Sandeep Gupta's priorities as new GAIL Chmn.

Vol 25, PW 22 (06 Oct 22) People & Policy

As an outsider, former IndianOil director finance Sandeep Gupta promises a new perspective to the role of GAIL chairman.

But he has plenty of challenges ahead. "GAIL needs someone from outside as chairman to bring in a fresh vision and focus on gas sourcing, marketing and transportation," says a source who believes Gupta's appointment is timely.

Gupta took charge as GAIL chairman on October 3 (2022), nine days after the cabinet's appointments committee informed oil secretary Pankaj Jain on September 23 of its approval. GAIL sources tell us Gupta's most urgent task will be to "restore and steady" the long-term LNG supplies from Gazprom Marketing and Trading Singapore (GMTS), disrupted since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Gupta must ensure that GMTS meets its contractual obligation," says a source. He adds that GAIL's swap LNG contracting also needs better control and oversight.

"GAIL has weak negotiation skills in this area," we hear. Gas sector sources believe Gupta will bring his wealth of experience from oil importer IOC to this task.

"As IOC's (former) director finance, he would have overseen many such negotiations, which will be useful for GAIL," we hear. Gupta will also have to "secure newer long-term LNG volumes" to meet soaring demand from the CGD and other sectors.

Another vital task will be to ensure the Dabhol LNG terminal operates at its installed 5m t/y capacity and is not shut during the monsoon season from May to September without a breakwater. Gupta will have to deal with HR matters at the company and ensure that experts with relevant experience head the company's business departments, not just pipeline operations and maintenance veterans.

Gupta should also "bring accountability to GAIL businesses" by setting performance targets to rein in "overall indiscipline and incompetence among senior managers," we are told. A source adds it would help if the businesses were reorganised into regional/divisional units for better output and control.

"The present structure (a corporate office and zonal units) results in chaos and poor supervision," we hear. Others want Gupta to shut down GAIL's Singapore LNG trading office, describing it as "a waste of money" since it can trade LNG from India.

"The Singapore office is just a lucrative foreign posting for favourites," we hear.