The British Gas Company’s Strategy Management

Introduction

British Gas, a renowned provider of energy in the UK, is among six of the most affluent of its kind in the country. The company serves millions of homes; it focuses on the price and place strategy. In essence, it strives at increasing demand by being close to its customers both physically and virtually. Besides, it achieves the same by reducing the prices of its products and services, especially when global oil and gas prices reduce.

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The company, a subsidiary of Centrica, faces competition within and outside the UK from multinationals such as BP and Kobil among others (McDonald, Burton, Walton, Dowling, & Decieri 2002, p. 179). Within the UK, it faces competition from five others including EDF and E.On. Each company formulates a strategy that makes the individual members comfortable while promoting growth. Strategies should also change depending on the competitive environment.

At the microeconomics levels, individual contribute towards the growth of British Gas by purchasing its products and services. In return, the company contributes towards macroeconomic growth through tax payment and adherence to national business standards set in the UK (Effects of tax increases on the oil industry 2007, p. 34). Companies that meet consumer needs rarely worry about competitors, but they always have to ensure that service delivery remains top notch in order to retain the customer base. Besides differentiation and customer satisfaction, the paper discusses other elements of strategy that British Gas uses in order to succeed in the rivalled energy sector in the UK.

General environment

Industry analysis

UK remains one of the most expensive countries to live in around the world. In most cases, the country acquires over 85% of its national oil and gas resources from the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. With a production level of about 48 to 51 million cubic metres production of natural gas and oil, the United Kingdom meets the demands of the local population.

Recently, the demand for oil and gas increased, making most customers turn away from the domestic markets including British Gas. They opted for foreign companies that offered almost 230 Euros less in cost. The cost of gas and other products in the UK largely depend on its quality since the cost incurred during production increases. Normally, companies set the prices after taking care of the production costs and ensuring that they can make profits from the sales. The UK deals in surveys, drilling, and production of oil and gas, enabling the country to invest heavily in underground subsea technology for the oil and gas pipelines.

Currently, over 380 companies distribute oil and gas products while about 18 others ensure that they drill and survey oil offshore (UK offshore oil and gas: First report of session 2008-09 2009, p. 12). Since the UK has a high population of affluent and middle-class people, resources are likely to be very expensive because salaries are equally high. The same trend affects the way people deal with supply and demand issues. Notably, the situation explains why the country has to import oil and gas resources today in comparison to the 1980s and 1990s, in which it exported the products to other countries.

The competitive environment and the value chain

Structural analysis

The competitive environment

The Porters five model of environmental analysis discusses elements within the environment that give organisations reasons to attain a competitive edge. The following illustration gives details to aspects of the discussion in relation to the positioning of BG in the rivalled business environment.

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The competitive environment

Suppliers

Ordinarily, companies strive to increase the bargaining power of suppliers in order to maximise on profits. According to the Guardian’s report of 2015, the UK Secretary of Energy and the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) reported that a reduction in the bargaining power of suppliers would lead to major financial losses for companies in gas and oil sector. According to the CMA, the Big Six offered relatively low prices to customers in order to increase demand for the products among low-income earners (Sean 2015).

In 2014, both E.On and Big Gas reduced the bill amounts in order to meet the supply for gas products. The plan never worked well because customers opted for foreign companies because of quality assurance reasons. The shift towards other companies emerged from BG;s inability to regulate tariffs in 2012, which affected consumers’ perceptions of the company in the subsequent years. As such, reduction of supplier bargaining power benefits the consumers, but gives limited financial returns to suppliers.

Accordingg to the CMA, customers display willingness to spend between 160 and 240 Euros in acquiring services from other countries instead of the leading gas suppliers because of the reduction in supplier bargaining power in 2012 to 2014. Today, BG and E.On mostly have the assurance of customers from low-income households and people dependent on social security funds (SSF). The supplier intends to increase outeach to other parts of the UK in order to compensate for the reduction in demand over the past two years.

