Shell petrol stations get thumbs up from customers

Vol 10, PW 26 (03 May 07) Midstream & Downstream

Customers prefer Shell! You might think this is a pithy PR slogan for the Anglo-Dutch major but it isn’t: it’s a candid admission by state-owned Indian rivals of Shell’s success in the vast and lucrative market for petrol and diesel.

Shell is the only foreign major with a slice of the petrol and diesel business in India. Albeit a small stake, Shell is making an impact.

Unlike its private sector rivals Reliance and Essar, who focus on the high-consumption northern and western Indian market, Shell set its sights on the south and east of the country, controlling its retail operations from Bangalore, where it has built up a loyal customer base. Envious marketing executives in rival state-owned retailers tell us Shell has set up 32 petrol stations over the past four years.

“Most of these are in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam and Chennai,â€‌ we are told. Shell buys most of its petrol and diesel from ONGC subsidiary Mangalore Refineries.

“Shell also plans to open petrol stations in Delhi and Mumbai,â€‌ adds a source. “Shell’s stations are growing fast in sales terms.

â€‌ A typical state-owned petrol pump sells on average 140 kilolitres (140,000 litres) of petrol and diesel per month. Contrast that with a Shell pump selling on average 250 to 260 kilolitres per month.

Most of Shell’s stations are in the above four cities or its suburbs. “Their market is mainly petrol,â€‌ we hear.

“There are hardly any outlets on the highways.â€‌ Why do customers prefer Shell Answer: the brand! “The very name â€کShell’ attracts customers,â€‌ says one PSU executive.

“You should visit a Shell station and you’ll see why. They are clean and uncluttered; their people are well mannered, polite and professional in their work.

Most of our staff wear crumpled, dirty uniforms and are rude to customers.â€‌ Refuelling at a Shell petrol pump, he says, “is a pleasant, comfortable experience.

â€‌ For now Shell sales numbers are small against state-owned rivals but with feedback like this, expect them to grow!