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ONGC chief Dinesh K Sarraf says it is ready to take a leading role in helping country achieve energy security
A year into the top job at Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Dinesh K Sarraf feels he has succeeded in inducing something fundamental into the company: Confidence.
With the 'jinx' of seven straight years of oil production decline broken, projects delayed for years put on 'fast-track' and intolerance for 'slippage' induced within the firm, Sarraf says the company is ready to shrug off past criticism and take a leading role in helping the country achieve energy security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently laid out an aggressive roadmap for the industry to cut India's import dependence in oil by 10% in seven years from 78% now. To achieve this, ONGC would need to chip in, but its record has been patchy, and the company has faced criticism.
"That criticism has helped," said Sarraf, chairman at ONGC, referring to the urgency it generated in dealing with challenges at the firm in the past year. ONGC was able to arrest the seven years' decline in crude output, aided by the strong performance of its offshore fields. "We broke the jinx of declining production this time.
What it has resulted in is the confidence in the team. Now they know, they can do it," he said. The company this year plans to focus on pushing up output from its ageing onshore fields and boost assets overseas. ONGC approved five projects worth Rs 25,000 crore last year, mainly to develop marginal fields in the western region. "All these projects are well-monitored. Even a day of slippage has to be explained," Sarraf said. The output will begin in a 'small way' this fiscal year.
More significantly, Sarraf recounts his efforts at 'fast-tracking' the KG-DWN-98/2 project. "When I met the team in June last year and asked them when we could see the first gas. They said 2021. I told them if we need to work together, we will have to work with a new deadline of 2018."
To the team, it looked barely achievable, but Sarraf says he made them draw a new plan, get it validated by an external consultant, identified risks and modified decisionmaking process to ensure they followed a viable new deadline. In a month or so, the board will likely approve about $6 billion investment in the project.
The impact of these efforts have been that, he says, "We no more feel helpless". Besides, the firm's gas output would rise 70% by 2018-19. ONGC plans to approve projects worth Rs 60,000 crore between April 2015 and June 2016. ONGC is also looking for acquisition opportunities, which have multiplied with falling oil prices. "We are ready, but we are not in a hurry," he said. Sarraf, a commerce graduate from Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce and a cost accountant, has about two-and and-half years more to go into his job.
He says he would continue to focus on inducing the spirit of 'we can' and 'ownership' among the company employees. "ONGC will not be criticized that it's not a transparent company, that it's a lethargic company, that we don't listen to all stakeholders," Sarraf says on the kind of company he wants to leave behind.
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