Sunday, July 26, 2015

In conversation with the K-Electric Chairman: “It’s not our fault, it’s the weather”

In a surprisingly candid telephonic interview, K-Electric chairman, Tabish Gauhar, conceded that Karachi’s power supply company has been found desperately wanting. Speaking from his private yacht via satellite phone, the businessman empathised with the citizens of the port city.

“I feel terrible that Karachiites have suffered so much. The people of this wonderful city are like my family, and their suffering is my suffering,” he said from the Gulf of Mexico while enjoying his month long vacation with his wife and children.

Power breakdowns in Karachi have left citizens fuming. The outages lasted between eight and 12 hours a day during the summer season where most residents were fasting in accordance with the month of Ramazan. K-Electric maintained that the daily loss of power across the city wasn’t planned load shedding, but arose due to issues with infrastructure caused by unusual weather events.

Unfortunately, the end of hot weather did not translate into any relief from power breakdown; the first day of the monsoon season has once again left the city crippling in darkness.

“The problem is not with K-Electric, it is with the weather. In the summer, it is very hot, the demand for electricity is too high, and hence we don’t have the supply. When the summer season is closing, the humidity reaches over 100% and our power plants are once again unable to run properly. After this summer crisis is over, the rain begins, and it is too wet for our infrastructure to provide electricity. When the rainy season concludes we need months to mend everything, so there is no electricity. After this, winter begins, where it is too cold and we don’t have enough natural gas pressure to generate electricity. And when winter ends we can’t generate electricity because we are conserving fuel for summer. You see, K-Electric is a lot like Goldilocks; our porridge needs to be just right. Unfortunately it is always too hot, too cold, too humid, or too wet.”

Responding to a question, Mr Gauhar explained the ideal circumstances for K-Electric to operate.

“I don’t know any city in the world where the weather changes aside from Karachi,” he lamented. “The best thing would be if the temperature stayed at 20 degrees all year round and people generated most of their own electricity… though of course then we’d raise tariffs by 500% to compensate.”

When informed of desperate citizens fleeing the city after the latest breakdown, Mr Gauhar urged his customers to be more resilient,

“Look it is just a technical fault. The inconvenience is regretted but our teams are working for normalisation.  Instead of leaving Karachi, the people should stay at home and weather the storm. Now excuse me for a second while I go fill up more caviar. Ooh I see some dolphins. Thank god I am not at home.”

After returning to the phone, Mr Gauhar expressed concern for the safety of Karchiites,

“Because of the evil torrential rains, it is very dangerous and we urge the public to stay away from potentially lethal live wires outside. If you think about it, it is a good thing you have no electricity, because it means you stay indoors. Just make sure you don’t trip over your child’s toy in the darkness. If you are coming back home and can’t see anything clearly, please go into the right house… don’t end up in bed with your sweaty neighbour.”

In contrast with the woes of its customers, K-Electric has been enjoying record returns. In the first quarter of 2015, the Abraaj Group owned company reported an impressive profit of Rs3 billion.

Mr Gauhar responded defensively when asked why K-Electric wasn’t investing some of these profits back into its customers,

“Look we are investing in areas where funds are most needed. We aren’t investing in better infrastructure, or in improving generation capacity. Those will remain the same. Who needs electricity anyway? What we are doing is investing in better customer service. There will be thousands of more K-Electric employees on Twitter and Facebook, and they are being coached by Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Leonardo Di Caprio, Altaf Hussain, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes, some of the best acting talent in the world. Our manipulative customer service representatives will really make you feel like we care. We will truly convince you that we know what we are doing even when we don’t know what the hell is happening. What the hell is a feeder anyway? Why does it trip? Who knows! But you will believe we are in control. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that you believe that our operations team will be with you in 30 minutes, when it is closer to 30 hours. Our goal is to train our CSR team to be so engaging, that you will feel guilty for complaining. Do you think the oxygen masks are there in planes to save lives or to give people false hope when they are truly screwed?”

Answering why K-Electric wasn’t simply investing in increasing its generation power Mr Gauhar exclaimed,

“Are you crazy? That would be really expensive! How will I send my children to Princeton?”

Sensing our reporter’s shock, Mr Gauhar corrected himself,

“Yes, we will also invest in infrastructure. If you check our Twitter page, our latest motto is ‘Working day and night with a resolve to bring back the former glory of Karachi’. Remember when you only lost power six hours a day, instead of 12? When you cursed our name only five times a day instead of 10? When you only pulled out half you hair instead of all of it? When you could actually electrocute our employees in anger without having to turn on your generator? This is the former glory we will return you to.”

Finally, when addressing rumours of a government takeover of K-Electric, Mr Gauhar laughed for several minutes before stating,

“As much as the people of Karachi hate us, they would never want K-Electric to return to the government. Two broken legs are still better than cancer.”

from The Express Tribune Blog

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