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Broad Portfolio of Services and Successful Track Record of Project Execution is what Separates Aker Powergas from others
Ashish Gharpure and Vinayak Pai who have recently assumed their new roles as Director Sales & Marketing and Director Operations respectively in Aker Powergas share their views on the challenges and goals of the company in the near future. It can be assured that with both in the managment team of Aker Powergas, the only direction that the company would take in the future is forward.

Since the new calendar year, both of you have assumed new roles in the company, how have your responsibilities changed?
Vinayak Pai (VP): There has not been much change in terms of our profiles since we were tuned to handling same profiles since 2009.

Ashish Gharpure (AG): Everyone is aware about the change in management last year when Sanjay Joshi, took over as the Managing Director of Aker Powergas, post the retirement of our previous MD. Sanjay Joshi brings to the table an extensive experience in the upstream sector in both operations and marketing. Hence sales & marketing are leveraging that to grow in the upstream and continue to expand our downstream portfolio.

What are the current market trends and challenges that you need to constantly address as individual teams and together?
AG: There has been a paradigm shift in the markets in the past two decades. Most important being the scale of the projects and the complexities involved. With the increase in size of investments, projects are now owned by multiple stakeholders instead of one project owner. As a result the bidding process has become complex where the companies have to address issues of each stakeholder. Over the past decade, with increasing number of engineering contractors as a result of globalisation, customers have become more demanding in terms of responsibilities and scope of the project, hence the contractors are offering tailor made solutions to meet the value propositions of the customers.

VP: In addition to what Ashish said, project owners award multiple contracts for faster execution of the projects which requires continuous interfacing of operations team with the customer and other stakeholders. Although deliverables and quality continue to be the prime focus, now there is greater emphasis on an allencompassing project delivery model, which complies with the value propositions of the customer. Moreover as the industry is moving towards larger capacities, the pressure on engineering services has increased.

How does the work fl ow between the 'sales & marketing' and 'operations' teams?
AG: Sales and marketing team is the first point of contact for the customer to respond to any query for the contracts to discuss, negotiate and close the contract, which is then formally handed over to Pai’s team. However, we prefer to involve the project manager right from the pre award preliminary discussions so that the operations team can understand the value propositions, concerns and key issues of the customers, which helps us prepare appropriate bid and is also helpful for the operations team when the project is at the execution stage.

VP: After the closure of the contract by the sales team the entire responsibility of the project till its completion gets transferred to the operations team. As Ashish said, we involve our project managers from the bidding stage, the interaction of our team increases with the customer as the projects moves through various stages of execution. Continuous interface and communication with the customers helps us understand the drivers of the project and we ensure that these are taken care of at every stage. Moreover, we review and analyse the progress of our project monthly to meet the targeted deadlines for completion.

What are the current issues with setting up of mega capacities in our country to meet the growing demand?
AG: India is gradually moving towards setting up capacities of mega scale to meet country’s growing demand. From the stage of conceptualisation of the project, to the final bids the projects move at a fast pace, so the project owners need to be completely convinced about their engineering and technology partners and other contractors who would be involved at later stages of project execution. The bids undergo many iteration since there are multiple stakeholders who look forward to get clarity on all the key issues and concerns prior to execution of project.

How do you compare the Indian vendors' vis-à-vis those from overseas?
AG: There is a large cultural difference between dealing with the vendors from India and those from overseas. Overseas vendors tend to work in a once-through manner as compared to Indian vendors. The proposals are prepared once and presented in a highly professional manner and once a bid is presented it cannot be reiterated, which is in contrast with the Indian vendors where it undergoes multiple iterations.

VP: I agree with Ashish and in addition to this, predictability remains an issue in case of Indian vendors as there are times when they are unable to meet the required standards and deliver on time which severely affects our on-time project delivery. With foreign vendors one rarely comes across such problems or even if there is a delay, it is effectively communicated. Moreover there are only a few companies in India with the capability to manufacture equipment to match up the international standards for large scale capacities that are now being set up in India.

There has been signifi cant increase in number of EPC players in the Indian market over the past decade. How has this impacted Aker Powergas?
AG: Being a primary engineering services company, we are practically quite immune to the effect despite the entry of EPC players in the market. Having said that, the new players are highly cost competitive which puts their engineering teams under immense pressure to sustain in the highly competitive market. Many EPC companies hire our services because of our excellent track record of project execution across various industry verticals.

VP: Unique thing about Aker Powergas is our broad portfolio of services and successful track record of project execution. We offer services from FEED to detailed engineering to mechanical completion of the projects, which span across various industry verticals from upstream in oil & gas industry to refinery, petrochemicals, FMCG and metals projects. Hence our dependence on EPC players is limited.

How do you ensure to meet the value propositions?
VP: We have recently introduced the value enhancement program which starts with marketing, where we try to understand the value propositions and the customer’s expectations and work to deliver those values on the project. Moreover our global reach and multifaceted work force give us an edge above other engineering contractors to execute projects in different markets.

AG: Typically we are moving away from the 1980s -90s model where the contractors used to have the upper hand. Our value enhancement program enables us to get clarity to work on the project and to avoid any hitches that can result in roadblock at later stage during project execution.

Tell us about the role of Indian office in the international projects and the current projects you are working on.
AG: Indian office has made significant contribution in many international projects of the group. Earlier, Indian operations used to carry out part of the projects but now we have formed an integrated model with our counterparts in Norway and are important targets in the value chain of project execution.
Our Indian team was involved very closely in execution of Gjøa project, the semi- submersible platform for Statoil in the North Sea. Currently we are working on Eldfisk, one of the two biggest fields in the Greater Ekofisk Area. Our Indian offices play a significant role in the detailed engineering. Indian design engineers are working along with the design team in Oslo. The project will be executed using the Integrated Execution Model to deliver the best possible benefit. The fabrication is expected to commence in early 2012.

VP: Amongst the international projects, we are currently working on a large scale onshore gas terminal in one of the former CIS states. In India we are providing detailed engineering services for two projects for a Greenfield refinery in Paradip. These projects ensure that our portfolio shows our experience of working on all major process units of a refinery.

What is the company's future growth strategy?
VP: We are working on new technologies and have many interesting projects in the pipeline. Gasification is one of the areas that we will focus upon in the years to come. We have already carried out two front end projects in Australia and are involved in a project with our Houston counterparts in this field. The area of coal gasification is emerging in India and we look forward to play an important role in this field in the years to come.

AG: Aker Powergas has set up a subsidiary company in Pune to expand its portfolio. Most of the design work for highly sophisticated deep sea components like umbilicals christmas trees etc is carried out of Pune office where our engineers work on the advanced state-of-the-art software solutions to design these modules for extreme environments. We are in the process to enhance capabilities at our Pune office which will soon be a part of project deliveries over a couple of years.
We have a strong strategy to move ahead and increase the headcount significantly by 2015. There is also significant push from our head office for us to get more closely involved in the integrated model right from the bidding stage, since availability of resources at Indian operations give them the leverage in terms of resources, quality and being cost competitive.