Buyers

The last thing that a supplier would want is an increase in the bargaining power of the consumer. Customer satisfaction largely depends on the ability to find value in money. For some people affordability is value, but for others quality assurance represents value irrespective of the prices of the commodities. In the second month of 2014, the UK Big Six were on a competitive mission to restore consumer trust in the services offered to different homes.

Big gas reduced the amount of household bills by 5% in response to E.On’s 3.5% (British Gas to cut gas prices by 5% 2015). The reduction in prices of household gas supplies emanated from a global reduction process because of an increase in demand and supply. According to the illutration depicting the consumption of oil and gas in the UK, the supply of gas seems to reduce against the demand for the product since 2001.

Iain Conn is a company executive at Big Gas who established that a reduction in price of gas was in response to the customer divergence towards affordable products and services in foreign countries that currently prove extraordinarily expensive. Centrica strives to reduce consumer sensitivity by targeting low-income households with the price strategy and the high income households with the quality assurance strategy. The following illustration explains a reduction of gas prices because of an increase in consumer bargaining power in 2014.

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Gas price modification in 2014
Dealer Alteration Alteration period
E.On Gas: down 3.5% 13 January
British Gas Gas: down 5% 27 February

In most cases, price reduction or increase based on consumer behaviour is a response of companies in capitalist economies to maximise on profits. Companies respond to an increase in the purchasing power of customers based on commercial reasons and not charitable concerns (Smith 2013, p. 183). Customers are the determinants of product or service elasticity, and companies have to respond while ensuring that they can still make profits even with price reductions.

Substitutes

Product or service substitutes are good and bad. They are good because they are likely to increase quality assurance since they create an enviroenmnt for competition. They are bad because customers could gain interest and ignore another service provider. Gas is not the only source of energy for households in the UK. Other products such as oil, solar energy, wind energy, and organic energy sources run the UK’s economy.

BP is a manufacturer and supplier of oil, which has its headquarters in the US, but operates worldwide. Its globalised status enables the company to win goodwill from different consumers across the world including UK residents. It offers filling stations, oil and gas delivery, convenient stores, and batteries including several other peoducts. BG focuses on household gas deliveries and mintenance of other services. It does not offer diversity as some rivals that already enjoy multinational statuses (Inkpen & Moffett 2011, p. 62).

EDF energy, a member of the Big Six, also offers value addition services including maintenance of electric appliances for various customers. Besides creating room for competition, substitutes offer diversity, which naturally disadvantages an organisation against its rivals. In order to respond to substitutes, companies such as BG should maximise on meeting consumer needs through extensive research. It should borrow ideas from SSE and nPower in order to provide services that customers seek in the rival companies.

Potential entrants

The lucrative oil and gas industry faces competition from new entrants. Even within the Big Six, BG has to struggle to survive by providing products and services that meet consumer demand. In an environemnt determined by perfect competition, companies have to deal with different issues including pricing, barriers to entry, supply, and efficiency.

BG has no choice, but to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in order to avoid cases of emissions into the air and the marine sources (Gao 1998, p. 203). Supply of gas and promotion of green energy differentiate Big Gas from new entrants that venture into the oil sector. E.On and SSE have the challenges of ensuring that their entry strategies remain sustainable in order to replace BG at the top of the Big Six. E.On has a good employment structure with an inclusive talent management approach.

Good human resource principles also attract customers into companies because they have the assurance that customers will meet the requirements of performance once they feel happy at work (Ariss 2014, p. 63). As such, BG has to assess its human resource structure, instead of focusing on the service delivery because the workforce is equally very important in performance management.

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Industrial competitors

The four facts discussed create rivalry between firms, and organisations that meet the set standards are likey to attract many customers over their rivals. The theory of perfect competition insists on the price strategy as an element of increasing consumer interest in an organisation. While risk taking refers to entrepreneurship, price taking refers to an environemnt of perfect competition. BG took the risk of reducing its prices in supply of gas by over 1.5% to price offered by E.

