Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company’s customer-centric approach to civic services has turned Jamshedpur into one of the country’s most liveable cities
There are two reasons why the city of Jamshedpur in eastern India stands out from other cities in the country. The first is that it ranks among the best cities in the world for sustainable living. In January 2017, Jamshedpur received the gold certification under ISO 37120 Sustainable Development of Communities: Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life. The new international civic standard created by the World Council on City Data, has been extensively tested in 255 cities in 82 countries, with certification granted to only 49 cities across the world.
Jamshedpur was selected as one of only three Indian cities (along with Pune and Surat) on the basis of its performance on parameters such as cleanliness, water management, waste management, etc.
The second reason is linked to the first. Jamshedpur is home to India’s oldest and one of its biggest steel facilities — Tata Steel’s maiden plant. Conceived by Jamsetji Tata, the Founder of the Tata group, the city was planned for comfort and harmony at the very outset. When Jamsetji described his vision for Jamshedpur, he spoke of wide roads, abundant foliage, playgrounds, parks and places of worship. That was how Dorabji, Jamsetji’s elder son, built the city and that was how Tata Steel developed it. Jamshedpur was a smart city long before the term became fashionable.
What binds the aforesaid two reasons together is Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company (JUSCO), the urban services company that manages Jamshedpur township. Tata Steel managed Jamshedpur’s civic infrastructure for decades, until its town services department was hived off as JUSCO in 2004. Speaking about JUSCO’s role, managing director Ashish Mathur says, “The company is committed to building, operating and maintaining the infrastructure of Jamshedpur city.”
JUSCO started out by giving Jamshedpur’s residents a more enhanced civic experience through comprehensive infrastructural services. It has since evolved into a customer-focused and sustainable corporate entity, servicing the civic needs of the ‘steel’ city. Spread over 64 sq km, Jamshedpur is home to over a million people, only a fourth of whom are Tata employees.
As a private company, JUSCO lacks the administrative powers fundamental to municipal corporations, yet it provides a quality of service that eludes most cities in the country. Mr Mathur clarifies, “We are not technically at the level of a municipal corporation; we are a service provider. Tata Steel has an obligation to look after the city’s population and we execute that obligation. We are answerable not only to Tata Steel, but to every individual customer in the city.”
JUSCO differs from municipal corporations even in its range of services. The company looks after water supply, power distribution, civil maintenance and provision of infrastructure for over 20,000 employee houses, engineering services, city road network, solid waste management, public health services and horticulture services. While municipal corporations only deal with external development and maintenance, JUSCO also takes care of internal infrastructure of employee houses. For Tata Steel employees, this includes getting a house ready to move in and its maintenance, thereafter.
The effective implementation of many of JUSCO’s essential services is mandated through well-defined service level agreements. JUSCO also enters into agreements with individual household customers, spelling out their expectations and how the company will meet them. JUSCO calls this the fourth D — stands for Define — which is over and above the Tata group’s customer promise of Develop, Deliver, Delight.
Feedback mechanisms, both online and offline, help the company keep in touch with its customers. These include a mobile app, town hall meetings, customer contact programme, etc. JUSCO is the only urban services organisation in the country that offers a 24x7 call centre facility for civic amenities and municipal services called JUSCO Sahyog Kendra.
On average, around 30,000 customer complaints are received every month. Each complaint is recorded and attended to. This is no easy task. Jamshedpur’s century-old history also translates to old-age issues. Says Mr Mathur, “The average age of a house built by Tata Steel in Jamshedpur is 60 years. For all practical purposes, we are maintaining a legacy, and making it continuously liveable for people.”
Once a problem is attended to, the resident is asked for feedback. “We offer this level of accountability because we are a part of the Tata group. What drives us is the Tata culture and value system,” says Mr Mathur. “We aim to customise our services for each segment of our customer base. That is why we need community support.”
