My faith in employees has charted WCL’s turnaround story: CMD

As the WCL CMD prepares to retire from service, Rajiv Mishra speaks to PSU Watch about his legacy and the policy that scripted a new growth story for the PSU
My faith in employees has charted WCL’s turnaround story: CMD

New Delhi: At the time the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL), Rajiv Mishra, took charge of the post on October 11, 2014, WCL was a sinking ship. The PSU had been referred for disinvestment in 2013. However, armed with a concrete plan and a multi-pronged approach for the revival of the company, Mishra took charge of the reins and scripted a turnaround for the coal PSU which is rarely heard of. From being on the brink of disinvestment, WCL is now at a place where it is exceeding its annual target for the last two years. For six years, the fulcrum of his policy has been to place paramount importance on human capital. As he prepares to retire from service at the end of December this year, Mishra speaks exclusively to PSU Watch about his legacy and why he thinks human capital can be a gamechanger in scripting any oragnisation's success story. Here are excerpts:

You are about to complete your term as WCL CMD soon. And we have all heard about how you introduced and executed a human resource policy that sort of turned around WCL's performance. What in your view is your legacy to this organisation?

I believe in my human resource. We often tend to focus on targets, equipment, infrastructure, profit and loss way too much and overlook the people who are involved in creating the wealth of a company. When I took over and enquired into why the company was doing badly, I found out that the employees did not have a sense of belonging or ownership. The moment you start caring for people, they start taking ownership of the company and their work. This is an import aspect of leadership in any corporate house or public sector company that is ignored. When a person starts owning a company, it doesn't matter what target you put on the board for them, they will put in their very best to achieve it. So, that was my approach.

I believe in empowering my human capital. And by human capital, I do not only mean Directors or General Managers or the head of departments, I mean the last employee in the line of hierarchy, like the sweeper. They are responsible for the good performance of the company as much as the CMD. And this is what has brought about the change at WCL. I just believed in my human resource, they started taking ownership of the company and that is why the company has charted an unimaginable success story from being on the brink of disinvestment to exceeding its targets year after year.

The government has recently opened the coal mining sector to private players. This means that coal PSUs will be competing with the private sector on various parameters like prices, availability, quality, etc. How do you view this new competition?

Let's assume that the country needs 1,000 Million Tonnes (MT) of coal. And around 600-700 MT of coal can come from the public sector. So, the government will have to meet the requirement for the remaining 300 MT from somewhere. The private sector is going to come and take care of this gap. And it will not have any impact on Coal India's prospects in the sector. Coal India Limited is a Maharatna PSU. And we are already thinking of pushing our coal production to 1 Billion Tonne (BT) by 2023-24. The private sector will contribute about 100-200 MT of coal and it will not have any impact on Coal India's share in the market.

Let's talk about business now. What was the impact that the Covid-19 had on business? And how much recovery have you seen in demand so far?

The Covid-19 pandemic brought along with it challenges for us, as it did for everyone else, because coal dispatch to power units dropped sharply. We used to dispatch 22-25 rakes of coal in the pre-Covid times and after the pandemic broke out, this figure came down to 8-10 rakes in April. To overcome these challenges, we came up with a plan. We approached power consumers in Western, Central and South India and offered them coal at a cheaper landed price. By July, we had received an additional demand for 30 MT of coal.

So, from despatching 8-10 rakes of coal in April, we went to 50 rakes per day in November. So, this was a kind of a comeback from a setback. Currently, there is no dearth of demand, as far as WCL is concerned, and we are meeting this demand. In fact, demand for coal has increased 1.5 times in comparison to April.

There has been improvement m-o-m basis. But what about the entire financial year (FY202-21)? Will you end the year with growth in dispatch and production?

The target for WCL for FY2020-21 is achieving 60 MT of coal production. And WCL will achieve it. Since the time we have implemented the new human capital policy, the targets have chased WCL, WCL didn't have to chase targets. It has been so for the last two years at least. 

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