns such as the ‘Azm’ campaign launched in 2009 (and subsequent ads warning against power theft, etc.). Changes were also introduced in HR composition and customer facilitation policies along with significant technological upgrades.
As a utility provider, maintaining consistent service quality is at the heart of the company’s operations.
According to Fahad Ali Khan, GM, Marketing Communications, K-Electric, the company conducted the “single largest employee engagement programme in the history of Pakistan’s corporate sector between 2009 and 2013.”
On the technological front, the focus, according to Khan was “to provide reliable and affordable energy.”
|Customer Facilitation Framework: K-Electric set up an SMS service to ensure that customers have easy access to accurate information, one of the many initiatives in its effort “to provide reliable and affordable energy.”|
As part of the Customer Facilitation Framework, KESC set up a Twitter account to act as a discussion forum as well as a notification service by providing real time updates of power outages and complaint registration. Recently, a SMS service and a helpline has also been set up to ensure that customers have easy access to accurate information. However, the most important facet of the customer engagement policy was the creation of Integrated Business Centres (IBCs), which act as one-window solutions for all customer complaints, feedback and queries.
As a result of this internal overhaul, KESC witnessed a turnaround. After 17 consecutive years of losses, the company registered a profit in the last two fiscal years. Along with this transformation into a profit making entity, KESC exempted 56% of the city from loadshedding, the duration of loadshedding has been minimised overall (according to the company, in areas where there is 100% bill payment there has been no loadshedding at all), electricity thefts have been curtailed to some extent and a zero hour loadshedding policy has been initiated for the industrial sector.
This transition set the platform for KESC to execute a full-scale rebranding campaign.
According to Khan, “Milestones had to be achieved first, which we have accomplished today.”
Rebranding alone was not sufficient, and the brand team believed that a new name was warranted as well.
Khan says, “Since 2009, KESC has practically demonstrated the ability to bring about a sustainable change, visibly pursuing the path of growth and transformation with clear signs of service, operational and financial turnaround,” and therefore a new name was necessary.
He adds that K-Energy would have been the ideal brand name, but since that name was already taken (K-Energy is a subsidiary of K-Electric), they had to settle for the second best.
In terms of the rebranding, Khan explained that the new tagline “Energy that moves life” was coined to indicate that K-Electric is more than a power utility; it is a singular and reliable source of energy that will fuel economic growth, while at the same time truly reaffirm Karachi’s lost identity as the ‘City of lights’.
Patriotism was an important factor that K-Electric wanted to incorporate in the campaign.
Noman Shakil, Creative Manager, Interflow Communications (K-Electric’s creative agency), who conceived and conceptualised the logo and colours explained:
“The logo depicts the feathers of a partridge which is Pakistan’s national bird. Also, each colour stands for one element of the ESG Framework; orange for energy (stress and hassle-free lives for the people of Karachi), blue for social (CSR initiatives for NGOs and welfare organisations) and green for the environment (all new generation plants utilise environmentally friendly technologies).”
The new tagline “Energy that moves life” was coined to indicate that K-Electric is more than a power utility; it is a singular and reliable source of energy that will fuel economic growth, while at the same time truly reaffirm Karachi’s lost identity as the ‘City of lights’.
The campaign included a TVC that narrates the story of how KESC started in 1913, and then shows a decade wise flow of the changes made that justified a new identity. The media plan by Brainchild Communications included airing the on all major news and infotainment channels and the promotional mix included streamers and standees across the city, print advertisements in national and regional newspapers, promotion through social media and using branded content (name, logo and tagline) on electricity bills.
The campaign seems to have achieved the objective of creating awareness among customers that “the old KESC is now K-Electric.” However, there has been a mixed reaction on social media particularly, with some people appreciating the creativity, and others criticising K-Electric for using scarce resources on marketing instead of improving the service.
Acknowledging that this is fairly common feedback, Khan responds that the “marketing fund is a small fraction versus the monetary value of major issues at hand.”
While service quality (electricity provision, customer response and customer engagement) has improved, there are many battles that still have to be fought.
“The problem,” Khan says, “is that certain factors are beyond our control. The government, and especially KWSB has yet to pay its dues and inadequate gas supply severely affects power generation and the electricity tariff. Then there is the issue of electricity theft: we conducted a massive ‘kunda-removal’ campaign and took down 250,000 illegal connections in one day, the next day almost all of them had been put up again!”
It will be some time before all customer issues and complaints are resolved and Pakistan becomes a loadshedding-free country. A step in the right direction has been taken by K-Electric, in engaging and facilitating customers by providing accurate information about power shutdowns, notifying them about when power will be restored and improving service quality. However, a lack of resources and government support continue to remain crucial challenges that have yet to be tackled and can derail the achievement of the milestones that K-Electric has set for itself in the planned time frame.