In the Indian energy landscape and narrative, the Federation of Indian Petroleum Industry (FIPI) is the most effective and influential voice. Since its establishment, the organization has been at the forefront of facilitating the industry in India as a globally competitive sector and thus, earning immense recognition and respect of society. When the industry experiences a downturn or a turmoil, that arrives in all forms – sometimes, expected and other times, completely unprecedented, the role of such facilitators acts as a guiding light. What we have before us today is something the industry has never experienced before – COVID 19 pandemic. India is in lockdown phase 5 or unlock 1.0, and there are developments across the industry, we all have our eyes glued on. Without a doubt, we need to put our best foot forward in this unchartered terrain.
“FIPI represents the Indian oil and gas industry on Government bodies, committees, and task forces and has been submitting recommendations to the Government on behalf of the industry on various issues.”
This is also the time to remember and share stories of resilience and courage, innovation and inspiration, creativity and collaboration. It is in times like this, that we need to learn about people who have contributed significantly and continue to do so. It was during ADIPEC 2019 that I got to opportunity to speak with Dr. R.K. Malhotra, Director General, Federation of Indian Petroleum Industry – FIPI. Learning about his unique journey in the industry and his thoughts on the important issues surrounding this ever-evolving sector, was a great experience. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
In Conversation with Dr. R.K. Malhotra, Director General, FIPI
We are discussing Oil and Gas 4.0. Digitalization has become an integral part of the oil and gas ecosystem. How are you looking at this transition?
I am looking forward to digitalization from the point of view of increasing efficiency so that productivity goes up.
The connected assets and small businesses even in downstream, whether you take marketing or refining besides upstream, everywhere digitalization can help improve efficiency, productivity, savings, cutting down maintenance costs, cutting down production costs, and also increasing safety that is most important. So I look forward to digitalization in a big way.
What is your take on collaboration in the industry?
Collaboration is very important. The industry has to work in a collaborative manner. Some of the learnings in one company must be implemented in another. Particularly, in India, where there are so many public sector companies. They also work in their own way. Whatever one company has developed, the benefit must be passed on to another. 1 +1 is always 11 so I believe if there is synergy and people partner on some of the particular research areas, the results can be quicker. The innovation benefit can flow from one company to another also and that sector can gain benefits.
If companies in India collaborate, everyone will stand to gain.
What roadblocks do you perceive in digitalization?
There are times when you have to make investments and you cannot immediately calculate the benefits. The top management has to appreciate that these investments are worth in the long run and the sooner you do that, the earlier you will get the benefit.
It’s all about the mindset of the people. And one another roadblock is some of the old assets like old refineries, old production blocks, it may be difficult to implement. Knowledge is at the core. You have to retrain people, re-skill people, to accept that at the top level and mid-level. The youngsters will be enthusiastic about it. They have learned all about digitalization while learning, but the top management and older people need to be convinced about the benefits and they have to appreciate that these investments are worth it and they will bring you revenues and increased efficiencies. Once this realization comes, it will be easy.
How are you looking at the Great Crew Change in the oil and gas industry? How do senior professionals pass on the knowledge to the younger generation?
I particularly think that the younger generation has to learn from their seniors and their experiences and at the same time, there is a lot to learn from the younger generation. Being an elderly person, I don’t say that I have nothing to learn and I can only pass on learnings. I think I have a lot to learn from the youngsters. The younger people are much smarter, they have seen more of digitalization. They are the digital natives. In our homes also, we depend on our children. We have devices at home and when we need to reset, we ask our children. Similarly in organizations also, younger people can teach the benefits of digitalization, new technologies, and how technology can speed up the innovation process. And the seniors can talk from their experience.
I think it is a good blend, something flowing from the top to the bottom, something from bottom to up, I think this combination can be a deadly combination. And the entire organization can get the benefit.
No senior should think that the junior doesn’t know and I know everything and at the same time, the youngsters should look forward to learning from the experience of seniors.
How do you see the Role of FIPI in the times to come?
FIPI is the voice of the industry.
As a federation, we are trying to bring the entire oil and gas industry together and we take up the issues which are of common interest. Sometimes, the companies may have a clash of interest.
From the federation’s point of view, how I look at it is – first is the nation, then the company, and then the individual.
When such conflicting situations arise for us, I always tell my team members to do what is in the interest of the country. The country’s interest is paramount. If there are conflicting policies, conflicting demands, let us try to deliberate and see what is in the interest of the country and that we will support as a federation.
How do you look back on your journey?
Oh, I have enjoyed it. I have worked throughout my life in research and development – innovating products, innovative processes, new technologies so that was an exciting journey.
I started my career as an Engineer Trainee and went on to be on the board of IOCL, the largest Indian commercial corp, had an opportunity to be the Chairman also for a brief time before I superannuated.
In my current role, I am looking at the product picture of the industry so I think my research experience has been beneficial for carrying out various researches and studies which we are carrying out on different subjects. We can give recommendations about the right kind of processes to various stakeholders and pursue the right policies.
(This is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Dr.R.K. Malhotra, Director General, FIPI, and Energy Dais reserves all rights of publication.)