Pandian spices up Mumbai driller meet with humour

Vol 9, PW 16 (17 Nov 05) People & Policy

Oil industry gatherings can be a dull affair.

But on 11th November, a Mumbai dinner meeting of drillers turned out to be a spicy exception, thanks to DJ Pandian, managing director of Gujarat Petroleum. GSPC and driller Pride International sponsored the 14th Technology Meeting of the South Asia chapter of the International Association of Drilling Contractors.

Attended by about 400 people, ONGC chairman Subir Raha was chief guest and Dr Lee Hunt, IADC president, was guest of honour. As with most Indian events, this one too was delayed by nearly an hour to accommodate the late arrival of the chief guest, in this case Raha.

ONGC director offshore NK Mitra was the first speaker and evoked only desultory applause. But the mood changed a few minutes after Pandian launched into his 20-minute speech.

Pandian had his audience roaring with laughter with humorous anecdotes of GSPCs growth story despite meddling Gujarat politicians, bureaucrats and red tape. For instance, said Pandian, GSPC had until very recently on its board such distinguished personalities as a bus conductor from the state-owned public transport company and a diamond cutter both political appointees.

GSPC, he said, had to put up a tough fight with its political masters for permission to spend a decent amount of money in one of the recent NELP rounds. GSPC, it seems, was set an outer spending limit of Rs200cr, which Pandian felt was too little.

After much haggling, said Pandian, he managed to get the outer limit raised to Rs300cr. There was more.

In its initial years, GSPC was not allowed to recruit anybody. So, the company consisted of top management and three engineers on contract from Schlumberger.

Almost all work was outsourced. As its activities grew, GSPC was permitted to employ technical personnel but on condition that each recruit should not be paid more than Rs 10,000 per month.

Against such difficulties, said Pandian, GSPC nonetheless managed to set up a core team that came up with the major gas discovery at KG-OSN-2001/3.