Two frontrunners in race for ONGC top job

Vol 13, PW 20 (25 Mar 10) People & Policy

Anyone with ambitions to head ONGC after chairman RS Sharma retires next January should start updating his or her CV.

PETROWATCH learns the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) began searching for the next ONGC chairman and managing director on March 9 and is calling for CVs to be submitted by the May 6 deadline. Company sources tell us ONGC director finance DK Sarraf, ONGC director offshore Sudhir Vasudeva and ONGC Videsh managing director RS Butola are the main candidates to watch, assuming they apply.

“You can further narrow it down to Vasudeva and Butola,â€‌ we hear. “At 53 Sarraf is the youngest of the three and might even back out if Butola decides to apply.

Sarraf can apply later when he is older and has a better chance.â€‌ Most in ONGC reckon Butola has the best chance as he is an old friend of RS Sharma, whose opinion as outgoing chairman will carry weight with the oil ministry and the selection committee.

“RS Sharma may have supported Vasudeva during the director offshore selection process,â€‌ says this source, “but this time he might support Butola.â€‌ Butola’s detractors by contrast claim he lacks the necessary experience to run a large organisation like ONGC.

“There’s a difference between running ONGC which has over 30,000 employees,â€‌ says one, “and running OVL which doesn’t even have 10% of that!â€‌ Butola’s supporters strongly dispute this view, saying he has attended most of ONGC’s board meetings as a â€کspecial invitee’ for the last six years. “Butola knows very well how ONGC functions!â€‌ says one.

Contrast that with Vasudeva, who became a director just last year, and has less board level experience. “I don’t know if Vasudeva has any connections,â€‌ says one Vasudeva supporter.

“But if he does he should start lobbying them now!â€‌