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ATC India operates in an industry that provides telecoms bandwidth through its network of 75,000 towers across India to close to a billion individual consumers, who are subscribers to the country’s top telecom operators. With the towers dependent on the power supply from India’s utility providers, or the state electricity boards (SEBs), to operate, ATC need to have a stringent and reliable process in place for timely payments to close to 100 SEBs to ensure the delivery of consistent services to their customers. If payments are missed, ATC risks power cuts and disruption of services to its customers, leading to potential penalties and related costs.
Adding to the complexity is that each SEB has its own process for raising and delivering utility bills to its customers – with timings frequently precariously close to or post the due date – and the payment methods offered are equally varied.
With these disparate processes dominating more than 80% of its utility payments, ATC India faced ongoing treasury challenges characterised by the following:
- Cumbersome process of making utility payments to 100 SEBs spread across the country, thereby impacting customer/telecom player experience.
- Different timings and payment methods for each SEB leading to significant efforts in ensuring the payments are made on time.
- Physical reconciliation of payables.
- Lack of transparency and visibility in terms of working capital management.
- Manual management of treasury and financial processes that are not linked to their ERP.
ATC India turned to its bank, J.P. Morgan, and in December 2020 launched a comprehensive solution alongside the bank’s fintech partner and one of the country’s largest payment processors, BillDesk, that completely digitised, automated and streamlined ATC’s utility payments.
The solution leveraged a new initiative by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) – an organisation under the India Central Bank responsible for driving digitisation of payments in the country – to onboard SEBs onto an integrated payment platform called Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS). By linking ATC to the bank’s platform, which is in turn connected to the BBPS platform via BillDesk, ATC can now independently initiate utility payments online, securely and without additional manual assistance from its partner banks.
By streamlining the communications with, and payments to, the SEBs into just a single channel, ATC no longer manages the SEB’s disparate and manual processes of raising bills that took up countless working hours and risked human errors in the reconciliation.
As information exchange is now enabled in real-time through host-to-host connectivity, as well as between J.P. Morgan and BillDesk via APIs, payments are now authenticated and verified instantaneously, allowing transactions to be executed immediately. ATC also has full visibility of the settlement process, leading to enhanced coordination with its billers and overall digitisation of payables where reconciliation is also automated through SWIFT MT940 and MT942.
Best practice and innovation
By simplifying the entire process to just one single communication and payments channel between ATC and the SEBs via the bank and BillDesk, the process has enhanced visibility, improved experience on both sides as well as boosted working capital management. Routing and digitising utility payments through a unified platform also dramatically reduces working hours and error rates.
- Increased automation freeing up around 500 working hours a year.
- Single platform/communications channel.
- Eliminate the potential of late payments.
- Enhanced customer experience and dispute resolution.
- Optimised working capital management and visibility.
“Most importantly, the solution guarantees that payments are made on time, avoiding the risk of power cuts that could impact services and result in unhappy customers and costly penalties,” says Jai Shukla, India Treasurer.