Nearly one year back, on 19th July 2022, ONGC Videsh (OVL) got a new Managing Director, who is a logistics man. Mr. Rajarshi Gupta, MD and CEO was sincere to express his thanks to the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas ‘as well as the Government of India’ for reposing “their faith in me for this appointment” on his one and only address to the colleagues on July 28, 2022. (As if MoPNG and GOI are two separate entity!)
Indeed the Government had reposed its faith in Mr. Gupta to lead the country’s dream ‘special purpose vehicle’ ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to look for oil equity abroad. But one year later, the performance of the company has gone down from bad to worse with production plummeting unabated and so is the profit.
The company is fast moving- not up, but down- in terms of its profitability and, worse, its image. The opaque OVL management will continue to chew the same old logic of OPEC ( Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) petro-influence and geopolitical crisis for the downfall, which is right also to some extent. However, question arises about the company’s portfolio strength as most of the regions, it has interest, are in turmoil.
Sources said the company is too oblivious to the steep fall not only in performance but also in the eyes of global investors who are either refusing to make further investments or squeezing the company with humiliating preconditions against loans. And OVL officers, who enjoy their footloose status seemed care a damn about the slide, the sources said.
The OVL Website provides the testimony to the fact that how a company, which has a vision ‘To be a world-class exploration and production company providing energy security to the country’ allows itself to be seen ‘careless and callous’, if not incompetent and incorrigible. Although the site claims to have been last updated on June 26, 2023, it is a graveyard of stale information where even Chairman Arun Kumar Singh’s designation is incorrect, leave alone the embarrassing positioning of his photograph. Mr. Gupta’s own message is not a signed one, and you cannot be sure who the person is. But who bothers.
To our shock, even the Government nominee’s designation is not updated in the site which is supposed to give correct information to the general public and other stakeholders. The financials and production performance are not uploaded or updated. The homepage quotes PPAC ( Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell) data for 2021-22 on its performance, that too, in percentage terms vis-à-vis its parent ONGC’s performance. Because absolute figures may paint a pathetic picture of the company which has a habit of patting on its own back after every failure. And all these crude endeavours point out to one thing that OVL strives hard only to conceal facts and try somehow to hide its incoherence and incompetence.
The website is the face of any organisation, particularly for those who are in the jobs of charting new waters globally for energy security. But OVL website, which conceals more than it reveals, will give one the impression of the pathetic state of affairs, where Management looks to be a sleeping sloth.
“ you will be only frustrated if you want to get information about the company from the site because it is misleading. the corporate presentation, which is of immense importance, you have names chairman and directors who are retired months ago.
Although Mr Gupta, in his maiden message, stated a year ago that ‘the time for complacency and business-as-usual is gone. Each and every employee of ONGC Videsh has to now contribute over and above the call of duty to ensure that we tide over these difficult times. ‘ but one year later, nothing has changed except for discernible downfall.
Does the geopolitical crisis or OPEC influence have anything to do with your bare minimum job of projecting yourself to the world of cutthroat competition. Or you are not allowed to take a decision on such a simple thing”, asks an investor. However, Mr Gupta should not be singled out for this embarrassing situation as majority in the system are focussed more on vanity rather than real business. Over the years, the OVL herd has become harder, following the footsteps of their complacent leaders, to indulge in falsehoods in order to keep their position intact, and rewarded too, with exquisite foreign postings.
A file man from logistics, alleged a senior officer, who was used to poison the ears of the company’s top boss against the other colleagues, managed his foreign posting immediately after his boss’s retirement. Questions asked, but gagged, he said. And he is not alone. The abrupt transfers and promotion policy, foreign postings (without having any experience or qualification or domain expertise in many cases, particularly in HR) and no accountability factor attached have emboldened the truant officers to take all advantages of their positions without bothering about the national appetite for energy, said another official.