On in the same competitive environment (Stolt 2010, p. 22). Critics establish that the company took the step a bit late, and if it had reduced prices in 2004, then customers would not have paid over 234 Euros to get quality services from other companies. In perfectly competitive economies, the prices set determines the ability of an organisation to enter or exit a market within a stipulated period. In 1986, the British Oil and Gas Ministry including the government supported the parliamentary act that would reduce monopoly in the sector (Reitan 2003, p. 19).

Privatisation of the BG PLC ensured that Centrica created an environment of competition, which enabled BG to learn from other companies delivering the same products and services. Perfect competition gives advantages to customers because it empowers them to make rational choices depending on the factors that motivate them to purchase large quantities of products. In the future, BG could increase consumer base, especially after reducing the prices of its bills on supply of gas to different households by about thirty seven Euros (Millions face rise in energy bills 2015).

Business level and the corporate level strategy

The company

Headquartered in Middlesex, UK, the British Gas (BG) provides energy services to UK residents and occasionally deals in home deliveries and appliances. Recognised by the CMA and credible regulatory authorities, the company remains one of the most competitive in the industry among five others. People know BG as British Gas New Heating Limited (BGNHL) for the home services and British Gas Services Limited (BGSL) for the gas services.

The two firms operate under Centrica, and they ensure that over 11 million family units receive gas and home services (Overarching national policy statement for energy (EN-1) 2011, p. 52). Oil and gas price controls depend on the household income that later translates into national income. It explains why companies develop business strategies based on both microeconomic and macroeconomic factors within the commercial environment. In the UK, oil and gas companies falling in the Big Six index generate a lot of income because they establish credibility levels with the receptive markets.

Currently, BG’s income places it at the top of the Big Six chart, and it has to strive to maintain the same position. In 1997, Centrica merged with Transco and the Big Gas group to develop a conglomerate that would serve the interest of UK residents. When the UK government expressed an interest in offshoring, it became important to establish local companies that would supply the UK residents with energy. According to the Gas Act established in 1972, it was imperative to create an oil and gas corporation for the British (BGC).

Fourteen years after effecting the Gas Act, the British Gas Corporation became the British Gas PLC, meaning that BG could trade in the London Stock Market (LSM). BG’s association with credible institutions including the North Thames Gas Board and CMA has increased its credibility in the UK. Privatisation of BG PLC in 1986 resulted in the creation of the subsidiaries under Centrica. BG uses the proximity and price approach in order to remain attractive to customers (Arentsen & Kunneke 2003, p. 103).

It remains one of the most cost effective companies, which enable the needy families and people living with social security support to afford gas. The future of BG remains very unpredictable, especially with less communication from the company executives. However, the business theory approach that includes all relevant stakeholders in organisational development will propel the company to greater heights.

Government involvement in the industry

Free trade

Capitalism enables different companies to invest and establish trade standards in order to maximise on profits. Automatically, an increase in revenue for companies that pay taxes increases revenue collection to the government. When BG became a private entity in 1997, it became obvious that the gas supplier would have to remain tax compliant to the revenue collection authority in the UK.

Under the surveillance of the CMA, the company cannot evade taxes because the regulatory authority determines the factors that would determine its exemption from the Big Six list. The idea of capitalism of free market trade enables BG to trade with other companies within and outside the UK. The government strives to reduce the limitations across borderlines that initially deterred expansion of private entities and monopoly by particular conglomerates (Thomas 1995, p. 68).

Depicted by a high rate of affluent, but jobless youths, the country indicates a high flow of money within different industries. BG takes advantage of the provided free trade environment to expand and increase circulation of money within the UK. For instance, the company can trade in the stock exchange with less interference from the government, except before 1986 when privatisation was not very common in the country. Government intervention strives to ensure reduction in monopoly and increase in money flow within and outside the UK (Oil and Gas: Jurisdictional Comparisons 2012, p. 14).

