I was in Mumbai today and was going back from the airport to my hotel in a cab. The cab driver stopped at a fuel outlet to fill-up his tank. It took us about 15-20 mins to get the tank filled up and start our journey back to the hotel.
While waiting, I asked him if we could not fuel up at some other outlet rather than wait in the que at this outlet. He responded that the next petrol outlet was about 5-6 kms away and was not enroute to the hotel. He also said that wherever you go, the fuel outlet always has a waiting time. He said that this was due to the fact that the growth of vehicles was outnumbering the growth of the number of retail fuel outlets.
This got me thinking and I realized that it has always been the case in almost all the cities that I have been in India. The infrastructure was always lagging the actual consumption growth. Also, with the cities expanding towards suburbs, the real estate costs within the city is increasing exponentially. It is getting increasingly prohibitive to set-up new fuel retail outlets within the city. Result is that most of the new fuel outlets are being opened in the suburbs rather than in the city, leading to more congestion at the outlets within the city.
This got me thinking and in my opinion the following ideas could be worth exploring:
- Mobile fuel outlets: Like mobile libraries, mobile restaurants, we could also have mobile fuel outlets. They could have fixed spots where these vehicles would be parked based on a pre-defined schedule. These could also go to the big apartment complexes with more than 500 apartments on a fixed date every week so that people from that complex can re-fuel at their homes rather than go to the fuel outlets. Similar set-up could also be thought for office complexes/malls.
- Permanent retail fuel outlets in apartment or office complexes: Every mall/office/apartment complex with more than 500 car parking facilities could have a retail fuel outlet in their parking lots. This could not only provide another revenue stream for the complex but also solve a big infrastructure problem.
- The first oil marketing company that does this could gain a substantial jump in their revenue, market and mind-share.
- This could also lead to a lot of free press for the company improving their brand recall.
- Since the set-up costs for a mobile fuel outlet is minimal, the profitability for the oil marketing companies will also improve.
- This could also result in a decrease in the total emissions as at the city level the total distances travelled by vehicles will also reduce though we can not measure this impact quantitatively. Thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the city.
- Most importantly, this will help us save a lot of commute and wait time to re-fuel our vehicles.
Hope some of these oil companies are listening to this idea and do bounce it off in their organizations.