NEW DELHI: Alka Mittal has become the first woman to head India’s largest exploration and production company, ONGC, and second woman in the country to helm an oil company after Nishi Vasudeva, who had created history in March 2014 after taking over the reins of oil refiner-fuel retailer Hindustan Petroleum.
The department of personnel and training on Monday evening appointed Mittal to the post, 72 hours after it fell vacant when Subhash Kumar, who too held the charge since February 2021 in addition to his regular job as director (finance), retired on December 31.
Mittal, currently the director (HR), has been appointed for six months, or till a regular chairperson is appointed, whichever is earlier. But yet, her ascent to the corner office in ONGC signifies increasing diversity in the ‘macho’ oil and gas industry that still remains one of the last bastions of male dominance.
On a global scale, she joins the ranks of Vicki Hollub, who made history in the US by becoming Occidental Petroleum CEO in 2016; Linda Cook, who last year became the head of Premier Oil-Chrysaor Holding Plc, the largest oil producer of North Sea oil; Catherine Roe of Tanzania-focused UK-listed Wentworth Resources Plc; and Mariana Gheorghe of Austrian OMVPetrom, the largest energy company in southern and eastern Europe.
A post-graduate in economics and a doctorate in commerce, Mittal had broken the glass ceiling in ONGC by becoming the first woman to join the company’s board on November 27, 2018. She played a leading role in ensuring a safe working environment for 27,000-strong employees and thousands of contract workers, notably women employees and engineers deployed on offshore platforms and remote locations, to ensure uninterrupted operations through the pandemic.
Her appointment comes at a time when ONGC is under pressure to monetise major producing fields by inducting private partners – ostensibly to induct technology and raise output.
With long experience as the head of skill development in ONGC before becoming director, Mittal’s appointment coincides with the Narendra Modi government’s focus on skilling, creating conducive environment at workplace for women and improving corporate governance. With a penchant for training and mentoring, Mittal introduced a number of programmes to nurture talent and upskill the large workforce of ONGC, especially women. Before becoming director (HR) Mittal had trained more than 11,000 graduate trainees of ONGC since 2001 on corporate governance as part of their induction programme.