CMA and other regulatory authorities only strive at ensuring that BG and its competitors adhere to the set environmental and socio-economic standards. Recently, BG reduced the prices of gas supply by about 5%. As such, customers will have to pay 37 Euros less in household bills. The move emerged from E.On’s reduction of similar bills by 1.5% less the rate of BG. Arguably, the government provides room for expansion and competition for domestic companies in order to see them transform into multinationals in the future (Energy prices, fuel poverty and Ofgem 2008, p. 7).

The FPAL (First Point Assessment Limited)

The UK government developed the FPAL in order to take care of government tenders. Capitalist economies give tenders to different people depending on the economic stability of the country among other social factors. Tenders mostly target companies that have been successful in their operations. Some tenders target youths, women, and people living with disabilities. The FPAL tenders mostly link oil and gas companies to the government while enabling the UK to keep database records of the same organisations.

Many factors apply before tender awards, and a prominent factor is efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery by various organisations in the UK. Today, the FPAL is likely to give tenders to oil and gas companies that meet the standard of offshoring (Galbraith 2009, p. 114). The intention is to keep the environment safe and friendly for the present and subsequent generations. In addition, prior to exporting and importing energy products and services, companies have to display extensive use of technology for communication and supply (Kuzemko 2013, p. 45).

Health and environmental sustainability

BG prioritises on creating safe environment because legal implications prevail for oil and gas companies that fail to meet similar standards. The UK prefers service companies to industrial institutions that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which destroys the ozone layer. Eleven years past the privatisation of British Gas, the UK government came up with the Step Change plan that ensures that the oil and gas industry focuses on environmental sustainability prior to profit making. The government also monitors emissions into marine sources, and advocates for extensive engagement of technology that reduces health hazards to workers and the general environment.

Arguably, the ability to adhere to such strict measures requires much money (Dowling, Festing, & Engle 2008, p. 312). The condition of economic stability remains inevitable because the society will always demand for products and services that will always remain scarce. It explains the theory of scarcity in which consumers will always demand for more as opposed to what the manufacturers can supply. Even though BG supplies gas to over 12 million households, the demand for environmental safety and quality assurance still increases. Various government institutions provide oversight to ensure that the company does not deviate from its main objective.

Strategy and economics

Elasticity and demand for oil and gas products in the UK

Economists always establish that the values attached to various products and services determine the elasticity it would enjoy in the competitive environment. In the UK, price elasticity to demand is high because people mostly link high pricing to quality assurance. When the country that imports many gallons of oil increased the prices of oil locally, it did not affect many people, except the poor people and the aged of over 65 years who depend on SSF (UK dependence on gas and coal imports: Oral and written evidence 2007, p. 85).

The CMA established that most people purchased from companies outside the UK that charged over 230 Euros per gallon annually, instead of purchasing from local firms such as British Gas (MacLeay, Harris, & Annut 2010, p. 214). In essence, an increase in price creates the attitude of quality assurance, which increases elasticity. Income and price elasticity to demand in the UK determine the purchase decisions. In addition, availability of substitutes in the international market increases the elasticity to demand in the UK.

The following graph explains how demand and supply apply in the context of oil and gas business in the UK. It explains the elasticity and inelasticity in product demand when the country supplies oil and gas under certain conditions. According to the table, few UK residents take price sensitivity as a determinant of making purchase decisions. However, income levels largely determine the purchase decisions because the society consists of people who depend on SSF for sustenance.

Elasticity and demand for oil and gas products in the UK

Existence of substitutes and factors that determine elasticity in the oil and gas sector in the UK establish that oil is an important resource for the development of the country’s economy. Oil and gas fuel industries, cars, and, lately, most countries have embraced the use of cars even to power cars in order to reduce the effects of global warming. For instance, the German manufactured Passat Variant among other cars has gas-powered stations in order to promote green businesses. The UK among other nations in the Euro Zone mostly invests in offshoring in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted within its territories (Gertler & Rogoff 2004, p. 74).

