Raja Roars On
Raja has been recognized as the most responsive company and
has received the special plaque and statue for having the best public
relations department throughout the country.
After nearly a decade of dedicated hard work and untiring
efforts, Dr. M. Pour Seyed Aqaei, Managing Director of Raja Passenger Trains
Company seeks to outline in the following interview what he has accomplished
in his years at the helm of Raja, how its has benefited from various
management and quality models and where the company intends to go from here.
Dr. M. Pour Seyed Aqaei, Managing Director of Raja
Passenger Trains Co.
The excellence model is being implemented for the first
time in Iran. How did Raja Company come to know the model?
Raja Company is relatively young and was founded in 1996
and its management gave priority to the establishment of a productivity
committee as its first move. In fact, Raja is among the first state-run
companies to have determined productivity indexes, from out of 50 defined
indexes only about 8 are measured constantly, the committee has managed to
organize many activities within the company.
One of them was the issue of a proposal system, which was
launched in 2000 as good grounds for boosting participation of employees in
company management and was notified in 2001 as an approval of board of
directors. Of course, governmental companies face many problems for the
implementation of the system.
What were the results of the system?
The board of directors of Raja Company assumed
responsibility for budgetary affairs of the project. We received 2,000
proposals some of which were very important economically and others pertaining
to the improvement of relations between management and staff.
Another activity was drawing up bylaws for improving
services. State-run companies pay less attention to these issues. However, the
new managing director implemented new mottoes (about being customer-oriented)
and Raja is the first company to make up for losses incurred to customers. For
example, if the ventilation system in a wagon does not work, we will refund
50% of the fare. In return for train’s delay we will refund 50% of the fare in
addition to one free meal. One of the issues compiled and notified by the
board of directors in 2000 was a system for promoting personnel during which
special attention was paid to education, presentation of papers as well as
exchange of experiences. The personnel also took the plan seriously to help
them boost their working status. Therefore, the level of educational courses
related to expert and managerial training has been elevated.
selected as an exemplary company in 2002 and was awarded a plaque of honor
at the Shahid Rajaei Festival. In addition, the company was among 15 top
companies of Iran in 2003.
Has anything else been done in line with the excellence
Another activity done in this regard was creating a network
for selling tickets. Until eight years ago, long lines were formed for buying
train tickets, but they are now being sold through 300 offices across the
country. We have also used various magazines and internal brochures for
dissemination of needed information.
What about EFQM model?
Raja Company came to know the EFQM (European Foundation for
Quality Management) Excellence Model in 2001. We held preliminary training
courses until March 2002 and assessment was done at the end of the same year.
The assessment was carried out by directors of Raja Company in the form of a
workshop. In that workshop, nine needed fields were included in a single
What positive effect has the EFQM model had on your
The best advantage of EFQM model for self-assessment of the
company was improving separate activities and gathering them into a single
framework. During the assessment, we found our weaknesses and tried to
eliminate them. When it was decided to award gifts for the implementation of
the system and EFQM was considered as the basic model for self-assessment, the
process of self-assessment persisted. We reached an agreement with the
Management and Planning Organization to establish an independent management in
the company that would work as an excellence group. Before that group was set
up, excellence activities were being supervised by the company management, but
it is now carried out by a productivity secretariat.
What are Raja’s future activities aimed at achieving
We have negotiated with other top companies and we can make
a benchmark for self-assessment in cooperation with other companies. In this
way, we will know why other countries are better than us. Naturally, Raja will
be assessed in comparison with other companies according to the same criteria.
What about inside of the company?
We have launched a general movement through the whole
company. Any new idea was previously considered to be that of the managing
director. But after establishment of the new system, the responsibility is
shared in the company and ideas are not attributed to the managing director
alone, and they are also implemented by directors of other companies.
You speak about a common responsibility. But every new
system will face resistance when introduced into a company. How has the new
model penetrated among employees and what is its position among company staff?
Since the company is young, resistance has not been
serious. Various levels of the company management are educated, most of them
from creditable universities. But penetration of the new system into the
company was a result of creating motives for personnel to get a higher rank
for subsequent awards. Since the company’s rank in this regard was low, we
encouraged a public determination inside the country and all directors and
other personnel were following the same goal. Therefore, from the beginning
our goal was to produce impeccable financial reports for three straight fiscal
years; so that the State Audit Organization will not find any fault in our
dealings. This was realized in two years. So implementing the EFQM system will
greatly help any company in the course of their planning.
Raja has been selected among the country’s top 16
companies. What is the reason?
There are internal and external causes for this success.
Among internal causes one can refer to a specialized management as well as
empathy and cooperation within the company; so that, outside observers will
believe that there is no difference between the management and staff and if
there are mild differences, they are due to the natural pressures of work. In
addition, promoting the level of services and abiding by religious principles
in Raja Company are other reasons for the company’s success. The company’s
regulations have considered harsh punishments for complaints raised by
To what extent do company directors enjoy power in their
Any director has full power in his field and only in one or
two instances are the powers of director generals inferior to that of the
What are those instances?
For example employing new staff. Nobody is employed by Raja
Company before being interviewed by the managing director in person, or before
having their documents and work record investigated by the managing director.
These are among the managing director’s powers. However, directors act
independently with regard to financial matters and they can sign any contract
within their jurisdiction. I believe that this form of power delegation is a
reason for the success of the company.
