Subir Raha drives the Hinduja oil business in India

Vol 11, PW 18 (24 Jan 08) People & Policy

Flamboyant and tough-talking Subir Raha, former ONGC chairman, is still at it, this time as oilman for the Hinduja Group, which he joined on August 20 last year.

As executive vice-chairman, Raha is driving the group's petroleum business. He is also chairman of Hinduja National Power Corporation.

"Once you do something for 38 years," Raha tells PETROWATCH, sitting behind his desk at Hinduja House in central Mumbai"™s Worli district, facing the Arabian Sea, "œit gets into your blood."‌ Just as he loves Cuban cigars, Raha also has a reputation as a hard taskmaster, willing to take risks. As CMD of ONGC, his workstyle attracted criticism, and was one reason he didn"™t secure an extension till retirement aged 60 in August this year.

Raha sees himself as an old-fashioned oilman, albeit a progressive one. Some CEOs use secretaries to check their e-mail; Raha carries a Blackberry.

On his table lie Hinduja Group proposals to sell 15m t/y of crude oil and 7.5m t/y of LNG from Iran to India: the crude to a much-discussed proposed 15m t/y ONGC refinery at Kakinada on India"™s east coast; the LNG to an equally old proposal for a regassification facility at Mangalore on the west coast. Some of the LNG from here is for a proposed power station and petrochemical complex.

Less clear is if these grand projects will ever materialise. More so after price talks in Delhi between the Hindujas and ONGC on one side, and the Iranians on the other, collapsed on January 2.

Raha is undeterred. Does he have a back-up plan if the US attacks Iran "œFortunately I am with the Hinduja Group,"‌ smiles Raha.

"œThe Hindujas have a track record of not being affected in Iran, even after the Shah was ousted by Khomeini!"‌ He adds: "œThere is risk in any business. In Assam insurgents routinely blow up pipelines.

The Hinduja Group is not the only one doing business in Iran. All the European, Japanese and Chinese companies are there.

I am sure ExxonMobil must be itching to get a piece of the action. We are not really affected by US sanctions."‌

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