The fact that all applications for the job to run ONGC Ltd, one of the most valuable and profitable companies in India, came only from state-run company executives only affirms how the public sector loses out in the competition for attracting talent . Also note the higher pace at which mid-level technical and scientific talent has quit ONGC of late—reported at 370 experts in the past 18 months compared with the normal 50-60 two years back. This can only worsen the prospects for a company that has a dismal record in new oil and gas finds.
The explanation offered is controls on its ability to offer competitive compensation repel talent. True, but that’s not all. Compared with the exploration business, state-run refineries seem to have fared better even when high oil prices allowed private firms to pay more. Observers say this is because of a more inspiring organization culture and institution building practices in state-run refineries. A lesson there?