Choubey suggests it's time to look for his successor

Vol 12, PW 8 (04 Sep 08) People & Policy

What’s the hurry That’s the question people might ask on hearing the government’s Public Enterprises Selection Board is telling candidates interested in replacing UD Choubey as GAIL chairman to apply no later than October 20 - nine months before he retires.

Sighs one wag about Choubey: “We hardly had time to get to know him.â€‌ Choubey was appointed less than two years ago in November 2006 and is due to retire on July 31 next year.

“Isn’t it too earlyâ€‌ asks another, when contacted for comment. Apparently not, going by an August 22 notice issued by the PESB.

Despite shock at the PESB’s diligence in planning early for Choubey’s replacement, sources quickly recover and willingly provide PETROWATCH an early list of heirs apparent. AK Purwaha, director business development and BC Tripathi, director marketing, both at GAIL, are said to be the only two internal candidates with strong chances.

RK Goel, GAIL’s director finance contested against Choubey in 2006 and is unlikely to try again. “Goel has less than two years before retiring,â€‌ adds our source.

“I don’t think he will apply.â€‌ Santosh Kumar Bajpai, director projects, is also not expected to apply, as the PESB has also started looking for his successor.

And no challenge is possible from the vacant post of director human resources, following the demotion of MR Hingnikar. “That leaves the field open to Purwaha and Tripathi,â€‌ we hear.

Purwaha became director business development on November 1, 2006, after five years as MD of Gail-British Gas joint venture Mahanagar Gas. “Purwaha keeps a low profile but is well-connected,â€‌ says an observer.

Tripathi became director marketing on July 6, 2007 and is apparently more “more media savvy.â€‌ Whoever applies won’t be doing it for the salary: between Rs28,500 to Rs31,500 a month before perks, trivial compared to the private sector.

But industry watchers expect candidates from outside government to apply in serious numbers. Only those who hold board and/or management experience from bourse listed firms with more than Rs100cr ($23m) in turnover need apply.