If we are looking at more innovative and inclusive solutions in the energy sector, the participation of women becomes vital. Widely regarded as one of the least gender-diverse industries, the energy sector needs to tap on a larger talent pool. As much as the onus is on the industry, so is on the women – to step up and bring in changes. In our Stories That Inspire series, we have with us Ms. Srividhya Ganesh, the Director and CEO of Advanced Bolting Solutions, a leading name in Precision Bolting and Machining Solutions. In an exclusive conversation with Energy Dais, Ms. Srividhya shares her perspective on women in energy, her own unique motivation to join this sector, and the incredible journey so far, in this space.
“We need more visible female role models and we need louder, clearer leadership and targets.”
– Louise Kingham, CEO of the Energy Institute
In Conversation with Srividhya Ganesh
What motivated you to join the oil and gas industry?
I find it very exciting to talk about why I am associated with the oil and gas industry. I would like to cite a few things. Predominantly, we are precision bolting people. The term precision bolting immediately takes you to joint integrity and this is a very critical requirement in the oil and gas industry.
Another very strong motivation for being a part of this industry is the social cause. What we call as precision bolting is providing a leakage-free joint, that is bolting done right. This helps in building a pollution-free and safe environment and we strongly feel that this is one way in which we are contributing to society, from the point of view of precision bolting people.
Bolting is not viewed as a subject in the mechanical engineering curriculum as of now. As welding joints are being taken into consideration, there are courses available. Bolting is just a simple subject but there is advanced research going on in the area of bolting. We are able to provide training to the technicians and engineers available in the field. That is one area where we find a lot of business opportunities.
Another important aspect is that of safety. When we talk about safety, we are talking about a leakage free joint. Precision bolting also decides your maintenance cycle. If the bolting is not done properly, you will end up doing more maintenance work as part of safety and add to your cost. Both put together, is viewed as a critical requirement for the oil and gas industry and that gave me a very strong reason to be associated with this sector.
What is that one thing about this industry that interests you the most?
When we talk about safety, there are a lot of procedures that are involved and that need to be practiced. Bolting has a lot of procedures to be practiced and safe bolting procedures, safe bolting theory and practice, all these things have a lot of implications in the end result. That is the reason why the oil and gas industry looks upon us.
We are a partner to the US-based company, Hytorc. They were the ones who catalyzed the bolting practices, bringing top-notch technology in bolting. For instance, the high torque values, particularly in oil and gas where these values are set high. The required torque values in the bolting process is significantly high. That is where a trained technician, a following up of bolting sequences and scientific methods of bolting needs to be followed, precisely.
The oil and gas industry goes on a predictive maintenance pattern. When we say predictive maintenance, the shutdown and maintenance is always a planned one. It helps us all the more and makes our job very easy. We can do our planning based on their schedules, and the variance between the planning and the output does not vary much. There are not many iterations and this implies effective cost reduction. A planned sequence is always better. Suddenly if you call up and ask people to rush for the job, it can get very difficult.
In predictive maintenance, there are no surprise elements and so everything works in a smooth manner. This makes it very interesting to be a part of the oil and gas industry unlike any other industry, where unorganized or unpredictable maintenance is there. In the case of oil and gas, this is definitely one area we look forward to.
Do you believe women are well-represented in the industry?
Increased participation and percentage of women is visible in the industry from 2000 onwards. But still, I would say in the core industrial segment, a little orthodoxy is still there and women are not quite visible in the decision-making areas or in high-end positions.
However, post the year 2000, the situation has changed and more women can be seen working in the core sectors. As a matter of fact, women did not prefer to work in this sector and also more opportunities were not available. It has never been like “women should not enter”. We can say that women were not preferring a career in oil and gas because it is comparatively a tough terrain.
In the core industry, you may have to travel to different places and it can be to remote places at times. These aspects make women automatically withdraw themselves. It happened to me once.
I am basically from the steel industry. When I wanted to be in the business development role, I was not really welcomed. I fought for it, I wanted to be in the role so I did.
People were not rejecting me but wanted to see how focused I was to become what I wanted to be. The industry finally accepted me and today I am here, in the core industry segment, taking the helm of ABS. That’s possible and it has to happen both ways.