To what extent do you believe in the private sector’s
It is widely believed in Raja Company that the private
sector can do the job better than us. Undoubtedly, the private sector can do
many things by relying on its potentials. This approach has enabled Raja
Company to break new grounds with the help of the private sector. At present,
attending to passengers in trains has been given to the private sector. We
believe that the private sector can answer people’s needs best because
generating more revenues will motivate the sector. At the same time, a private
company will do its best to offer optimal services because in case of
violation, its contract will be terminated by Raja Company.
Please explain the external factors contributing to Raja’s
A new attitude toward transportation among officials has
increased the level of services provided by the company. The officials were
ignorant about the advantages of public transport. Therefore, a major
interaction was started between the government and Majlis and organization
outside the system with the result being the creation of a general atmosphere
with regard to public transport in the country. This change of attitude in
various management levels of the company has added to the budget allocated to
the passengers transport sector; so that, turnover of rail passengers was bout
8 billion tomans in 1997, which increased to about 89 billion tomans in 2004,
increasing 11 times. Meanwhile, the company received equivalent to about 150
billion tomans in foreign currency which will greatly help improve operations
of the company.
You talked about Raja Company's reasons for success. What
best practices have you designed in your company?
The best practice of Raja Company was initiated by the
company itself in cooperation of benchmarking with foreign companies. On this
basis, company services enjoy several characteristics. Firstly, they will make
people understand that the company will never renege on its commitments due to
its monopoly in the field. This will be to the benefit of the company too. At
the same time, we always heed criticism about our weaknesses, but if it
assumed a financial aspect, it would have become clearer. For example, if a
fine is doubled, some parts of the company will not do their job correctly.
Raja Company allocates various fines to various units to highlight the
weakness of every unit and I believe this has been effective in the company’s
Have your successful experiences been based on copying
successful models of the world or has your model been domestic?
All success is the result of studying successes of similar
organizations, a large part of which comes from beyond the borders. For
example, it was German railroads that considered fines for delay in services
for the first time. This approach helped Raja Company to find a correct model
based on the behavior of foreign railroad companies. Competition is also an
issue. Since the Iranian economy is state-run, there are many problems that
cannot be solved by using models offered by foreign private companies. This
has always given enough excuse to state-run companies to complain about lack
of a successful foreign model for providing services to people, which has led
to a wide gap between supply and demand. Governmental sectors have always had
more customers due to lower tariffs, but Raja Company set a minimum standard
in this regard for providing maximum services. This is a great achievement.
What projects have been defined on the basis of
self-assessment in Raja Company?
We detected weak points of the company according to the
self-assessment system in 2002 and tried to eliminate them. Lack of
documentation on company procedures was a weakness. At the same time, related
committees were established in various fields within the company for
self-assessment. Another commission has been set up to attend to cultural
issues and a committee has assumed responsibility for contacting private
sector audience to attract more capital and interact with them. In addition,
the productivity committee, which was established earlier, has become more
What are the weaknesses of Raja Company and how can they be
A major weakness was lack of written benchmarking with
other organizations. We are currently running a benchmarking project for
passenger services in Iranian and Indian railroads. It includes such details
as type of services, wagons, number of passengers and so on. Next month a
group of engineers from Raja Company will go to India to study various types
of trains and services. We will focus on how that country manages its railroad
system. The Indian railroad system transports as many passengers in a day as
its Iranian counterpart does in an entire year.
What have you done to eliminate the company’s weaknesses?
A major weakness was absence of long-term planning. After
self-assessment we focused on compiling a six-year plan from 2003 to 2009 and
it was later ratified by the Management and Planning Organization. The company
now enjoys a comprehensive plan and all operations of our fleet will be
designed and documented from 2003. We also reorganized the company to make it
What systems are currently being used by the company?
Based on EFQM experience and after identifying weaknesses,
various systems were employed in various parts of the company. A major
weakness of the company was that its management viewed activities in terms of
processes. But we came to realize that such an approach is quite different
from seasonal methods used in technical fields. Therefore, we signed a
contract with a technical advisor and the whole procurement process was handed
over to the technical department. The answer to your question is that the
company is currently implementing the MIS system. Easy access to information
and office automation systems have been facilitated through the said system
and it has greatly enhanced the process of decision-making as well as exchange
of messages among directors. In addition, a proposals system is being devised
in the company, which has had many good results. The ISO system is being
pursued within the company. After establishing the ISO system, all company
units will have to document their activities and many problems will be solved.
For example, to get ISO certificates for services provided inside trains,
determining minimum services is required. Therefore, if a train lacks a
sufficient number of stewards it will not be allowed to move. Such services
have been fully outlined and if a trained lacks the minimum level of services,
it would not be allowed to move.
Please explain about national achievements of Raja Company.
As a result of all the abovementioned measures, Raja
Company was selected as an exemplary company in 2002 and was awarded a plaque
of honor at the Shahid Rajaei Festival. In addition, the company was among 15
top companies of Iran in 2003 and received a certificate of “perseverance for
excellence” from the first round of Iran’s National Quality Awards as well as
a certificate of “organizational excellence”, both of which were based on
assessments in accordance with the EFQM standard award. The company has been
recognized as the most responsive company and has received the special plaque
and statue for having the best public relations department throughout the
country. Receiving favorable financial reports from State Audit Organization
for three consecutive years was another achievement of the company, which
indicated transparency of its financial affairs.