BPCL chief Singh tipped as new ONGC Chmn.

Vol 25, PW 20 (08 Sep 22) People & Policy

As we predicted, ONGC chairman interviews went ahead on August 27 (2022) in some secrecy.

But there is still no clarity on who the selection panel chose, amid industry concern that an important company like ONGC remains without a full-time chairman. Only seven of the nine shortlisted candidates appeared before the three-member panel of oil secretary Pankaj Jain, PESB chair Mallika Srinivasan and former IndianOil chairman B Ashok.

The panel recommended nobody that day, nor did it make any recommendation by September 6 (2022). ONGC director exploration and present interim chairman RK Srivastava and director offshore Pankaj Kumar were the only company directors who appeared for interviews.

"They both presented themselves for the interview early in the day and were back in the ONGC office by noon," says a company source. Alka Mittal, who retired as interim chairman and director HR on August 31 (2022), was shortlisted but did not attend the interview.

"She was at a hotel in Manesar (near Gurgaon) attending a farewell party," we hear. BPCL chairman AK Singh also attended the interviews, and many believe he is the favourite to win.

"We are hearing the sealed letter containing a name is held up by the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training)," says a source. Some speculate this might be because Singh is also tipped to lead the gas regulator PNGRB after coming first among three candidates following interviews by a separate search committee led by defence industry scientist VK Saraswat on August 4 (2022).

Singh retires as BPCL chairman on October 31 (2022). Engineers India chief Vartika Shukla's name is also mentioned as a frontrunner.

Another source says that since September 5 (2022), speculation is growing that the DoPT will withhold its decision indefinitely. Many ONGC employees are furious at the government's indecision that has seen ONGC drift with three interim CMDs in two years.

"If companies like Google (led by Sundar Pichai) can find leaders from India," says a source, "why can't we find anyone to lead a great company like ONGC?" On August 23 (2022), LK Mirchandani of the All India ONGC ex-Employees Welfare Association wrote to oil minister Hardeep Puri objecting to the way the panel shortlisted candidates for the chairman job. "Why were other serving directors not considered?" asked Mirchandani.