JUSCO recently launched a public campaign inviting Jamshedpur’s residents to shift from being a ‘zimmedaar nagrik’ (responsible citizen) to a ‘zimmedaar parivar (responsible family), stressing the need for collaboration and partnership to ensure smoother functioning. The satisfaction of residents is taken seriously, as well. “We look to the findings of a third-party survey done by Nielsen. They poll the residents of several cities in India to find out their satisfaction levels. Jamshedpur’s EQ index score is at 92 — (Asia Pacific best in class category for utilities – excellent performance),” says Mr Mathur.
Managing a million residents is a tough job. JUSCO’s commitment to the community and the strength of its infrastructure are severely tested during festivals such as Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi, Muharram, Chhat, Guru Nanak Jayanti, etc, when Jamshedpur, home to people of all communities and creeds, experiences a huge influx of people.
Also, since the quality of life in Jamshedpur is significantly better than nearby urban centres, it continually faces the problem of encroachment, with large numbers of people entering the city each day. Mr Mathur says, “We try to ensure that there is an atmosphere of harmony at all times. Our aim is to co-exist and co-create. That’s the spirit of Jamshedpur.”
Where JUSCO has outdone other urban service entities is in wastewater management. While Jamshedpur has sufficient water resources for its current needs, it is also conserving water for future generations. “The big question was how could we ensure continuous water supply to the plant and the city. We needed to make Jamshedpur a zero-liquid discharge city,” says Mr Mathur.
To achieve this goal, sewage and non-sewage water was treated and recycled for non-potable use. Today, JUSCO successfully treats 40 million litres of sewage daily. In areas where sewage collection proved difficult, packaged sewage treatment plants were set up. These efforts made Jamshedpur a zero-liquid discharge city, a first-of-its-kind feat for any civic body in the country.
Jamshedpur also has the distinction of being the cleanest city in India’s eastern zone, thanks to JUSCO’s efforts at creating awareness about eliminating waste at source. When the Government of India mandated door-to-door collection of solid waste, the company decided to work towards uplifting the quality of life of people engaged in the collection of garbage.
For this JUSCO follows a unique social entrepreneurship model that has helped ragpickers earn higher income through a collection system that buys non-biodegradable waste from them. The ragpickers are also given better equipment and identity cards, duly signed by the district administration, legitimising their work and allowing them to improve their livelihood prospects. “This system helped us create an industry, and establish social entrepreneurship for communities coming under affirmative action. We have already engaged 360 people and plan to engage 1,000 by the end of this year,” says Mr Mathur.
For JUSCO, the association with World Council on City Data has provided a new boost as it now has data points on new areas where it can improve its services. The company’s focus on areas such as wastewater and solid waste management will continue.
Simultaneously, JUSCO is exploring new areas such as commercial and residential real estate, and the power maintenance sector. “The creation of these verticals helped the company leverage the experience that Tata Steel had gained over decades and use it to garner business opportunities outside Jamshedpur,” says Mr Mathur.
Already, JUSCO has leveraged its competency in power distribution to expand into Saraikela Kharsawan district in Jharkhand. It has also completed a six-year project to supply 24x7 piped water to the citizens of Mysuru, in Karnataka. Drinking water supply is an area in which JUSCO has considerable expertise. Jamshedpur is probably the only city in India where one can drink water directly from the tap
JUSCO has taken up a few initiatives under the Smart City Pilot Project, which will change the face of the city on completion. Based on the LoRaWAN Gateway network, the first in the country, JUSCO has installed sensors and actuators in a few service areas to get data online onto the Integrated Control and Command Centre for management of city services. Pilot projects have been launched in water management, solid waste management, power distribution, waste management, etc.
JUSCO’s efforts over the years have helped cement Jamshedpur’s reputation as a smart city and one with better quality of living than most others. “Smartness,” says Mr Mathur, “is more than digitalisation. Technology is an enabler, but smartness is also about embracing simple, cost-effective and sustainable solutions.”