Women also have to open up. There are many fields in the core industrial segment, women can choose. It’s not that you have to be only on the field. There are many other areas you can choose from depending on your interests like quality, design, financial engineering, cost engineering, procurement.
In many areas today, wherever I go, I see many women. I must admit that this was not there earlier. Today, the situation is very different and I would say, the number of women in energy is increasing.
But yes, when it comes to the decision making role, there are reservations and this needs to be improved. For that, women have to try themselves and reach up to that level. Nobody is stopping us and we have to knock on the doors. We have to have the perseverance to knock it again and again and that will happen.
How do you see women bringing about a change in the industry?
This issue is close to my heart and I can speak at length about this. When it comes to decision making, involving huge financial implications, I feel that women get into the depth of the matter and try to make the data as accurate as possible, vivid, and descriptive. I personally believe that this is an inherent characteristic of a woman. I also think that women should take up more roles in decision-making areas, where their analytical skills need to be brought out.
Women, by nature, are micro working people. They get into the nitty-gritty details. We can not work in a superficial manner. We always get into it, go deep into it. That is one area where I feel women can bring a change in organizations. There are many decisions that happen in a jiffy, and then it leads to disappointment when things do not work out. People talk about SWOT analysis, people talk about many technical quantitative analyses which would help to make decisions. By and large, there is one thing called instinct, an instinct that a woman has and that instinct is derived out of all these data which is collected. Those are the areas where women need to occupy more seats.
Sometimes, hard core industries miss out on an empathetic view towards their employees. To fill this gap, women can take up this role, for instance as an HR head. People build an organization and in my opinion, you can see quite a difference when women are in leadership roles, heading an organization.
Nurturing the culture of an organization, team bonding and values, all these things are possible when women at the helm control the function. So that is where I feel women bring a change in the organization. When people start working in a better way, automatically it contributes to the organization’s growth.
I also find women to be more farsighted. Let me give you a mundane example. At home, if the father brings in the money, he usually spends it all because he likes to keep the whole family happy. The mother looks beyond that and thinks about the rainy days. Such is the natural instinct of a woman. This is very much required in the industry today.
Data analytics, farsightedness, empathy, these are great qualities required for leadership and women have these qualities naturally. If they are given the opportunities and if they take these opportunities, they can definitely bring a difference in the organization. Organizations have felt the difference.
At ABS, we are three directors and two of us are women. When we look at a problem, we look at it in a different way. The approach is not just business oriented but also highly empathetic.
How do you feel women can position themselves stronger in the industry?
From the gender perspective, women are doing much more in every discipline, every functional area. When it comes to core industries, I feel women should increase their presence. Towards value engineering, financial engineering, cost engineering, design engineering, business development, market research, and development. In all these areas, there is a lot of scope and one has to climb up the ladder, by putting their efforts. And that day has to be seen. There is a lot of scope, that’s what I believe. In this way they can contribute in both the bottom line and top line of the organization and towards the sustained business of an organization in any industry, particularly in the core segment and oil and gas is one of those core segments.
Women have additional responsibilities. How do you manage to take care of your family and work?
I agree to it but beg to differ also. It’s definitely an additional responsibility, one cannot deny it. But I see it as a dual responsibility which a woman can handle because by nature, women are multitaskers. So when it comes to family or your career, and official capacities, planning, and managing is very important.
Having a strong support system is very crucial. It is important to have people in the family and at work who have your back. People often struggle more because support systems are not in place.
For instance, today my daughter is not keeping well. This is not an expected scenario and following this, everything gets into a doldrum in a particular day. How would you manage? If you have a support system then things will be very normal rather than catastrophic. If this type of thing repeats again and again, it becomes a challenge for people. But you cannot control this, it is not in your hands. If the support system is in place, the priorities can be set.
I feel if one has to be career oriented, being a woman, she has to first find the support system in the family. If children have to be taken care of, your family should readily agree to your career path and then there’s no looking back on anything.
How important is Branding and building an Online Presence today? How do you envision ABS as a brand? What is your key brand message?
Today’s business is all about brand value and brand recall. Without a brand value, retaining a brand value and brand recall, you cannot be giving your presence with sustainability. If you want a sustained presence and your market share intact, rating a brand value and maintaining a brand image, and also creating a brand recall, is very important. We at ABS, for the past two decades , have been relentlessly working on it.