The British Gas has an advantage over other companies that largely depend on the oil only because the country strives at reducing the emission of the greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (Consumption-based emissions reporting: Twelfth report of session 2010-12 2012, p. 179). The following graphs explain the reducing demand of oil products in the UK, with an increase in the demand for gas products illustrated in the subsequent illustration. United Kingdom oil production in million cubic meters from 1952-2012 (data from DECC (Consumption-based emissions reporting: Twelfth report of session 2010-12 2012, p. 179).

Elasticity and demand for oil and gas products in the UK

From the illustration, oil production since the 1950s keeps reducing as the country does less exportation while increasing importation. The UK remains very conscious about environmental factors and it would rather invest in natural gas that the country considers eco-friendly. The subsequent illustration explains an increase in demand and supply of natural gas since the 2001 in an attempt to respond to the supply of eco-friendly energy sources. UK residents are in the process of creating a shift from dependence on oil products to natural gas.

Companies such as British Gas and E.On have great competitive advantages over their rivals in the oil sector. These have been due to the constant increase in demand for gas in 2004, even with the reduction in demand in 2009 owing to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) (Plunkett 2008, p. 70). According to the graph, the demand for gas and its products continues to increase over a low supply. It contradicts the oil sector in which the supply exceeds demand since 1950s. In 2009, the GFC resulted in an increase in gas and other products, which automatically reduced demand. As such, people opted for substitutes including alternative or organic fuels.

Elasticity and demand for oil and gas products in the UK

Personal reflection

The internal environemnt

The internal environment in an organisation largely focuses on the perfomance of an entity within a rivaled environment. Internal factors worth scrutiny include customers, employees, managers, the media, and shareholders among other relevant stakeholders. All factors come together for the establishement of a unique product that wins consumer goodwill, attracts investors, and increases chances of remaining competitive.

Strengths

Brand name

British Gas is an established household name in the UK since 1812, and even before its inception. Its involvement with the BGC and Centrica gave the company credibility enabling it to venture into extensive markets within the UK (Brady 1950, p. 23). Another area of focus is investment in gas, which the world treats as green energy.

Companies that display sensitivity towards environemntal conservation are likely to win consumer goodwill at the expense of firms that largely focus on profit-making through emision of greenhouse gases and wastes to marine sources. Provision of diversity by giving home solutions to household appliances and offering security services also builds its brand image, which remains very important for winning a competitive advantage (Vreede & Briggs 2000, p. 301).

Quality and price strategies

The different products offered by BG target different consumers. Before price reduction, BG realised that the quality drove clients within the metropolices in the UK focused on the value of the products and services as opposed to the price. It had to differentiate its value driven and price driven products by targeting different customers. The specialisation process is an approach used by different companies in order to increase consumer base across different regions.

Economic stability

Chris Weston is a good manager who motivates employees to work hard, and return offers a good pay check. In the UK, BG has about twenty eight thousand employees working to ensure that the firm achieves its objective. Economic stability remains a principle factor in establishing an excellent employment strategy. Workers will always deliver the best when they feel that the company values their input. BG does not have economic instabilities, whcih enables it to sponsor sporting events and market itself through several other platforms. BG should not focus on its economic stability since the company might develop laxity and give other companies the ability to take over the top position.

Weaknesses

Improper communication strategies

Companies that enjoy massive media attention have to prepare press statements and relevant information through websites and other avenues. BG has good management strategies, but it does not disclose enough information to warrant the attention it receives from the public.

For instance, it should take advantage of the several social networks and the company website to post relevant information in relation to the company progress, available career vacancies, and financial statements (Effron & Miriam 2010, p. 71). Arguably,such channels of comunication could make the company vulnerable to other organisations that would borrow managment styles in order to appear at the top of the Big Six indexing list.

Laxity in response to competition

Three weeks after E.On reduced the prices of its serices, BG followed suit while offering a better deal as opposed to its clients. Oversight authorities such as Ofgem and other civil service institutions owed the move to the political influence the company enjoys over other rival firms within the Big Six (Lax 1983, p. 60). Arguably, political figures used their involvement in the political arena to adjust oil prices because of the stakes they have at BG. Such information destroys reputations, but CMA was quick to allude the changes in gas prices, which emanated from a global move to provide affordable gas and oil services to different people worldwide (Wong 2013, p. 115).

