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NGC axes CNG promo campaign

...sporting heroes left out
Friday, January 22, 2016
FLASHBACK: Curtis Mohammed, right, president, NGC CNG Company with NGC brand ambassadors — West Indies cricketers Daren Bravo and Anisa Mohammed — during the launch of the Honda City CNG sedan at Classic Motors, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, in March 2015. PHOTO: SEAN NERO

The National Gas Company (NGC) has terminated its brand ambassadors programme as part of its cost-cutting initiatives in light of the country’s economic downturn and according to its acting corporate communications manager Christine Punnett the company is taking a “number of initiatives to rationalise its expenditure” which will result in double-digit savings.

Over the past two months the new NGC board, chaired by Gerry Brooks, took a number of cost-cutting initiatives, including a freeze on hiring and salaries, reduced staff bonuses and cutback of expenses on the annual staff Christmas party. 

 The brand ambassadors programme was conceptualised under the previous board, chaired by Roopchand Chadeesingh, and was launched in 2014 with some of the country’s top sporting personalities retained to encourage citizens to make the switch to the cheaper, cleaner compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel. 

Both parties were to benefit. The brand ambassadors—cricketers Daren Bravo, Anisa Mohammed, Denesh Ramdin and world champion hurdler Jehue Gordon—were to help sell the CNG concept and they were in turn paid a monthly stipend.

Punnett confirmed to the GML Enterprise Desk that, “NGC terminated its brand ambassador programme in 2015.” 

Former brand ambassadors told the GML Enterprise Desk that they were “surprised” that the programme was terminated “so soon.”

 They were paid a monthly stipend of over $10,000 as part of the initiative to encourage motorists to make the switch to CNG. They said the money was used to offset the cost of training to enhance their performance on the sporting field.

However, they were told in late December last year that the programme was being terminated with effect from December 31. They conceded that it was up to the company to determine what strategies it wanted to pursue.

 Ramdin told the GML Enterprise Desk he was in Australia when he was contacted and informed that the programme was being terminated. He said a letter was delivered to his mother two weeks ago and she was asked to sign as having received it.

He described the decision to cut the programme as “quite strange,” telling us that he felt the brand ambassadors programme was “a good initiative” and it was “unfortunate” that the programme was stopped. 

Ramdin said he did not think that the stipend they were paid would have “hampered the company” but he said the company indicated they had no choice because of the recession. 

Ramdin, who is currently engaged in the Nagico Super 50 Tournament, said he was “not stressed” over the decision.

He and the other brand ambassadors said they felt good being part of the initiative to market the NGC/CNG brand and were grateful for the support from NGC and for the opportunity offered to them. 

They attended CNG-related events when they were in the country. While they have no idea how successful the programme was for NGC they told us that many of their friends expressed an interest in converting to CNG and some even purchased the Honda City which has dual capacity of gasoline and CNG.

 Punnett did not respond to our query on the success of the programme but we were able to ascertain that there is no plan to resume it anytime soon. She told us “a series of new initiatives are in train as the group moves to open four new CNG stations in 2016. Other CNG initiatives are planned which will be announced shortly.”

The decision to terminate the programme was just one of the cost-cutting measures implemented by the company following the request by Prime Minister Keith Rowley for state companies to reduce expenditure by seven per cent. 

The company, according to Punnett, “has embarked on a number of initiatives to rationalise its expenditures within the group.” She said: “These measures are expected to realise double digit savings in expenditures.” She did not elaborate.

Asked whether those initiatives would involve staff cuts Punnett said: “NGC recognises the unprecedented decline in the last decade of commodity and natural gas prices and will continue to monitor the situation closely.” 

She confirmed that the company planned to continue its corporate social responsibility programmes, which over the years has lent its support to a range of causes and assisted in the developmental needs of communities across the country, adding:

 “Our CSR initiatives have targeted fence line communities and given the current economic climate, NGC will continue its long-standing tradition of working with communities in a constructive manner.”