The Search Committee, headed by Public Enterprise Selection Board chairman N K Sinha, on Tuesday considered inviting Shell India chairman Vikram Singh Mehta, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd managing director Swapan K Bhowmik, private equity firm Blackstone's India chairman Akhil Gupta and a board member of engineering and construction firm L&T, PESB officials said.
"The meeting was inconclusive and will meet again to firm up views," a PESB official who attended the meet said. While Mehta is a former civil servant who is currently heading Royal Dutch/Shell's India operations that include a 2.5 million tons LNG import terminal, few petrol pumps and lubricant business, Gupta was CEO of Reliance Infocomm before joining Blackstone as senior managing director and chairman of Blackstone India.
"We will meet again later this month to firm up the list of candidates who need to be invited besides the 23 out of the 55 candidates who applied and meet eligibility criteria," he said, adding interview dates would also be fixed then.
Among the candidates who applied include Najeeb Jung, a former joint secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas, and R S Sharma, ONGC's acting chairman. R S Butola, managing director of ONGC Videsh Ltd, ONGC diretor (onshore) A K Hazarika, director (HR) A K Balyan, director (exploration) D K Pandey, director (technical) U N Bose and GAIL director (HR) M R Hingnikar are in fray.
The PSEB official said Sharma was the first choice of PESB in the initial interviews done in August 2006. Hazarika was second best choice but the Prime Minister's Office scrapped the panel desiring that the selection process be widened by inviting candidates from private sector.
The PMO did not make any adverse remarks against either Sharma or Hazarika but rather questioned the selection process and explicitly made them eligible for future selections.
Besides the ONGC directors and GAIL executive, Hindustan Petroleum's subsidiary Prize Petroleum CEO M N Prasad, Essar Oil vice president H N Belawat, Surya Roshi president B B Pradhan, Singareni Collieries director J V Dattatreyulu, Borosil Glass Works director R V Pillai, Hubli Electric Supply director (finance) K Muthupandian and Agasthya Biofarm India Ltd chairman D Aravindakshan are among the other candidates who meet the eligibility criteria for the top job.
The official said prominent among the candidates is 56-year old Jung, who in 1995 resigned from the civil services after a 23-year stint to join the Asian Development Bank.
He was joint secretary (exploration) in early 1990s and is currently visiting fellow at the Oxford Energy Research Centre in London and also served as Director (Energy Research) at Reliance Industries-funded Observer Research Foundation. Besides Jung, only Butola had not appeared for the August 2006 interviews conducted by PSEB.