Growth Strategies

Companies can apply the product, price, place, or promotion strategy in order to succeed. BG meets many stands of operation including price and quality assurance, and it should focus on the promotion element. The chosen strategy should always correlate with customers’ expectations and the set standards of operation by the national government.

Promotion

Promotion involves placement of products and services in a position that increases interest in the organisation and what it offers. Promotion through adverts, free samples, coupons, and free delivery can increase interest in the services offered by BG outside the UK. The promotion should cover the values, culture, vision, and mission of an organisation. For instance, the company needed to respond through its website and multimedia when Ofgem accused it of reducing gas prices in order to earn profits (Moore, Long, & Wenban-Smith 2003, p. 30).

Consequently, its involvement with key political figures facilitated the reduction. Promotion offers a platform for effective communication through the brand. According to Ofgem, BG enjoys monopoly; therefore, it does not need to advertise since it lacks competition within Middlesex (Core 2012). The growth strategy determined by product promotion erases any doubts that people will have about the political affiliations of BG to the national government. The strategy should not involve deception since it violates the ethical principles established under the mission of the company (British Gas Legal Information 2012).

Contributions of the industry to economic growth

Tax payment

The UK revenue authority receives taxes from organisations in the private and public sectors. Big Gas enjoys the status of a conglomerate even though it achieves the ends of the domesticated market. The UK Continental Shelf sustains the governemnt projects, and today has about 272 billion Euros collected from tax compliant institutions. Tax evasion is unethical and calls for legal suits. BG would not risk tax evasion because the same has a negative impact on its reputaion. Adjustment in global oil and gas prices always affects tax collection since 58% of the UK economy depends on energy generated from the two products. Taxes help in developing economies, especially because the UKCS largely depends on the same to initiate national projects.

Employment

Tax payment is a direct responsibility of BG to the governemnt of UK. Employment is an indirect responsibility because the company employs people based on the financial resources at its disposal. The company has over 27,000 employees working in an industry that employs about 350,000 people within the UK. It carries out training programs for most youths in order to reduce the increasing cases of juvenile deliquencies. Currently, about 17% of the entire youth population in the UK does not work because they are already economically stable. They use money to abuse drugs, and the governemnt fears that the next generation might not display high productivity levels (Reilly & Tony 2012, p. 18).

Recommmendations

Big Gas has the potential for further expansion because it has a business strategy that covers public, political, and humanitarian interests. Elements of creativity lack in service delivery, but technological advancement and capability exists in the UK to promote the growth of the oil and gas sector (Vaiman & Vance 2008, p. 185). The gas companies have the ability to increase supply of the product by opting for alternative sources of energy in order to meet the growing demand for gas.

The UK is an affluent state with over 65% of the population living in affluent neighbourhoods. As such, the least worry is income since the governance structure equally supports growth of private companies (Smith 2011, p. 238). The government plays an important role in ensuring that the population lives a decent life through population control and expansion of the economy. In addition, the country records one of the highest rates of underemployment because the working population is slightly low in comparison to the available jobs, especially in the casual labouring sector (Ganesh 1999, p. 210).

Conclusion

BG cannot ignore the theory of business, which forces companies to assess both the internal and external environment prior to the launch of a product. The theory also emphasises on the significance of aligning business strategies with the country’s expectations and economic stability. In essence, competitors, customers, the media, and relevant stakeholders hold vital positions in an organisation since they determine performance.

BG invests in technological advancements to facilitate easy communication and supply of its products and services. Since organisations apply different theories of business, they have to ensure that the theory suits the needs of the customers that remain very significant for success. BG still restructures and improves service delivery since it strives to find a business theory that is absolute and perfectly matches its objectives. As such, its prospects of expansion still stand since it will have to serve over 14 million households in the future.

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