Ambani tells PMS Prasad to focus on 4G not oil

Vol 17, PW 14 (27 Feb 14) People & Policy

Mukesh Ambani’s decision to give PMS Prasad additional charge of Reliance’s 4G launch in southern India is a huge vote of no confidence in the Indian oil industry.

“There is nothing left in oil and gas in India,” says a source. “Maybe there is something for ONGC and Oil India, but certainly not for us.

Prasad’s time and skills are wasted.” Prasad, we hear, called an internal meeting of senior managers when news of his new role broke to clarify he would still handle oil alongside telecoms.

But of 35 blocks Reliance once held only seven (six with BP and one with Hardy) are ‘live’ with just KG-D6 and NEC-25 promising. “It’s pointless Prasad holding such a small portfolio,” we hear.

“The board wants him to have bigger responsibilities; 4G is the next big thing in India.” Schlumberger-trained Prasad, 61 and president of the company’s oil and gas business, is no ordinary mortal.

Feared and revered he’s a Reliance loyalist to the core. In more than 30 years as one of Reliance’s most efficient operators, first for patriarch Dhirubhai, then with son Mukesh, Prasad has been the driving force behind Reliance’s successful diversification into the oil industry from its roots as a polyester garment producer to an energy giant.

Upstream, however, Reliance has floundered, badly, partly through its own shortcomings, but mainly because of a decrepit and inconsistent government approvals system in desperate need of an upgrade.