I would like to take a little deviation here. In an FMCG or consumer-oriented industry, there are many ways in which people recall the brand image or value. From the core industry point of view particularly oil and gas, the brand value or the brand recall will only happen through quality initiatives and sustainability in the processes.
I can recall one instance where we got an opportunity to work with Chevron for one of their projects in Bangladesh, it is a greenfield project in Bibiyana. When we got qualified through tenders and we were called for the first meeting, I was a little apprehensive. They were even breathing quality and safety. The standards were very high. But then I took it as a very important milestone in our journey, that we have to get into that boat. We worked hard, there were a lot of iterations. For three months, I was working on quality systems and processes, sitting in this very cabin. Grade 4 was needed to qualify, I could only get Grade 3. But I was not ready to leave it and then, we finally qualified. We got a Safety Award too from Chevron.
ABS is a brand which is recognized by some of the leading names in the industry such as IOCL, BPCL, British Gas, Reliance, Cairn, Chevron. Wherever there is a bolting requirement, ABS is there. That is brand recall.
Brand recall in the core industry will come through the continuity and sustainability of your quality standards. Once we achieve a particular set of standards, we look for a new milestone. What is happening currently in the industry and what is the new set of standards in the industry. As long as that search is there, there will be growth. That saturation will come once we feel we have done everything.
Brand recall plays a very important role – in sustainability of operations. These are the standards you set for yourself.
Talking about online branding, we live in the times of Amazon and Flipkart. I feel if your online presence is not there, how much ever good you are, what qualitative work you do, you can’t reach out to every nook and corner. That is possible only through an online platform. It acts as a swipe card, like an entry point to a big market.
How do you look back at your journey in the world of energy? And most importantly, how has your experience been leading an oil and gas company?
I started my career in the steel industry. For the past decade, I have been associated with ABS where I am venturing into the oil and gas industry. We are not only associated with oil and gas but also the energy sector.
We are very closely associated with the wind energy segment too. Wind turbines stand erect because of bolting. Wind turbines have to stand erect then only the performance is guaranteed. We do a very critical job over there, providing the companies with our tools and services. We, as an EPC, are also into solar energy.
From 4 newton meters to 1,80,000 meter, we cater to all the bolting needs, of any type of industry, whether it is automotive industry or the hydropower which has the largest bolts.
Talking about my leadership, I would like to share some of my experiences and how I started my journey.
I am not a technical engineering graduate. I did my economics and then continued with financial management, and also pursued an MBA. I used to be very scared of science when I was young. I never imagined that I would go on to work in a completely science oriented sector, all through my life. At school, I would miss science classes.
When I joined the steel segment, I got interested in metallurgy and started learning as much as I could from my seniors. One of the most important things which I have learnt in life is intelligent reasoning which is very important for any job you decide to take up. Another important aspect is process orientation. When you are able to understand the process orientation, you can manage your time well. If time is not taken into consideration, then nothing will move ahead in business or in life.
These are the basic concepts that have made me move up in my career ladder. There are many people, my mentors who have been responsible for making me what I am today. I would say it’s a university where I have gone through and learned what is required for running my business. With my financial management education, I am able to take care of the finance side and business administration, and also logistics and material management.
More than anything is the interest and passion to do things. Take up tasks whether you know it or not, try and you will end up learning how to do it. The will to do is very important. You make mistakes, you will learn, you shy from mistakes, you will never learn.
When I was younger and had just started getting exposed to employment, people used to come and suggest me to pursue some odd jobs because computerization was only coming up. They would tell me to learn programming and the analytical skills required for programming. I have never shied away from doing anything so whatever work was given to me, I started doing it diligently.
Today, it is all an easy process because I took an interest in everything – production or project execution. I started learning everything. I believe one has to be hands-on and look into the micro aspects of tasks.
If you are hands on and you don’t delegate everything, delegate only what is to be delegated, then you will learn things. If you don’t do it yourself, you will never learn. That’s the mantra I carry, and I hope I am successful.
I look forward to doing a lot more, ahead in my life. Every day should be challenging, dynamic. Without challenge, there is no growth. If there’s no challenge for quite some time, that makes me restless. I feel that life is not moving ahead. Once you start getting challenges, there is some growth path in front of you.
(This is an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Ms. Srividhya Ganesh and Energy Dais reserves all rights of publication.)