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CESC sells bill space to rake in moolah

Indrani Dutta

"The targeted nature of CESC's bills made us choose this medium over other traditional media like print and TV to reach the potential buyers.''

KOLKATA, Jan. 8

CESC Ltd, the power utility in the RPG group of companies, is serving readymix coffee free to its consumers, perhaps to keep them wide awake to absorb the expected "bill punch''.

The `gift' comes in small single serve sachets to select local citizens just when chilly winds are driving temperatures to around 11 degrees Celsius in city.

CESC, which has been sending mailers with its electricity bills for a year now, has broken new ground with Nestle, using this medium for launching its latest product - Nescafe Redimix - in Kolkata.

CESC executives connected with this initiative said that the product has been distributed through electricity bills only in certain areas of the city. "On our client's advice we have distributed this product to customers in the `platinum and gold' category on a selective basis covering about three lakh people,'' a CESC source said.

The company, which launched this exercise (of selling its bill space last year when it was facing acute liquidity crisis) in late 2001-02 categorised its customers on the basis of their electricity consumption - which is generally regarded as a major socio-economic indicator.

Out of CESC's 15-lakh domestic consumer base - those consuming over 150 units per month have been put in the platinum category followed by gold, with consumption levels between 60 and 149 and the silver category, which includes those consuming less than 60 units. CESC also has a database that gives an area-wise demographic sketch of the consumer.

As a matter of fact, it is this database, which is proving to be the corporate's strong point in attracting clients to buy its bill-face. Talking to Business Line from New Delhi, a McCann executive said: "The targeted nature of CESC's bills made us choose this medium over other traditional media like print and TV to reach the potential buyers''.

She said that in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi, Nestle chose to advertise in newspapers and satellite TV for this launch.

Sources in CESC said that other than accessing its database, clients using this medium were also deriving the benefit of having at their command, the team of courier companies that CESC was linked with for distributing its bills.

Altogether six lesser-known courier companies are involved in the bill despatch exercise including an outfit called `Shelter', which employs hearing and speech-impaired persons.

Having met with success in its efforts, the team of six CESC employees (among them two engineer-turned marketing executives) are now raking in the moolah for the loss-ridden company. Indications are that around Rs 3 crore has been generated by CESC by selling its bill-face.

Sources said that the biggest endorsement of the value of this medium has been received from the `media' itself.

Almost all the city based newspaper houses as well as a satellite TV channel have accessed this medium to reach out.

As repeat orders pour in from CESC's `clients' which include Sony India, Hindustan Lever, Indian Oil, Chandrani Pearls, Asian Paints and Reliance Industries, the `medium' is booked for seven months of 2003-04 with two and a half months to go before the opening of the official booking in April 2003!

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