The Delhi Metro has ushered in an attitudinal transformation in the capital city, driven by the Metro’s reliability, punctuality, and professionalism
Brand Metro means credibility,” says Anuj Dayal. “The moment people say ‘Delhi Metro’ they have had the confidence that the task would be done…” Dayal is Executive Director, Corporate Communications, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, and he should know, having been part of the Metro project since inception.
The Delhi Metro has been central to an attitudinal transformation of the capital city, reflected by the Metro’s reliability, punctuality, and pride, says Anuj, in a conversation interview with Creative Brands. “Our trains are punctual to a margin of 60 seconds. If a train is 60 seconds late we say it has lost punctuality. In fact, it is one of the most stringent parameters used anywhere by any metro system in the world.” The Hong Kong Metro, one of the other large metro systems in Asia, notes Dayal, “allows a 3-minute waiver” whereas Delhi Metro clocks in at a ratio of around 99.5 percent.
‘Brand Metro’ has, therefore, also “translated into dignity”, says Dayal, adding that a ride on board the Metro is regarded as a “pride-ride by passengers”. In fact, there is enough to substantiate the claim, for barring the recently introduced Delhi Transport Corporation’s air-conditioned buses; the Metro is the only public transportation service providing safe and secure air-conditioned travel.
THE BRAND STORY
So, what has gone into the making of this unique story?
Among a host of others, Dayal identifies the key factors — the founding team, project planning, and professionalism. “The initial team that built the Delhi Metro was a very vibrant one and that lineage has continued unbroken,” Dayal points out.
The founding team, led by the widely admired E. Sreedharan, also had Mangoo Singh, the current Managing Director. “It was a highly motivated, experienced team. They came from a background in metro construction. Mr. Singh was earlier with Calcutta Metro and was one of the country’s first underground tunnellers. Today, he has set certain benchmarks under the guidance of Dr. Sreedharan,” notes Dayal with pride.
In addition to the technical expertise of the team was good strategic envisioning resulting in “very good project planning”. So Sreedharan chose to revisit the original plan and “conducted his own independent survey and convinced the government to change some of the areas that were to be covered based on the parameters of density of road traffic and population”. Dayal says this proposal, which was approved by the government, made Delhi Metro a success.
In addition, the Delhi Metro also meant “a high degree of professionalism”. Dayal says it helped the Japanese government’s Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to “release finances on time”.
What at the same time got the system a big boost was the “complete absence of politics”, Dayal points out. The project managed to secure political support across the spectrum. Where land acquisition was concerned Delhi Metro got “unfettered help from the bureaucracy” while the courts were also “very sympathetic”. The courts while hearing land acquisition cases “realised that this was a project for the public good and gave no stay orders”.
Interestingly, Dayal points out that “the brand of Delhi Metro has been built without advertising”. Home-grown public relations and some “great corporate communications” have helped build the brand. “If you compare a newspaper article to a piece of advertising, there is this great issue of credibility, especially when it comes to government advertising. We chose the route of newspaper coverage and that has been our core approach towards DMRC brand-building,” says Dayal.
Referring to the growth path that DMRC has chosen for itself while striking a balance between revenue and expenditure, Dayal says, “the benefits outweigh the cost while those benefits are in the form of economic rate of return”, adding “which is why private investors are vary of entering the project where operational-profit liquidity has always been an issue”.
That said, Dayal says that Delhi Metro began making an “operating profit from day one”. The cost of Phase-I and II stood at a whopping Rs. 30,000 crores ($5 billion at current price). “More than half of it was taken as a loan from the Japanese government. So far we have been able to repay through our operating profit. We haven’t gone to the government for subsidy,” says Dayal.
SPREADING THE GOOD
Having set up a world-class model, Delhi Metro is being increasingly called upon to “spread the metro culture in other cities”, says Dayal. For example, Delhi Metro is a consultant to the Bangalore and Mumbai Metros. “We have made changes in Mumbai’s DPR. Even smaller cities like Lucknow, Ludhiana, Kanpur, and such cities with a population of over a million are planning a Metro.”
In fact, Dayal points out that these projects have chosen to draw upon DMRC’s expertise. “Many of our crew members are working on these projects. We take up these projects as assignments.”