Pankaj Kumar joins Tarun Kapoor offshore trip

Vol 24, PW 15 (17 Jun 21) People & Policy

If ever there was a sign that Pankaj Kumar will be appointed as the next ONGC director offshore, here it is.

Oil secretary Tarun Kapoor included Kumar on his helicopter trip to offshore Mumbai installations in the wake of the May 17 tragedy that killed 86 workers at the LEWPP project. "His (Kumar's) inclusion on this trip shows he will take over as director offshore," predicts a colleague.

Kapoor arrived in Mumbai on June 6, reviewed the performance of HPCL and BPCL's Mumbai refineries on June 7, took a helicopter to the Mumbai offshore on June 8, and returned to Delhi on June 9 - his second visit after becoming oil secretary on May 1 (2020). Before this trip, ONGC director finance and interim chairman Subhash Kumar had asked Pankaj Kumar to join Kapoor's Mumbai offshore trip.

Four days earlier, on June 4, the PESB recommended Pankaj Kumar's name for director offshore, as widely expected. When contacted, Kumar said he was not ready to discuss his future priorities as director offshore.

"It is too early now; we will sit down and talk after something definite emerges (on the appointment)," said Kumar. A chemical engineer, Kumar joined ONGC in 1987.

"He has risen much faster (in ONGC) than his batch-mates," says a colleague. Born on June 30 (1966), fifty-five-year-old Kumar will be the youngest director on ONGC's board when he takes charge for five years until his retirement on June 31 (2026).

Most agree Kumar is a "fast learner" and "quick decision-maker", in stark contrast to his "indecisive" predecessor Rajesh Kakkar. Others say Kumar has had a good run at ONGC mainly because of "the right connections" when he was part of the 'management support group' of earlier directors offshore Sudhir Vasudeva, PK Borthakur, TK Sengupta and also the company's corporate planning cell at Delhi.

Kumar's supporters say he has "all-around" experience from Mumbai High to Cambay and Assam and the Panna, Mukta and Tapti JV group.